The 2019 Big Ten Tournament is going to be critical for Indiana this year.
With the Hoosiers squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, losing their first game next week in Chicago seems like a formula for the NIT.
Of course they could just win the whole thing and erase all doubt. But you know better than to expect that.
BTN released scenarios on Tuesday of the possible seeds for IU and other teams.
The top four teams get a double bye and do not begin play until Friday. The bottom four teams begin play on Wednesday. Everyone else starts on Thursday.
Indiana is currently in 11th place in the conference, but according to the league, the Hoosiers can end up anywhere from 8th to 13th. (Note: After Minnesota’s win over Purdue on Tuesday night, IU can still finish as high as eighth based on the latest updates from BTN.)
If Indiana finishes in the bottom four of the Big Ten it will be forced to play on Wednesday. It’s all high risk and low reward on that first day. There IU could end up facing the prospects of a so-called Quadrant 3 loss. That would almost certainly be fatal to Indiana’s resume.
A win on that first day won’t meaningfully improve things beyond just the optics of the won/loss record — which seems to carry much less significance than in years past.
As you can see in the table below (Via @BTNMikeHall), the Hoosiers can avoid playing on Wednesday merely by winning their final two games.
Avoiding Wednesday would likely mean that IU would play its first game against either Minnesota or Ohio State. Both represent teams that have defeated the Hoosiers earlier in the year, and would present an opportunity to both avenge that loss and also claim a win over another bubble team.
A win on Thursday as an 8th through 10th seed would send Indiana to a Friday contest against a 1st or 2nd seed. Once again, the Friday game would present a big opportunity to enhance the resume.
It isn’t likely to matter significantly whether Indiana finishes 8th through 10th or 11th through 13th. The key is just to make it to at least 10th and make it out of the Wednesday game.
It isn’t clear whether that is possible with only one win. As of right now that would appear to be settled by tiebreakers.
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