5 Things Indiana Hoosiers Must Do To Make The 2014 NCAA Tournament
5 Ways Indiana Can Secure A Berth In The 2014 NCAA Tournament
After a 61-56 win Saturday night at Northwestern, the Indiana Hoosiers kept their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive. With losses in six of their last eight games, including a 54-47 home loss to the Wildcats on Jan. 18, head coach Tom Crean and his youthful bunch knew that a loss in the return game would all but bust the Hoosiers' tourney bubble.
Despite being surprisingly out-rebounded by the Wildcats 35-29, the Hoosiers (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) were led by a balanced scoring attack, as four players scored 12 points each.
Their virtual tournament lives will be on the line this week, as the Hoosiers will face perhaps the two hottest teams in the conference in Wisconsin and Iowa. The Hoosiers travel to Madison to face the No. 16 Badgers on Tuesday and are looking for a season sweep of the series, collecting a 75-72 win in their Jan. 14 meeting in Assembly Hall.
Two days later, they'll face Iowa in a makeup game that was rescheduled from Feb. 18 to Feb. 27, due to a piece of metal falling from the ceiling in Assembly Hall. A day after the incident, engineers conducted a thorough investigation of the ceiling, reporting to Big Ten and school officials from both teams that the building was safe and ready for use.
The piece of metal falling could easily serve as a painful reminder of the free fall the Hoosiers were experiencing. Three straight losses at Minnesota, against Penn State, and a blowout at Purdue were serious blows to an already fragile tournament resume. The postponement may have been a blessing in disguise, allowing the team to refocus and build on their postseason aspirations.
Even with the win Saturday, the Hoosiers know current projections place them on the outside looking in. An RPI of 94 and a strength of schedule of 92 will not be enough for an invitation, unless it's to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), one of the "other" potential options for teams not selected to the Big Dance. However, the Hoosiers will probably have to win four of the five remaining games and make a deep run in the Big Ten conference tournament to even be a consideration.
V. Corey Greenleaf is a contributing writer for RantSports.com.
5. Enjoy The Moment
Coach Tom Crean knew he would have plenty of ups and downs in a very tough conference, but this probably isn't what he expected. However, with seven freshmen and six sophomores, growing pains should be a surprise to no one. The beauty of it is this is the most exciting time of the year. It's never about who the best team is, it's about which team is the hottest at the moment. If they're able to keep things simple and just go out and play the game they love and enjoy, this could be a sleeper team in the right postseason matchup.
4. Dominate The Boards
Despite some of their shortcomings, the one thing that will keep the Hoosiers in any game they play is rebounding. They're currently second in the Big Ten and 11th in the country, averaging 40.2 a game. Freshman Noah Venleh leads the team and the conference with an average of 9.4 a game, easily the highest total in the Big Ten. That kind of effort and attitude is needed during this time of year where stamina and pace are vital keys to success.
3. Play Well With The Lights On
Crean is no stranger to coaching in big games. Even with a young team and a mediocre 15-11 record, the Hoosiers have a decent record against Top 25 opponents, going 2-3 with home wins against then No. 3 Wisconsin and then No. 10 Michigan. They played well in a loss to Connecticut, losing 59-58, but were dispatched at Syracuse, 69-52. Those are definitely high profile clubs but with an already weak non-conference schedule, winning one of those games would've been a boost to their profile.
Fortunately for the Hoosiers, four of their final five opponents are all ranked, as they'll face No. 16 Wisconsin, No. 15 Iowa, No. 24 Ohio State and No. 20 Michigan. The other game in that stretch is against Nebraska, a team that also finds itself on the bubble. The selection committee will certainly keep a close eye on that game.
2. Yogi Ferrell
Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell is the man running the show in Bloomington, averaging a team-high 17.7 ppg, good for third in the Big Ten. If there's a big play to be made or a big shot to be made, you can almost guarantee the ball will be in his hands. Listed at 6-0 (that's questionable), Ferrell is an intense and emotional player that isn't afraid to take the ball to the basket. He'll definitely need strong play from his supporting cast, but if he has an off night, the Hoosiers will have a hard time winning against quality opponents.
1. Win The Big 10 Tournament
If the Hoosiers were to capture the Big Ten conference title, they would receive one of the 32 automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament rewarded to conference champions. The surprising thing about that is that they've never won the conference tournament. The closest they've come to reaching that goal was in 2001, losing to Iowa in the title game, 63-61. Although history isn't on their side, this would leave no doubt of their selection.
Let the Madness begin!