In a matter of days, the Sweet 16 will be underway and eight teams will advance to the next stage of the 2013 NCAA tournament. In order for the heavily favored Indiana Hoosiers to advance, however, they must get past the Syracuse Orange.
Indiana's role players will be the X-factors.
When it comes to the Hoosiers, there are three names that garner the most hype: Naismith Award finalist Victor Oladipo, potential lottery pick Cody Zeller and head coach Tom Crean.
When it comes down to defeating Syracuse and making an Elite Eight appearance, however, the role players will be the keys to success.
They may not have the most attractive names in college basketball, but the Hoosiers' success hinges upon their reserves. Not only will they place their stars in a position to shine, but they'll combat Syracuse's limitless depth.
It all starts with Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey.
Keying in on Guard Play
If any team is to take down the Syracuse Orange, they'll need to combat their backcourt tandem of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. Both Carter-Williams and Triche handle the ball-handling and facilitating duties. They are also two of the team's top four scorers.
It'll be on freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell and sharpshooting combo guard Jordan Hulls to step up offensively.
Carter-Williams has proven to be one of the nation's elite facilitators at 7.6 assists per game. Triche, meanwhile, has topped five assists in 12 separate games. The pressure is now on Ferrell to facilitate the Hoosiers' offense in the same manner that Carter-Williams and Triche have.
As for Hulls, he brings in one of Indiana's most significant advantages over Syracuse. Both Triche and Carter-Williams are shooting below 30 percent from beyond the arc. Hulls, meanwhile, is one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the history of the Big Ten.
Combating James Southerland
In order for the Indiana Hoosiers to defeat the Syracuse Orange, they must be able to counter James Southerland's production. To achieve that feat, the Hoosiers must look to two men.
Christian Watford and Will Sheehey.
For the season, Southerland is averaging 13.7 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting from three-point range. He's averaging 3.7 three-point field goals made over his past six games.
It's on Sheehey to slow him down and Watford to match his production.
Watford has been quietly sensational in 2012-13, averaging 12.3 points on 48.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. It's that ability to convert from three that will enable Indiana to limit Southerland's contributions. Sheehey's ability to play as Indiana's enforcer will be the key to contesting Southerland's three-point shooting.
Between Sheehey, Watford, Hulls and Ferrell, Indiana will be in position to advance.
The rest is on Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and coach Tom Crean.