Indiana and Texas A&M might have played their way into the NCAA tournament early Friday afternoon.
The No. 9 seeded Hoosiers took down No. 1 seed Illinois 65-63 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals while No. 8 seed Texas A&M beat No. 1 seed Auburn 67-62 in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
Both Indiana (20-12) and Texas A&M (21-11) entered their conference tournaments needing a few wins to put themselves in tournament consideration. And they each had their games go down to the wire on Thursday. Indiana outscored Michigan by 18 in the second half to beat the Wolverines 74-69 while Texas A&M needed a buzzer-beater in overtime to beat Florida. That game should never have been in overtime; the Aggies coughed up a nine-point lead over the final 67 seconds of the game to play an extra five minutes.
Texas A&M got tight in the second half against Auburn on Friday too. The Aggies had a 20-point lead at one point in the second half before Auburn got the lead down to four with 39 seconds to go before Texas A&M steadied and kept the Tigers at an arm’s length the rest of the way.
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Indiana took advantage of some porous shooting by Illinois near the rim. The Illini shot less than 36% from the field and were 8-of-22 from behind the arc.
Illinois had a 63-62 lead after Kofi Cockburn hit two free throws with 33 seconds to go. But Cockburn then fouled Trayce Jackson-Davis seven seconds later and Jackson-Davis hit his two free throws to give Indiana a lead it wouldn’t relinquish after Andre Curbelo missed a shot in the lane with three seconds to go.
If Indiana and Texas A&M are now in the NCAA tournament, thanks to their wins during conference championship week, there are a couple of teams sweating out Selection Sunday that thought they were comfortably in a few days ago. A team like Wake Forest, Xavier, SMU, or Virginia Tech could be out of the tournament in favor of either the Hoosiers or Aggies.
Auburn’s No. 1 seed dream likely dashed
It seems unlikely that Auburn will be on the No. 1 line when the NCAA tournament field is revealed on Sunday. Illinois, meanwhile, could end up as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed on Sunday.
Auburn’s loss also makes the race for the final No. 1 seed fascinating. Baylor lost in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday night. Did the Bears knock themselves off the No. 1 line with that loss? And if they did, who replaces them? Can Kentucky move up to No. 1 with an SEC tournament win? Is Kansas solidly on the No. 1 line no matter what happens in the Big 12 tournament? We’ll find out over the next two days.