Indiana faces North Carolina at NCAA tournament crossroads

  • 03/25/2016 8:52 am in

PHILADELPHIA – Max Bielfeldt has been in this position before.

In 2013, he was a member of a Michigan team that was the No. 4 seed in the South Region faced with the task of taking down the top seed, Kansas.

The Wolverines did that – and advanced all the way to the national championship game – but needed to overcome a 14-point second half deficit and use overtime to get past the Jayhawks.

Now Bielfeldt will try to help Indiana navigate through a similar situation and one that the Hoosiers have yet to get past in the NCAA tournament under Tom Crean: the Sweet Sixteen.

Indiana has been here twice under Crean, in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, no one expected the Hoosiers to win, and they didn’t, but they gave eventual national champion Kentucky a stiff test in Atlanta. The 2013 appearance was a different story as the top seeded Hoosiers were stunned by Syracuse in Washington D.C., a loss that current IU point guard Yogi Ferrell was a part of.

Which route will the Hoosiers take? Bielfeldt said Thursday that he views the Sweet Sixteen as the crossroads of the tournament.

“I’d say the Sweet Sixteen is the point of the tournament where a team is at the crossroads,” he explained. “It’s either lose and you’re done or if you win that game, you really get momentum to go deeper in the tournament.

“I think with the way it is set up right now with us playing the No. 1 seed in our region, it would be a huge win for us to propel us. We’re at that crossroads where we’ve got to make a decision. We’ve got to start playing our best basketball right now or the season is going to be over.”

For North Carolina, their veterans Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are viewing tonight’s game in a similar light.

Paige and Johnson bowed out in the second round their first two seasons at North Carolina before advancing to the Sweet Sixteen as juniors to face eventual national runner-up Wisconsin.

Paige said Thursday that he was just excited to be in the second weekend of the tournament a year ago, but is approaching it with a different mindset this time around.

“We expect to get to Houston. This is another thing in the way of preventing us from getting there,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of our business. I think we’ve earned the right to have that mentality as a one seed, but that’s not going to win the game tomorrow.”

So what is going to win the game?

For North Carolina, it’s getting the ball inside. Paige said the Tar Heels will be trying to get the ball as close to the basket as possible on every possession. That means the Hoosiers are going to need to be extra sharp defensively, particularly in transition where North Carolina is most dangerous.

Indiana knows it must play one of its best games of the season to move on, which means the Hoosiers must take care of the ball and move it around for the best shot possible.

“These games are set to where if you don’t come in prepared and you get away from what you’ve done that’s made you successful, you lose,” Collin Hartman said Thursday.

“We just want to beat them to the punch,” Troy Williams added. “We’ve got to get out and run with them. Transition defense is going to be key for us and we’ve got to make the right plays on offense.”

As well as Indiana’s season has gone to this point – and it has gone very well with an outright regular season Big Ten championship and a win over Kentucky in the round of 32 – taking the next step would be a major accomplishment for the program.

“There’s a little more energy around it,” Bielfeldt said. “This is where it gets down to a dog fight. Every team wants it bad. They’ve all made it this far and have won two big games. To continue to win games, you have to keep that mentality and be razor sharp.”

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  • BL

    If we can get by UNC, all the sudden the bracket turns in our favor. Boy, love to see really good D and a lights-out shooting night. Get ’em boys!

  • ToothGuy

    Given our trend since the start of the Big 10 schedule, this postseason and pending off season has a much different feel. We have played so well for such a sustained period that I’m finally enjoying our run of good ball…as opposed to holding my breath after impressive games knowing we’d relapse very soon. If UNC plays average and IU plays average with above average 3-point shooting then I think we win by 5.

    However, the point of this post is that even if we lose (to a good, streaking UNC) we should still feel optimistic about the trend of the IU program. Good players turning great, capable incoming freshman ready for grooming, exciting recruiting prospects, Assembly Hall upgrades, an improving football presence, and (most importantly) a rejuvenated fan base. We all want another banner and no one should be content with less…but I’m still enjoying the fact that we’re on the ascent and it feels good! Hoosiers baby!

