A disappointing loss over the weekend has Indiana Hoosiers fans wondering where this team will end up. Is IU a NCAA Tournament competitor? Or are is it destined to play in the NIT?
IU fell at Minnesota 66-60 Saturday night. The Hoosiers led the game for the first 29 minutes of play, and had a double-digit lead for some lengthy stretches. The game came down to a number of big runs by each team, but IU had too many lapses in the second half to pull off a much needed road win.
Turnovers in the second half were a big problem as IU couldn’t maintain anything resembling momentum. This isn’t a new issue, but its still a concern. The offensive attack was much more balanced, but the team is still heavily reliant on Yogi Ferrell.
The loss puts IU’s NCAA Tournament in serious doubt.
Current analysis, and history, suggest the Big Ten will get six or seven teams in the NCAA Tournament. There are five teams in the top 25, and all are virtually a lock for the postseason. After this weekend, Minnesota is 16-8 and most bracketologists have them in the tourney (and around an 11 seed).
Do the powers that be want to give the Big Ten a seventh team? IU is eighth in the conference standings, right behind a 12-12 Northwestern team. The Wildcats won’t get in, but should Indiana?
The Hoosiers hold big wins over Wisconsin and Michigan, but they’ve lost to Northwestern and Nebraska. IU almost defeated Michigan State, but also barely beat Penn State. We simply have no idea what this team will bring to court from one game to another.
The Hoosiers have just eight games left before the Big Ten Tournament. It isn’t an easy slate of games either. They face No. 16 Iowa, No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 22 Ohio State, and No. 15 Michigan. The easier side of that schedule features Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern, and Nebraska (two of those opponents they’ve already lost to).
Simply put, IU has to go 4-4 over this final stretch to even get consideration for a tournament berth. Even then, a 19-13 record generally doesn’t scream NCAA Tournament worthy. The Hoosiers will have to make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
My estimation is that IU has to win 20 games to make the cut. We know that the Hoosiers are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the better teams in the country, but the inconsistency is maddening. Upsets and road wins carry the most weight when it comes to Selection Sunday. Bad losses certainly don’t help either.
The Hoosiers will have to win the four “easy” games, two of which are on the road, to avoid anymore bad losses this season. Their best shot at another upset win will be when they host Iowa or Ohio State, two very tough opponents with a defensive mindset and a balanced approach.
IU still has a fighting chance at making the NCAA Tournament, and about the best shot out of the major programs in Indiana. With two winnable games this week, home versus Penn State and at Purdue, the Hoosiers have a good chance to get moving in the right direction and wash the taste of the Minnesota loss out of the fans mouths.