What to Expect: Syracuse

032713wertWASHINGTON — Indiana will be looking to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 11 years when it takes on Syracuse on Thursday night in an East Region semifinal at the Verizon Center.  

The game will tip at approximately 9:45 p.m. on CBS with Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery and Rachel Nichols on the call:

With three-plus days to prepare, Indiana will have the daunting task of trying to solve the zone of the Syracuse Orange, a defense unlike any the Hoosiers have seen this year. Not only is the Big Ten a league stocked full of man-to-man defenses, the teams in the league who do play some zone, like Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern, don’t have athleticism or length that compares to Syracuse.

“There is really nobody that we have played, nobody that these kids have played that you can look at and say, yeah, we went through forty minutes of this,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Wednesday. “That’s the beauty of the tournament.”

But as much of the focus centers around IU solving the zone of Syracuse, the Orange must contend with a hard-nosed Indiana defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally and an Indiana offense that is feasting on the offensive glass, which is an area that has given Jim Boeheim’s team problems this season.

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Boeheim’s zone needs long, athletic players in order to be successful and those are two characteristics his current roster is stocked with. Syracuse typically plays only three guards and this season, it’s been just two for the most part with sophomore Michael Carter-Williams and senior Brandon Triche occupying the majority of the playing time.

Carter-Williams had to wait his turn last season with Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters ahead of him on the depth chart, but he’s emerged this season as one of the nation’s best point guards. His assist rate of 41.5 percent ranks 11th in the nation and his steal percentage (4.7) is 14th nationally. He’s a guy that Indiana could play off of a little bit because he’s much better going off the dribble and either finishing at the rim or creating for others than he is shooting from the perimeter. Carter-Williams has connected on just 27.9 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Triche is also a solid distributor, with an assist rate of 21.4 percent, but like Carter-Williams, he’s struggled with his outside shooting. The senior guard is knocking down just 29.8 percent of his attempts from distance and is much better around the rim, where he finishes 63 percent of his shots. Triche’s 13.8 points per game are second on the team. If either player encounters foul trouble, it’s possible Indiana could see freshman Trevor Cooney, another poor perimeter shooter, in limited backcourt minutes.

An important matchup for the Hoosiers will be 6-foot-8 junior C.J. Fair, who averages team-highs of 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. Fair is hitting 49.2 percent from three and rarely turns it over (13.9 turnover percentage). James Southerland (pictured), a 6-foot-8 senior, missed some time earlier in the season due to undisclosed eligibility issues, but has since returned and is capable of carrying Syracuse with his perimeter shooting. Southerland has hit four or more 3-pointers in nine games and shoots 40.5 percent from distance. He’s also a capable defender, as evidenced by his steal percentage (3.1) and block percentage (3.4). Freshman Jerami Grant, a DeMatha product, averages 3.9 points off the bench.

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Super Bowl champion John Harbaugh impressed by Hoosiers

032713weqWASHINGTON — Indiana and its fans may not have been thrilled to end up in the East Region instead of the Midwest, but John Harbaugh sure was.

The coach of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens made the short trip to the Verizon Center on Wednesday afternoon to watch the Hoosiers practice and see his brother-in-law, Tom Crean.

“I’m excited to be a part of it. I love these players,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seem them practice over the years and I’ve kind of been around for the last four years, so it’s just a great experience to be a part of.”

Harbaugh and his brother, Jim, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, have always spent a good amount of time around Crean and the Indiana program, especially during the football offseason. John Harbaugh said he’s been impressed by what the Hoosiers have already accomplished this season.

“To hold on to that No. 1 spot for as long as they did, to me, is an amazing accomplishment,” he said. “They’ve been consistent, they’ve been steady. I love the Temple game, I love overcoming adversity the way they did. They kind of reminded me a little bit of our Ravens. That wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Harbaugh, who wore a gray Indiana sweatshirt and stood on the baseline while the Hoosiers practiced, said he plans to follow the team as far as it goes. He hopes he’ll be spending this weekend in the nation’s capital and next week, well …

“I’ve got a plane ticket to Atlanta,” he said, “and I’m not going if the Hoosiers don’t go.”