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    This team is due for a hot shooting night, i have no doubt if we play our best then tis on to the elite 8!!

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    Props to Alex and his team for giving us so much coverage. Often times I forget how many hours the ITH staff puts in to this site never has it been so apparent then these last couple of weeks. I have been on ITH so much this week if I wasn’t starting new Job on Friday I may have been fired this week.

  • Yep. Shoot like we did against Chattanooga, defend like we did against KY, have a fairly-called game, and the same grit and determination this team has shown… and I’m still nervous as hell. No way I get any work done today.

  • BL

    At least it’s an early evening game for you 🙂

  • BL

    Good luck with the new job!

  • Ain’t that the truth.

  • Lars Miller

    Thank goodness for Good Friday Half Days!!! Done in 38 minutes. But if we can rebound/defend their bigs like we did against PU. Fairly called game. Plus shoot like we did against Chattanooga – I would be very confident that we win.

    As it is though, I am extremely nervous!

  • N71

    In a way yes but to what, potentially Wisconsin and Virginia, yuk. As much as I enjoy watching us play Maryland and how I imagine the game will go tonight, the slow, methodical Badger ball is a grind. Virginia is even worse but I’d welcome the day at this point.

  • N71

    I was just thinking about that this morning, whether we win or loose this evening as long as we’re in the batter’s box so-to-speak we’ll have chances. Today Crean turns 50 which puts him in a position, age wise, to keep the program at a high level for the next 10+ years. Curious I checked some other ages; Roy Williams 65, Patino 63, Krzyzewski 69, Boeheim 71, Izzy 61, Calipari 57, Self 53, etc. Crean could be part of the next guard with Bennett and who knows else.

  • IULore

    We’d most likely play a worse team in the elite 8 if we win. ND or Wisc

  • SouthBendHoosier

    I saw Brice Johnson’s interview, kid was borderline cocky. He called TB weird.It’s on baby, it’s on. Lock him up and hit our 3s and we will win. Not worried about Marcus Page, it’s there size that bothers me.

  • Oh baby. Like last weekend, I’m feeling pretty good about this one. I only wish I was in Bloomington to soak up the atmosphere.

    Question for the fan-base: does anyone know how to watch the previous tournament games against Chattanooga and kuntecky? (besides having recorded the live broadcast) BTN and Espn have always made it possible to rewatch games, but CBS doesn’t seem to be doing that. Anyone know where I could find these games online? Or, does anyone plan on posting the full games online sometime soon? Any help here would be GREATLY appreciated.

    GO HOOSIERS!!!

  • HooshWin

    Out here on the West Coast, its float thru an unproductive day and get situated at the sports bar at 4ish for a prime viewing spot at the bar. Lucky red shoes? Check. EXTREMELY lucky candy-striped IU fleece? Check. I believe we have the players and schemes to make this a very uncomfortable evening for the blue-bloods from UNC. Put on your crimson-colored hard hat, time to go to work.

  • INUnivHoosier

    On the East Coast, I’ll be getting ready for bed.

  • INUnivHoosier

    It’s really quite a treat to look back and see all of the turmoil bubbling over the summer and leading up to a very disappointing start to the season given where the team is now.

    These guys have fought through some pretty weird stuff, seeing a friend in the hospital fighting for his life, seeing multiple buddies unceremoniously exit the team, adding new pieces onto the roster at the last minute, having a rough start to the season, growing discontent regarding their coach, injury to the leading scorer when things are starting to come together, injury to another starting guard in the middle of a B1G season, other players battling ongoing injuries, a starting forward sustaining an injury near the end of the regular season, a very close friend of the coach getting a dire prognosis and eventually passing away during the NCAA tournament, getting underseeded and going against another underseeded (and loaded) team on a hot streak, etc.

