Indiana Basketball: Why Christian Watford Is Hoosiers' Key to Postseason Success

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Indiana Basketball: Why Christian Watford Is Hoosiers' Key to Postseason Success
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A lot of the attention for the Indiana Hoosiers goes towards Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, but Christian Watford will be the most vital component to the team's success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Both Oladipo and Zeller were announced as Wooden Player of the Year finalists. Their play has been tremendous all year, with only a few hiccups from them during the season.

The terrific play from both of these players is expected by now but Watford will be the important piece for this team during the postseason.

It's been a great final season for Watford, who is the third highest scorer for the Hoosiers; he is averaging 12.7 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field. His defense has been strong as well, and is averaging a career-high 6.4 rebounds per game.

Watford is so key to this team because when he struggles, the team tends to struggle as well. The last four games of the year are a perfect example of that. 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In the past four games, the Hoosiers have lost to Minnesota and Ohio State, won an ugly game against Iowa and barely pulled out a win against Michigan.

In those four games, Watford is only averaging seven points per game on a concerning 26.7 percent shooting clip. 

The other losses this season show much of the same with Watford shooting 1-for-5 against Butler, 3-for-8 against Wisconsin and 4-for-11 against Illinois.

In contrast, Watford has played very well in the bigger wins for the Hoosiers. He had 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting against Michigan back in early February and 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting against Ohio State just a week later.

What makes Watford even more essential is the lack of depth behind him. 

Jeremy Hollowell is becoming a solid defender but he still has a lot of growing to do. Shooting hasn't been his strongest skill, as he is only shooting 40 percent and 18 percent from behind the arc. He's only a freshman, so he has time to develop but he isn't the scoring answer at the moment. 

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Derek Elston has been more involved in the rotation after returning from a torn meniscus. However, his return hasn't provided much offensively either, as he's averaging only 1.4 points per game. He has provided a lot of leadership for younger bench players but he is still working on getting his shooting touch back.

Once the NCAA Tournament begins, teams will be putting a lot of focus on Oladipo and Zeller. This will give Watford the chance the break out, and if he can, the Hoosiers may be bringing their sixth banner back to Bloomington.

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