PORTLAND, Ore. — The Hoosiers know they have a daunting task ahead of them when they play No. 13 seed New Mexico State at 9:45 pm. today. But they also understand how special an opportunity it is to be in the NCAA Tournament, and they’re enjoying every second of it.
The team flew into Portland Monday night, and Tom Crean gave his players most of Tuesday to tour the city and hangout together. Senior Kory Barnett, who used to live in the area, also took his teammates to some of the places he remembered going as a kid.
“He’s always telling us where to go, where to eat,” said junior forward Derek Elston.
The players also saw “Act of Valor” on Tuesday night, a new movie about Navy SEALs that go on a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent.
“It’s a big deal for us just to be able to hang out with each other,” said junior guard Jordan Hulls, “because it doesn’t happen too much when we’re going full blow into the Big Ten season.”
Crean said days like Tuesday are the ones that bring teams the closest together.
“It’s fun to sit in the front of the bus and listen to them in the back of the bus,” he said. “I may not know everything they’re saying, but that laughter is universal. And those are the things that you really enjoy being a part of.
“I think when it’s all said and done, they’ll remember where they went. They’ll have experiences to think about, but it’s the lasting, shared memories of something somebody said that was silly in the back of the bus or silly at breakfast. That’s the stuff that really builds them when they come back years from now and reminisce about their time.”
More than just a shootaround
When most of the eight teams took the Rose Garden floor for their 40-minute public practice Wednesday afternoon, it looked like more of a shootaround. They walked through various drills, but rarely went full speed. Their real practice came off location.
Indiana took a different approach.
While the Hoosiers still did a good deal of shooting, they also ran full-court drills and played full speed with defenders on the floor. It was a fan-friendly practice — there were plenty of dunks — but the Hoosiers were all business during their on-court session.
“These guys are honored to be here,” Crean said before the team’s practice. “There’s nobody that feels like they’ve arrived or that they’re just happy to be here. There’s nobody that’s taking it lightly.”
Hoosiers aren’t stressing
It has been well noted that nobody on the Indiana roster has ever played in an NCAA Tournament game.
That doesn’t mean the players will be shell shocked when they take the floor against the Aggies. Freshman Remy Abell admitted he would probably be a little nervous before the game, but said he would be more worried if he didn’t feel any nerves. Hulls said the Hoosiers’ inexperience in the postseason won’t matter once they take the floor and start playing.
As for Cody Zeller? He’s all good.
“I’m not stressed out at all,” the freshman center said, smiling. “[The experience is] pretty enjoyable.”