March Watch: A look at IU’s NCAA Tournament profile

With Selection Sunday just sixteen days away, it’s time for “March Watch,” our look at where the Hoosiers currently stand in their quest for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since the 2007-2008 season:

Overview

Thanks to marquee wins against Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan, which highlight a solid 8-5 record against the RPI top 100, Indiana’s tournament resume is among the top 20 nationally. In the latest s-curve exercise by ESPN’s resident Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, the Hoosiers come in at No. 17. That makes them the top five seed in the bracket and puts them within easy striking distance of moving up a line to a No. 4.

The importance of Indiana improving its resume over the season’s final two weeks lies primarily in climbing the seeding ladder to take advantage of the pod system that started before the 2002 tournament. Because the system is designed to give preference in geographic placement to the highest seeded teams, Indiana’s best chance to play in Columbus, Louisville or Nashville and avoid going west to Albuquerque, Omaha or Portland is to finish the regular season strong and win multiple games in the Big Ten Tournament.

Nitty Gritty Profile

· Record: 21-7 (8-7 Big Ten)
· RPI: 19
· SOS: 33
· Home Record: 16-1
· Away Record: 4-6
· Neutral Court Record: 1-0
· vs. RPI Top 50: 6-4
· vs. RPI Top 51-100: 2-1

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Film Session: Sheehey’s first half

Will Sheehey got off to a strong start in Wednesday night’s win against North Carolina Central, scoring eight of his 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The sophomore showed a litte more bounce in his step since coming back from his ankle injury, rising high on his mid-range jumpers and slashing to the basket from the corners.

A look at his first half buckets in the latest edition of Film Session.

ONE

Jordan Hulls is met going into the paint, so he kicks out to Sheehey:

Sheehey fakes right, gets his defender to bite and goes left:

He pulls up in the lane, rises high and scores:

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Podcast on the Brink: Looking ahead to Minnesota

The Hoosiers hit the road this weekend seeking revenge against the Gophers for their January home loss. Can they return the favor and steal a game at Minnesota? Podcast On The Brink discusses that and more with Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Rick Bozich and Minnesota Star-Tribune beat writer Amelia Rayno.

Hosts Matt Dollinger and Greg Rosenstein debate the value of Indiana’s 75-56 win over North Carolina Central before talking to Bozich and Rayno about IU’s upcoming game against the Gophers and more.

Among the topics discussed in today’s show:

· Whether Tom Crean deserves consideration for Coach of the Year
· The merits of an easy non-conference schedule vs. a challenging one
· What the Hoosiers need to do to reverse their fortune against Minnesota
· The importance (and possible lack of) leadership and toughness on both teams
· Tubby Smith’s future in Minnesota and the job he has done this season

So tune in and enjoy. As always, let us know what you think about this week’s show and 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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Notebook: Sheehey returns to form against NC Central

When Will Sheehey returned after sitting out five games with a high ankle sprain, it looked like he hardly missed a beat. He was one of Indiana’s most effective players against Minnesota on Jan. 12, scoring 12 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting.

But since then, the production hasn’t been the same. Sheehey hasn’t moved as much without the ball, he hasn’t gone to the glass as frequently, and he doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness he had before the injury.

That was until Wednesday against North Carolina Central.

Sheehey had 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and added seven rebounds in the No. 23 Hoosiers’ 75-56 win, his most productive offense game in more than a month.

In his previous 10 games, Sheehey scored a total of 56 points on a combined 20-of-50 shooting.

“I’m not 100 percent yet, and you can tell,” Sheehey said. “I try to jump off one foot, and it’s pretty ugly. I’m just trying to get back and play a part on the defensive side first. The rest will come.”

WATFORD’S SHOOTING SLUMP CONTINUES

Christian Watford hit the biggest shot of the year for Indiana when he made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat No. 1 Kentucky.

Lately, though, Watford is struggling to hit any shot at all.

The junior forward is in the middle of his worst slump of the season, having scored in double figures only twice in the last six games. Watford was 0-of-8 and scored only two points against North Carolina Central, and he’s made only 4-of-24 shots in the last three games. He’s scored a combined three points on 0-of-13 shooting in the last two.

Indiana coach Tom Crean said he isn’t worried about Watford’s struggles, pointing to the fact he has had a positive impact on the defensive end.

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HD Video: Tom Crean on North Carolina Central win

Coach Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 75-56 win over North Carolina Central at Assembly Hall. Watch the press conference in high-definition quality video in the embedded media player below:

Quotes after the jump.

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The Minute After: North Carolina Central

Thoughts on a 75-56 win against North Carolina Central:

What to make of this random game snuck deep into the heart of the Big Ten season?

Well, things felt different. Assembly Hall lacked its fever-pitch energy. And Indiana’s play followed suit. It wasn’t so much I’d qualify this as a poor performance. Far from it, in fact. Still, Indiana just never seemed to hit full throttle on either end of the floor for considerable lengths of time. The Hoosiers were often sloppy. North Carolina Central played tight man to man — sometimes full court, sometimes pressing Indiana just across the timeline in the first half. It disrupted the Hoosiers. By half, they’d turned the ball over on 24 percent of their possessions. But some strong shooting (62.1 eFG%) and offensive rebounding (61.5 OR%) made up for the miscues, and Indiana found itself  with a 13-point lead (39-26).

But it could (and maybe should) have been more.

Indiana was able to punch the lead out to 20 points at the 12:59 mark of the second half by taking it at North Carolina Central and getting to the foul line. The Hoosiers also turned it up a bit on D. But the lead sorta just sat there the rest of the night, bouncing somewhere between 17-24 the rest of the way out.

Individually, there were some positives. We saw a strong offensive outing from Will Sheehey. Since coming back from his ankle injury, the Florida native hasn’t performed at the high level he was before he went down. Which is understandable and perhaps even expected. But against a less-talented opponent, Sheehey was able to get back into the swing of things with his offensive game. He went 6-0f-9 from the field and scored 12 points. Sheehey also snagged seven boards. He looked active.

Cody Zeller was Cody Zeller. Steady as a rock. Zeller also went 6-of-9 from the field, but added a 5-of-9 performance at the line — he was a frequent victim of fouls at the bucket — to finish the night with a team-high 17 points. Victor Oladipo continues to keep up his slashing ways. He scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting (5-of-6 from the line). Yet, he was erratic at times and registered three turnovers. (Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones had three a piece as well.) Derek Elston had a nice night, scoring 10 points (3-of-5, 2-of-2 from the line). His made buckets were two 3-pointers and a strong second-half dunk, arguably the most emphatic of his Indiana career.

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HD Video: Zeller, Oladipo and Sheehey on NC Central win

Cody Zeller (17 points, seven rebounds and two assists), Victor Oladipo (16 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Will Sheehey (12 points, seven rebounds and two assists) met with the media following Indiana’s 75-56 win over North Carolina Central at Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

Watch the press conference in high-definition quality video in the embedded media player below:

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