On most nights, losing by six to the 8th-ranked team in the country is nothing to be ashamed of. And Indiana fought hard against Maryland for the third time this year, but lackluster shooting and a defense that gave up 1.17 PPP against the Terps helped to take the Hoosiers' fate out of their own hands.
So now, the Hoosiers return to Bloomington having lost 9 of their last 14 games, and must wait for the Selection Committee to reveal their fate tomorrow night. This of course means that Indiana is squarely On the Bubble heading into Selection Sunday. And based on the characteristics that the Committee uses, such as RPI and Strength of Schedule, it's still unclear as to whether the Hoosiers will make it.
Let's take a look at the Hoosiers' resume now and see why they may or may not make it into the Tourney:
- Quality wins. Indiana has four wins against teams in the RPI Top 50, including Maryland, SMU, Butler, and Ohio State, all teams that are safely into the tourney at this point. Having these wins in their pocket can only boost their chances at this point.
- Decent strength of schedule. Overall, their SOS is 34th in Division I. The B1G schedule helps this a lot, but it does show that the Hoosiers have been battle-tested and have faced plenty of good opponents throughout the season.
- Passed the "eye test" recently. After a few lackluster performances near the end of the regular season, the Hoosiers took care of business against Northwestern in the first round of the B1G Tournament, then took a good Maryland team to the wire despite their shooting troubles. If the Committee was watching either of these games, they saw an Indiana team that looked a lot more poised and confident than they had in previous weeks.
- Only one "bad" loss. Nope, Eastern Washington is not that bad of a loss. In fact their current RPI of 78 is better than Michigan's or Minnesota's, and they could win their conference tourney tonight. Instead, the Hoosiers' one bad loss, of course, was to Northwestern (with an RPI of 123) on Feb. 25.
- It's a weak bubble, with many other teams also sweating it out. Ever since the field expanded to 68, the bubble for March Madness has become weaker. As of writing, other teams on the bubble, such as UCLA, Miami, Texas, Oklahoma State, LSU, Ole Miss, Colorado State, and Boise State, are also out of their conference tournaments. So while the Hoosiers didn't make up too much ground by going 1-1 in the Big Ten Tourney, they also didn't lose much footing.
- Low RPI. Look, I'm well aware that the RPI is a flawed method of evaluating teams. However, the Selection Committee still seems to favor it when it comes to the tournament. And Indiana's RPI is 57, which is pretty low for an at-large team. My fear is that the Committee will choose a team with a similar resume over Indiana just by looking at their RPI numbers. They've done sillier things in the past.
- Not as good non-conference strength of schedule. Look more into the non-con SOS and it falls to 117 overall. Games against Louisville, Butler, SMU, and Georgetown helped this ranking, but the six sub-200 RPI non-con games that IU played back in November and December aren't doing them any favors right now.
- Bid thieves are still out there. Hey, remember that UConn team that won the title last year? They actually weren't very good this year! But hey, guess where their conference's tourney is? Oh right, it's in Hartford, where they play half their home games. The Huskies could rally in front of their home crowd and steal a bid from a bubble team. Temple and Tulsa, who play in the AAC along with UConn, are on the bubble with IU and still very much alive in the AAC tournament as well. In addition, Rhode Island still lurks in the A-10 tourney and Wyoming is still alive in the Mountain West. (UPDATE: Wyoming just won the MWC title. So there goes one at-large bid.) Conference championships from any of these teams could be a huge blow to IU's tourney chances.
- No good wins since Jan. 22. Technically, the Committee doesn't bring recent play into consideration, instead choosing to assess the team's full body of work. However, the fact remains that Indiana has gone 5-9 since that Maryland victory and has looked like a different team at times. And their best win in this time frame is a three-point victory over Michigan, whose RPI is 79. So while how a team finishes isn't supposed to be one of the factors for torurney teams, the committee could point to the Hoosiers' recent play and decide that maybe they don't pass the "eye test" after all.
In short, get ready for a long wait until tomorrow night to find out if the Hoosiers hear their name called.