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Breaking Down Indiana's Chances at No. 1 Overall Seed in NCAA Tournament

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

Breaking Down Indiana's Chances at No. 1 Overall Seed in NCAA Tournament

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    About six weeks ago, we examined Indiana basketball's prospects for earning the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. At that time, it seemed simple, as commenter Allan Payne pointed out: "win all the rest of your games while the other top teams lose 2 or 3 or more."

    Of course, nothing this season has been that cut and dried, so Hoosier fans have been sent on a bit of a roller coaster. A surprising road loss to Minnesota, an epic choke against Illinois, two ruthless humiliations of archrival Purdue—the Big Ten season has had a little bit of everything.

    With a share of the regular-season conference title already in pocket, IU still has a lot to play for. Hosting Ohio State on Tuesday and visiting Michigan on Saturday are difficult tasks, and then comes the mine field known as the Big Ten tournament.

    Every game is critical as the Hoosiers fight to secure the NCAA tournament's top overall seed, which should offer them a chance to play regional games up the road in Indianapolis. The problem there is that in this whirlwind season, many candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, trying to take that top seed for themselves.

    Read on for a comparison of top teams' resumes to Indiana's, as well as their roads ahead. None of the candidates will have it easy.

     

    All records going into games of March 4.

    All rankings except Pomeroy and Sagarin courtesy of ESPN.com. All rankings include games as of March 3.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Duke Blue Devils

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    Don't know if anyone heard, but some kid named Ryan Kelly made a couple of shots for Duke Saturday night. This guy might be the kind of under-the-radar sleeper that becomes a folk hero in March.

    Or he might already be a folk hero, since he hadn't played in a month and was still talked about more than some All-America candidates.

    Duke's tournament prospects have improved with Kelly's return from his foot injury, but let's look at the tale of the tape.

     

    Indiana

    Duke
    W-L 25-4 25-4
    Road W-L 6-2 4-4

    RPI

    6 1
    SOS 19 1
    NCSOS 51 1
    BPI 1 3
    Pomeroy 2 6
    Sagarin 1 5
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan State

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 3 Miami

    vs. No. 5 Louisville (NS)

    vs. No. 16 Minnesota (NS)

    No. 20 N. Carolina

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    vs. No. 43 Wisconsin

    at No. 62 Virginia

    at No. 68 Maryland

    Duke is undefeated with Kelly in uniform, and that includes an early trip to the Bahamas for a loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Duke was pounding opponents like Minnesota (who salvaged a split with Indiana last week) and VCU while IU was throwing down with the likes of Ball State and Coppin State.

    That weak slate of nonconference opponents is now the Hoosiers' biggest handicap, but to their credit, none of IU's sub-150 victims got any closer than 23 points. Indiana's only sub-100 games to come within that margin were at Northwestern and against Georgia in Brooklyn with an ailing Cody Zeller.

    Kelly's return and prominent role in the Miami victory should ensure Duke draws a No. 1 seed, but look closer at the best wins.

    A five-point win over North Carolina stands as Duke's fourth best in terms of RPI. Indiana's 24-point win over UNC is its sixth-best victory. IU is 6-1 against the top 20, Duke 4-1.

    If Duke fans want credit for wins without Kelly, then a slight deduction must be made for beating Louisville sans Gorgui Dieng.

    Indiana's worst margin of defeat has been five points, at home against Wisconsin. Duke fans don't want to discuss the trip to Miami again.

    The Blue Devils host Virginia Tech and travel to Chapel Hill before the ACC tournament. That UNC game, which might have looked like a laugher six weeks ago, will now be crucial to determine if Duke can earn a top seed.

    As for the top seed, Indiana has the more solid case.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Georgetown Hoyas

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    Since mid-January, Georgetown has laid a path of destruction across the already-crumbling Big East. Pictured here was the Hoyas' opportunity to grab the mic and say the Big East was officially closed, the way former coach John Thompson memorably did to Syracuse's previous venue, Manley Field House.

    Like Michigan, Georgetown has seen Indiana face to face. The two teams battled for the Legends Classic championship in Brooklyn back in November, with IU prevailing in overtime despite Cody Zeller struggling with illness.

