So here’s the deal as IU braces for the one-and-done pressure of postseason basketball –- can it play at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and every NCAA tourney site it gets, as if it was playing at Assembly Hall?
If the Hoosiers do, they can go a long, long way this March.
They should get at least a No. 4 NCAA tourney seed, perhaps even a No. 3. That means they would be positioned for at least a Sweet 16 berth.
“Positioned,” of course, guarantees nothing in this annual event. You never know when you’ll run into the next VCU, which stunned everybody -– including IU rival Purdue -– by reaching the Final Four.
VCU is back in the NCAA tourney field, by the way.
Still, IU has the potential to go far.
Tonight, of course, it gets the Big Ten tourney and Penn State, a team it’s already beaten twice. What makes the Nittany Lions dangerous is point guard Tim Frazier. He might be the quickest guard in the Big Ten, if not the nation. He will penetrate and get in the lane. If he is hitting his floater, and if his teammates make shots when he drives and dishes, the Hoosiers will be in trouble.
If they contain him, they’ll cruise.
Forward Christian Watford, all 6-9 of him, will get his shot at stopping Frazier, as will Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey.
“Frazier looks to score almost every time he has the ball,” Watford said. “Their offense runs through him. There’s no time to relax. He’s not looking to set up anybody else. It’s all him.”
Watford isn’t quick enough to stay with Frazier, but he can get physical with him.
“Yeah, if I catch him down in the paint, I will,” Watford said. “But when I’m out there (on the perimeter), you have to move your feet and try to beat him to the spot.”
IU has lost six straight Big Ten tourney games, two in the last three years to Penn State. The time has come to change that.
“(Winning a tourney game) would be big for us,” Oladipo said. “It’s been a while since we’ve done it. For what this program has gone through, it would be big.
“At the same time, if we win one, we can’t be satisfied. It would be just the beginning. But right now we’re focused on Penn State.”
Look for that focus to produce a double-digit victory.
So we know that Indiana will join with UCLA, Georgia and Georgetown to form the foundation for next November’s Legends Classic, which will allow those teams to play a few home games against what we assume will be patsies, then head to Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Barclays Center to a championship round against each other.
This 12-team event will give IU the best of both world’s -– pad the Assembly Hall record and do a bit of travel for a couple of neutral site contests.
Georgetown is a traditional power with 27 NCAA tourney appearnces. Under coach John Thompson III, the Hoyas are ranked No. 13 this week, just ahead of IU.
UCLA has won 11 national titles and made 18 Final Four appearnces. A few years ago it reached three straight Final Fours, but has struggled since then (although it did make the NCAA tourney field last year). Unless the Bruins win this week’s Pac-12 tourney title, they will miss the NCAA tourney. A blistering Sports Illustrated article suggested coach Ben Howland’s program has a lot of problems, so we’ll see where all that leads.
Georgia went to the NCAA tourney last year.