Good afternoon, BBN! This is the first week of bubble season, and it’s been chaotic. Yesterday I axed several teams in the Bracket Bouncer, but one team has pulled off two crazy wins in the last four days to stay alive: the Indiana Hoosiers.
Biggest Winner: Indiana
The Hoosiers didn’t have a lot of nonconference games, going 5-2 in those, and now is dodging mines in a 20-game meatgrinder known as Big Ten conference play. Over the last two years no conference has been rougher and tougher than the Big Ten. SEVEN teams are ranked. All but three are .500 or better. Ten or more could make the NCAAs.
But everyone knows the point of no return in college basketball. You can’t finish at .500 or worse. If Indiana completes its 25 scheduled games (a few postponements from the last few months likely won’t be made up), it must finish 13-12 or better with some Big Ten tourney gusto for further padding. The problem is that you face a Final Four team every night in the big, bad Big Ten, and if you aren’t a Final Four team yourself, you can fall down the pecking order mighty fast.
Facing top-10 Iowa last Sunday with a 9-8 record, the Hoosiers were coming dangerously close to falling off the tightrope into Elimination Canyon. Thanks to a last-second trey, however, they shocked the Hawkeyes yet again (they beat them a few weeks ago too) and improved to 10-8. Then last night they played a scrappy Northwestern team on the road. A loss there would have almost completely voided the Iowa win, but thanks to game-tying shots in regulation and in the first OT, IU held on in 2OT to win the ballgame, improve to 11-8, and keep their bubble floating.
That’s why they are the biggest winners of the week, tightroping through the Big Ten and coming up big when their season is on the line.
Biggest Question: Can Loyola-Chicago and Sister Jean return to the Madness?
It sure looks like it. The 17-3 Ramblers are trucking through the Missouri Valley, ranked 22nd in the country, and can score some BIG Quad 1 wins over 19-1 Drake this weekend to further bolster their resume. CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander thinks this Loyola team is better than the one that went to the Final Four. That’s saying something. They’ll have to keep on winning if they want an at-large berth, but this weekends’ clashes against Drake should give a bigger picture.
By the way, fun fact about Sister Jean: 100 years ago she was a one-year old baby while the Swine Flu pandemic was spreading through America, so this coronavirus stuff is nothing she can’t handle.
Flashback: Clayton Custer knocks off Tennessee
A three-seed. SEC regular-season champs. Beat Kentucky twice. Well Big Blue made the Sweet 16 two years ago and Big Orange didn’t, thanks to this bonkers shot by Clayton Custer as Loyola Chicago went on their thrill ride to the Final Four.
Personally, my favorite part of their Final Four run was that they beat Big Orange.
That’s all for this week! Enjoy the Daytona 500 if that’s your thing, and Go ‘Cats!