Andy Bottoms Bracket Projections for February 24: Bid Thief Edition

John Croce's Illini are among the bottoms five in Andy's current bracket projections ... but are they first-four-in or first-four-out? Read on to find out.
John Croce’s Illini are among the “bottoms five” in Andy’s current bracket projections … but are they last-four-in or first-one-out? Read on to find out …

With Selection Sunday less than three weeks away, Championship Week is nearly here. As is the case every year, it certainly won’t be short on drama.

But the one thing it likely will be short on this season is bid thieves.

Outside of the West Coast Conference and the Missouri Valley (which I don’t consider mid-majors), there really aren’t any “smaller” leagues where the regular season champ could make it without winning the conference tournament.

Here’s a quick look at six of the top mid-major teams and why I don’t like their chances of getting an at-large:

The Terriers have three Top-100 victories, including wins at NC State and at home against Iona.  Just two of their six losses have come against sub-100 squads, but a January road loss to The Citadel, who are ranked 319th in the RPI as of Monday, will likely seal their fate.

After winning 15 of their last 16 games, the Gaels have worked their way into the RPI Top 50.  Unfortunately, Iona has no Top-100 wins to go with sub-150 losses at Canisius, Monmouth, and George Mason, all by five points or less.

Because the Ivy League doesn’t have a conference tournament, no one on this list controls their own destiny more than the Crimson, who currently have a one-game lead over Yale, a team they beat on the road already this year. Harvard’s best RPI win came at home against UMass, but that won’t be enough to overcome sub-200 losses to Holy Cross and Dartmouth if they falter down the stretch.

Only three teams have more wins that the Crusaders, who currently sit at 25-4.  They don’t have any Top-50 wins but do own victories over Murray State and Green Bay.  Three of their four losses came against sub-100 teams, all of which they lost by double digits.

Murray State
The Racers have ripped off 22 straight wins since losing to Valpo, and they are one of just four teams that are undefeated in conference play (Gonzaga, Kentucky, and NC Central are the others). Murray State’s lone Top-100 win came against Illinois State, but a pair of three-point losses to Portland and Houston will likely be the Racers’ undoing.

Stephen F. Austin
If not for a Valentine’s Day loss at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Lumberjacks may have had the best case for an at-large. Their other three losses came on the road against Baylor and Xavier and at home against Northern Iowa in overtime. For now, Stephen F. Austin needs to take care of business in the Southland, where they are tied in the loss column with Sam Houston State.

I suppose it’s possible that if these teams win out and lose in their conference title game, they could work their way into the at-large conversation. But at this stage,, unfortunately, that seems unlikely.

In reality, though, I’d much rather see a team or two like this get a chance than some of the teams currently hanging around the bubble.

Below are my projections through the games from February 23. I’ve also listed my last four in and first four out, along with my reasoning for those selections. [Read more…]

IU-Rutgers Link Roundup: Hoosiers Hear Yogi, Toughen Up, and Win


The standards:

Yogi Ferrell pleaded for his teem to toughen up after the loss to Purdue on Wednesday. The team apparently heard their point guard and answered.

After two straight losses, Indiana finally got out of its funk and the Hoosiers are now back on track with a hard-fought victory against Rutgers, who made their first visit to Assembly Hall Saturday afternoon.

This game was closer than most anticipated, as the Hoosiers struggled throughout most of the game. Luckily, Indiana was able to come together late in the second half, persevering despite the strong performance from Myles Mack and the Scarlet Knights.

Tom Crean praised this team’s work ethic and sacrifice:

This is one of the hardest working teams I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.

Let’s get to the links.

Tonight’s featured link is again from Crimson Quarry’s Kyle Swick. He tells us what we learned from the loss:

The league is beginning to adjust to Indiana and it is imperative that the Hoosiers adjust back.

Dylan Sinn gives a quick recap of the game for those who missed it.

Indy Star’s Zach Osterman explains how IU got past Rutgers and ended their “brief” losing streak.

In his minute after, Ryan Corazza gives his take on the game for Inside the Hall.

Here’s something new: Check out this Photo Gallery of the game by Inside the Hall’s Jamie Owens.

For The Hoosier Scoop, Mike Miller explains how Indiana held on for the victory.

Terry Hutchens says this game was “anything but easy.” He points out good free throw shooting and solid defense down the stretch as the keys to victory.

Here is a link to a more detailed analysis from Hutches.

Here’s a take from a national point of view from Michael Marot.

Pete DiPrimo explains how Troy Williams rose to the challenge with his third double double of the season.

For the IDS, Alden Woods highlights Nick Zeisloft and his excellent second half performance.

Sam Beishuizen goes into detail on how the Hoosiers held off the Scarlet Knights.

Here is this game’s Scoop Talk: “Rutgers gave IU little to gain, much to lose.”

Even though Indiana avoided losing three straight, keep in mind that level of difficulty will rise exponentially on Tuesday night as the Hoosiers travel to the Kohl Center to face the Wisconsin Badgers.

