COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 15: Head Coach Tom Crean of the Indiana Hoosiers gives instructions to Verdell Jones III #12 of the Indiana Hoosiers during a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 15, 2012 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Now that we are through the insanity that was the beginning of the first chunk of the B1G schedule we can settle down and take a look at where IU is and where they are likely to go as a team. It certainly has been a month of ups and downs as a team and the current down feeling about this year’s chances are likely exaggerated. Scheduling is a crutch we can lean on, but realistically to start conference play, Indiana is right where most of us expected them.
In the first part of the schedule, Indiana has played a KenPom average of 38 with 3 teams being higher rated than the Hoosiers and three teams being rated lower. Indiana won one of those higher rated games (#1 OhioState) and lost one to a lower rated team (Minnesota #48). So essentially, Indiana is in hindsight exactly where it should be in the numbers world.
Moving forward in the schedule, as stated last week, it gets significantly easier. We have all learned in the first two weeks of conference play that nothing is a given though. Even though the Hoosiers are expected to statistically only lose one more game @Wisconsin, they will likely lose several more. Since last week took a look back in time, lets take a closer look at where Indiana is most likely headed.
Indiana currently needs nine wins to get to the revised expectation of 24-7 that was set forth three weeks ago. They currently have seven home games remaining and six away games. So in 13 games, we need to find nine wins to meet expectations and likely only 5 wins to see a tournament bid. So first, we’ll try and find where the tournament bid is going to come from.
The Hoosiers already having wins over three top ranked basketball teams pretty well guarantees that they will get a tournament bid if they can reach 20 wins in the toughest conference in basketball. Looking at the schedule, that should be a very easy proposition. Indiana has five games remaining against teams that are not in the top 100 rankings according to Pomeroy. Iowa (x2), PennState at home, @ Nebraska on Wednesday and NC Central at home. Take the worst case scenario and say Indiana drops two of those games. That puts IU at 18 wins.
then has six games remaining against teams outside of the top 30 but within the top 50 threshold. According to Pomeroy they would be favored in all of these games, with @Purdue being the closest margin for error at 50-50. Assume of those three home games and three away games, the worst case scenario that is plausible, is that the Hoosiers drop all of their away games. They then have to beat two of Illinois
, Northwestern or Purdue at home. That would be wins 19 and 20 and thus a tournament bid in a very big letdown of a conference season. Mind you that scenario still has Indiana
a year ahead of schedule when most fans were just begging for an NIT bid.
Now, take the best case scenario. Indiana had a hiccup on the home court against a top 50 opponent in Minnesota, where Christian Watford looked ineffective, Indiana couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat and they played unintelligent basketball. They lost that game by three points. Do we truly believe that will continue for the rest of the year? I don’t. So let’s say that Indiana drops only two of its remaining seven home games. That puts them at 20 wins before we factor in road games. Now the road games see that same Minnesota, a bad Iowa and worse PennState. Indiana should win all of them. That puts the Hoosiers at 23 wins. What we have left is three games against an inconsistent Purdue team, a streaky Michigan team and a vulnerable Wisconsin team on the road. All it takes is one above average performance against teams that are rated worse than the Hoosiers to reach our new goal of 24 wins.
So, what was the point of this whole exercise? It was likely to talk myself and many other fans off of the ledge. I know the last two games have made the rest of the season feel like a horror film waiting to happen, but in fact in the absolute worst realistic case scenario, the Hoosiers are tourney bound for the first time in four years. Best case, they have a top 4 seed and can really make some noise. In then end, though the last two games were hard to watch, the season as a whole is going better than expected. Pomeroy has Indiana at a 87% chance of finishing with 23 or more wins. So everyone can take a little solace in looking forward.