INDIANAPOLIS, IN—Are you ready for March Madness?
Starting at some point during my high school years and continuing to the present, I started thinking about the NCAA Tournament about two days after the Colts season came to a close.
Last year we had the pleasure of talking football until February, covering the Colts on their Mission in Miami. That was a tremendous opportunity, but with it left some college basketball programs a bit neglected. Because the Colts lost in the first round, I/we have had more time to really get into college basketball coverage and start the NCAA Tournament hype.
I enjoyed visiting with Indiana State coach Greg Lansing last week over in Terre Haute and look forward to seeing if the Sycamores can continue their solid play as the Missouri Valley Conference schedule increases in degree of difficulty.
As I looked at ISU's place in the Valley standings this past weekend and then scanned some of the other in-state teams, I started to dream a little bit about how Hoosier Hysteria could take over the 68-team NCAA Tournament. In the last two years, Butler, Purdue, and Notre Dame have given Indiana basketball fans three teams to root for. (or against if you are an IU fans)
While the Hoosiers aren't likely to hear their name called on Selection Sunday this year, it isn't out of the realm of possibility to see five or six Indiana schools competing on the Road to Houston.
The Bracketology updates provided by Joe Lunardi and others are always fun to read while thinking about potential tourney match-ups. I'm not going to go so far as to predict the 68-team field, but will give a quick update of where I see the local Division One schools finishing up mid-March.
Purdue: When I went to Houston to cover the Colts first game of the season (seems like years ago) I spent a little time getting my bearings as I fully anticipated making a return trip to Reliant Stadium in April. While the Robbie Hummel injury certainly makes this challenge more difficult, I'm not ruling Purdue out just yet.
JuJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore give Purdue one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. While Hummel would've helped, I'm guessing the supporting cast will have enough experience in their roles by March to make some serious noise.
The bandwagon started to fill up after Purdue's big win over Michigan State on Saturday, but might be quickly emptying after the beat-down in Columbus Tuesday.
Worse than losing to the Buckeyes, was the way they lost. I guarantee many of the NCAA Committee members watched that game and will remember it when they are seeding Purdue.
FINAL PREDICTION: 27-7 (3rd in Big Ten, lose in Big Ten Tournament Championship)
NCAA SEED: #4 only if they are able to rebound quicky from the loss to OSU.
Notre Dame: Truth be told, I started writing this column last week, but didn't get it finished and am now forced to update some things in regards to my analysis and resumes. For Notre Dame, I basically had to start over.
I thought the Irish were a solid 4-5 seed and one that nobody would want to see in the tournament. I figured the Irish would compete at Pittsburgh on Monday, but didn't expect them to upset the 2nd ranked Panthers. THAT is the kind of victory that will push the Irish to the top of any "either/or" seed discussion when the NCAA selection committee is shaping the field.
Notre Dame's schedule is also very favorable as they get 10 days off after the Pitt victory, lessoning the chance of a let-down. Notre Dame will probably be favored in six or seven of their remaining nine games and I can't see them winning less than six.
The Fighting Irish won't be favored to advance to the Final Four, but it wouldn't shock me to see them in Houston.