Brian Spurlock / USA Today

Indiana Basketball: Quality Wins and No Bad Losses Keep the Hoosiers in the NCAA Hunt

After losing 9 of 10 games and sitting at 13-11 overall and 4-9 in Big Ten play, you may scoff at the idea that Indiana is still in the running for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Strange as it may seem, the Hoosiers are indeed on the NCAA bubble as it stands right now.  According to ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology, Indiana is listed as part of the “last four IN.”

How is that possible, you ask?

The parallel for Indiana is last year’s Oklahoma team that at one point was a top 10 team but finished poorly and ended the season at 18-13 — and yet still made the tournament with an 8-10 conference record..

Much like the Sooners last year, it all comes down to two key variables for Indiana still being in the conversation this year — high quality wins and no bad losses.

Unlike the 2017-18 season, where Indiana suffered resume crushing losses to the likes of Indiana State and Fort Wayne, the Hoosiers have at least managed to steer clear of those kind of setbacks.

Equally important were some early season wins over Marquette and Louisville, and that still difficult to comprehend road win at East Lansing against Michigan State.

The combination of high quality wins and no bad losses tells the computers that, hey, this team isn’t really all that bad.  We won’t tell the computers the truth if you don’t.

While being invited to the NCAA Tournament feels like a participation trophy sitting here today, the Hoosiers are nevertheless very much in the conversation with seven Big Ten games to go plus the Big Ten tournament.

Moreover, every remaining team on the IU schedule is ranked in the first two quadrants of the NCAA’s NET system and the KenPom Top 100.  That leaves very little opportunity to pick up a bad loss, and several more chances to earn additional quality wins.

Of course here lately, that very kind of schedule has meant almost exclusively one thing — losses.

But save for Zach McRoberts, Indiana appears to be as healthy as they are going to get this year, leaving the door open for one last opportunity for a late season push.

What will it take to make the tournament?  It is difficult to say, but a couple more high quality wins over the likes of Michigan State, Purdue and/or Wisconsin would go a long way.

Traditional notions of what it takes to make the tournament might be out the window this year.  With every team in the Big Ten in the top 120 of the NET, a winning or even .500 conference record probably carries very little significance at this point.

Five teams made the NCAA tournament last year with 8-10 league records.  If Indiana has the right wins, even an 8-12 record in the conference might be good enough this year.

But even that is going to take some more wins — and it starts at Minnesota on Saturday.

Take a look below at Indiana’s resume of key wins and the year to date performance of their non-conference opponents.

Indiana’s last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2016.  Photo Credit – Getty Images

(Net Rankings Through February 13th Games)

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75.
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135.
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240.
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353.

Quadrant One Wins (NET):  Marquette, Louisville, Michigan State, Penn State.

Quadrant Two Wins (NET)Butler, Northwestern,

“Bad Losses” (Quadrant 3 or 4 via the NET):  None.  At Rutgers (No. 112) is the worst loss.

The Non-Conference Opponents

Chicago State — (3-21, 0-9) NET #351.  Yes that’s 351st….out of 353.  It comes as no surprise that Lance Irvin’s team is providing no help to Indiana’s resume, with just one win over Division One competition.  Things are so bad that they just lost by 50 to KenPom No. 203 Cal Baptist.

Montana State — (11-12, 8-5) NET #251.  Winners of 3 of 4, the Bobcats have been playing better lately and have moved up about 75 spots from their worst KenPom ranking (#315) earlier in the season.

Marquette — (21-4, 10-2) NET #20.  While it feels like an outlier to IU fans, this is a win that keeps on giving on the resume.  The Golden Eagles have cruised through the Big East, with just two losses — both to St. John’s.  Markus Howard is having an All-American season.

Arkansas — (14-10, 5-6) NET #64.  Indiana was a mere tip-in away from another quadrant one win.  It has been a roller coaster year in a much improved SEC for Arkansas.  The Razorbacks have several tough games remaining and IU would like to see them stay in the top 75.

UT Arlington — (12-12, 8-3) NET #166.  It has been a really strong conference run for the Mavericks who have moved up nearly 100 spots in the KenPom rankings.  They’ve defeated several top 200 teams along the way.

UC Davis — (9-14, 5-4) NET #233.  Feasting on mostly sub-250 teams, the Aggies have won five of six after winning just two nonconference games against Division One competition.

Duke — (22-2, 10-1) NET #2.  At this point you are probably tired of hearing about the Blue Devils.  The good news for Indiana is that this loss does nothing to hurt them.

Louisville — (17-8, 8-4) NET #16.  The Cardinals have been a surprise team this year under first year head coach Chris Mack.  As a result, Indiana’s win over Louisville in December is providing a major resume boost.

Butler — (14-11, 5-7) NET #53.  It might be difficult for some Indiana fans, but there is probably no team in the country outside of the Big Ten that you would want to see do well down the stretch than Butler.  Mired in their own miserable slump, a top 50 finish from the Bulldogs would be important for IU.

Central Arkansas — (10-15, 5-7) NET #299.  The Bears are just kind of who we thought they were — not very good.  Losers of five in a row, this is a team seemingly going nowhere.

Jacksonville — (12-15, 5-7) NET #278.  The Dolphins have moved up from being ranked as bad as KenPom No. 322, but this is still not a team that appears on track to make any noise or help Indiana in any meaningful way.

Big Ten Conference Standings According to NET (Remaining Opponents in Bold)

IU has the opportunity to pick up at least five more quadrant one wins in its final seven games.  While every game is important, winning a few of those games down the stretch will make the Hoosiers difficult to keep out of the tournament.

  • Michigan State (7)
  • Michigan (8)
  • Purdue (11)
  • Wisconsin (15)
  • Maryland (21)
  • Iowa (29)
  • Ohio State (36)
  • Nebraska (39)
  • Indiana (50)
  • Minnesota (58)
  • Penn State (69)
  • Northwestern (72)
  • Illinois (94)
  • Rutgers (112)

(You can see the complete remaining schedule here.)

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