Eight Reasons Why Indiana Could Still Sneak in the NCAA Tournament

Indiana head basketball coach Archie Miller believes that Indiana can do damage in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

He said this after Thursday’s disappointing Big Ten Tournament loss to Ohio State.

“I know if we are in the tournament, I believe our guys are capable of winning a game,” Miller told the media. “For me to speculate, it’s hard. I know this, our league is the toughest in the country this season and to play the schedule that we’ve played and sorta come up with our head above water these last three weeks is a good sign.

“We’ll take whatever they give us. You obviously earn what you get and for us, right now, we just got to wait and see.”

Despite the loss to the Buckeyes, few would argue against the idea that Indiana’s recent play suggests it is a better team than it was when it had lost 12 of 13 during January and February.

There are a number of factors why Indiana improved down the stretch, and a number of reasons to believe that Indiana is better than it looks on paper.

But will it be enough?

Here are eight reasons why you still might want to watch the tournament selection show (6:00 p.m. / CBS) on Sunday evening.

1. If injuries matter.  Rob Phinisee, Devonte Green, Race Thompson, Zach McRoberts, De’Ron Davis.  They’ve all missed extended time, and their injuries are a key component of IU’s resume.  There is little doubt that Indiana could have picked up another win or two with a healthier roster.  And another win or two would have clearly put them in the tournament.  Here’s the thing — Indiana is healthy now.  If an injury going into the tournament impacts the committee, then so should health, especially where a lack of health is a key reason why a team is on the bubble in the first place

2. Really good wins.  You know about the six quadrant one wins.  That’s already better than their bubble competition, but you have to look even closer.  No one on the bubble can claim a win like Indiana’s at the Breslin Center.  And then the Hoosiers backed that win up with a sweep of Big Ten champion Michigan State.

Compare that to a team like TCU (20-13), whose only real claim to fame this year is a couple wins over Iowa State.  The Cyclones are good, but nobody is confusing them with Michigan State.

St. John’s has a win over Villanova, but they didn’t back it up with the sweep, and they were just blown out by the same Marquette team that Indiana blew out.

3. No bad losses.  Saying “no bad losses” after a season that included losses to Northwestern and Rutgers is a trigger for some people.  But based on the NCAA’s criteria, those losses, in isolation, shouldn’t harm the resume.  And the truth is, everyone on the bubble has a resume full of similar missteps.  You can clearly argue that Indiana has too many losses, but there are no resume killers like Indiana State and Fort Wayne this year.

4. Strength of schedule.  Of the teams on the bubble with Indiana, only Oklahoma can claim a more difficult schedule than IU according to Ken Pom.

5. Playing better at the right time. The Ohio State loss still stings, but the reality is that IU closed the season winning four out of five, and left a lot of people wondering “what if” after all of the injuries.  Included in those four wins are victories over Ken Pom top 12 Michigan State and Wisconsin.  This is an Indiana team that can beat anyone on a given day.  The decision is not so much about Indiana’s overall record, but based on where things stand right now, do they appear to be a team that can win in this tournament?  Over the last few weeks, that answer is clearly yes.

6. Controversies are good for business. The final three points here are more conspiratorial than based on the actual criteria that the NCAA tells us that they use.  Much like Oklahoma last year, Indiana is that team this year.  If the Hoosiers get in there will be a national debate.  That is actually good for the tournament.  The more people talking about it, the better.  Why not have that team be one of the better brands in the game to really fuel the fire?

7. Power Five Bias.  There is and should be a power five conference bias.  These teams play more difficult schedules and should get the benefit of the doubt..  The NCAA’s system for automatic bids is flawed.  There is no justifiable reason for an otherwise bad and unqualified team to get hot over a weekend, win a conference tournament, and receive an automatic bid that trumps a more than four month body of work.  If that is going to harm someone, it should be the non-power five schools.

8. An attractive draw to the First Four. Indiana.  Romeo Langford.  Archie Miller back in Dayton.  There are a lot people that don’t believe the First Four should even exist.  It doesn’t draw the same viewership as the rest of the tournament.  But it is going to happen in 2019.  With Indiana and their fans so close to Dayton, there probably isn’t a better team to send to the First Four.

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