Indiana Basketball: Hoosiers' Fate Lies with Victor Oladipo

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2013

Feb 2 2013, Bloomington, USA; Indiana Hoosiers guard Victor Oladipo (4) smiles as he enjoys the lead against the Michigan Wolverines at Assembly Hall. Indiana defeats Michigan 81-73. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Hoosiers are definitely favorites to win this year's NCAA tournament, but that could all depend on Victor Oladipo.

The junior guard has averaged 13.7 points, six rebounds and 2.3 steals this season, and ranks ninth in the nation in field-goal percentage, having made an astounding 63 percent of his attempts. Considering how he is the only guard within the top 10, one can see how respectable that number is.

This is because Oladipo is the definition of a slasher. Rather than rely on a jump shot like most guards, he prefers to drive the lane for either a layup or a dunk, which he has done phenomenally all season long. After flying under the radar last season, the man has really come into his own this year.

But right now, a championship is anything but guaranteed for Indiana. In fact, getting that far could be quite the uphill battle for the Hoosiers.

This is because in the past week, the Hoosiers have suffered two bad losses: one to Minnesota on Feb. 26, and the other to Ohio State on March 5. Oladipo managed 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting against Minnesota, as teammate Cody Zeller was contained and held to nine points on 2-of-9 shooting, but the game against Ohio State was different.

Long story short, Oladipo was held to just seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, and fouled out of the game. While Zeller was contained against Minnesota, it was Oladipo's turn to play that role against the Buckeyes.

Granted, this was just one game, but it is a strong indicator of just how important Oladipo is to Indiana. The fact is that teams now know how to shut him down and in the tournament, that's not going to bode well for the Hoosiers unless they can find a way past that defense.

This also exposes the sad truth about Oladipo. As great as he is at playing defense and driving the lane, his jump shot is not his greatest strength. So long as teams can keep him out of the paint and force him to take contested shots or dump the ball off to a teammate, Indiana's championship hopes are going to shrink.

Thus, in each and every practice leading up to both the Big Ten Tournament and national one, head coach Tom Crean must have Oladipo practice two things: his jump shot and fighting past defenders. This is not to say that his jump shot is bad, but definitely needs the most work out of all the aspects of his game.

So long as Oladipo can learn to diversify his attack and not get bogged down by defenders in time for the tournament, just a few weeks away at this point, Indiana's chances of winning a title will definitely improve.

Otherwise, just how the Hoosiers perform in the tournament will be luck of the draw.