Bubble Banter: What is going on with Indiana?
January has nearly come to a close, which means that it is officially time for Bubble Banter to make its glorious return.
Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:
- This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played.
- I’ll update them best that I can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning.
- If you see something I missed, if you have an issue with a team I left out or if you want to congratulate me on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit me up here: @RobDauster.
- The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below.
- On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: NEBRASKA, AUBURN, SYRACUSE, MISSISSIPPI STATE, ST. JOHN’S, TCU, WASHINGTON and CINCINNATI
- Onto the weekend’s action.
CREIGHTON (NET: 61, SOS: 10): The Bluejays have a weird resume. They’re 11-8 on the season, but they don’t have a single bad loss on the season. Seven of their eight losses are to Q1 opponents, and their only Q2 loss came at home against Ohio State, which was a Q1 loss before the Buckeyes recent losing streak. The problem? Creighton doesn’t have any good wins. They beat Butler at home, Clemson on a neutral and Providence on the road. The latter is their only Q1 win, and who knows how long that lasts -- the Friars are currently 73rd in the NET, and that becomes a Q2 win if they fall outside the top 75. The other issue is Creighton already lost to both Villanova and Marquette at home, meaning there are no chances for them to get Q1 wins at home the rest of the season. How costly does this blown call look now?
OHIO STATE (NET: 45, SOS: 41): The Buckeyes entered Saturday as one of the teams right on the edge of the bubble’s cut-line thanks to a five-game losing streak, and they did as much as anyone to change their fortunes as anyone -- winning at Nebraska. That’s a top 25 road win for the Buckeyes to go along with wins at Cincinnati and at Creighton. The loss at Rutgers is ugly, but as long as the Scarlet Knights remain somewhat respectable, that will be a Q2 loss, more or less equivalent to losing to Syracuse at home.
BAYLOR (NET: 50, SOS: 70): The Bears won their fourth straight on Saturday, knocking off Alabama at home. The Bears have some nice wins on the season -- Texas Tech and Iowa State at home and Arizona in Tucson are all Q1 wins -- but they are going to have their work cur out for them making the committee forget about home losses to Texas Southern (215) and Stephen F. Austin (270). The added bonus here is that Alabama is one of the teams that Baylor will be going up against for a bid, and this win keeps the Tide for picking up a Q1, non-conference road win.
VCU (NET: 59, SOS: 31): The Rams picked up a win at Duquesne on Saturday which is going to be great for their chase of the Atlantic 10 regular season title, but it doesn’t help their NCAA tournament profile all that much -- it’s a Q3 win. VCU’s win at Texas should hold up as a Q1 win come Selection Sunday, but given how weak the Atlantic 10 is, it’s hard to see how they can end up building on their resume too much. Frankly, I’m not sure they can withstand another loss and keep pace with the bubble teams in the Big 12, the Big Ten or the ACC.
HOFSTRA (NET: 47, SOS: 233): Not only does Hofstra lack any Q1 or Q2 wins, they have not even beaten a team that cracks the top 100 in NET. They are 18-3, they have now won 15 straight games against Division I opponents and Justin Wright-Foreman deserves a chance to play on a bigger stage, but I don’t know how they are going to build a profile good enough to get an at-large bid in the CAA.
WOFFORD (NET: 32, SOS: 106): The Terriers improved to 14-4 on the season with their ninth-straight win on Saturday. Wofford actually does have a couple solid wins to their name -- they won at UNC Greensboro, they beat Furman and they knocked off South Carolina on the road by 20 points -- and probably have the best argument to be an at-large of all the mid-major teams on this list. To make that a reality, they will probably need to win out, but unlike other mid-major leagues, losses at East Tennessee State (79), at Furman (62) or against UNCG (53) won’t be season-enders.
BELMONT (NET: 77, SOS: 125): The Bruins landed a couple of really nice wins this week, adding a second Q1 win to their resume by beating Murray State on the road and following that up with a win at Austin Peay, their third Q2 win. The big issue for Belmont at this point is that they have three losses to Q3 opponents -- Jacksonville State twice and at Green Bay. It’s going to be tough to get an at-large, but it’s not an impossibility, especially if UCLA finds a way to become a top 75 team.
