Just when you thought the Indiana Hoosiers were out, they pulled themselves back into the bubble conversation. A team which was 4-12 in the Big Ten is now 6-12 in the Big Ten after sweeping Michigan State to add to wins over Marquette, Louisville and Wisconsin.
Point-blank: Indiana has a better bubble resume than every non-Washington team in the Pac-12.
Point-blank: Indiana has a better bubble resume than Clemson, which has continued to whiff against Quadrant 1 teams.
Point-blank: Two weeks before Selection Sunday, Indiana is forcing the college basketball world to once again confront the point that while conference records can look really bad when you see them on a computer screen, they aren’t a central bubble metric. They’re not. Please realize this.
Look, folks, I get it: I agree with the principle that you should at least be .500 in your conference. It is a reasonable principle. Yet, this is a 30-plus-game season, not an 18-game season. The 12 non-conference games matter — that’s roughly 40 percent of a season. Oklahoma NAILED its non-con slate, picking up a win over Wofford which keeps boosting the Sooners’ bubble profile. OU, like Indiana, could finish SIX games under .500 in its conference and still get in… and on merit, the Sooners and Hoosiers would not have a bad argument.
They beat solid teams.
YES, I KNOW: They get 37 million more chances to get good wins than the Furman Paladins or the UNC-Greensboro Spartans or the Toledo Rockets. I know. I am not new to this. We all get it. We all know the debate points here.
I love puppies, rainbows and ice cream. I want the cute, cuddly mid-majors to get their chance to Dance. Yet, Indiana DID beat a bunch of really good teams. In college football, high-end wins are supposed to matter in complicated and layered conversations. These wins don’t automatically mean IU deserves a bid more than Furman, and to be sure, if you asked me which team deserves an NCAA bid more, I would immediately say that Furman does.
However, it is also true that we live in an imperfect world. We live in a world of compromises and limitations. We live in a world which asks us to take the good with the bad.
So, instead of saying Indiana has no argument — it DOES — or that the mid-majors just need to accept their place in the cosmos — THEY SHOULDN’T — why not meet in the middle?
More precisely, Middle America. The Heartland.
The place where Archie Miller used to coach.
Oh, gosh, you know you want this on TruTV, don’t you?
Archie Miller comes back to Dayton to coach Indiana in a First Four game against Furman.
This is what the chef’s kiss meme was made for. What a work of art.
Instead of the vile “mid-on-mid crime” which has sometimes visited these First Four games — recall Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary’s having to play each other, among other instances — Dayton should be a place where one of these supremely questionable high majors plays one of the “give us a chance” mid-majors in a showcase showdown.
Can you dream up a better blue-blood-versus-new-blood matchup than Indiana-Furman, assuming the Paladins don’t win the Southern Conference tournament?
UCF was a First Four team until it won at Houston. The Knights aren’t in play. Washington is a Power Five team without elite status, so a Washington-UCF game really never fit the elites-versus-little-guys profile to begin with. Now, that’s not in play as a First Four possibility.
Oklahoma is another strong candidate for a First Four game. Alabama is as well. Indiana, though, exists on a higher plane of national status and cachet in college basketball. As for other mid-major teams, if Toledo lost in the MAC Tournament final, I would love to see the Rockets in Dayton, close to home.
Yet, given the Southern Conference’s primacy among mid-major conferences this season, Furman — should it not win the SoCon tourney — strikes me as the front-of-the-line example of a mid-major which should not (must not) be excluded from the Dance. Furman went out and beat Villanova. That has to count for something. Furman held up well in a loaded SoCon which has four quality teams (the Paladins, UNC-Greensboro, a Wofford team which just went 18-0 in the conference, and East Tennessee State, which is 23-8 and a top-100 NET team).
If Indiana gets into the Big Dance, let it be at the expense of another high-major team, not a deserving mid. Let Furman be the deserving mid-major program which gets its chance in the spotlight versus Indiana… in Dayton, where Archie Miller once coached.
If you want a First Four masterpiece, this is it.
You know you want it.
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