It can be hard watching the Big Dance when your team isn’t in the tournament. But don’t be too bummed out Hoosier fans, here are some teams with ties to the state or school, along with some feel-good stories, that Indiana should root for this year, in no particular order:
To be completely honest, I didn’t even know that there was a University of New Orleans until a week or two ago when I began looking at this year’s projected bracket. The reason why Hoosiers will like this team is because of there Head Coach, Mark Slessinger. Slessinger is a Bloomington native and helped take the team from 20 losses last season to 20 wins this season along with a conference regular season and tournament championship in the Southland conference. Also, the school’s acronym is UNO which is also fantastic.
Northern Kentucky is one of the closer schools to Bloomington on this list in terms of distance that will be in the tournament. Yes, I know it’s difficult for Indiana fans to root for a school with Kentucky in the name but here me out on this one. This team is batting 1000 in the fact that they have made the tournament in every year they’ve been eligible for the tournament in Division I basketball. NKU is only the seventh school in history to make the postseason in its’ first year of eligibility. So who knows maybe their fresh prospective can propel them far into the tournament.
Eastern Tennessee State
Similar to New Orleans, this team also has some Bloomington-esque ties. This team features two IU transfers in Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin. Crimson Quarry’s own Kyle Robbins wrote about the transfers accomplishments in-depth right here.
This is the last one on the list with any strong ties to IU, this time featuring former Head Coach Mike Davis. Davis was most notable for his run in the 2002 NCAA tournament in which he got IU all the way to the national title game. You can read more about his recent work in yet another Kyle Robbins original about his recent years in with the Tigers here.
The Rams are gonna party like it’s 1999, because the Rams haven’t made the NCAA tournament since then. The A10 champions had been sitting on the for almost the entire season but were able to solidify their spot heading into the selection show. This team also sports an IU transfer in Stanford Robinson, whose averaging 6.2 points per game for URI.
Speaking of the state of Rhode Island, their state capital’s team also has a solid basketball squad. The Friars are in the tournament for a fourth consecutive year and have made it out of a tough Big East conference this year. Another IU transfer can be found here as Emmitt Holt is averaging 12.4 points per game and 5.2 rebounds.
Now on to some teams that we are all a bit more familiar with, Big Ten teams. The obvious B10 team to root for this year has to be the Northwestern Wildcats. I know it is a bit bizarre to pick a preppier school as a lovable underdog but they get a pass this time. Head Coach Chris Collins has gotten the Wildcats to its’ first ever NCAA tournament, breaking Chicago’s most famous sports drought in recent memory. Nope, this streak was the most famous sports drought in Chicagoland, I can’t think of any others in recent history that have been broken in the past year.
The other Big Ten on this list is here for similar reasons to New Orleans in the fact that Head Coach Richard Pitino has turned this team around drastically. Last year this team only had an abysmal eight wins but this year he has literally tripled last years win total getting the Golden Gophers up to 24 wins this season.