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Indiana's Path to the Final Four

Straight up State Road 37, by way of Wichita, Lawrence, South Bend, and Lexington

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, I'm happy to even be writing this article, given that there were "experts" who said Indiana wasn't even going to make the NCAA field, and yet we're comfortably a 10 seed. That said, let's get down to the business of making this impossible dream reality.

Second Round (aka the Round of 64, aka the real first round because no one counts the play-in games as a round): vs. Wichita State

Ah, one of the coaches who a decent portion of the fanbase wants to replace our current coach, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall. In his time at Wichita State, he's taken the Shockers to a Final Four appearance, and a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. Why does that resume seem kinda familiar? That's right, it's because Tom Crean has done the same things (though not with the same school). But enough about that, what has Wichita State done this season?

Some quick hits: 28-4, losses coming at Utah, at Northern Iowa, vs. George Washington at a neutral site, and vs. Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals. 1-2 vs ranked teams (win hosting Northern Iowa, losses the aforementioned road games), and 2-2 vs. teams in the NCAA tournament (the second win was a home game against New Mexico State). Stingy defense (7th best in the country is points allowed), but decidedly mediocre offense (108th in points per game) and rebounding (108th on grabbing them, 173rd on preventing them). Two players taller than 6'8", only one of whom sees much playing time. Admittedly, this won't be an easy game, but if you were showing off blind resumes of teams Indiana might face, this looks a lot like one you'd take your chances with, right?

Third Round (Round of 32): vs. Kansas (most likely)

Kansas earned its seed in this tournament by winning the Big 12 and beating a lot of good teams along the way. They will also be without talented freshman (and noted Illini snubber) Cliff Alexander for the entire tournament, and haven't had a really spectacular performance as a team in more than a month. It will probably take a hot shooting effort from the Hoosiers to topple the Jayhawks, but this team, much like the Shockers, has very little height in the middle aside from a pair of role players at 6'10". Again, not easy, but not as impossible as it might look.

Sweet 16: vs. Butler or Notre Dame (most likely)

One of the many potential battles of Indiana teams in the Midwest region would happen if Indiana makes the Sweet 16. While Texas might also potentially emerge for this game, I don't honestly believe it'll be anyone other than Butler or Notre Dame. Point of note: At the Crossroads Classic earlier in the season, IU beat then-#23 Butler by 9, and Notre Dame crushed Purdue by 31. One of these matchups is clearly better for the Hoosiers than the other. Indiana's best hope against Notre Dame would be to crash the boards early and often, and not have empty possessions on the offensive end, and maybe toss in a cold shooting night for the Irish as well. If IU has somehow gotten here, and gets Butler, it becomes a lot easier to imagine a win, but far from a guarantee.

Elite 8: vs. Kentucky or whoever has beaten Kentucky (but really, probably Kentucky)

Kentucky, the menace of the NCAA this season. They've looked beatable at times, but never been beaten. They're the number one team in the country, and Big Blue Nation expects nothing less than a 40-0 national championship. There's also just a bit of animosity between Hoosier and Wildcat fans for a few different reasons. Things at stake in this game: A berth in the Final Four in Indianapolis (obviously), defending the honor of being the last undefeated national champion (a title currently held by the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers), revenge for the last time these teams met in the NCAA tournament (Kentucky won 102-90), and of course, attempting to revisit what happened the last time an undefeated, #1 ranked Kentucky team played IU. How does Indiana get to the Final Four for the first time since 2002? Probably a lot like this: