The chorus of cheers came quickly amidst a convivial scene Monday evening at Yogi’s Bar and Grill as Indiana’s soccer men saw they’d earned a first-round bye in just the second NCAA tournament bracket announced.
Coach Todd Yeagley’s 11-5-3 Hoosiers, who earned the overall No. 16 seed and the accompanying bye for the second straight year, will host a 1 p.m. match against the winner of the first-round game between Xavier (13-2-5) and Kentucky (10-8-2).
“It was good to see ‘Indiana’ go up on the screen early, and where it went up,” Yeagley said. “You work hard to get a home game, you work hard to get a seed. And the higher seed you are, the better chance for home games, but I like where we are right now.”
This particular No. 16 seed perhaps tasted a bit sweeter, given that IU has some stumbles down the stretch. The Hoosiers fell to Michigan State twice, the second time in their Big Ten tournament opener, and had a 1-1 tie versus Northwestern despite out-shooting the Wildcats 20-7.
“I think Northwestern is a good example to show that we played well enough to win, but didn’t,” IU sophomore scoring leader Eriq Zavaleta said. “lAnd when we watched the tape from Michigan State, we created more chances than they did, but they came out with the result.
“I think if we start finishing off our chances, we have a chance to go far.”
Zavaleta finished a pair of chances and added an assist Oct. 3 in keying a 4-1 IU win at Kentucky. And the Hoosiers have also seen Xavier in exhibition play.
“Those have become the teams we traditionally face at tournament time, whether we have a bye or not,” Yeagley said. “It’s teams from the region, and teams we’ve probably played before. It was Evansville in the old days, or Butler.
“We had a good performance against Kentucky the first time this year and they’re a quality side. We knew if we got that win, it’d be a quality win, and it was for us. And Xavier has had just a terrific year. So it’ll be what you’d expect from a second-round NCAA game, a challenging and competitive game.”
The Hoosiers won’t mind getting the extra bit of rest. Without getting a bye, which are given to the top 16 seeds in the 48-team field, IU would have had to play a first-round game Thursday night and then, if it won, would have had to play on relatively short rest Sunday.
“It’s days (of rest) that we need,” Zavaleta said. “And we’ll be ready to go Sunday.”
IU is in the same bracket as the tournament’s top seed, Notre Dame (16-3-1), and was joined by Big Ten brethren Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern in the NCAA field.
Indiana beat Old Dominion before falling to eventual national champ North Carolina, 1-0 in overtime, in last year’s sweet 16 play.