Entering the 2016-’17 season, expectations were sky high for the Indiana Hoosiers. After an outright Big Ten regular season title during the prior season and a run to the Sweet Sixteen, most figured that the Hoosiers would once again be a factor at the top of the Big Ten and in the national championship hunt.
Unfortunately, after a series of injuries, some significant defensive regression, and some stunning losses down the stretch, Indiana finished with just an 18-15 overall record. As a result, the Hoosiers will be heading to the NIT.
Given Indiana’s reluctance to play a home game in the NIT, the team will head on the road on Tuesday night to face Georgia Tech. The game will be aired on ESPN at 9:00PM ET. It figures to be a competitive matchup between the ACC and Big Ten.
Here’s a look at what to expect for Indiana in this year’s NIT.
As mentioned, after an 18-15 season that featured a 7-11 performance in Big Ten play, Indiana finds itself headed to the NIT. The Hoosiers enter as a three seed and will open up with Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.
On paper, Indiana’s matchup with Georgia Tech should be a competitive one. KenPom has the Hoosiers slated as one-point favorites with a 53 percent chance of winning. Even if the “road factor” is overstated for a first round NIT game, this is going to be a challenging outing for Indiana.
Georgia Tech relies extensively on a wing group featuring Tadric Jackson and freshman Josh Okogie. While Jackson is relatively inefficient (95.2 offensive rating), he eats up a lot of possessions and rarely turns it over. Okogie is the team’s leader and is a great player on the defensive end of the floor.
The most interesting aspect of this game will be how a great Indiana offense performs against Georgia Tech’s top 10 defense. The Yellow Jackets have the seventh most efficient defense in the nation per KenPom and do a great job of defending around the rim. Scoring won’t be easy for the Hoosiers.
If They Advance
Should Indiana do as expected and knock off Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, the team will move on to face either Georgia or Belmont in the second round. The Bulldogs earned a two seed with a 19-14 overall record.
Obviously, Hoosier fans should be hoping to avoid a potential matchup with Georgia and a trip to Athens later this week. Georgia is nearly 30 spots higher on KenPom than Belmont and would pose far more challenges to the Hoosiers.
If Indiana was able to knock off the two Georgia schools on the road, the Hoosiers would likely face Syracuse, Monmouth, or Ole Miss for an opportunity to go to Madison Square Garden for the final four of the NIT.
Undoubtedly, Syracuse is the best of those three teams. The Orange fell just short of making the NCAA Tournament and have some major accomplishments this season, including wins over Clemson, Duke, Florida State, and Virginia. Plus, a trip to the Carrier Dome won’t be easy, especially if Syracuse has already invested itself in the NIT.
After that, it’s hard to anticipate who Indiana might see in Madison Square Garden. Of course, considering that California and Houston are the highest seeded teams in the neighboring bracket, those would be the safest bets.
Getting excited for the NIT isn’t an easy task. Indiana fans were hoping for much more entering this season. However, given the overall strength of Indiana’s team, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a deep NIT run. The challenge will be putting together some great performances on the road.