    That head-to-head win is a major point in this comparison, but let's check the tape:

     

    Indiana

    Georgetown
    W-L 25-4 23-4
    Road W-L 6-2 6-2

    RPI

    6 10
    SOS 19 40
    NCSOS 51 201
    BPI 1 16
    Pomeroy 2 16
    Sagarin 1 11
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan St.

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 5 Louisville

    No. 12 Marquette

    at No. 14 Syracuse

    vs. No. 31 UCLA (NS)

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    vs. No. 43 Wisconsin

    at No. 138 South Fla.

    No. 37 Pittsburgh

    Georgetown is a team that took a long time to really find its stride. The Hoyas had shaky six-point wins over minnows Towson and Duquesne, along with a win over Tennessee that would have looked good had the final score not been 37-36. The game film of that one could turn up as a torture method in the next Saw movie.

    The Hoyas are 7-3 on the season against the top 50, but pack only three top-25 wins compared to IU's seven. The current 11-game winning streak is dotted with road wins over Notre Dame, Syracuse, UConn and Cincinnati, all of which either should make the tournament or are forbidden to by NCAA decree.

    GU's best victory can certainly stand strong against Indiana's. Like Miami or Kansas, though, a major upset loss stands out like a Baby Ruth in the pool when compared to IU beating everyone it should.

    In the end, the only way to boost the Hoyas' resume over Indiana's is to jump in the Wayback Machine and give Georgetown an extra point or two in regulation at the Barclays Center.

    Some large hurdles still remain for the Hoyas, including the return match with Syracuse and the Big East tournament. A top seed should and could be in their future if they finish the sweep over the Orange and make a finals run at MSG. The overall No. 1, though, might have been lost back in November.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Looking at this picture of Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, I had to fight the urge to caption it "Snootchie Bootchies" (link NSFW).

    That said, yes, IU fans, we all know Gonzaga plays in a weak conference. You know who else knows that? Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

    Few schedules all comers, to the point that his team could be considered an honorary member of the Big 12. See the table:

     

    Indiana

    Gonzaga
    W-L 25-4 28-2
    Road W-L 6-2 10-1

    RPI

    6 11
    SOS 19 94
    NCSOS 51 33
    BPI 1 5
    Pomeroy 2 4
    Sagarin 1 6
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan St.

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 18 Kansas State (NS)

    No. 22 Oklahoma (NS)

    at No. 26 Oklahoma St.

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    No. 43 Wisconsin

    at No. 27 Butler

    No. 34 Illinois

    That overall SOS rating will be held against the Zags in the committee room, but let's not confuse it with GU being unworthy of a No. 1 seed.

    Those Oklahoma and Kansas State wins were by a combined 41 points. K-State's loss was its worst to anyone not named Kansas, and OU's defeat was its worst of the year bar none.

    Kansas and Gonzaga are the only teams to beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater this season.

    Indiana's packing a 10-4 record against the top 100 with a 7.2 average scoring margin. Gonzaga stands at 11-2 with an average scoring margin of 11.4 in those games.

    To break it down even further, against the top 50, GU's average margin is 7.2 with a 5-2 record, compared to IU's 5.3 and 7-4.

    Gonzaga's only losses were to teams that have also beaten IU, but none of Indiana's losses are as substantial as the 11-point defeat GU absorbed against Illinois at home. Despite Illinois' superior RPI ranking, Wisconsin is likely to earn a better seed than Illinois, and the Hoosiers only lost to Wisconsin by five.

    Gonzaga simply can't boast scalps on its wall nearly as big as the ones the Hoosiers have claimed. Still, don't delude yourself into thinking that the best of a weak conference is still a weak team.

    GU's resume would stand very favorably against Kansas'. Against IU's, though, the boys from the rainy Pacific Northwest are all wet.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Kansas Jayhawks

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    The idea of a Kansas-Indiana matchup in this year's tournament is quite fun. Cody Zeller trying to get shots off over Jeff Withey, Victor Oladipo manning up on Ben McLemore and Yogi Ferrell seeking to slow Elijah Johnson's roll are all great-looking battles on paper.

    It may be the Final Four, however, before such a game could take place on hardwood.

