On Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York a couple of Top 25 teams will collide in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic. The Indiana Hoosiers enter the game with a 5-0 record and the No. 22 ranking in the country for the USA Today Coaches Poll, while the Connecticut Huskies also enter with a 5-0 record and the No. 18 ranking in the nation in both the Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25. The showdown will be both teams biggest test of the season to date and could be a huge resume builder for two teams hoping to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Here is a full breakdown of Friday night's action.
The Hoosiers made it into Friday night's championship game by knocking off Washington 102-84 in Thursday's semifinal game. With players like Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Christian Watford no longer on an Indiana team that spent a part of last season as the No. 1 team in the country, the Hoosiers will have to rely upon some young talent mixed in with some veteran leadership this season.
The young talent will come from sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell and freshman forward Noah Vonleh. Ferrell was a significant part of Indiana's team last year, but will need to carry an even larger role as his career with the Hoosiers progresses. Ferrell is averaging 19.6 points per game right now for the Hoosiers and had 20 in the win over Washington on Thursday. Freshman forward Noah Vonleh has already stepped in for Indiana very nicely and was a rebound shy of getting his fifth double-double in as many games on Thursday against the Huskies.
The veteran leadership from Indiana this year will come mostly from senior forward Will Sheehey. Sheehey has been in the big moments before for Indiana, but the spotlight will be focused right on him throughout the year because this is a very young Indiana team.
Certainly this is not the same talented No. 1 Indiana team that we saw last year. If the Hoosiers can avoid a down year and get a lot of their young talent to jell together, then it should not be long before the Hoosiers are back in the top rankings of the basketball elites once again. Friday night's game will go a long way in determining just how good this team can be.
It is the second season for head coach Kevin Ollie in Connecticut and so far the young head coach has done an outstanding job. The Huskies went 20-10 under their new head coach last year, but were ineligible for postseason play because of infractions that occurred before Ollie's tenure began at the school.
Postseason or not it was a solid first year for the first time head coach, and the fact that he has Connecticut already inside the Top 25 this season shows just how well he has done so far in his new position.
It is not all about coaching with Connecticut though. The Huskies are led by a pair of outstanding guards in senior Shabazz Napier and junior Ryan Boatright. Napier had 20 points in Thursday night's narrow 72-70 semifinal win over Boston College. Boatright had a bit of an off game, but the Huskies certainly expect him to carry his weight against the Hoosiers in the title game.
Junior forward DeAndre Daniels will also be crucial to the success of the Huskies this season. Last year Daniels saw a significant jump in playing time under Ollie and expects those minutes to only increase this year. Daniels has clearly transitioned well into his larger role on the team as he is currently the Huskies second leading scorer.
Right now there is just more experience on Connecticut's side that will be shown tonight. The UConn guards are more experienced in these types of big environments and they will thrive more than Indiana's guards. Expect the Huskies to win this one and take the 2K Sports Classic title.
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