Just past the midway point of IU head coach Archie Miller’s third season in Bloomington, a glaring hole still sits atop his own resume: He hasn’t brought IU to the NCAA Tournament. Not a single player on IU’s roster has been to the NCAA tournament before.
But as big of a step as the Hoosiers took with their first road win of the season beating Nebraska 82-74 on Saturday, they took just as big of a step toward March Madness.
“Finally had an opportunity to break through and get a win away from home in conference," Miller said after Saturday's win over Nebraska. "They’re very difficult as has been well documented. You can’t put a price on a game in this league if you’re able to win it away from home.”
IU’s win over Nebraska was just the seventh road win in the Big Ten all season. But it also moved IU past its final Quadrant 3 opportunity, avoiding the last potential loss that could have put a notable stain on IU’s tournament.
The selection committee uses the NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings to rank all 353 men’s college basketball teams and is updated daily. The committee then uses this ranking to determine four quadrants for which each team’s wins and losses are organized.
A Quadrant 1 win is defined as a win over a team ranked 1-30 in the NET at home, 1-50 on a neutral court or 1-75 on the road. Quadrant 2 is 31-75 at home, 51-100 on a neutral court or 76-135 on the road. Quadrant 3 is 76-160 at home, 101-200 on a neutral court or 136-240 on the road. Anything lower is considered a Quadrant 4 win.
IU is 49th in the NET rankings as of Monday. The Hoosiers’ current resume contains two Quadrant 1 wins, two Quadrant 2 wins, five Quadrant 3 wins and five Quadrant 4 wins.
Of IU’s losses, three are to Quadrant 1 teams. The loss to the University of Arkansas is a Quadrant 2 loss but is just two spots away from being a Quadrant 1.
This week’s Bracketology posts on ESPN, CBS and FOX Sports all have IU safely in the field. ESPN and FOX Sports both have IU projected as a nine seed in the NCAA Tournament. CBS Sports has IU as an eight seed.
Even with so many Quadrant 3 and 4 wins, at 14-4 overall, IU is safely in NCAA Tournament projections. The Hoosiers have moved up from the first four predicted out to the first four in to the tournament without much doubt.
Though the rest of the way, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index ranks IU as the second-most difficult in the nation. ESPN’s Bracketology has 12 of the 14 teams in the conference making it into the NCAA Tournament.
“And every win is just so crucial,” Miller said in a Jan. 10 press conference. “I mean, you're going to lose a couple on the road. You may lose a few more than a couple. But I don't think it's going to be uncharacteristic to see teams lose games in our league. And I think the national media will say what's wrong or boy they're on a two-game skid. I just don't think you can blink.”
Of IU’s 13 remaining games, 10 are currently opportunities for Quadrant 1 wins, and the three remaining games are all Quadrant 2 — home games against Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota. Other than Minnesota, every team IU will play the rest of the season is either ranked or receiving votes in the Jan. 20 AP Top 25 poll.
This week, IU plays No. 11 Michigan State and No. 17 Maryland at home and both would be Quadrant 1 wins. The remainder of IU’s schedule provides ample opportunities for wins to pad a resume already projected to be in the tournament, but an equal opportunity to rack up losses that could push it out.