Indiana vs. Illinois: Why Hoosiers Are Still the NCAA Title Favorite

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Indiana vs. Illinois: Why Hoosiers Are Still the NCAA Title Favorite
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Illinois upset No. 1 Indiana 74-72 Thursday night in another episode of "Knocking Off No. 1."

This was the second time this season that the Hoosiers have lost while being in the nation's top spot. The other time was when IU lost to Butler 88-86 in OT back in mid-December.

Add Indiana's January loss to Wisconsin, and Tom Crean's crew has proved that they are less-than dominant, right?

For everyone that automatically discards teams from national title contention when they lose a regular season game: Tap the Brakes! Indiana is still the best bet to win it all in the ATL in April!

Gary Mook/Getty Images
Bob Knight at the Hoosier Helm

A quick look at the last 10 NCAA champions shows that there have been no undefeated champs in the last decade. Actually, the last team that won every game en route to winning it all was Bob Knight’s 1975-76 team that went 32-0, and then cut down the nets in the Spectrum in Philly.

2012 Champ - Kentucky (38-2)

2011 Champ – Uconn (32-9)

2010 Champ – Duke (35-5)

2009 Champ – UNC (34-4)

2008 Champ – Kanas (37-3)

2007 Champ – Florida (35-5)

2006 Champ – Florida (33-6)

2005 Champ – UNC (33-4)

2004 Champ – UConn (33-6)

2003 Champ – Syracuse (30-5)

So, Indiana’s three losses definitely don’t eliminate them from this year’s title contention. In fact, losing four or five games before March Madness gets cranked up puts a team in decent shape.

The 2012-13 Hoosiers (20-3; 8-2 Big Ten) are arguably the most potent offensive team in the country.

Scoring over 83 PPG puts them as No. 2 in the nation.

Jordan Hulls and his Indiana teammates knock down 42.2 percent of their threes (No. 3). IU hits half of their shots from the field (No. 6).

Because of their multiple scoring weapons, you can't just focus on shutting down one or two players. If your strategy is stopping Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, then Christian Watford and Will Sheehey will take care of business.

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Christian Watford keeps the floor spread with his ability to knock down threes

But for all of Indiana’s offensive glint and gloss, what puts them firmly as the title favorite is that the Hoosiers have discovered the “other end of the court.”

On the year, IU is holding their opponents to 37.7 percent shooting from the field. That’s gritty and that’s No. 15 in the nation.

They are also limiting the teams that they face to 30.9 percent from down town.

The Hoosiers are No. 3 in rebound margin (10.2).

SG Victor Oladipo leads the Big Ten in steals (2.5 SPG).

No college basketball teams or their coaches like to lose games. You want to see a tortured soul? Find a D-1 hoops coach the day after his team has dropped a game.

But college basketball is not college football. A single regular season loss on the hardwood doesn’t destroy a season or a team’s title hopes like it does on the gridiron.

Indiana will regroup after their most recent setback.

Cody Zeller will get more than six shots up when the Hoosiers face Ohio State and the rest of their Big Ten opponents. Victor Oladipo will get back to terrorizing other teams at both ends of the court. And the Hoosiers will quickly get back to being the 2013 NCAA Title favorite.

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