MURRAY STATE (NET: 44, SOS: 289): The Racers caught a bad break this week when their star point guard, Ja Morant, sprained his ankle early in their home loss to Belmont. As weird as it sounds, that Belmont team is Murray’s worst loss of the season and a Q3 loss. The biggest issue with this resume is that they are going to end the season having played just two Q1 games -- losses at Auburn and at Alabama -- and no Q2 games. Their best win is at Southern Illinois, who is 152nd in the NET.
MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 63): The Gophers picked up a nice Q1 win on Sunday, picking off Iowa in The Barn to move to 15-5 on the season. They are now 4-3 in Q1 games with a win at Wisconsin. There are a pair of Q2 losses on Minnesota’s resume -- at Illinois and at Boston College -- but this is a tournament worthy profile as of today.
LIPSCOMB (NET: 41, SOS: 180): Lipscomb beat one of the worst teams in Division I on Sunday, taking down Stetson. So that’s a good thing. Even better, however, is just how much carnage there was on the bubble this weekend. San Francisco, Texas, Fresno State, Nebraska, Arizona, Pitt, Florida, Butler, Seton Hall, UCF, Temple -- all of these teams taking on water is good for the the mid-majors that are in mix, especially one like Lipscomb, who has won at TCU and at SMU with just four losses, the worst of which is a Q2 loss to Belmont at home.
INDIANA (NET: 36, SOS: 31): Indiana lost their sixth straight game on Friday night, getting blown out by No. 5 Michigan in Assembly Hall. In a vacuum, the Hoosiers are not in a terrible spot just yet. They have four Q1 wins to their name -- Marquette, Louisville, Butler (neutral), at Penn State -- and all eight of their losses are Q1 games. They still have seven Q1 games left on their schedule. There will be plenty of chances for them to get the good wins they need to stay on the right side of the bubble, and given the strength of the Big Ten, 8-12 might actually be good enough to get them in.
The more interesting question seems to be the Hoosiers themselves, and I’m going to use this space to give you my take on the situation: Beating Marquette the way that he did (96-73) was the worst thing that could have happened to Archie Miller this season because, when combined when Romeo-mania coming into the program, it set expectations much higher than they should have been. The truth is that this is a team that starts two freshmen and two sophomores alongside Juwan Morgan. One of those freshmen is Indiana’s starting point guard, and he wasn’t a top 100 prospect. They are shooting 25 percent from three in Big Ten play and are 13-for-75 from three the last four games.
The truth is that this team is and always was going to be closer to what they’ve been the last month than what they were against Marquette.
And frankly, it’s not quite disaster territory just yet. Those six losses were: at Michigan, at Maryland, Nebraska, at Purdue, at Northwestern, Michigan.
That’s brutal for anyone, let alone a young team that has totally and completely lost any semblance of confidence they had in November.
Yes, Indiana lacks leadership. Yes, Romeo has looked like a freshman far too often. No, Archie Miller has not done a good job with this team. But can we stop pretending like this is the 2008 team going into the tank? Indiana wasn’t ranked in the preseason top 25 for a reason, and you’re seeing it now.
BUTLER (NET: 52, SOS: 24): Butler missed on a chance to land a Q1 on Friday night, falling 75-61 at Creighton. This comes on the heels of whiffing on their shot at Villanova in Hinkle on Tuesday night. As of today, the Bulldogs are 1-6 against Q1 -- their win over Ole Miss fell to Q2 with the Rebels dropping outside the top 30 in the NET -- with a 12-9 record and a pair of Q3 losses. They’re comfortably on the wrong side of the bubble today.
FLORIDA (NET: 37, SOS: 44): The Gators fell to 11-8 on the season on Saturday after they lost at TCU, 55-50, in another uninspiring performance offensively. The metrics love the Gators -- they’ve played a lot of good teams close and have an elite defense -- but that hasn’t amounted to many wins. They won at Arkansas -- a Q1 win so long as Arkansas doesn’t drop from 70 to outside the top 75 in NET -- and they beat Butler at home, but that doesn’t totally make up for the loss to South Carolina in Gainesville.
