Saturday, March 16, 2013

Does IU Deserve a No. 1 Ahead of Louisville?

If Jordan Hulls were the Czar of NCAA basketball, he knows exactly who he’d put as the No. 1 seed of all the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, that would be the Indiana Hoosiers.

Or course, that would immediately cause an outcry and calls for a federal investigation given Hulls is a senior guard for IU. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion that starts with IU being a No. 1 seed.

“I think we are, but it doesn’t matter what I think,” he said.

Those who matter are part of the NCAA selection committee. Their job is to fill the 68-team tournament that is set to dominate the sporting world for the next three weeks.

IU is in position to be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional, which almost certainly would mean opening round games in Dayton and then, if it wins those, a trip to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight.
In other words, given how well Cream ‘n Crimson fans will travel to those locations, the Hoosiers would have, in essence, four home games to earn a trip to their first Final Four in 11 years.

“That would be a good experience to stay close,” Hulls said. “Hopefully it does happen, but we’ve just got to get better.”

That’s an understatement after IU suffered a season-worst 68-56 loss to Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten tourney semifinals. It is just 3-3 in its last six games. While the selection committee is supposed to look at the overall body of work, it won’t miss that closing streak in its deliberations.

REALITY CHECK: Those six games were against Big Ten teams, which are part of the best conference in the nation. In other words, that’s not nearly as bad as if it came against, say, Atlantic Sun competition.

Anyway, the Hoosiers have shown some vulnerability. That puts it on equal footing with the rest of America. Parity is everywhere you look and a dominate team doesn’t exist. The blather that Duke was unbeatable now that Ryan Kelly had returned took a big hit when Maryland upset Duke with Kelly in the ACC tourney.

So who is the best of the best? You could do a lot worse than the outright winner of the Big Ten, which IU is. Still, with Louisville winning the Big East tourney with an amazing comeback against Syracuse, the Cardinals could supplant the Hoosiers in the No. 1 pecking order.

What would that mean? You could have Louisville No. 1 in the Midwest, which would put it in Indianapolis for the Sweet 16. You could have IU No. 1 in the East, which would put it in Washington D.C. for the Sweet 16.

All that assumes, of course, that there are no major upsets.

So is Louisville better than IU? Specifically, is its body of work better than that of the Hoosiers?

Louisville has a strength of schedule of No. 8. Its RPI is three. It has a 9-4 record against RPI top-50 teams. It is 14-5 against the top 100 in RPI and its worst loss was to Notre Dame, which is No. 36 in RPI. It has beaten four top 25 in RPI teams, including two on the road.

Indiana has a No. 5 RPI, with a strength of schedule at No 11. It has a 9-5 record against top-50 teams, 13-5 against those in the top 100. Its worst loss was to Illinois (a No. 37 RPI).The Hoosiers also seven victories against RPI top 25 teams, including three on the road.

If you believe’s Joe Lunardi, Louisville will be No. 1 in the Midwest with IU No. 1 in the East.

The Hoosiers can’t do anything about that, but they can improve the flaws that erupted against Wisconsin. They can defend better, rebound better and just play tougher.

"We'll learn from it," said forward Cody Zeller. "We'll figure out what we did wrong. We'll make the corrections and get ready for next week because that's what's most important."

Zeller couldn’t be more right.

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