    Both teams have strong cases for No. 1 seeds, as we see when both put their cards on the table. Or in the table, as this case may be:

     

    Indiana

    Kansas
    W-L 25-4 25-4
    Road W-L 6-2 7-2

    RPI

    6 4
    SOS 19 16
    NCSOS 51 23
    BPI 1 6
    Pomeroy 2 7
    Sagarin 1 4
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan St.

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 16 Minnesota

    No. 20 North Carolina

    at No. 18 Kansas State

    No. 18 Kansas State

    at No. 21 Ohio State

    No. 22 Oklahoma

    No. 25 Belmont

    at No. 26 Oklahoma St.

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    No. 43 Wisconsin

    No. 236 TCU

     

    Three reasons stand out as to why Indiana should be seeded ahead of Kansas:

    1. Indiana boasts five wins stronger than Kansas' best.

    2. KU lost to a Michigan State squad that IU has swept.

    3. Finally, three little words: Texas Christian University. A game that will forever live in infamy.

    Those are damning pieces of evidence against Kansas' top-seed candidacy. The Jayhawks do, like Miami, have a 13-3 record against the top 100, 9-3 against the top 50. Indiana is 7-4 against the top 50.

    Against teams ranked 26 to 50, Indiana is actually 0-3 compared to KU's 4-1. What that leaves, though, is IU 7-1 against the top 25 versus Kansas' 5-2.

    Give Kansas credit, it does hunt bears in the nonconference season, while IU hunted rabbits. Actually, it may be more appropriate to say that KU hunted Buffaloes, since a 36-point win over No. 29 Colorado could stand up favorably against IU's 24-pointer over UNC.

    Still, it all comes back to the three points above, especially TCU. Even Michigan's loss to No. 184 Penn State thinks that game was weak sauce.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Louisville Cardinals

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    Like Kansas, Louisville hit a three-game skid that had observers questioning its elite credentials. The questions may not have been as warranted as KU's, though, since Louisville lost its three by a combined 13 points and the worst was at No. 55 Villanova.

    Comparing Rick Pitino's crew to Tom Crean's team is extremely close as far as the computer numbers go, but how does the schedule stack up?

    Take a look:

     

    Indiana

    Louisville
    W-L 25-4 24-5
    Road W-L 6-2 8-3

    RPI

    6 5
    SOS 19 11
    NCSOS 51 37
    BPI 1 2
    Pomeroy 2 3
    Sagarin 1 2
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan St.

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 16 Minnesota

    No. 12 Marquette

    at No. 14 Syracuse

    at No. 19 Memphis

    vs. No. 32 Missouri (NS)

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    No. 43 Wisconsin

    at No. 55 Villanova

    at No. 45 Notre Dame

    The computers dig Louisville, and it's fairly easy to see why. Unlike nearly every other top team in America, the Cards don't have a crawl-in-a-hole-and-cry bad loss besmirching the resume.

    Villanova can still sneak into the tournament, and the Cards may get some credit for lasting five overtimes before succumbing to Notre Dame.

    Louisville is 10-5 against the top 100, only a half-game worse than Indiana's 10-4.

    Top 50? Louisville 6-4, IU 7-4.

    We have to cut it down to the top 25 to get some separation. There, Indiana stands 7-1 compared to U of L's 3-3.

    The Hoosiers have some strong victories against not only the best their own conference, but the best of the Cardinals' conference. Louisville lost at Georgetown, while Indiana had the aforementioned overtime victory in Brooklyn.

    Indiana brings the nation's most efficient offense, according to Pomeroy. Louisville has the most efficient defense.

    I could go on, but suffice to say that the Hoosiers and Cardinals are much more similar than most Hoosier fans would care to admit. If Louisville can stomp Cincinnati and Notre Dame, then sweep through the Big East tournament, it may charge up on the rail like one of those four-legged beasts at Churchill Downs.

    And just to add insult to injury, if the Cards can catch IU, they would certainly take the Indianapolis region.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Miami Hurricanes

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    "Are you there, God? It's me, Shane Larkin. Listen, can you get Ryan Kelly to stop hitting threes on our heads for a minute? I mean, he's a Blue Devil, after all, and we all know they're the second-worst kind."

