No. 3 Indiana is solidly at the top of the list of elite teams in the country, but after its 68-56 loss to No. 22 Wisconsin Saturday afternoon in the Big Ten semifinals, is it still a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament? If they’re not, the Badgers’ 12 straight wins over Indiana will be a thorn in the Hoosiers’ side.
But the answer is likely “yes.” Perhaps we should focus on the bigger question, which is will the Hoosiers be the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament? Indiana is a perfect 18-0 against teams not in the RPI Top 50, an unblemished mark rivaled only at the top by Gonzaga. They also have the benefit of being ninth in strength of schedule.
We may have a better feel after Saturday night when a Big East tournament champion is crowned. If Louisville beats Syracuse, it could be in the conversation as well with just one loss against teams outside the RPI Top 50. The Cardinals would also be riding into Selection Sunday on a 10-game winning streak.
There are some concerns going forward for Indiana, though. Wisconsin is a team that is comfortable with grinding a team down to a halt, slowing the pace, and forcing offenses into half-court sets. Saturday, it didn’t look like Indiana was comfortable doing that. Cody Zeller was 4-of-10 from the floor for 13 points and added 11 rebounds, but there was still a good deal of room for improvement as far as getting him more involved.
Victor Oladipo shot an uncharacteristic 33 percent from the floor and turned the ball over four times, though he had four steals, seven rebounds, and three assists. Oladipo has proven to be the engine and not necessarily the complement to Indiana’s offense.
This NCAA tournament will likely come down to matchups. With so much parity between the middle of Division I and higher majors, Indiana will need to watch out for teams that can emulate the sorts of things that Wisconsin can do. They’ll need to be patient in the half-court, get Zeller, Oladipo, and Christian Watford involved, and find lineups that prevent big scoring runs by the opposition.
The Hoosiers are elite, that’s for sure, but are they elite enough to be the overall No. 1? We will know Sunday.