In the silly season we like to call March Madness, everyone's got an opinion. We all tout our preferred Cinderella candidates and pick at our favorite weaknesses in the top seeds.
As one of those top seeds, the Indiana Hoosiers enter the NCAA tournament with their share of weak points, some of which we've discussed here and here. But do the brand-name experts agree with your handsome and talented columnist's assessments?
Let's dig into some thoughts from other college basketball professionals and check which way the winds are blowing as it pertains to the Hoosiers and their path through the East region.
NBC Sports blogger Rob Dauster (you may remember him from Ballin' is a Habit) forecasts an Indiana-Miami regional final, primarily because of a dearth of other truly dangerous opponents.
He's forecasting some positive developments in the next few weeks for IU star Cody Zeller, as well:
Victor Oladipo, the nation’s preeiminent [sic] role-player, has been so good at what he does this season that people have completely forgotten about the fact that Cody Zeller is the best post scorer in the country. He’s surrounded by shooters, he’s getting more aggressive by the day and he won’t have to deal with the overly in-depth scouting reports of the Big Ten anymore.
Miami's 6'10", 300-pound behemoth Reggie Johnson has been in a scoring funk of late, but his sheer girth would be difficult for Zeller to work around. The Hoosier center would also have to contend with the Hurricanes' other big presence, senior Julian Gamble. The duo split minutes evenly, with both averaging around 21 MPG this season.
CBS Sports brought in 10 of its analysts, including former players Wally Szczerbiak and Mateen Cleaves, for publication of their personal brackets. A surprisingly large percentage do not expect the Hoosiers to be booking rooms in Atlanta two weeks from now.
Only four of the 10 experts project Indiana in the Final Four, with three calling for an Indiana-Louisville championship game.
None expect IU to reign as the national champion.
Blogger Jeff Borzello is the only one to offer an explanation for picking against Indiana, putting the onus on one particular Hoosier:
Indiana is the most complete team, but freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell could have trouble with Louisville's pressure in the title game.
Two analysts foresee a loss to Miami in the Elite Eight and two others have the Hoosiers falling to Syracuse in the regional semifinals. Dennis Dodd calls for IU to lose to Temple in the round of 32, while former Virginia, Xavier and Providence head coach Pete Gillen says that eighth seed NC State can take Indiana down.
For Sports Illustrated analyst Luke Winn, the best news Indiana got on Selection Sunday was that Wisconsin was all the way across the bracket. Winn refers to Bo Ryan as "Indiana's kryptonite," which is certainly apt enough considering the hex Ryan's Badgers have put on IU, particularly in the Tom Crean era.
Like many experts, Winn has Louisville and Indiana on a slightly higher plane than the rest of the tournament contenders. He maintains that the Big Ten slate that ultimately cost IU its shot at glory in front of its home-state crowd works in its favor when preparing for the March pressure cooker:
The Hoosiers thrived in plenty of hostile/neutral situations this season, winning road games at Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State, and beating Georgetown in Brooklyn in November. Indiana offers the best combination of sharpshooting (ranking No. 2 nationally in three-point percentage) and offensive rebounding (No. 5 overall), and most of its rotation has Sweet 16 experience from last season.
In the end, though, all of that is insufficient for Winn to pull the trigger on picking Indiana as his national champion. Louisville's defensive pressure and 2012 Final Four experience claims another supporter, with Winn tabbing IU as his runner-up.
The Sporting News' Hall of Fame writer Mike DeCourcy chimes in with a little bit of good news for Hoosier fans.
DeCourcy, who is also a frequent contributor to the Big Ten Network, breaks down his favorite contenders using two major criteria—future NBA talent, including one lottery pick, and high efficiency ratings on both sides of the ball.
IU comes in at No. 1 on offense and No. 20 on defense, and DeCourcy lists Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Yogi Ferrell as future pros.
DeCourcy says, "There is no other team more ideally built to win the national title," but also offers a compelling reason to bet against Indiana:
The Hoosiers have the most efficient offense, but they don’t have the most consistent. There are too many games in which they decline to trust their system and instead break off and attempt quick open shots. This disrupts the rhythm of the team and sometimes leads to opposing breaks.
He also underlines the importance of Will Sheehey, not so much in terms of pure scoring, but in taking good shots to get his points. Will IU fans forgive Sheehey quickly if he scores 13 points on 15 shots while the Hoosiers bow out?
Political blogger Nate Silver got his start in sports before the 2012 presidential election turned him and his computer model into this generation's Nostradamus. So, it only makes sense that, at this time of year, he would turn his attention to the nation's premier predictive exercise.
Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times breaks down each tournament team's chances of advancement round by round. Indiana is treated very kindly by Silver's figures.
While Louisville is still listed as the overall favorite to win the championship at 23 percent probability, IU slots in right behind at nearly 20 percent. The Final Four, however, could prove problematic for the Cardinals.
Silver lists Indiana's probability of reaching the national title game just ahead of Louisville's, 36.1 percent to 34.2. Expected West region champions Gonzaga and Ohio State loom as larger hurdles to Louisville than South favorites Florida and Kansas would pose to Indiana. That despite Florida being the only other team in the field given a 20 percent shot at the title game and a 10 percent chance of winning it all.
If you're looking for your Cinderella pick, Silver advises you to pick another region:
...there is no real reason to go searching for a fashionable upset pick, like No. 6 seed Butler, to emerge from the East. Indiana began the season ranked No. 1 over all, has far and away the best offense in the game, and won the regular season title in the best conference in the country.
'Nuff said, right?
ESPN's Sultan of Swag went pick by pick with his bracket, but like much of the network's Bilas-generated content, it would melt the brains of the plebeians who want their information for free. Thus, it's behind the Insider paywall, but click here if you've ponied up the cash.
Hitting a few of the highlights:
Bilas considers taking NC State out of its transition game a major key to defeating the Wolfpack. It's strange advice considering that Indiana can also get bogged down in a halfcourt game.
Unlike some of the CBS analysts, Bilas fully favors IU over Syracuse, expecting that the Hoosiers will be able to hit threes over the zone when Victor Oladipo isn't slicing through it.
Miami's physicality is a major sticking point, but Bilas has faith that the Indiana offense will execute well enough to finish the Hurricanes off and advance to the Final Four.
A rematch of last season's round of 32 awaits in Atlanta, with VCU coming out of Bilas' South regional. VCU's 258th-ranked two-point defense is expected to be its undoing, as Bilas sees Cody Zeller having a superb game if the Hoosiers can keep control of the ball in the face of the Rams' Havoc defense.
In the final, no points for guessing who the opponent is. Bilas considers Louisville similar to VCU, but with a bigger and stronger frontcourt. In the end, that's the difference that propels the Cards to the title in the Bilas bracket.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.