Fresh off their upset-victory over No. 10 Iowa, the Hoosiers are back in action twice this week to wrap up their regular season. First, they’ll travel to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats followed by a home contest against Purdue on Sunday.
Earlier this season, Indiana played a week of basketball where it lost to Northwestern at home on Wednesday then traveled to Purdue and lost on a last-second shot from the Boilers on Sunday.
Indiana has a final week of basketball, not only to improve its standing in the Big Ten and national landscapes, but to avenge two of their Big Ten losses.
Believe it or not, the calendar will turn to March later this week, and the Hoosiers’ play this week will determine how far they can play in March and what postseason tournament they will participate in.
On January 16, Indiana was 15-2 and coming off a road win at Wisconsin. Northwestern was a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team and Indiana was expected to win against the Wildcats in Assembly Hall. However, Northwestern had different ideas. Northwestern led 18-10 after the first quarter and held an 11-point lead at halftime.
Indiana’s bench contributed just five points and the team shot a measly 40 percent from the floor. Head Coach Teri Moren said this team didn’t have the energy and the competitive edge to win this game.
IUWBB upset No. 10 Iowa Thursday night to snap their four-game losing streak in exciting fashion.
Brenna Wise led the team with 24 points and Ali Patberg chipped in 21 in her return to the court.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 22, 2019
However, on January 20, Moren thought they did have the energy and thought they played well enough to win. But, Purdue hit the shots down the stretch and erased IU’s late lead to win on a late bucket from Karissa McLaughlin.
Indiana let a five-point halftime lead slip away in the third and they finished just 38 percent from the floor, with only two players scoring double figures. Ali Patberg had arguably her worst game as a Hoosier, shooting 1-of-12 from the floor for just two points.
With all that in mind, Indiana will have a chance to avenge these two losses, two games against some of the teams they can catch and pass in the Big Ten standings if they win both games this week.
The Big Ten standings are an absolute mess
The top of the league is set. Either Iowa and Maryland, two top-15 teams in the country, will win the Big Ten regular season crown. Rutgers is set in third, while Michigan and Ohio State will battle to get the fourth spot and the final double-bye spot in the Big Ten Tournament. Meanwhile, at the bottom, Wisconsin, Penn State and Illinois are certain to be the 12-14 seeds.
That leaves seeds 6-11. Six teams battling for six spots with only two games left in the regular season. There will be multiple battles between two of these teams, with Minnesota playing Michigan State and Indiana playing both Northwestern and Purdue.
Let’s look at the Hoosiers’ chances at the different seeds.
If Indiana loses both games this week, an 11-seed is guaranteed. However, with one win and a tad bit of help, Indiana could get to the 9 or 10 seed.
If Indiana wins out, the possibilities and scenarios branch a little further. Indiana cannot get the 6 seed because of tiebreaker formulas. However, the Hoosiers can get anywhere from the 7 to 9 seeds if they win out.
IU will be cheering hard against teams like Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan State this week if it wants to move up the standings and avoid playing on Wednesday. A lot of these teams play the top teams in the conference, such as Iowa, Maryland and Rutgers, so the scenarios aren’t extremely far-fetched.
The most probable landing spot for IU is somewhere around the 9-10 spot. If Indiana isn’t the 8 or 9 seed, they would avoid playing the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten in the quarterfinals. However, that’s a long way out and we can worry about that if they get there.
Bubble watch is officially underway in Bloomington for the second year in a row. However, this season seems more realistic than last season’s hot finish.
Indiana currently is grouped in the “Last Four In” of Charlie Creme’s latest bracketology on ESPN.com. The Hoosiers are slotted to be a 10 seed. They vaulted up three spots and, more importantly, into the projected field after their win over Iowa.
— ESPN Women’s Hoops (@ESPN_WomenHoop) February 25, 2019
Two wins against two top-half Big Ten teams could go a long way in deciding if Indiana plays in the NCAA Tournament or WNIT. The Big Ten is currently slated to put six teams in the tournament, but Indiana is the only team from the conference that sits on the bubble.
Creme believes Indiana is battling with teams such as UCF, LSU and Auburn in the “Last Four In,” with Kansas State, West Virginia, Butler (a team IU beat already) and Utah in the “Next Four Out.”
All of this is a long-winded way of saying this is a very important week for the Hoosiers. Their postseason fate could very well be decided by the end of this week. The only thing we can expect to see this week is the calendar flip to March. After that, who knows what will happen.