ALABAMA (NET: 43, SOS: 21): Losing at Baylor was a missed opportunity, but the Tide aren’t in a terrible spot yet. That win over Kentucky is going to continue to look better and better, and they still have six Q1 games left on their schedule as of today. They’ll need to win half of those, however, because three Q3 losses to Northeastern, Texas A&M and Georgia State -- the latter two at home -- are less than ideal.
PITT (NET: 60, SOS: 57): After a great start to ACC play, the Panthers lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling at Louisville at they led at the half. Jeff Capel has Pitt in a good spot as of today. They’ve beaten Louisville and Florida State and have just one bad loss to their name, but that bad loss is an awful loss -- Niagara (301) at home. They’ll get chances, and they’ll need to take advantage of those chances.
TEXAS (NET: 41, SOS: 2): The Longhorns are benefitting from the fact that they have played the second-toughest schedule in college basketball. They’ve already amassed eight Q1 games with four wins, including North Carolina on a neutral, Purdue at home and Kansas State on the road. They do have four Q2 losses -- as well as a Q3 loss to Radford at home -- but losing at Georgia is hardly a backbreaker, not when they still play at least seven Q1 games during the regular season.
SAINT LOUIS (NET: 75, SOS: 122): The Billikens missed on a terrific chance to land one of the rare Q2 wins they are going to be able to pick up in Atlantic 10 play in excruciating fashion: Jordan Goodwin was fouled with 0.4 seconds left and Saint Louis down one, and he missed them both. The Billlikens have wins over Butler and Oregon State at home as well as a win at Seton Hall, but with two Q3 losses to their name, that’s probably not going to be enough.
ARIZONA STATE (NET: 63, SOS: 56): The Pac-12’s dreams of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament took another hit on Saturday, as Arizona State lost at USC on Saturday night. The Sun Devils do have some good wins -- Kansas, Mississippi State are all Q1 wins -- and they have four Q2 wins as well, but the Sun Devils lost to Utah and Princeton at home. It doesn’t help matters that the only chance for Q1 wins the rest of the season will be in their last three games: at Oregon, at Oregon State and at Arizona.
ARIZONA (NET: 64, SOS: 73): Saturday was not a good day for the Wildcats, either. They went into Pauley Pavilion and got dropped by UCLA, meaning that they were swept by the LA schooled and have now lost three of their last four games. Their win over Iowa State is going to carry some weight in March, that’s the only Q1 win for Arizona, who only has three more chances to land Q1 wins the rest of the year, and all three of those chances will come on the road against teams outside the top 60 in NET.
FRESNO STATE (NET: 65, SOS: 149): Fresno State suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday, falling at Colorado State (228). That’s their third Q3 loss of the year, and with no Q2 wins and just a pair of Q1 wins (at Utah State, Northwestern), their chances of earning an at-large big probably hinge on whether or not they can win at Nevada in February.
SAN FRANCISCO (NET: 40, SOS: 178): The Dons suffered a loss at San Diego on Saturday night, which actually isn’t as bad as it sounds -- San Diego (107) on the road is a Q2 game. That’s excusable. The problem is that the Dons need every good win that they can get. They are 0-2 in Q1 games and just 1-1 against Q2.
TEMPLE (NET: 56, SOS: 40): The only reason that Temple is currently in the discussion for an at-large bid is that they managed to beat Houston (8) at home. That’s a big win. Beyond that, the Owls are 0-3 against Q1 opponents, they’ve already lost at UCF and against Cincinnati at home and also have a Q3 loss to Penn at home. The biggest game of their season comes on Thursday when they play at Houston.
SETON HALL (NET: 56, SOS: 23): The Hall’s losing streak extended to four on Sunday after they were absolutely pummeled by Villanova in Philly. The Wildcats won by 28 points just eight days after Seton Hall lost at home to DePaul. A win over Kentucky on a neutral and at Maryland will look very god on Selection Sunday, but a pair of Q3 home losses is a lot to overcome. The good news: Seton Hall still gets shots at Marquette and Villanova at home.
UCF (NET: 34, SOS: 107): The Knights lost by 20 on Sunday at Memphis, which, to date, is the only Q1 game that UCF has played. They are 3-2 in Q2 games and also took on a loss at home against Florida Atlantic (175), a Q4 loss. With two games left against both Houston and Cincinnati plus a trip to Temple, there are five Q1 games left on their schedule. They’ll need them.