    Divine intervention was not on the Hurricanes' side Saturday night, but Miami has still clinched the top seed for the upcoming ACC tournament. That event could easily feature a fight for a No. 1 NCAA seed, especially if Miami-Duke III proves to be the main event.

    As for Canes vs. Hoosiers, here's the rundown:

     

    Indiana

    Miami
    W-L 25-4 23-5
    Road W-L 6-2 10-3

    RPI

    6 3
    SOS 19 4
    NCSOS 51 3
    BPI 1 14
    Pomeroy 2 13
    Sagarin 1 14
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan St.

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 1 Duke

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 20 N. Carolina

    No. 20 N. Carolina

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    No. 43 Wisconsin

    vs. No. 78 Indiana St. (NS)

    at No. 110 Florida Gulf Coast

    at No. 164 Wake Forest

    Speaking of teams that had to manage without major pieces, Miami lost guard Durand Scott to an early three-game suspension, including the FGCU loss. Center Reggie Johnson missed the OT loss to Indiana State in Hawaii.

    So, what's the excuse for Wake Forest? There goes the whole "undefeated at full strength" spin.

    To Miami's credit, it has played well against the top 100, actually having more of those games than Indiana to this point. The U stands 13-3 against the top 100, including 4-1 in true road games. Indiana, as mentioned before, is 10-4, including a 3-2 road record.

    As a team that didn't have a ton of preseason expectations, Miami was able to schedule a big home game like Michigan State and several Atlantic 10 opponents. While those games turned out to be major wins, the 'Canes danced on the edge in trips to No. 128 Boston College and No. 166 Clemson before finally succumbing to Wake Forest.

    Much of Miami's resume looks good, but those bad losses are extremely bad. Think Kate Upton with a pair of pimples the size of tennis balls.

    Home games against Georgia Tech and Clemson will close out the regular season for Miami. The 'Canes play well in Coral Gables, going undefeated with only one win closer than seven points.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan Wolverines

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    If Mitch McGary had dropped Trey Burke here and caused an injury, he'd have been run out of Ann Arbor with torches and pitchforks.

    Thankfully, nothing of the sort occurred, and it was all smiles and hugs after Michigan knocked off Michigan State at the Crisler Center on Sunday.

    Michigan and Indiana have already gotten to throw down once, with IU taking a win at Assembly Hall. The two will meet again this coming Sunday in the Wolverines' cage, with the U of M having a major opportunity to repair its reputation.

    The table:

     

    Indiana

    Michigan
    W-L 25-4 23-5
    Road W-L 6-2 4-5

    RPI

    6 9
    SOS 19 49
    NCSOS 51 171
    BPI 1 8
    Pomeroy 2 11
    Sagarin 1 9
    Best Win(s)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 8 Michigan St.

    No. 9 Michigan

    vs. No. 10 Georgetown (NS)

    No. 8 Michigan State

    at No. 16 Minnesota

    vs. No. 18 Kansas State (NS)

    No. 21 Ohio State

    Worst Loss(es)

    at No. 34 Illinois

    No. 43 Wisconsin

    at No. 184 Penn State

    at No. 43 Wisconsin

    Indiana and Michigan sport identical 10-4 records against the top 100. Michigan stands at 8-4 against the top 50, and only Kansas can boast more top-50 wins.

    Like the Georgetown comparison, though, the head-to-head victory is currently a major chip in IU's favor, as is the sweep of Michigan State. Michigan was crunched by 23 points at the Breslin Center.

    Michigan does have a win at Minnesota that Indiana could not match. IU's loss to the Gophers may have served to save Minnesota's tournament hopes, while Michigan's win came when Minnesota was riding high in January.

    If the loss to Penn State had happened in early January, it would be filed away with Kansas' loss to TCU and Georgetown's defeat against South Florida, pulled out only for exercises like this. In late February, though, the loss will still be relatively fresh in the committee's minds unless it's replaced by a massive victory like the season finale against IU.

    The potential exists for Michigan to pull two more victories over Indiana, and the Wolverines will need both, along with a lot of other help, to reach the top.

     

    For more from Scott on college basketball, including this week's players to watch at every conference tournament, check out The Back Iron.



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