Sitting at 16-13 with an abysmal 6-10 Big Ten record, Indiana has completely fallen off the NCAA tournament bubble picture. ESPN’s Joe Launardi dropped the Hoosiers from his NEXT four out after losing to Iowa. CBS’ Jerry Palm dropped Indiana from his bubble watch around the same time. Everyone, locally and nationally, has given up on the Hoosiers. However, there are a few scenarios, largely due to an extremely weak bubble, that Indiana could somehow slip its way into the NCAA Tournament.
Win the Big Ten Conference Tournament
As of today, the Hoosiers are sitting at 11th in the Big Ten standings, meaning that they would have to win 5 games in 5 days to win the Big Ten Tournament. Even with getting an automatic win over lowly Rutger in the first round, winning 5 games in 5 days would be nearly impossible for this Indiana team, largely due to its lack of depth from injuries. So for Indiana to win the conference tournament, they will need to get a bye with a top ten seed. “All” Indiana would need to do to get the 10th seed is win their last game of the season at Ohio State, who is also 6-10 in conference. Even if Indiana loses to Purdue, which they likely will, and Ohio State beats Penn State (who is also 6-10) tonight, Indiana can get the tenth seed based off of tiebreakers from beating Ohio State and also from sweeping Penn State earlier in the season. There are 2 ways the Hoosiers don’t get the 10 seed: lose out in the regular season, or if the Hoosiers end up tied with Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska.
If Indiana gets the 10 seed, it would still be an upwards climb. Using the current standings, which they won’t be the same by next week, Indiana would have to beat Michigan and Wisconsin (two teams that swept the Hoosiers this season) just to reach the semifinals. Indiana would then have to win two more games in two days to win the tournament, which isn’t impossible, but is for sure not probable.
Another factor for Indiana is that the Hoosiers have never performed well in the Big Ten tournament. Since the tournament began in 1998, the Hoosiers have just an 11-19 (per CBB reference) record in the Big Ten Tournament, only reaching the finals once (2001) and never winning the championship. Indiana’s been even worse under current coach Tom Crean, who is just 3-8 in Big Ten Tournament games. Even worse, Crean has failed to win more than one game in a Big Ten Tournament in his Indiana tendure and has only made the semifinals once (2013, lost to Wisconsin).
Get an at large bid by winning out + BTT splash
Even though Indiana gets an automatic bid by winning the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers’ “best” shot at going to the NCAAs is still by getting an at large bid. However, the most likely scenario for Indiana to get an at large bid is by winning it’s last two regular season games, then by winning a game or two in the Big Ten Tournament. Of course, winning out in the regular season starts by somehow beating Purdue at Mackey tonight. For an in-depth preview of that game, look at Kyle Swick’s preview. If, and that’s a big if, Indiana (who is 1-7 on the road this year by the way) upsets Purdue tonight, then beats Ohio State in Columbus Saturday, the Hoosiers would somehow be a somewhat respectable 8-10 in conference, which puts them squarely back on the bubble.
Indiana could get in even with a sub-500 conference record because of its wins over Kansas, North Carolina and (in this scenario) Purdue. That is a trifecta that no one else on the terrible bubble has been absolutely terrible.
Here are some bubble teams on ESPN’s latest bubble watch: Wake Forest (16-12, 7-9 ACC), Kansas State/TCU (both 17-12, 6-10 Big 12), Vanderbilt (16-13, 9-7 SEC), Georgia (17-12, 8-8 SEC) and Tennessee (14-14 (!), 7-9 SEC). Woof.
With the bubble being a pile of dog poop, an Indiana team that is a name brand in college basketball, and has three wins that none of these other bubble teams can match, the Hoosiers could get in with three straight wins to give them a 19-14 record on the season. The name brand part shouldn’t matter that much, but it does (Hi, TV Money!) and well, who knows. Maybe Indiana sneaks in this way.
While Indiana still has a chance at the NCAA Tournament, it is an extremely long shot. If Indiana fails to win at Purdue tonight, which it likely will, then Indiana will have to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the field of 68, something the Hoosiers have never done. Nevertheless, the next week and a half to two weeks will have a huge impact on the Indiana basketball program moving forward, for better or for worse.