Indiana is licking its wounds in the rock-steady Big Ten from that home loss to Northwestern over the weekend. A loss that saw the Hoosiers (12-6, 2-3 conference) -- the best team on offense in all of college basketball during the 2012-13 regular season -- score only 47 points.
Forty-seven points. To Northwestern. At home. The mind still sort of reels with that one, you know?
The Hoosiers are having a hangover of alarming proportions to this point. Remember where we were a year ago with Tom Crean's team? I mean, a comedown was totally expected, but nothing like this, past the midway point of the regular season. Now we know what can happen when you lose two guys (Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller) that are picked second and fourth in the NBA Draft, in addition to vital former seniors Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. Where we sit, IU is nowhere near the latest bracket update from our own Jerry Palm. The team checks in at No. 79 on KenPom and 77th in RPI. It's 1-3 against top-50 RPI teams and 2-5 against the top 100.
The Hoosiers are very much in danger of not making the NCAA tournament, and Tuesday night's game at 17-1 Michigan State exists as a humongous opportunity -- or perhaps a nail for this team's wooden overcoat. Indiana was a No. 1 seed last year and is setting itself up to become the latest example of a group that went from the top of the bracket to out of it completely in one season.
College sports' infrastructure, with a few exceptions, is built to be cyclical. Still, for a team to be on top of college hoops in one year and fighting to tread water the next is notable. How often does this happen? It's not an every-year affair, but this transgression does bubble up more frequently than you might think. Since the NCAA tournmanent expanded to 64 teams in 1985, historical data shows teams have a 13.8-percent chance of not making it back to the ball the year following nabbing a No. 1.
Here are the tombstones of those who lost their mojo in one season, from No. 1 to NIT or worse.
Former No. 1 seed
Failed to make NCAAs
UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Minnesota Golden Gophers
St. Joseph's Hawks
North Carolina Tar Heels
Serious credit to UConn, which has done this three times. Oklahoma and Ohio State are repeat offenders for failing to be consecutive contenders.
Indiana's not alone this year, but it is in the worst shape of the No. 1s from 2013. At 15-3, 5-2 against the top 100 and with an RPI of 25, Gonzaga is currently in decent shape. Louisville just got its first really nice win of the season over the weekend, winning on the road at UConn. The Cardinals are 3-2 against the top 50 in RPI and 4-3 vs. the top 100. The fourth No. 1 seed from last year -- Kansas -- is in fine shape on the heels of its fourth straight win against a top-25 team.
If you're curious on national champs who've failed to make it following a title year, there have been 20 int otal, but five since the field expanded to 64 teams: Louisville in 1987; Kansas in 1989; Florida in 2008; North Carolina in 2010; and Kentucky in 2013. That's five of 29 champions during the modern tournament era, a 17-percent chance of not getting back following capturing a crown. Surprisingly, that means you're more likely to not make the tournament following winning a national championship than if you're a No. 1 seed.