BOZICH: Indiana Loss Generates Two Big Questions
CHICAGO (WDRB) – There were two questions guaranteed to generate a grimace, groan or growl in the Indiana locker room after the Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin, 68-56, in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals at the United Center Saturday afternoon.
Why can't the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin?
IU beat every other team in the best league in college basketball this winter, three of them on the road. That's 12 straight losses to the Bo Ryan Slowdown Express. Ordinary teams like Purdue beat Wisconsin.
But by losing to the Badgers, Indiana generated a second question:
Are the Hoosiers still guaranteed a top seed to the NCAA Tournament and the geographically blessed route of playing in Dayton, Ohio next Friday and then in Indianapolis if they play their way into the Midwest Regional semifinals?
"I don't know," said Jordan Hulls, the Hoosiers' senior guard. "That's up to (the NCAA) to decide. I'm just worried about what we did not do today."
Hulls' teammate, Will Sheehey, was even less excited by the question.
"I'm not sure," Sheehey said. "I've said it a million times. I don't know. I'm not sure how it works, so I don't know."
It works, of course, on the vote of the NCAA Tournament Selection committee, which will announce its decision Sunday at 6 p.m. (EDT) Gonzaga is considered a lock for one of four number one seeds, almost certainly in the West.
That's where the fussing kicks in – if you believe that seeding and geography matter.
Most projections also like Duke as a top seed, some to play in the East (Washington, D.C.), others to play in the South (Dallas). You can also find brackets that have the University of Louisville in both those places. Others are lobbying for Miami, Georgetown or Kansas as number ones. Make your case. Stack your facts. Everybody else is.
But the biggest debate on the top line of the bracket is this:
Which team deserves the top spot in the Midwest and the potentially fan friendly drive to Indianapolis?
Louisville? The Cardinals have won 12 of 13 while cruising into the final of the Big East Tournament. The committee says they are no longer rewarding teams that are closing like Secretariat, but you never know how it works. But the Cards can add a Big East tourney title to the share of the regular-season championship they won.
Or Indiana? The committee has stressed that road victories are one of the top credentials. The Hoosiers are only 3-3 in their last six games, but they've won at Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State, three top 10 programs. Nobody can match that credential.
After watching both teams, I'd give the edge to Louisville. The Cards are playing better at the right time of year. I also remember that U of L received the preferred Indy route four years ago. It didn't end well. It doesn't come with a guarantee.
Go ahead and fuss. As you do, remember there are people eager to argue that it doesn't matter – like Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz, who has been a pain in Indiana's clipboard for years.
"I think we have had numerous times a change in number one," Bruesewitz said. "I think it's going to make for a great NCAA Tournament because I don't think a whole lot of one-seeds are going to be making the Final Four.
"If they do, it's great. But it's a wide-open thing and anybody can beat anybody on any night."
That, of course, takes me back to the first question: Why can't Indiana beat Wisconsin?
It's pretty simple. The Badgers make the Hoosiers play the game the way Wisconsin wants to play. Run the clock for 25-to-35 seconds before shooting it. The Badgers did that over and over and over.
Here's a statistic that cannot be dismissed as coincidence: Indiana's two worst scoring and shooting performances this season have come against the Badgers – 59 points and 37 percent shooting in the loss at IU and 56 points and 38.2 percent Saturday.
"They just make you play their pace," Sheehey said. "A lot of people don't want to play their pace because it's a slow pace."
"They play their pace and don't want to get sped up," Hulls said. "It's very frustrating."
Or maybe we're all over-thinking it. Bo Ryan, the mastermind behind the 12 straight Wisconsin wins, was eager to argue that.
"There are just things in this game where no matter how you try to explain them, they defy explanation or reason," Ryan said. "And other things are because the coach is so obstinate he's only going to accept certain things. So maybe it's a combination of that."
Or maybe it's March. The fussing has just begun.
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