The Indiana Hoosiers are the No. 1 seed in the East Region and have high aspirations going into the 2013 NCAA tournament. They have the talent to bring a sixth championship back to Bloomington, IN.
In order to win it all, the Hoosiers must play exceptional basketball. Just one off night and they will head back to campus empty-handed.
Here are five roadblocks in their game that could keep them from attaining their ultimate goal.
This season IU has shown that when it must show up and win a big game, it can. Two examples that come to mind are road wins against Michigan State and Michigan. When the stakes are high and the competition is perceived to be top-notch, the Hoosiers play their best.
Head coach Tom Crean has to keep Indiana motivated throughout the early stages of the tournament. IU must recognize that tournament games aren't going to be a cakewalk. Teams that make it this far deserve to be there.
In a couple of instances this season, I believe Indiana overlooked its opponents. When the Hoosiers faced unranked Butler and Illinois, they took the competition lightly and paid for it. If Indiana wants to hang a sixth championship banner, these types of mental breakdowns can't occur.
It's no secret that Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo hold the Hoosiers' title chances in their hands. Zeller paces the Indiana offense, while Oladipo sets the tone on defense.
While it's a blessing to have two NBA prospects on your team, IU has struggled when these two don't bring their A-game. This was evident as recently as last week in the Big Ten tournament against Wisconsin. Zeller may have scored 13 points but he only shot 4-of-10 from the floor. Oladipo was worse, shooting 4-of-12 for 10 points. The Hoosiers lost 68-56.
Another issue is if these two get into foul trouble. Against Ohio State, both missed extensive time in the first half due to fouls. When they weren't on the floor, IU looked lost. Indiana ended up losing the contest 67-58.
In March, the Hoosiers won't face an "easy" opponent. If either of these players falter, Indiana could be in major trouble.
Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Will Sheehey has to play well in order for Indiana to advance far in this year's tournament. He is a versatile player. Sheehey is a solid defender, capable rebounder, above average shooter and possesses enough quickness to get to the rim.
If the Hoosier starters are having an off night, Crean will look to Sheehey to pick up the slack. But when you take a look at the game-by-game statistics for Sheehey, courtesy of ESPN, he has been an inconsistent scorer since the start of the Big Ten schedule.
For IU to be a viable contender, Sheehey has to find his offensive rhythm.
Indiana is at its best when freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is a distributor. He needs to look to create for the offensive threats that are at his disposal.
When he shoots too much, IU suffers. When Ohio State knocked off Indiana in Assembly Hall, Ferrell was 3-of-10 from the field. He shot more than Zeller (nine shots) and Oladipo (six shots).
In the Hoosiers' road loss to Minnesota, Ferrell was 2-of-10, shooting more than Zeller (nine shots) and the same amount as Oladipo.
Under no circumstances should this happen.
Ferrell has been great at getting into the lane. When he does this, not only does he set up Zeller down low, but it draws defenders to the paint, leaving three-point shooters like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford wide open.
Ferrell must recognize this to make sure IU's offense executes at a high level.
Indiana must play at a fast tempo throughout the tournament. When it runs the floor effectively, most teams cannot keep up.
Playing fast tires out opponents and keeps them off balance. IU is much better in transition than it is in the half court. Getting the ball up the floor quickly allows a trailing Hulls or Watford to spot up from beyond the arc.
Zeller runs better than most college post players. He frequently gets easy transition dunks because his defender can't keep up.
Opposing teams know that slowing the Hoosiers down and forcing them into half-court sets puts Indiana at a disadvantage. Indiana must control the speed of the game and make opponents adapt to it, not the other way around.
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