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Bracketology Watch: Indiana is living life on the bubble

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The Hoosiers still have work left to do.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night’s monumental upset of Michigan State was huge for many reasons. For one, Indiana was able to halt a seven-game losing streak that had many people feeling as if the season was a lost cause. Most importantly, it provides a much needed boost to morale, confidence, or whatever emotional quality you want to use.

The win also gives Indiana one of the best resume building wins that any team will pick up in Big Ten play this year, and it’s one that the Hoosiers desperately needed as their margin for error to make the NCAA Tournament dwindled with each subsequent loss.

With a month left of the season, Indiana is firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. At 13-9, the Hoosiers need to continue to rack up wins, and will need to win their higher profile games to avoid a play-in game in Dayton.

Indiana’s had plenty of opportunities for marquee wins so far this year, but have largely struggled to capitalize. Their 3-7 record in Quadrant 1 games puts them in similar territory as other potential bubble teams like Ohio State, Ole Miss and Texas. Those three wins were home wins against Louisville and Marquette as well as the aforementioned win against Michigan State. Those are three very, very good wins to hang your hat on come Selection Sunday, but Indiana will need more to feel comfortable.

The Hoosiers are currently ranked No. 43 in the NET, putting them just outside of what you could consider the at-large window (top 36). There will be teams that claim automatic bids from that top 36, so Indiana is right there on the cusp. Save for the road loss to Rutgers, there isn’t necessarily a “bad” loss on the resume. That loss and the home loss to Nebraska were Quadrant 2 losses.

That’s why it’s so important for Indiana to capitalize on remaining opportunities. As of now, the Hoosiers have five Quadrant 1 games left remaining on the schedule: vs. Iowa, at Minnesota, vs. Purdue, vs. Wisconsin and vs. Michigan State. The remaining home game against Ohio State could also be a Quadrant 1 opportunity if the Buckeyes crack the top 30 of the NET (they’re currently 35), but as of now it’ll be a Quadrant 2 game along with the road contest against Illinois. The regular season finale against Rutgers is currently a Quadrant 3 game.

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact number of wins that the Hoosiers need to be a “lock” for the NCAA Tournament. As of Monday, Bracket Matrix has Indiana in the field as an 11 seed, but the Hoosiers only appeared in 80 of a possible 98 brackets. They’re in Last Four In territory, which would send them to Dayton for a play-in game. KenPom projects them to go 4-5 down the stretch, finishing with a 17-14 record. If that holds true, I don’t think that would be quite enough.

At minimum, the Hoosiers need to get to 18 wins, and even 19 or 20 would be huge for their nerves on Selection Sunday. Take care of business against Iowa and Ohio State at home this week. Win those games, and Indiana moves up a seed line out of Last Four In territory. Picking off one of Purdue, Michigan State or Wisconsin at home and handling the last two games of the season probably does it. For good measure, a win in the Big Ten Tournament would be another chance to create some separation.

Saturday’s win gave the Hoosiers’ tournament chances a jolt of life. Starting Thursday against Iowa, it’ll be up to them to maintain momentum and continue working their way back to the tournament for the first time since 2016.