Hoosiers on the outside looking in

It comes as no surprise that Indiana University was not invited to the NCAA Tournament, while state schools Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame are going dancing.

The Hoosiers found themselves on the outside looking in during Selection Sunday, despite being ranked as high as No. 3 early in the season with wins over Kansas and North Carolina (both teams received No. 1 seeds). IU opened the season as if it was shooting for the Final Four, but its inconsistency and injury problems caused the Hoosiers (18-15) to miss their second NCAA tournament in four years. Making the tournament by performing well in the Big Ten Conference tournament was a long shot for a team that ended its regular season with a 7-11 conference record.

IU’s state rivals, Purdue (25-7), owned the Big Ten with a 14-4 regular-season conference record but could not get past Michigan in its first game of the conference tournament.

Butler PA announcer Dave Peach said the Bulldogs’ season ended in disappointing fashion twice. Butler ended the regular season with a 70-64 senior-night loss to Seton Hall and dropped the first game of the Big East tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The Bulldogs have yet to win a conference tournament game since joining the Big East in 2013.

“Losing on senior day in front of a sellout crowd is definitely not the way you want to end the regular season,” Peach said. “And to not win a game in the Big East is a little bit tough.”

The Boilermakers and Bulldogs may be stumbling into the tournament, but Notre Dame is entering the first round playing its best basketball of the year. The Fighting Irish made it to their second ACC Championship game in three years and competed well against a Duke team that many sports analysts have pegged for a Final Four run.

Notre Dame received a No. 5 seed in the West Region, which has arguably the weakest team of the four No. 1 seeded schools in Gonzaga. The Irish would most likely have a Sweet 16 matchup against Gonzaga to make it to the Elite Eight, which is a favorable matchup considering the other three top-ranked teams.

The No. 4-seeded Boilermakers would have to go through Kansas to make it to the Elite Eight out of the Midwest, while the south’s No. 4-seeded Bulldogs will most likely meet North Carolina in the Sweet 16.

Notre Dame would have the best chance of making it out of the Sweet 16 if all three teams were to compete against the No. 1 seeds in its region, but the Sweet 16 is not guaranteed for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame would have to play a No. 4-seeded West Virginia team that beat three top-five ranked teams during the regular season.

No game is a guarantee for any team, especially for Purdue, whose first game is against a Vermont team that posted a 19-0 conference record. The Catamounts are in a much weaker conference than the major schools, but it still won’t be a walk in the park for the Boilermakers.

Butler may have the easiest road to the Sweet 16, having to face the winner between Minnesota and Middle Tennessee in the second round, but will have to play its best game of the year to get past the Tar Heels. Butler has the talent to do it, having already beaten No. 1-seeded Villanova twice during the regular season.

The fate of Notre Dame, Purdue and Butler, along with the rest of the 68 tournament teams, will start being decided Thursday, while the Hoosiers will be trying to make their way through the NIT as a No. 3 seed.

Frank Bonner is a sports reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.