Resume Analysis pre-Michigan Series

Looking at scenarios and the needed RPI target for a bid the to the NCAA Tournament

By Carl James @jovian34 May 14th, 2024

The Indiana Hoosiers have clearly gained some ground since I covered this topic in April, but there is still work to be done. Indiana is in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten (B1G) standings, two games outside of first place. Indiana’s RPI rank is 58th. A sweep over Michigan would get IU into the low 50s.

The Goal: Get into the NCAA Tournament

Path 1: At-large bid

There are 64 slots in the NCAA Tournament. 30 of those slots will be automatic bids to from each eligible conference. This grants 34 at-large bids that the NCAA Selection Committee will make. Now 13 of the 30 conferences have teams with at-large caliber resumes, extending the effective number of at-large bids to 47 teams. However, since all but one conference gives their automatic bid to the winner of the conference tournament there is a chance for one of those automatic bids to be “stolen” from the pool of 47. Below I have listed each conference with the conference leader and my odds of the bid being stolen. For leagues with only 1 at-large caliber team I set the odds at 0.5 (like a coin-flip). I totaled those up to come at 3.7 stolen bids.

WCCSan Diego25100.5
AmericanEast Carolina12100.5
MoVIndiana State10100.5
Pac 12Arizona26300.4
Big EastXavier27120.3
C-USADallas Baptist21200.3
Big West*UCSB18200.3
Sun BeltSouthern Miss33140.2
Big 12Oklahoma16430.1
ACCNorth Carolina5730.1
*Awards auto bid to regular season champion

Next, I looked at the teams with RPI ranks better than 50, to identify who could potentially be bumped from the field for a poor resume. At this point I have identified 14 teams with top-50 RPIs that Indiana would have a case to bump. The odds of that bump case were set the same way as the stolen bids with a clear case like Auburn, who is no. 45 in the RPI, but only 4-20 in SEC play set at 1 because they will not get a bid. On the low end I have UCONN at 0.1 who has a no. 42 RPI with only a 2-7 record against Quad-1 teams, but are a Northeastern team and likely only need to be in the RPI range to get in. Totaling these up I got 5.3 bump-able teams.

Finally, I looked at teams with RPIs worse than 50 who have a good case to “bump” IU if they have a worse RPI than IU on Selection Day. That was six teams whose odds added up to 2.2.

Once I added all of that up, I got a target RPI rank of 51. As I mentioned above, Indiana would get close to that rank with a sweep over Michigan, but they would be far from that if Michigan wins one game in the series. At that point, depending on opponents, Indiana would likely need to win two games at the B1G Tournament to improve the last few spots. Two wins may be all that is needed, because every bubble team in the country is likely to lose two games as most of these tournaments are double elimination. Indiana could help its case by winning the first three games of the tournament. If Indiana lost the championship game in that scenario it would go 3-1 on the week, good enough to boost their record for RPI purposes.

Now hitting this rank on Selection Day is no guarantee of getting in. I may end up being off with how the committee makes decisions. They may decide that a bunch of 12-18 SEC teams in fact deserve to be in the field in which Indiana may be in real trouble. The committee has a new tool this year, the KPI rankings. As it turns out Indiana is currently 8 spots better in the KPI vs the RPI. The RPI still has precedence, but the KPI can be considered (yes – that makes no sense to me either in case you are rightfully confused). I will also note that Indiana Athletics Director, Scott Dolson, is on the committee this year. Dolson is supposed to be “out of the room” when his program is discussed, but committees have a history of decisions that favor the programs of members of the committee, for whatever that is worth.

Another resume boost would happen if Indiana were to claim a share of the B1G regular season title. With a sweep of Michigan, this would require Purdue taking two of three from Illinois and Michigan State to win one out three hosting Nebraska. While not likely all together, at least these outcomes all favor the home teams on the final weekends.

The B1G is also the 4th best conference by aggregate RPI this season. Conference RPI is often discussed in the media, but not an explicit metric the committee is supposed to use. I am not considering it in my evaluations, but some think the committee might.

Indiana cannot win the conference outright, because Illinois and Purdue are playing each other, but there are two scenarios where the Hoosiers do earn the number one seed in the B1G Tournament. If Indiana sweeps Michigan, Purdue sweeps Illinois, and Nebraska loses a game, the three-way tiebreaker is record versus common opponent Rutgers which bumps Nebraska to third and Indiana and Purdue, who both swept Rutgers, move to a two-way tiebreaker that Indiana takes over Purdue due to head-to-head series. The Nebraska part of that would be un-necessary if the Cornhuskers lost two games to Michigan State.

Path 2: Win the B1G Tournament

One other way to get into the field is for Indiana to earn the B1G’s automatic bid. Indiana is arguably the most talented team in the league. I think they may be in the best shape to make a title run of any IU team since 2014. They are adding pitchers each week that can give quality multiple innings and have a few more that can be effective in multiple short stints. The biggest weakness the pitching staff has is giving up home runs, but Charles Schwab Field in Omaha is a notoriously tough place to hit homers.

Indiana offense is explosive and has put up crooked numbers on multiple occasions without needing home runs, while a few B1G teams have become somewhat reliant on the long ball.

To win the tournament, Indiana needs to get into it by finishing in the top-8. Due to how tight the standings are, Indiana hasn’t yet technically clinched a berth in the tournament. Now it only takes one of the following to accomplish this (the odds against are almost not worth even mentioning this possibility at all):

  • Indiana wins one game hosting Michigan
  • Maryland losses a game hosting Penn State
  • Michigan State loses a game hosting Nebraska
  • Ohio State loses a game hosting Rutgers

Pitching strategies

The condensed timelines bring into question how to deploy pitching. A possible scenario (entirely my own thought experiment based on how we’ve seen players used so far) would be to leave Connor Foley on Saturday, and bump Ty Bothwell up to Thursday. Ty is a veteran arm, that although is fastball heavy, he’s not as much of a power pitcher and has handled large pitching loads going back to high school (six years ago). Foley, especially given his MLB Draft stock, the fact that he’s a power pitcher, and that he’s already had back tightness this season, would remain on 6-days rest. For the B1G Tournament, if Indiana can win two of three Tuesday through Friday, Foley gets a chance to get them into a 4-team single elimination tournament, and Bothwell may even be able to come back on 4-days rest for a Sunday title game.

Going Forward

I will publish updated versions of this as things progress. None of this happens in a vacuum and the situation can change and Indiana’s performance will very likely be the largest factor that dictates the focus going forward.