ESPN dropped their newest NCAA Tournament projections earlier this week... let’s take a look at where the Indiana men’s and women’s teams landed and learn a little more about who they may end up playing. Be sure to pack your overreactions!
The men are firmly on solid ground after looking dead in the water two weeks ago. ESPN has them as the 5 seed in the West, making the Hoosiers the 20th-overall seed in the tournament. Here’s a look at their region:
Indiana and Kelvin Sampson’s Houston squad being in the same region makes too much sense. The Hoosiers’ projected first matchup with Oral Roberts is a bit of a cause for concern though. Fans should expect it to be a real game because of both Golden Eagles’ top-ten scoring offense and the Vibes.
According to Fox Sports, a 12-seed has beaten a 5-seed 19 times in since 2010, winning 39% of the 48 first round matchups in the last twelve tournaments. It happened twice last year (Hello, Fran!) and ORU is probably best-known for upsetting 2-seed Ohio State in 2021. It’s safe to say they’re not really afraid of Big Ten basketball. Oral Roberts also has a 7’5” behemoth of a forward in Connor Vanover that leads the country in blocks per personal foul. Trayce Jackson-Davis ranks third nationally in that same metric, but averages 3.5 more rebounds per game than Vanover. A matchup between the two would be an intriguing one to say the least.
The Big Ten gets ten teams into the dance in this projection, the most of any conference. ESPN currently has Purdue as the top overall seed while the five line houses the next two highest B1G seeds in Rutgers and Indiana. The Penn State-Kentucky Midwest play-in is my “Narrative Builder” Game of the Week.
Monday night was big for the women’s team. Their victory at No. 13 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State’s loss to No. 10 Iowa helped them claim a share of first place in the Big Ten standings and move to the top line of ESPN’s projection. Here’s a look at the No. 2 overall seed Hoosiers’ region:
Pretty, pretty good draw all things considered. Michigan and Virginia Tech (who landed Maryland transfer Ashley Owusu over the summer) have given the Hoosiers problems in the past and should be taken seriously, but the region’s 2-seed is what really catches my eye. I am willing to do whatever it takes to see Indiana meet LSU in the Elite Eight.
The Tigers brought in Angel Reese, another former Terp standout, before the season and she’s been as dominant as ever in Baton Rouge. She’s the only player in the region that scores more points per game than Mackenzie Holmes (23.7 vs. 21.9) and she’s currently second in the country in rebounds per game with 15.5.
Holmes scored 17 points and Reese grabbed 13 boards when Indiana beat Maryland in the Big Ten Quarterfinals last season... another classic elimination game between the two stars would be a gift to basketball fans everywhere. Also should mention that I want this matchup badly because I need to see Teri Moren send Kim Mulkey to the Shadow Realm like I need to breathe. It’d be so sick.
The Big Ten as a whole should be happy with ESPN’s model. They have Indiana as one of seven (7) Big Ten tournament teams, and five of said squads are currently slated to host during the first weekend.
As great as things may seem right now, keep in mind the fact that the Hoosiers still have to play projected hosts Ohio State (2x), Iowa (2x), and Michigan before the conference tournament. The meat of their regular season schedule is just beginning and will cause considerable changes in the coming weeks. A massive grain of salt needs to be taken with this particular bracket but Indiana’s certainly earned the pat on the back they’re getting. Life on the top line feels pretty sweet.