Taking a look back at the non-conference schedule towards the end of the season is always an interesting concept. Teams that were expected to be good end up not so good and teams that were expected to be rugs that everyone walks all over turn out to be pretty decent. Today, we’re going to take a glance back at the 12 non-conference victories and see what those teams are doing and how they are meeting expectations. Indiana was criticized for the soft NC schedule, but as you’ll see in a moment it was tougher than you might think.
Stony Brook 16-7 (11-1) : The 30 point victory over Stony Brook to open the season has turned out to be one of the better non-conference games scheduled this season. They are currently the 121st team in the nation according to Pomeroy, but they’re cleaning up their conference without a problem. They haven’t been able to take down any major conference foes (they only played us and Northwestern) but they’re making pretty easy work of the AEC. Prognosis: Auto-Bid Tourney Team
Chattanooga 9-16 (3-9): There isn’t much to say about the Mocs that their record doesn’t already state. They’re at the bottom of the North division of the Southern Conference and their position is likely not to change. Luckily for Indiana this was an easy drubbing and doesn’t look like a glaring "uh-oh" for the game being close. Not a resume team, the Mocs are going to finish the season ugly. Prognosis: Finishes above only The Citadel in conference.
Evansville 12-12 (7-7): A program that I think is on its way up in the world is still struggling to find its identity as we near the end of the season. 112th in the nation, they’ve beat some quality opponents over the stretch but lost some games they shouldn’t have. Last night they toppled ranked Creighton and that will likely be the highlight of their season. Marty Simmons has his group primed for a potential Missouri Valley Conference tourney run but winning it is unlikely. Luckily for the Aces, Colt Ryan is still one of the best mid-major players in the nation and will be back next year. Prognosis: Deep conference tourney run that ends in the Semis. No tournament.
Savannah St. 14-10 (7-2): A team that struggled mightily out of the gate has really started to put it together as of late. After starting the season off at 5-9 they have torn off 10 of 11 wins to push themselves to the top of the MEAC. Just shy of the 200 mark in national rankings they are very much in the running for the conference auto-bid. They don’t have a grueling schedule to finish the season and likely only drop one game if not win out. Prognosis: Win the conference regular season. Lose to Norfolk St. in the conference championship. No tourney.
Gardner Webb 10-15 (5-8): The most interesting part of the Gardner Webb season has been its shootout with High Point this year. At the start of January they took a home game against them in overtime. This Saturday, High Point got them back on their turf in overtime. Really that is all there is to say. They have no shot at the Big South title and are scraping it out with High Point to be the top half of the bottom in the conference. Prognosis: Make a late season push for .500 in conference but fall one game shy. No tourney.
Butler 13-12 (7-6) – Oh Butler. Butler, Butler, Butler, what are we going to do with you? I’ve been saying since September that you aren’t rebuilding you’re retooling but several players have taken some steps back this season. They’ve popped off some good wins this season, but they aren’t the team that they should be. Even in their off year they should be competing for the conference championship but instead are toiling in the middle. They currently have no shot at the regular season crown and they’ll need a near miraculous tourney run to make the big one in March. Prognosis: Wait ‘til next year. Butler flames out in the conference tourney. No NCAA.
NC State 17-7 (6-3) – Don’t look now but Mark Gottfried’s Pack are in the hunt for an ACC regular season crown. Currently sitting in fourth and two losses off the lead, they have put together a very solid season. This road win keeps looking better for the Hoosiers as NC State currently has only one loss outside of the top 60. Unfortunately, they have a hell of a schedule to finish out. Favored in only 2 of their last 7 games, they’re going to have to show something to make the tourney as 9-7 and sixth place in the ACC won’t get you in. A win at Clemson and at home against Flordia St. would go a long way to making sure they go dancing. Prognosis: I have no idea. Let’s say 10-6 in conference and squeak by as last four in over conference rival Miami.
Stetson 8-16 (5-8): Their season was over before it even got into conference play. Now losers of 7 of their last 8 it certainly doesn’t appear to have a chance to improve. Somehow they are still outside of the worst 100 teams in the country but not far from that. The fact that they turn the ball over 1 out of every 4 times down the court certainly doesn’t help. Stetson is likely to lose out and finish their season at 8 wins. Prognosis: Bottom 3 of the A-Sun for sure. Only to be trumped in bad by 3 win Kennesaw St. and 5 win Jacksonville. No tourney.
Kentucky 24-1 (10-0): The Wildcats have done OK since losing to Indiana but nothing special. They’re only competing for top overall seed in March. This win turns out to be a fantastic resume builder as the only other teams to even come close to toppling Kentucky (within six points) are North Carolina and Tennessee. Kentucky is pretty good and likely will go into March with only one additional loss, the last game of the season at Florida. Prognosis: Near undefeated conference championship run, #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Notre Dame 15-8 (7-3): Mike Brey deserves National Coach of the Year recognition for the job he has done with the Irish. The Hoosiers handled them pretty well on a poor shooting night in a semi-home game. Since then they have gone on to set the world on fire compared to their expectations after losing star Tim Abromatis. Currently sitting 4th in the Big East that is likely where they finish. However, if they can get by West Virginia tonight they’ll most likely finish in a tie for second. Prognosis: Easy tournament team and potential bracket buster when they get in. Underrated and dangerous are two words to describe the Fighting Irish.
Howard 6-18 (3-8): Remember how I talked about Savannah St. making a run on the MEAC? Well Howard is doing nearly the opposite. If not for South Carolina St. and Maryland Eastern Shore, Howard would be a basement dweller in the very weak conference. Beating the tar out of one of the worst teams in the worst conferences isn’t going to get you much love and the Hoosiers are probably hurt more than helped in rating systems by this win. Prognosis: Howard finishes out their season as one of the 20 worst teams in America.
MD Baltimore County 3-20 (2-9): MDBC is bad. How bad are they? Worst team in the country kind of bad. Benefiting from playing other really bad teams inflates their record a little bit. Currently their opponents they have beaten have a combined 9 wins between them. This is including a win over winless Binghamton. The same winless Binghamton that is projected to get their first win of the season at home against… MD BaltimoreCounty. Yeah, they’re that bad. Another harmful opponent from just playing them. Prognosis: They beat Binghamton on the road and cement their legacy as not the worst team in America for the 2011-2012 season. Instead they’re third, behind Binghampton and the one win Townson (who is the first of their three wins on the season).
Overall, the non-conference schedule looked pretty darn weak by the time the Hoosiers had started conference play. At that date, the schedule was the 290th toughest schedule in the country and 11th in the conference. The large amount of unsuspected success of the schedule has bumped IU’s rating out of conference considerably. It is now the 257th hardest NC schedule, which is good enough to jump IU to 8th in conference, but right there in the same conversation as Purdue, Illinois, OhioState and Wisconsin.
I expect it to jump considerably next year with the subtraction of a few cupcakes and the addition of some contenders, but even in a year where everyone was incredibly critical of IU’s NC schedule it ended up measuring up to average. If a team like Howard was replaced with a team closer to the caliber of Stetson, IU’s NC would be good enough for 3-4th in the conference. Either way, it doesn’t truly matter as Indiana won’t be a bubble team. They have done enough this season, barring a complete collapse in the next 6 games, to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. The only thing to truly worry about from here is the seeding.