There have been two constants in Rake’s Rankings this season: Indiana State has atop the standings each week, and IPFW has settled into the sixth spot, unable to bypass major programs that have had disappointing seasons.
One of those things finally changes this week.
1. INDIANA STATE 21-7, 12-4 Missouri Valley
Rarely does going to the final week of a team’s season with just three road losses in league play feel like a disappointment. But it does for the Sycamores. Indiana State knew after losing to Wichita State at home in early February that it would take near if not complete perfection the rest of the way to earn an at-large berth into the NCAAs in March. To ISU’s credit, they won four in a row following the home loss to the Shockers, but that streak was snapped at Missouri State on Saturday. The final two regular season games are rather meaningless for the Trees, as they already have the #2 seed locked up in the Valley tourney the following week. Then, it’s all about winning three in a row, including knocking off Wichita State.
2. INDIANA 15-11, 5-8 Big Ten
The Hoosiers had an unexpected seven-day break after an embarrassing loss at Purdue. They rebounded by winning just their second true road game of the season at Northwestern on Saturday night. Then again, Northwestern was down to nine players due to injuries and suspensions. Plus, it felt like an Indiana home game with plenty of cream and crimson in the stands and wearing the home white jerseys on the floor. Now the Hoosiers might have the toughest closing stretch in the league, playing three ranked teams in the next six days. If Tom Crean’s team gets two wins, consider it a good week.
3. PURDUE 15-12, 5-9 Big Ten
Sadly, this is kind of what was expected from the Boilermakers. Recent history told you that after an impressive win against Indiana, Matt Painter’s team wouldn’t be able to back it up. And that’s exactly what happened, after Michigan State poured in 17 3′s at Mackey followed by a lackluster effort at Nebraska three days later. Now the Boilers get Michigan at home on Wednesday, and then an extra day to prepare for Iowa as that game was moved to accommodate the Hawkeyes’ delayed trip to Indiana. Two losses this week, and suddenly Purdue’s NIT chances become dicey.
4. IPFW 20-9, 8-4 Summit League
The Mastodons reached the 20-win plateau for the first time in the school’s D1 history in dismantling IUPUI on Saturday afternoon. They could be seeded anywhere from 2-4 in the upcoming league tournament, and finish with road games at Western Illinois and Omaha to finish up the regular season. A couple of wins certainly help their tournament seeding, and push them closer to a postseason bid for the first time since their D2 days in 1993.
5. NOTRE DAME 14-14, 5-10 ACC
If you had a slight bit of good feeling about the Irish after winning a pair of games a week earlier, those quickly faded with losses to Miami and Virginia. It could be a trip back up the roller coaster this week, as Notre Dame hosts an equally mediocre Georgia Tech team followed by a Pittsburgh team that appears on its way to the dance. Then in a scheduling quirk, Notre Dame plays at North Carolina next Monday in their final regular season game, giving them a nine-day break before opening the ACC tourney. The postseason is still very much in question for Mike Brey’s team.
6. BUTLER 12-15, 2-13 Big East
It was another 0-for week for the Bulldogs. After one quality half at St. John’s, the ‘Dogs disintegrated at MSG, and then faced a Providence firing squad at Hinkle on Sunday night. They only play once this week, and that’s at a top 10 team in Villanova. After that, the next game is a battle to avoid the cellar against DePaul next Thursday.
7. VALPO 17-12, 9-5 Horizon League
A loss at Green Bay last week ensures that the Crusaders will be heading back to the frozen tundra, along with everyone else in the league for the conference quarterfinals, semis, and likely the championship game as well. The math is quite simple for Valpo, win both games this week (at Wright State tomorrow, home to Cleveland State on Saturday) and they’ll lock up the #2 seed in the league tourney, and a berth directly into the semifinals. Those same two wins would go a long way in giving the Crusaders other postseason options if they can’t win the Horizon tournament as well.
8. EVANSVILLE 11-18, 4-12 Missouri Valley
The Aces dropped a pair this week, and are headed for their worst season finish in four years. That was also the last time they missed the postseason. Not having a single senior on your roster helps soften that blow a bit.
9. IUPUI 6-23, 1-11 Summit League
Saturday was the final game in the Jungle for IUPUI men’s hoops, as they’ll move into the Fairgrounds Coliseum next season. Unfortunately, the last game was rather indicative of the struggle of the last two seasons, as the Jags put up little fight in losing to in-state rival IPFW. Those two could meet again in the opening round of the league tourney in two weeks.
10. BALL STATE 4-21, 1-13 Mid-American
Congrats to senior Chris Bond, who went over 1,000 points for his career in the loss at Toledo on Sunday. He is one of six seniors that are suffering through a dismal final season in Muncie.