The Indiana Hoosiers faltered in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, losing by a big, 68-56 margin to the Wisconsin Badgers.
While not having a chance to win both the B1G regular season and tournament championships is a tough pill to swallow, IU can be glad that it got this loss out of the way and has time to regroup before the NCAA tourney begins.
Let’s take a look at a few players that need to step up during the Big Dance in order to help the Hoosiers get back on track and navigate through the bracket to a championship.
Not many outside of Bloomington know the name of Christian Watford, but soon enough he could be just as notable as Cody Zeller or Victor Oladipo.
This Hoosiers senior was critical in IU’s win over Illinois to start the B1G tourney, scoring 15 points and grabbing six boards. He did his best to aid against the Badgers, but fouled out after scoring 14 points and notching three rebounds.
At 6’9”, 232 pounds, Watford has the size to bang down low with Zeller and the athleticism to float outside in order to open things up in the middle. He’s shooting 49.1 percent on his three-point attempts in 2012-13, a ridiculous number that proves him a major threat to score from deep.
If he can find a way to stay open from beyond the arc during the tournament, do work in the paint when he’s down low and continue playing scrappy defense, the Hoosiers are going to go far during March Madness.
This star sophomore is a major catalyst behind the success of Indiana basketball in 2012-13.
He’s a relentless workhorse at the pivot position and has been able to average 16.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals because of his hustle, heart and raw talent.
Zeller is a legitimate seven-footer that protects the rim well, utilizes post moves in a half-court set and has enough speed to run the court like a guard on fast breaks.
When’s he’s feeling it, IU tends to win. Against Illinois, Zeller knocked down 9-of-11 shots from the field. In comparison, he was just 4-of-10 against Wisconsin and the results of these two contests were starkly different.
Expect the Hoosiers to continue running the offense through this big man and living or dying based on his performances.
Oladipo has been the surprise of this collegiate basketball season.
The junior guard’s numbers may not be that much more impressive than last year’s stats, but the energy and effort he is bringing is unparalleled.
This 6’5”, 215-pound swingman is now a legitimate Top-5 NBA draft prospect after averaging 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 2.1 assists and 0.8 blocks per game. He exerts more energy in one half than some players do in an entire game and can be tasked with shutting down the opposition’s best perimeter player.
Coach Tom Crean and the rest of the roster rely on his infectious energy and hustle to wear down opponents and spark the Hoosiers into playing team basketball on both ends of the court.
If this youngster keeps it up and leads IU on a deep March Madness run, he could land atop the draft board in June.
Be sure to download a printable NCAA bracket and track the Hoosiers progress throughout the tournament.