Podcast on the Brink: Syracuse preview

032713uwCan Indiana down Syracuse on its road to Atlanta? Or will the Hoosiers fall in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year?

Podcast on the Brink co-host Matt Dollinger is joined by Inside The Hall’s Justin Albers and Alex Bozich, who are on site in Washington D.C. this week, to break down Thursday night’s showdown with Syracuse and IU’s chances of advancing.

Among the topics discussed this week:

· How IU matches up against Syracuse on offense, defense
· Who will Victor Oladipo guard? How will he be utilized?
· The roles of Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell vs. Syracuse
· Biggest issues the Orange present against the Hoosiers
· All-Big Ten Final Four, Marquette vs. Miami and more

So tune in and enjoy. As always, feel free to drop us a note at podcastonthebrink@gmail.com.

Listen in the embedded media player below, download the episode, subscribe via iTunes or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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HD Video: Indiana players preview Syracuse

WASHINGTON — Watch and listen to what the IU players had to say inside their locker room of the Verizon Center as they prepared for Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game with Syracuse.

High-definition quality video is available in the embedded media players below:

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Video: Crean, players preview Syracuse

Tom Crean, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller and Jordan Hulls addressed the media Wednesday afternoon at the Verizon Center before Thursday night’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with the Syracuse Orange.

Tom Crean:

Oladipo, Watford, Zeller and Hulls:

You can read a full transcript here.

A second look at Indiana-Temple

IUTempleITH0012Sunday afternoon’s game had so much to it, it was difficult to digest it all immediately after the game. Especially when a late March snowstorm was staring right at the greater Dayton area.

So, after more than 24 hours to think about and analyze the Hoosiers’ 58-52 win over Temple, and how they got there, I took a look at the game in a much more complete way.

First, when I said in my column from Sunday night that the Hoosier won ugly, I wasn’t kidding. It was UGLY in every possible way, and Indiana undoubtedly caught some breaks (like the fact that every Temple player not named Wyatt seemed to forget how to score), but to advance in the NCAA Tournament, you sometimes need an element of luck. Ask Marquette. Or Ohio State. Or Miami.

The fact of the matter is, in a game they had no business winning, the Hoosiers found a way to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. And ultimately, that’s all that matters. I remember sitting on my couch watching the 2008 team play in the Tournament. There was no fight, no will, no desire. The Hoosiers faced adversity, and they quit.

When Tom Crean took control of the program, he vowed to change the culture. So give him credit because he has done that. Even when the Hoosiers trailed and couldn’t seem to do anything right against Temple, they kept believing. They played hurt. They made winning plays.

That, more than anything, is what I take from Indiana’s third-round win. Sure, it was ugly and there are many things that need to be corrected before it sees Syracuse on Thursday night, but we now know that this team has no quit in it (if we didn’t already).

Who’d Wyatt score on?

Not everything about the Hoosiers’ win over Temple, of course, was pretty. There was this guy, Khalif Wyatt, who went off in the first half and poured in 31 points. Wyatt’s done it many times before, but his production against Indiana was a bit surprising because the Hoosiers knew how dangerous he was. And they had the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in Victor Oladipo to check him.

But nevertheless, Wyatt went off in a losing effort. So how much does it mean? How troubled is Indiana’s defense going forward?

Answer: Not very.

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Film Session: Taking over Temple

The Hoosiers closed out Sunday’s win against Temple with a 10-0 run which sealed a 58-52 victory.

It was both defense and offense during that run which has them heading to Washington D.C. A close look at two defensive stops and Victor Oladipo’s 3-pointer in the latest edition of Film Session:

I. #WatBlock

Nursing a two-point lead, Temple bleeds some clock in this possession. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson brings the ball inside the 3-point line for the first time with 17 seconds left on the clock and passes to Anthony Lee:

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But it’s brought back up top and eventually gets to — who else — Khalif Wyatt with just eight seconds left on the shot clock. Lee comes to set a ball screen for him:

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But with Oladipo and Cody Zeller both blitzing and Jordan Hulls near the action as well, Wyatt is almost being triple-teamed and he looks for Lee, who is cutting to the rim:

block3

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