Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 15, 2016
Indiana was the undisputed regular season champ of the Big Ten, but the Hoosiers had to settle for a No. 5 seed after playing a favorable league schedule and losing their first Big Ten tourney game. Even though the committee did Indiana no favors, it still could be poised for a run in the Big Dance. This is a talented team and one that is motivated to show it?s better than its seed-or what it showed it that clunker loss to Michigan in Indianapolis in the league tourney.
Credit Tom Crean for righting the ship after non-conference losses to Wake Forest and UNLV in Maui and a horrendous defeat at Duke. The common thread in that dubious start: terrible defense. Well, the Hoosiers now are competent defenders who remain a deadly offensive team even with stud James Blackmon out for the year since January with a knee injury.
Get my Indiana NCAA capsule below.
No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 12 Chattanooga, Thursday, Des Moines, Iowa, East
Tom Crean?s NCAA record: 9-8, took Marquette to the 2003 Final Four
Last tourney appearance: 2015, Lost to Wichita State in first round
How I see it going: Indiana?s first-round foe is as dangerous as any Big Ten squad?s, as Chattanooga has a traditionally strong program. And the Mocs are especially strong and confident with a school single-season record 29 wins. Still, the Hoosiers should slide by. Then, a tilt with rival Kentucky looms. UK is feeling feisty coming off an SEC tourney title but only being a No. 4 seed. John Calipari?s team feels like it has something to prove. Can Indiana handle the Wildcats? This potential showdown in the second round between college basketball royalty has many jacked. And it should. They last met in 2012 and haven?t since, as the parties can?t agree on venues. This is a series between bluebloods that began in 1924 has been played 55 times and is full of vitriol. Let?s say Indiana slips by Kentucky, then a date with No. 1 North Carolina would be on tap. Don?t see IU winning that Sweet 16 clash.
Key player: Yogi Ferrell. There may not be a better point guard in the nation. And, he?s playing at a high level. The senior can do it all — shoot, pass, dribble, defend. Championship teams need lead guard like this, which is why many think the Hoosiers could be poised for a long stay in the Big Dance. Bottom line: Indiana will go as far as Ferrell takes it. And the potential matchup of him and Kentucky All-American point man Tyler Ulis in the second round is intriguing.
Key number: 82.3. That's how many points Indiana averages, which is tops in the Big Ten. Yogi Ferrell (17.0 ppg), Troy Williams (13.1) and Thomas Bryant (11.6) lead the way. And IU thrives from long distance, ranking No. 2 in the Big Ten in three-point percentage (41.5) and field goals made (316).
Know Chattanooga: The Mocs demand you respect after knocking off the likes of Dayton, Illinois and Georgia this season. First-year coach Matt McCall has a formidable 29-5 squad. Chattanooga has won five in a row and is coming off its 11th Southern Conference tourney crown. The Mocs? 29 wins were a school record. And they couldn?t have done it without forward Tre McLean, who averages 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. Justin Tuoyo, a 6-10 forward, adds 11.1 points and was the league defensive player of the year, while senior Eric Robertson is dangerous from beyond the arc. This is a balanced offense that doesn?t rely on the three-pointer but gets to the line often. This is the second time Chattanooga has been a No. 12 seed, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 1997 the first time.
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