    As a fan, I really want to see them hang a banner for my own selfish delight. I want to see them do it even more because I feel like they’ve met and overcome some significant challenges, and I want them to feel the joy that comes with the reward. I can only imagine how much they want it.

    There is a lot of work yet to be done. I think they are up to the challenge, and I hope they can reap the rewards of their hard work tonight and in the next 3 games. With a little bit of luck to go along with all of that hard work and tenacity, I honestly believe it can happen. This year has been quite a ride. I hope it doesn’t stop tonight.

  • ForeverIU

    Team play is important of course. But in elite games like this one, it is individual play and individual brilliance that is the difference maker. Those with the cooler heads and cooler nerves, and the ones with humor and the lesser egos but bigger hearts, are the ones who will prevail. I think we are that team. Go Hoosiers!

  • HooshWin

    The schedulemakers definitely didn’t do EST IU fans any favors on this one – especially parents with younger kids. Thankfully, Sunday’s tip time should be much more reasonable

  • BL

    Hey, let’s get some good karma going. TW highlights I ran across on youtube; check it out: watch?v=04wFrTvlDVY

  • INUnivHoosier

    I wish Troy could always shoot 100% and score 80 points in 3 minutes.

  • BL

    Something I don’t recall seeing discussed was the impact JBJ’s preseason knee injury had on his play this year. I watched some video of his from this season and compared it to his play last year. WAY more athletic as a freshman; check out this youtube video: watch?v=H8b9my-J5qw Especially the dunks at the end. Boy, I wonder if we’ll ever see him back to 100%?

  • bleeding crimson

    Well that only keep’s the tension up longer, we all know the nervous guys on here, including me. I some bad that my superstition kicks in and I’ll change shirts, hats, etc during the game to change our luck. Call me crazy but I’m a crazy IU fan.

  • BL

    If it works, please do so.

  • bleeding crimson

    Thanks for the reminder, if you notice most of his 3’s were contested on each shot. We forget how good he was and is. Be nice to have him for the dance this year.

  • bleeding crimson

    Bring’em both on.

  • Great synopsis, and I agree 100%. It’s been a remarkable season, and I think once we look back on it as you’ve done here, we’ll be even more amazed. Win tonight, and it will be one for the emotional record books.

    But the biggest takeaway for me from your comment is: I, too, want the team to experience as much success as they can squeeze out. Yogi and the other seniors and the underclassmen (including any who might go to the NBA) have been an inspiration in demonstrating what can be gained from hard work and dedication. They really deserve it.

    Win or lose, this is one of my favorite teams. But I know they want to win even more than I want them to.

  • bleeding crimson

    We even have our opponents coming on here saying this is the best site for IU BB. That’s probably why we have so many trolls.

  • BTW, I had a dream last night that we hit something like 20 out of 25 3PT attempts and won going away. Obviously, my subconscious thinks our perimeter game will show up tonight in a big way. I don’t put much stock in my subconscious, but in this case I’ll go with it.

  • BMusic

    Don’t worry, guys. I got this. I discovered that we win tournament games when I wear the same color shirt as our Hoosiers’ jerseys—so, white IU shirt when we’re wearing whites, and red when we’re wearing red.

    To Brice Johnson: yes, I suppose it does look weird to you to see a big man working as hard as TB works. Hope you like seeing it up close. But we’re going to need a full game from our full roster of interior beef: Max, OG, Juwan, Collin.

    Man, yesterday’s 1 seeds sure did manhandle their sweet 16 foes. Come out strong, Hoosiers! I’m holding my Bobby Plump-signed ball right now and thinking about how the entire spirit of basketball in the state of Indiana is built on the beautiful possibility for underdogs to pull off upsets in this game. More than any other sport, talent and size take a back seat to determination and execution. When the ball goes up, anything can happen.

  • bleeding crimson

    They really deserve to win just because of all of what they have been through. Forget about the fans they are playing as a team for their coach. Keep the ball moving.

