Indiana took care of Michigan in their first meeting of the season Feb. 2, 81-73. (AP/Doug McSchooler)
It was theirs. It wasn't. It was theirs again, and now it may not be. The season-long question of whether Indiana will end up in the Midwest (Indianapolis) regional will get a large piece of the answer today when the Hoosiers play in Ann Arbor, Mich., trying to deny several other teams (including the Wolverines) a share of the Big Ten title.
Indiana's hold on placement in the Midwest regional seemed extremely likely on Feb. 19 after they went to East Lansing, Mich., and beat the Spartans, but subsequent losses at Minnesota and then, surprisingly, at home to Ohio State on Senior Night has brought other Big Ten teams and potentially Louisville or Georgetown also into the mix for the Midwest No. 1 seed.
If the Hoosiers win today, they will be in pretty strong position, as Michigan is likely the biggest threat to them from their own league. It would give Indiana more wiggle room in the Big Ten tournament and against what might happen elsewhere (if you assume Duke is heading toward the No. 1 seed in the East, as it looks likely). If Indiana loses, there will be at least a two-way tie for the league title and as many as four teams could grab a share. In that scenario, Indiana very likely would have to win the Big Ten tournament to get Indy, at least as the No. 1 seed.
There may be a backdoor for the Hoosiers, though. Let's say the Big Ten tournament gets a little wacky and a team like Wisconsin or Ohio State wins it. If the Big East champ (assuming it's Louisville or Georgetown) trumps the top Big Ten team for the Midwest No. 1 seed, it opens up the possibility for Indiana to land there as a No. 2 seed. The Hoosiers either would have to be the highest Big Ten team on the seed list (with no Big Ten team getting a No. 1 seed somehow), or have the top Big Ten team land the No. 1 seed in the South or West, which would leave the Midwest available for placement.
There are similar things at stake for Michigan, which looms as the biggest threat in the league to trump the Hoosiers. Michigan's five losses are all on the road and four of them are at the other four top teams in the league. The fifth one, inexplicably at Penn State, may be what costs them, as it could end up denying them an outright league title.
Whatever happens today, the stakes will be fairly significant in what should be an outstanding conference tournament toward the end of next week. Indiana can make things a lot simpler for them and people who try to project this stuff, though, by winning today in Ann Arbor, Mich.