Indiana has been the bane to several college basketball fans throughout the latter half of the season.
They are a team that is hovering around a .500 record (15-14) and have a poor Big Ten standing (6-12). Yet, they are a team on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi they are in the “Next Four Out,” the fifth team in line outside of the current bracket. And everyone knows the history of Power 5 teams sitting on the bubble.
Realistically it should have never gotten to this point. They dropped seven straight conference games and 12 of 13 throughout January and February. There is no chance they will finish with a winning record in Big Ten play, let alone the top half of the conference.
But, there are several reasons why they are in consideration.
First, Indiana is a blue blood of college basketball and there are several pundits that are waiting for their return to glory. Early in the season many expected them to be a top five Big Ten team and contending for the title. They were ranked as high as 21st in the Associated Press poll in Week 9 and it appeared that the early season projections were correct.
Secondly, Romeo Langford is someone that everyone will want to see in March. The projected lottery pick has balled out for the Hoosiers this season. As a freshman guard he scores 16.9 points a contest and has hit some clutch shots to give the Hoosiers victories this season. As dumb as it sounds, the NCAA looks better when their stars are playing for the national championship.
Third, they have some of the best wins in college basketball this year. Looking at the current Top 25 poll, they have a home win over No. 16 Marquette, a home-away sweep of No. 9 Michigan State and a win over No. 21 Wisconsin.
The only other teams with as many signature wins as them are championship contenders. Combine that with a weak bubble and it is clear, they will have a chance in 10 days on Selection Sunday.
Here is what it would take for the Hoosiers can make the NCAA Tournament. This is of course assuming they do not win the Big Ten’s automatic bid:
-Win out in the regular season (@ Illinois and vs. Rutgers); a loss would pretty much end any hope
-At least a semifinal run in the Big Ten Tournament. Winning out will put them at 9th in the Big Ten. It would set up a matchup with either Minnesota or Ohio State in the No. 8/9 matchup in the Big Ten Tournament. They have to win that and then beat Michigan/ Michigan State/ Purdue as the top seed in the tournament. A run to the championship would just be for seeding.
Think about it, with the above scenario they would have three top-10 victories, one at a neutral site and one on the road. They play in a Power 5 conference without a horrible loss on their record.
That means four more wins will get Indiana into the tournament. They would finish 19-15 (8-12) - perhaps better - and likely be a No. 11 or No. 12 seed.
If you’re in the camp saying they don’t belong, no worries, just root for one loss.
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