If you’re ready to put this Indiana basketball season on ice, few would blame you.
Speculation is rampant about Tom Crean’s future at Indiana, games seemingly haven’t mattered for a couple of weeks, and the Hoosiers’ crucial stumbles down the stretch would have them well out of the field any other year.
But, there’s maybe reason to hold out a little bit of hope. Basketball is fun, championship week is fun, and the NCAA Tournament is fun — and having a team playing in it with something on the line makes it that much more worthwhile. Part of the reason it’s such a fun week? It’s mostly a crapshoot. Teams that don’t necessarily deserve to advance to the next given round do so every year. Perhaps Saturday’s showing at Ohio State sheds a little light on why the Hoosiers could conceivably be a tough out for any team if they were to find their way into the field late.
In this morning’s SB Nation Bracketology, Indiana sits fourth in Chris Dobbertean’s Next Seven Out — roughly eight or nine spots or so out of Dayton. Conceivably, conference tournament carnage could get the Hoosiers into the field as an at-large if they’re able to turn in a strong showing in DC this week. Here’s what the Hoosiers would need to make the field
What Indiana needs
It would probably take a minimum of two wins in DC to get Indiana back into the conversation. Three would possibly get them into the field.
Indiana’s Thursday evening showdown with Iowa might effectively be a play-out game for the NCAA Tournament. Both teams sit just outside the field -- with Iowa in the First Four Out category. A win would pull the Hoosiers dead even in the overall win/loss column with the Hawkeyes, though Iowa’s 10-8 conference and strong close record looks far better than Indiana’s 7-11 and down-the-stretch-stumbles. Of course, Iowa also didn’t beat two number one seeds.
The Hoosiers big opportunity would come on Friday, a chance to knock off Wisconsin and pick up their first Top 25 win since November. If that goes well, it would put the Hoosiers at 19-14 and probably in the conversation and making Selection Sunday worth watching. A Saturday win over Northwestern or Maryland would put Indiana at 20 wins ahead of the Sunday final -- and very possibly into the field.
What Indiana needs from others
Dobbertean’s Last Four In are Xavier, Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt. Root for early conference tournament exits for each.
Syracuse is an underdog per KenPom in an 8-9 game against Miami. Wake will open against a bad Boston College team before getting Virginia Tech. Vandy opens the SEC Tournament in Nashville in a fairly-even matchup against Texas A&M. Xavier would be the safest of the four teams here, though things could get shaky for Chris Mack and Co. if they throw up on their shoes against DePaul. Don’t lose to DePaul.
But Indiana probably needs some help before we even get to that battle for the final at-large spot. Championship week damage from seven or so other teams can assuredly help the Hoosiers’ cause.
Two Big Ten teams -- the aforementioned Hawkeyes and Illinois -- are among Dobbertean’s First Four Out. If KenPom chalk holds, both will likely exit the tournament picture and Indiana will add a win over one of the two. That still leaves five or so other teams the Hoosiers would need to jump to get into position to jockey for the final at large.
Stan Robinson’s Rhode Island Rams are also among the First Four Out at the moment. It’s a resume that looks far different than the Hoosiers playing in the A-10 — with 21 wins already to date but no great wins and more bad losses Crean & Co. possess. Any exit before the conference final could leave Dan Hurley’s team out of the field.
Kansas State’s just out of the field right now in the First Four Out. At 19-13, if they’d happen to beat Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament, they’ll probably be in! It’s also Bruce Weber, so they won’t!
California owns exactly two wins over tournament teams, but they won’t add much to the resume with an opening round win in the Pac-12 Tournament. Oregon State is 2016 Rutgers levels of bad. A win over Utah in the next round could add more value to the resume.
Georgia & Georgia Tech will both play toss-up games against Pitt & Tennessee that would likely knock them out of tournament contention with a loss.