The No. 1-seeded Indiana Hoosiers will look to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in over a decade on Thursday night in Washington, where they'll take on the fourth-seeded Syracuse Orange in the 2013 NCAA tournament's East Regional semifinals.
Meanwhile, Jim Boeheim's squad is in pursuit of its second consecutive Elite Eight berth.
After blowout victories in the round of 64, both teams won by just six points in the round of 32 this past weekend, setting up a high-stakes clash between two of college basketball's most recognizable powerhouses.
Here, we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Thursday's epic Sweet 16 showdown between Indiana and Syracuse.
Where: Verizon Center in Washington
When: Thursday, March 28, at 9:45 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: March Madness Live
Betting Line: Indiana (-5.5), according to Covers.com.
Key Injuries (according to USA Today)
Indiana: Austin Etherington (knee), out; Jordan Hulls (shoulder), probable.
Syracuse: No significant injuries.
Player to Watch for Indiana: Will Sheehey
Junior forward Will Sheehey has stepped up for Tom Crean's Hoosiers in the NCAA tournament thus far, scoring 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the floor in two wins.
Keep an eye on Sheehey on Thursday night against Syracuse, as he'll come off the bench early on and likely play 23 minutes or so.
Although the 6'7" Florida native has been outshined by teammates Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls this season, he's been one of Indiana's stars this postseason, hitting shots at a high percentage and providing the Hoosiers with a presence inside and outside offensively.
Sure, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo will be the two biggest keys for Indiana at this stage and moving forward, but the play of role players like Sheehey will be critical to the Hoosiers' hopes of cutting down the nets in Atlanta.
Player to Watch for Syracuse: C.J. Fair
The Orange's leading scorer this season, junior forward C.J. Fair will be the player to watch for Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
Fair is averaging 15.5 points per game in the NCAA tournament and is arguably the team's most important player as it continues its march to the Final Four. The junior forward's ability to get to the foul line and chip in on the glass will be vital against Indiana.
Fair got to the free-throw line eight times on Saturday night against California, and he'll need to be every bit as aggressive in the nation's capital this week if he hopes to lead the Orange back to the Elite Eight in 2013.
Key Matchup: Syracuse's Zone vs. Indiana's Shooters
The key matchup in Thursday night's game will be the Orange's patented 2-3 zone defense versus Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and the Hoosiers' shooters.
Syracuse's defense is tough to crack, and that's why the Orange rank 29th in the nation in scoring defense (59.4 points per game allowed). If the country's third-highest scoring offense in Indiana (80 points per game) struggles to get open looks and knock down shots against the zone, it could be in serious trouble.
Sunday's 58-52 win over Temple was Indiana's first win this season in which it failed to score at least 60 points. The Hoosiers had been 0-3 when failing to reach the 60-point mark this season. That said, the key number in this matchup will be 60.
If Syracuse can stifle Indiana and turn Thursday's regional semifinal into an ugly battle of wills, then it'll have a great chance of advancing. On the other hand, if Indiana, the seventh-best shooting team in America (48.6 percent), can knock down shots over the Orange's zone, it will be the Big Ten regular-season champions moving on to the East Regional final on Saturday.
Given Oladipo's knack for hitting big shots when Indiana needs them most, and the fact that freshman guard Yogi Ferrell isn't likely to go scoreless for the second straight game, I look for the Hoosiers' shooters to overcome Syracuse's tricky zone.
If the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA tournament have taught us one thing, it's that no team is invincible this year. But though Indiana's narrow escape of ninth-seeded Temple in the round of 32 on Sunday certainly provides reason to pause, Syracuse was just as fortunate to survive 12th-seeded Cal one day earlier.
Like many, I'm taking the top-seeded Hoosiers in this matchup. When Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are playing up to their potential and Indiana's role players like Will Sheehey are delivering, there isn't a better team in college basketball.
Syracuse will make it very close thanks to its stifling defense, but in the end, look for the Hoosiers' superior offensive firepower to outlast the Orange in the East.
Indiana 67, Syracuse 62
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