Indiana Lets A Moment Slip Away … And Maybe Much More
The table was set for a coronation. Senior night in Bloomington. A chance for Indiana to claim its first outright Big Ten regular-season title in two decades. A worthy but lesser foe in the building. One hand on the path through Indianapolis for the NCAAs. It was preordained. It was perfect.
It was premature.
Ohio State, which had done nothing of consequence on the road all season, came up with a superior road effort that could have major consequences everywhere, disjointing the Hoosiers for most of the 40 minutes of a 67-58 upset. The win keeps the Buckeyes alive for a share of the league title, along with just about everyone else in the top half of the league.
If there are no upsets in games not matching two of the title aspirants, we could be staring down the barrel of a four-way tie for the league title. Michigan controls its own fate, as the Wolverines host the Hoosiers in the season finale. If the Wolverines win that game, it also opens the door for Ohio State (if they beat Illinois at home) and the winner of Thursday’s Michigan State-Wisconsin game to also claim a share of the crown. There are numerous tiebreaker scenarios that will be sifted through as results come in later this week, but Indiana is no lock to be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament now, and that could mean a stiffer test in the quarterfinal round.
Speaking of No. 1 seeds, the Hoosiers should still be on the top line of bracket projections Wednesday, but they made a careless misstep in their quest to land the Midwest regional, where they’d have a massive crowd advantage. If Indiana gets boxed out of the Midwest No. 1 seed, chances are they won’t end up in that regional. They would have to be the top seed from the Big Ten as a No. 2, or have another Big Ten team get squeezed into the South or West and then land there as a No. 2.
Ohio State deserves significant credit for an excellent road performance, as Aaron Craft willed them to enough baskets down the stretch, but the victory also underscores (if we haven’t been beaten over the head enough yet) that there is no favorite this March. Humans tend to like ordering, to be able to make sense of groups of items or data, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for us this season.
As a result, there’s no sense of whether the NCAAs will be wholly unpredictable, or whether the first weekend will hold close to form and then the wildness will unfold after that when the stakes are higher. That’s when every edge will matter to help differentiate a bunch of very good but flawed teams trying to get to Atlanta. That’s when Indiana may end up regretting tonight.