The Indiana Hoosiers 79-71 loss to Wisconsin Friday afternoon knocks them out of the Big Ten Tournament, but the Hoosiers return to Bloomington looking forward to the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday.
Indiana's 25-8 record and number 15 national ranking make them a sure thing for an NCAA invitation. This will be IU's first trip to the postseason under head coach Tom Crean.
"It's well earned," Crean told reporters after the game. "I know that, as I've said of this team many times, you have to earn your way in that door. That is a tough door to get in. I'll be excited for these guys. They've earned their way in. There's nobody that's handed them anything. They weren't anointed the group to go back to the NCAA Tournament. They really, really had to work."
The Hoosiers would appear to have earned most likely a 4 or 5 seed when the brackets are unveiled Sunday evening after 6:00 p.m.
"We definitely wanted to win this game and this tournament," said Jordan Hulls, one of three Hoosiers to score 17 points against Wisconsin, along with Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. "We can't just ignore that fact. But if we have to look at the bright side, we do have one more game to play at least."
Indiana freshman Cody Zeller lost for the first time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, after winning three state championships with Washington High School in the arena before coming to Bloomington.
"It is a good feeling not having to worry too much about getting in (the NCAA tourney)," said Zeller, looking ahead to Selection Sunday.
Wisconsin beat Indiana behind a career-best 30 points from Badgers senior Rob Wilson, who averages just three points a game.
"It's something that shouldn't happen," said Will Sheehey. "The guy made a couple of shots because of our poor defense in the beginning. We really just helped his confidence."
Senior Verdell Jones III walked to the court on crutches Friday. Jones suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Thursday's win over Penn State. His playing career at Indiana is over.
"Having a good player like Verdell not being able to play for us, it's pretty difficult," said Hulls. "But a lot of players have been the next guys stepping up, and we have the guys on the bench who can fully do that. You can't replace directly a guy like Verdell, but we just gotta adapt to that."
The Badgers beat the Hoosiers for the 10th straight game. Wisconsin advances to play Michigan State in the semifinals Saturday.
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