INDIANAPOLIS - "The Hoosiers are back" has been said many times over the last couple of years, but it was cemented as an undeniable fact the moment Indiana scored a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Though they were tripped up in the Big Ten Tournament by Wisconsin, the Hoosiers were a lock for a No. 1 seed. Still, the loss likely cost them the opportunity to make part of their tournament run in Indianapolis, which hosts the Midwest Region. Instead, IU is slotted in the East Region in Washington, D.C.
Several of college basketball's top prognosticators, including ESPN analysts Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas, are picking Indiana to make the championship game, but both predict the Hoosiers will fall to Louisville in the final.
The Cardinals got hot late in the season, benefited from IU's Big Ten Tourney stumble and are set to play in Indianapolis if they can clear the opening rounds.
"I think Indiana is an outstanding basketball team, but so is Louisville, and with Indiana losing in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament to Wisconsin, that opened the door for Louisville to slide in there after having won the Big East Tournament," Bilas said. "I don't think Indiana's too disappointed. With a No. 1 seed, you don't get those very often, and it puts them in a great position."
Despite holding the No. 1 spot in the polls for most of the season, the Hoosiers have slipped a bit down the stretch, going 3-3 in their final six games.
"I think Indiana and Tom Crean will be just fine," Bilas said. "They're a very prepared team, and they're a tight and together unit and I like Indiana's chances to reach Atlanta very much."
In-state rival Butler is also in the East Region as a No. 6 seed and could get to a rematch with IU. The Bulldogs beat Indiana in overtime in December. Rematch anyone?
"It was a fabulous game and it was good for the game. That would be a real moment that I think everybody not only in Hoosier nation but across the sports landscape would remember forever," Bilas said.