After thumping Iowa 95-73 on Thursday night, Indiana has kept its tournament hopes alive for at least another day. But this season’s weak bubble has many speculating as to what it will take from this point forward for the Hoosiers to get an invite to the dance on Sunday.
According to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, Indiana is still on the “Next Four Out” line, but is creeping closer to the conversation with each win. According to Lunardi, the Hoosiers would have to jump six teams to get an at-large bid and go to Dayton next week: Kansas State (last team in), Rhode Island, Illinois State, Houston, California, and Georgia. Each of these teams is still playing, aside from Illinois State, who joins Syracuse, Wake Forest, and USC (all listed on Lunardi’s “Last Four In” line) as teams that have already been eliminated from their conference tournaments.
On Thursday night, the NCAA’s selection committee announced that opportunity to qualify for the tournament has already narrowed significantly.
So, who should you be rooting for today?
1. Indiana vs. Wisconsin
Obviously, it all starts here. If Indiana can exercise its greatest Big Ten demon and beat the Badgers, the conversation gets very interesting. That would put Indiana at 19 wins, one fewer than they had when they snuck into the dance in 2015, and would be the team’s fourth win over tournament teams. If ESPN’s Andy Katz is correct, this game is the referendum on the entire season for the Hoosiers. Last night Katz stated that he believes if Indiana wins, they’re in. Lose and they’ll be invited (and will probably turn down, right?) a bid to the NIT.
But still, you want other things to go your way as well. So, if Indiana gets the win, here’s what else you want to happen today:
2. Kentucky vs. Georgia, 1:00 p.m.
This one is going to hurt, fam. It will go against everything you have ever known. But Indiana needs Kentucky to win today. A win for the Hoosiers and a loss for Georgia would certainly move Indiana ahead of the Bulldogs. But a win over Kentucky is far better than a win over Wisconsin. It may even be the case that a win over Wisconsin followed by a win over either Maryland or Northwestern would not push the Hoosiers past Georgia if they beat the Wildcats.
C-A-T-S, KILL, ME, NOW
3. St. Bonaventure vs. Rhode Island, 2:30 p.m.
Hopefully Stan Robinson plays like he did at Indiana and Rhode Island gets upset by the Bonnies. Rhode Island has far less opportunity in front of them for a quality win, and they probably will lose to Dayton tomorrow anyway. And a win over Wisconsin is a much better win than a win over St. Bonaventure. But still, Indiana fans should feel a lot better about the team’s position compared to the Rams’ position if they fall to the Bonnies.
4. Iowa State vs. TCU, 7:00 p.m.
TCU had the biggest win of Championship Week for a Power 5 team yesterday when they knocked off the No. 1 team in the country, Kansas. But this is one where a big Iowa State win could still end TCU’s tournament dreams. While the win yesterday was impressive, Kansas was without Josh Jackson, who was suspended for leaving the scene of an accident.
An Iowa State win would get rid of Horned Frogs and clean up the bubble.
5. Oregon vs. Cal, 9:00 p.m.
Cal has had a big week in Las Vegas. After squeaking one out over lowly Oregon State, they responded yesterday with a huge win over Utah. Now, they have an opportunity tonight to perhaps steal an at-large bid if they can knock off the 1-seed Ducks. Like Kansas State below, you might want to hope for more than just a Cal loss. A big Oregon win could hurt the Bears, who have already helped themselves some this week, in the eye test category.
6. West Virginia vs. Kansas State, 9:00 p.m.
Kansas State also won a shocker in the Big 12 Tournament yesterday, beating Baylor. But now they’ll have to deal with Huggy Bear and Press Virginia just 24 hours later. Advantage: Mountaineers.
A win for West Virginia might not be fatal for Kansas State, who, at the moment, is in the field according to Lunardi. But a Cal win or an Indiana win today, or two Rhode Island wins (including one over Dayton tomorrow) would have to make the Wildcats very nervous come Sunday.
7. Connecticut vs. Houston, 9:00 p.m.
This one makes me slightly uncomfortable to write. UConn is not good. But the American Athletic Conference tournament is being played in Hartford and we all know the kind of magic that the Huskies seem to have in tournaments in March, and the worst thing that could happen to Indiana, even if they were to beat Wisconsin (and perhaps Maryland/Northwestern) is bad teams stealing automatic bids.
But as of right now, Houston losing is most important. Like TCU, a Houston loss would pretty much be the end for the Cougars. And even a win might not do them a lot of good. Again, UConn stinks. And still in Houston’s way, presumably, would be both Cincinnati and Southern Methodist, two ranked teams that are tournament locks.
8. Those 32 teams already in
If those 32 teams already in are playing, and they are playing a team on the bubble or squarely out of the tournament (not Indiana), root for them. Here’s who you want to win through the end of their conference tournaments:
ACC: The ACC is a safe zone. Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Florida State are all in the dance. It doesn’t matter who wins.
American: SMU or Cincinnati.
Big Ten: Indiana, for obvious reasons. But there really isn’t anyone to root against. Everyone else remaining will be dancing.
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee State. Who knows if MTSU (28-4) is one of those 32 teams and will make it without winning C-USA, but why risk it? Go Blue Raiders.
MAC: Akron. The same thing goes for Akron (25-7). Bubble fans should feel even more uncomfortable if someone other than the Zips wins this league.
Mountain West: Again, the same thing goes for Nevada (26-6). At 22-10, Colorado State is not getting in. Neither are San Diego State or Fresno State. Nevada needs to finish it off out west.
SEC: Kentucky (I know, I know), Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas. Vanderbilt is also a bubble team, but they have probably done enough, so if it comes down to them and Ole Miss, Alabama, and Georgia, pull for the Commodores.