  • bleeding crimson

    Wait a minute, NC is top see so they will be wearing white….right and we’ll be crimson? Because I already have my Crimson shirt in the car with my white shirt, cammo and crimson hat??????

  • bleeding crimson

    Could you imagine if the NCAA selection $hits would have put us in the Midwest playing NC at the YUM center how many IU fans would just rule the stadium….plus I could be at the game. They suck.

  • ellisja

    If you saw the Kansas/MD game last night, the refs let ’em play. Didn’t disrupt the game much with calls. We need that for TB.

  • INUnivHoosier

    South was Louisville. Midwest was Chicago.

    Either would be good.

  • CR3AMnCR1MS0N

    I believe so

  • SCHoosier

    Guess its all been said at this point. Tough assignment. Hoosiers need to play their butts off on D and have two or three really good scoring runs. Go IU.

  • bleeding crimson

    LOL…..too funny. I hardly ever dream about IU, but let your dreams come true.
    Just keep me laughing.

  • bleeding crimson

    Just curious but where are all of the CTC nay sayer’s??????

  • Ole Man

    Please, is this necessary right now?
    Let’s kumbaya for as long as we can….LOL!

  • marcusgresham

    With firsthand knowledge of what works (and doesn’t work) against both.

  • bleeding crimson

    You know I agree with you most of the time and I do agree let’s us enjoy the moment but I don’t see any trolls or anti-CTC crap. I guess we’ll just have to wait until we lose if we do.
    Go Hoosiers.

  • marcusgresham

    Eh, it’s a Friday night…and Carolina’s fans are in the eastern time zone, too. Williams has already whined about Carolina playing late games. I said I didn’t understand why—it’s not like athletes at his school get up to go to class.

  • Bballpop

    There is a web site for Kentucky basketball (not the official site for the school) that shows every replay of kentuckys games. I don’t remember the address but you should be able to google it. CBS has blocked anyone from posting the game with the regular broadcast but this site posts the game but with radio announcers for UK. It’s the entire game with the commercials and sportscasters and all but you only hear the radio version. It’s actually kind of interesting. That’s the only way I could get the UK game. Hope that helps. If you can’t find it let me know and I’ll try to look it up for you.

  • ForeverIU

    You must be bored (or tense) as heck waiting for the game, and your only way to distract yourself is to wake up the zombies. LOL.

  • SilentBob

    Hey man, most of them have been saying some pretty positive things. Even Old Coop looked to be having some mild optimism. Most of them are pretty reasonable people.

    I mean lets be honest though. After the Duke loss did anyone truly believe we’d be anywhere close to this position? I mean big ten champs feeling at least moderately comfortable going up against, arguably the best team in the nation? I thought he was done for. Not so much because he was a bad coach, but because the heat was too much and hadn’t proved he was a great coach. But man he has really turned this ship around. I give credit where credit is due! But now let’s go beat the Tar Heels and really send a message!

  • RDD#76

    JBJ had very limited off season workouts due to injury because of knee and if any player needed those workouts were him. If he gets healthy I think this summer the workouts will help him the most it’s nice to see our players in shape compared to most teams especially late in second half of games.

  • robmac10

    Glad to see I wasn’t the only that caught Brice Johnson saying TB had a weird run and game. That comment made very little sense to me. I’ve never noticed a goofy run from TB, if anything I think Zeller was goofy running just because he covered so much ground so fast but didn’t look to be moving all that quick. Hope TB takes him to school!!!

  • robmac10

    I had a dream earlier this week that we were playing ND at a neutral site that was not bankers life fieldhouse, I’m hoping that means we beat UNC and face up with ND in the elite 8!!! Here’s to dreams proving correc!

  • IUMIKE1

    Same here been wearing the same IU shirt, pants and hat each time. Kinda worried though not going to be able to watch the game at the same place or sit in the same chair. Gotta come up with something to offset the change in seating and location.