CRAWFORD | Why Indiana should make the NCAA Tournament field (ba - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Why Indiana should make the NCAA Tournament field (barely)

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Selection Sunday has dawned, the most beautiful day of the year so far in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. For the Indiana Hoosiers and their fans, however, it promises to be a long, anxious day.

IU finds itself on the NCAA Tournament bubble, according to most prognosticators.

CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has IU in the field as an 11 seed with a berth in the play-in round vs. Colorado State in Dayton. The winner would advance into the south region against No. 6 seed Oregon.

Joe Lunardi has Indiana among the last four in, along with LSU, Boise State, and Ole Miss. His first four our include UCLA, Tulsa, Miami and Old Dominion.

According to Lunardi, Connecticut could knock Indiana out of the tournament with a win in the AAC Tournament final today.

It's going to be close, but I want to take a look at why Indiana should be in.

1. QUALITY WINS. The Hoosiers have two wins against the RPI Top 25 (Maryland and SMU) and four against the RPI top 50 (Butler, Ohio State). LSU has two wins against the RPI top 25, (Arkansas, West Virginia), and only three against the top 50 (Georgia). Ole Miss has only one win against the RPI top 25 (Arkansas) and two against the RPI top 50 (Oregon). So to review, in the toughest games (as judged by RPI, which is crap, but it's the standard being used), Indiana has four wins against top 50 teams, while LSU has three, and Ole Miss has one.

2. STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE. But it's not just about who you've beaten, it's about who you've played. Georgia, which everybody sees as safely in the field, has ZERO wins against the RPI top 50. Georgia has beaten nobody. Nobody. It lost to Georgia Tech. It lost to Minnesota. LSU at least has a win over West Virginia to hang its hat on, but it has a loss to Clemson. Two SEC tournament teams, two losses to teams at the bottom of the ACC. Ole Miss has a loss to Charleston Southern and one to Western Kentucky. At least it has wins over Cincinnati and Oregon. I'm not arguing that Ole Miss and LSU shouldn't be in the field. I'm arguing that they shouldn't be in the field over Indiana. The Hoosiers played more Top 50 teams than either LSU or Ole Miss, and they beat as many Top 50 as LSU and Ole Miss combined. As for games played against the Top 50, Indiana had 15. LSU had five, and Ole Miss had eight. So IU played more Top 50 RPI teams than Ole Miss and LSU combined. Why am I using Top 50 and not Top 100? Because at this point, when talking about the last spots in the tournament, the discussion ought to be about performance against tournament quality competition, and that's Top 50. Indiana had its own bad losses — the worst against Northwestern (No. 124) on Feb. 25. Its bad non-conference loss, to No. 75 Eastern Washington, is pretty respectable when you consider that Ole Miss had non-conference losses to No. 117 Western Kentucky, No. 132 TCU and No. 165 Charleston Southern. LSU's bad losses? Count them up: No. 106 Clemson, No. 126 Auburn (twice), No. 215 Mississippi State, No. 218 Missouri.

3. CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PERFORMANCE. In conference tournament play, you get an indication of tournament readiness. Indiana beat a Northwestern team ranked No. 124 in the RPI, then lost to No. 12-ranked Maryland by six. The Hoosiers went only 4-6 in their lat 10 games. That's the biggest knock against them. But take a look at LSU in tournament play. The Tigers lost to an Auburn team ranked No. 124. They didn't win a game. They are 6-4 in their final 10 games — with a quality win over Arkansas on the road in their final game. Ole Miss? It lost its SEC Tournament game to No. 90 South Carolina. 

At this point in the process, it's not like you're going to find a team that is truly deserving. And everybody's using different criteria. So I'm going to acknowledge, my reasoning can be just as flawed as someone else's — or even the committee.

But I don't see how you leave Indiana out. At some point, it's about who has demonstrated the ability to beat tournament-quality teams. All of these teams have shown that bad teams can beat them. I think the Hoosiers have showed the ability to pull off upsets better than the others on the list with them.

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