Is Indiana in the Big Dance?
That’s the question everyone wanted answered following Indiana’s 71-56 victory over Northwestern Thursday night in second round place of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center.
Indiana was firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble before the game and most everyone agreed that a loss to Northwestern would have knocked them out of contention.
But IU won and now plays No. 2 seed Maryland on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Beat Maryland and you’d have to think IU is clearly in. And the Hoosiers may be in now. But you have to think if IU could pick up one more victory that the viewing of Selection Sunday would be a lot less stressful for Hoosier Nation.
Eamonn Brennan, of ESPN.com, had this to say after IU beat Northwestern in his Bubble Watch segment. “Well, that's more like it. Indiana's Feb. 25 loss at Northwestern was the first genuine sign of bubble trouble for a team that began February looking like a No. 6-seed -- though some might point to Feb. 19's home loss to Purdue, that's just a terrible matchup for an undersized team -- and it was followed by two variously lackluster home losses to Iowa and Michigan State. Fans began an open revolt. Questions about Tom Crean's job security grew louder than ever before. The sky was falling. And then, after a few days' rest, IU suddenly returned to the form -- attacking and intelligent, loose and precise -- that made it one of the Big Ten's pleasant surprises in the first half of conference play. At the very least, the win should keep IU from falling off the bubble, and it came on a day when a handful of fellow bubble teams (Texas, Texas A&M, and Old Dominion, most notably) lost. It also gives the Hoosiers a crack at a Maryland team, with a fantastic resume and a potential No. 3 seed, that got blown out in Bloomington and barely hung on when IU came to College Park. This is still a very bubbly situation, but it looks far more promising after Thursday night.’’
It will be interesting Friday morning to check in with some of the notable bracketology experts to see what they think the Indiana victory did for the Hoosiers’ chances.
Tom Crean was asked what he thought about IU’s NCAA Tournament chances following the game.
“Well, I don't know,’’ Crean said. “You know, I really don't know, and no one knows. That's the beauty of it all. I would think when you look at criteria, I would think when you look at what we've done with the RPI wins, what we've done with the non conference scheduling and winning some of the games that we did, who you choose to play, I would hope so. I think when you win 20 games and you end up winning now the tenth conference game in this league, I know it was 9 and 9 during the league and beat some of the teams that we've beaten, I would hope so. We're getting better.
“I love our capabilities, I love our potential, and I certainly hope that we are, but we have not spent any time talking about that, and we didn't spend any time talking about it in the locker room in the short time we were together, and we haven't spent any time talking about it tonight. It's all been focused on what they need to do to get better, how we can continue to get better, and then getting ready for each and every game.
I think one thing most people will agree on is that we’ll have a better feel for the total situation following Friday’s game with Maryland.