Indiana hosts Minnesota tonight at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. If Indiana wins, they will continue to be listed as a team inside the bubble for selection. Lose, and the path may close.
Indiana under Archie Miller has had moments of glory, but when all the chips have been on the table, they have folded. With the possibility of signature wins hanging in the balance against Maryland and Illinois, IU crumpled late. Win those games, and fans are trying to figure out whether IU is a seven seed.
But they didn’t win those games, and Indiana NEEDS a win tonight.
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Last year, IU faced a similar situation in the Big 10 Tournament. After winning their four final regular season games, the Hoosiers needed a win against Ohio State for a shot at making the field for March Madness. They allowed the Buckeyes to build a 20-point lead with 7:30 minutes to play before roaring back behind four Devonte Green three-pointers to cut the deficit to two before finally losing.
Tonight, Indiana has another chance to show they have grown enough to win crucial games needed to achieve their goals. This is the kind of game a serious program wins at home and that a soft and pampered program cedes to an inferior opponent.
Purdue went into Iowa last night as a team desperate for a road win in a place where no Big 10 opponent had been successful this season. They knew without the win, a trip to the NCAA was impossible. The Boilermakers dominated Iowa to punch their ticket – as long as they beat Rutgers at Mackey Saturday afternoon.
Indiana needs to show the same resolve tonight against Minnesota. If they do, all dreams remain within reach. If they wilt, the season will likely end with a trip to the NIT – again. If Indiana can’t squeeze their way into the NCAAs, Green and De’Ron Davis will become the first four-year Hoosiers to avoid competing in an NCAA Tournament since 1972 when the field was 25 teams.
College basketball is a great sport because the difference between a season ending as a dream or nightmare is often decided in early March by an errant pass, botched defensive assignment, or shot that rims out. For Indiana, the dream is a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and tonight’s game against Minnesota will go a long way toward determining whether it comes true.
Indiana’s math for an NCAA bid is this simple – win at home tonight and Saturday, clinch a spot. Lose either game, and wins will be needed next week at the Big 10 Tournament in Indianapolis.
Given IU’s historic misery in the Big 10 Tournament (a putrid 12-22 record second in futility only to Northwestern), their best chance to dance comes tonight and Saturday.