The Indiana Hoosiers boast one of the most impressive NCAA Tournament pedigrees in the history of college basketball, but have fallen on tough times as of late. The Wyoming Cowboys have only made it to March Madness three times in the past 20 years. That puts the two programs on nearly equal footing as they meet up for an opening round First Four game in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday night.
DraftKings Sportsbook rates Indiana as a 4.5-point favorite in the contest, with the Hoosiers a -195 pick over the Cowboys (+165) on the moneyline.
Indiana, Wyoming happy to be back at Big Dance
Both teams snuck into the bracket among the last four at-large teams. In fact, Indiana and Wyoming may be the last two in: the winner will slot into the bracket as a No. 12 seed, while the other play-in game on Wednesday will result in Notre Dame or Rutgers grabbing a No. 11.
But the specifics of how they got into the bracket aren’t that important to either team. Both squads expressed excitement at getting the chance to prove themselves in the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana (20-13) reached the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, knocking off top seed Illinois before calling by just three to eventual champions Iowa. That performance may have been what convinced the committee to put the Hoosiers in the field of 68 teams.
“I think we’ve proven not only to the Big Ten but to the country, we’re a team that can compete with anyone,” Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis told reporters after the loss to Iowa. “So it took a last-second 3-pointer to beat us, the hottest team in the Big Ten right now. It stings, but at the same time I feel like we’ve got a lot of ball left.”
Wyoming (25-8) is taking part in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. It picked up an at-large bid out of the Mountain West Conference, the first time the Cowboys have accomplished that since 2002.
Star forwards Jackson-Davis, Ike could set tone
Wyoming survived a test against UNLV, but fell to top-seeded Boise State in the Mountain West Tournament semifinals. That left the Cowboys squarely on the bubble on Selection Sunday.
“We knew we were going to be right there on that bubble,” Wyoming coach Jeff Linder said, via the Denver Post. “Thankfully, the committee saw our body of work throughout the course of the season.”
While Indiana hasn’t been in the NCAA Tournament since 2016, the program still boasts more star power than Wyoming. The Hoosiers are led by Jackson-Davis, a forward who scored 18.1 points per game and averaged 8.2 rebounds on the season.
Jackson-Davis could end up in a head-to-head battle with Wyoming’s Graham Ike. The 6-foot-9 forward scored 19.6 points and snagged 9.6 rebounds per game for the Cowboys in his sophomore season this year.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will have a tall task in the next round, as they’ll face a tough Saint Mary’s team on Thursday in Portland, Oregon.