As always, more links to come…

IU v Nebraska Postgame Show

Coming on the heels of perhaps the most impressive performance a Tom Crean IU team has had, the Hoosiers came out a little sluggish tonight. It’s understandable.

But an early second half explosion, keyed by Victor Oladipo hustle (go figure), got the Hoosiers going. They ultimately took care of business at home over Nebraska, 76-47.

[Read more…]

IU-New Mexico State Gameday Preview

At long last, the Hoosiers are back in the Big Dance!  Here’s everything you need to know about Thursday night’s game against New Mexico State.

Indiana-New Mexico State Game Info

Indiana-New Mexico State Analysis and Prediction

While I don’t see the Aggies pulling the upset here, there are a couple of areas where they could give Indiana some trouble.

New Mexico State ranks first in free throw rate with an absurd 52.8 mark, although to some extent that was skewed by some gaudy non-conference numbers.  However, guys like Wendell McKines and Hamidu Rahman have propelled the Aggies to an extremely high offensive rebounding percentage, while the Hoosiers have struggled on the defensive glass at times.

That being said, the Hoosiers appear to have an advantage in virtually every category on the offensive end, including two-point shooting, three-point shooting, and free throw rate.  As has been the case all season, IU’s offense will carry them to a victory.

Predicted Winner: Indiana

Indiana played much better basketball starting in February when Victor Oladipo took a more prominent role in the offense.


Indiana Team Capsule

  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Record: 25-8 (11-7 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 8-2
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 8-5
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue (2)
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin (2)
  • Player to Watch: Cody Zeller (6’11” F, Fr.) – 15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 bpg, 62.6 FG%

Indiana Hoosiers Bottoms Line:

Apparently the rebuilding process for the Hoosiers is a year ahead of schedule, as this year’s squad went undefeated in the non-conference and picked up a number of high quality wins.  One big reason for their substantial improvement is the play of freshman phenom Cody Zeller, who leads the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding.  His ability to run the floor puts pressure on opposing defenses, and he has been even more impressive than IU fans had hoped.

Three other Hoosiers score in double figures, including juniors Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls.  Watford has been inconsistent over the course of his career, but he has posted double-doubles in three of the last four games.  Hulls is shooting over 49 percent from long range and makes nearly 90 percent from the line.  The turning point for IU came when sophomore Victor Oladipo slid over the point.  His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor has provided a spark for the Hoosiers.

A number of bench players have contributed as well, but IU will be without senior Verdell Jones III, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Big Ten Tournament.  The Hoosiers are in the Top Five in offensive efficiency, led by Top 10 rankings in three-point shooting, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate, which is critical since they shoot over 76 percent from the line.

Indiana has struggled on defense though and ranks outside of the Top 100 in all four factors.  They will need to rely on outscoring teams to win in the tournament, but they have to put up more resistance on defense to make a deep run.

New Mexico State Aggies Team Capsule

  • Conference: WAC
  • Record: 26-9 (10-4 conf)
  • Last 10 Games: 9-1
  • Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-3
  • Wins vs. Tournament Teams: New Mexico
  • Losses vs. Tournament Teams: New Mexico, Southern Mississippi (2)
  • Player to Watch: Wendell McKines (6’6” F, Sr.) – 18.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg

New Mexico State Aggies Bottoms Line:

In one of the more lopsided results of Championship Week, New Mexico State routed Louisiana Tech to earn the WAC’s automatic bid.  In that game, the Aggies pounded the ball inside as they have done throughout the year.

They take under 25 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, which is one of the lowest rates in the country.  Instead, they push the tempo and relentlessly attack the rim and crash the boards.  For the year, they hit 51.2 percent from two-point range, grabbed over 40 percent of their missed shots, and rank first in the nation in free throw rate.  That all starts with Wendell McKines, who is a double-double machine with strong rebounding rates on the offensive and defensive glass.

Point guard Hernst Laroche scores 12.0 points per game and leads the Aggies in assists and steals, while also hitting over 40 percent from deep.  Big man Hamidu Rahman is among the nation’s best offensive rebounders and has a phenomenal 100.5 free throw rate, although he actually shoots better from the field than he does from the stripe.  Throw in athletic freshman Daniel Mullings, who scores 9.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, and you have an explosive offensive attack.

The Aggies also do a decent job on the defensive end, and not surprisingly they have a high defensive rebounding percentage.  They are playing very well right now and have won 12 of their last 14 teams, with the two losses coming by a total of five points.

IU-Penn State Big Ten Tournament Game Quick Recap and Postgame Show

For the first time since 2007, Indiana and its fans tasted victory in a postseason game. Not since that year’s opening round win over Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament had a Hoosier team won a Big Ten Tournament or NCAA Tournament game. Today, Indiana bested Penn State exactly as they should have, 75-58, controlling the game’s final 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, the news is not all positive coming out of Indianapolis tonight.

[Read more…]