Indiana Basketball: Hoosiers' Keys to Upsetting Syracuse in ACC-B1G Challenge
The Hoosiers are looking for revenge after being embarrassed in the NCAA tournament as well as a signature win to boost their confidence before the conference slate.
Syracuse is going to be the toughest opponent IU will have faced to date and defeating them in the Carrier Dome will be an extremely tall task. Still, the Hoosiers have a chance albeit a slight one.
Here's what Indiana must do in order to knock off the Orange.
Get off to a Good Start
When the Hoosiers come out of the visiting locker room of the Carrier Dome, they will meet their first hostile crowd of the season. The Orange are already a tough matchup, and the crowd makes them even tougher to beat.
Since 2011-12, Syracuse is 36-2 under its own roof.
For IU to have any chance, it has to play well in the game's early stages. The atmosphere will be electric, but the Hoosiers have to try their best not to get caught in the moment.
Expect Syracuse to blitz Indiana from the start and go for the jugular. It knows that if it can build a big lead, the Hoosiers don't have the outside shooting or experience to get back in the game.
Indiana must weather the first big Orange storm that is sure to come its way. If the Hoosiers don't match the Orange blow for blow from the get-go, it will be a long night for head coach Tom Crean and company.
A season ago, Syracuse's dreaded 2-3 zone terrorized Indiana. The Hoosiers were befuddled from the start and never quite figured out how to attack the Orange defense.
One way to beat a zone is to not let it get set. Indiana, especially point guard Yogi Ferrell, needs to play like its hair is on fire.
Run, run and run some more. The faster the better.
In 2012-13, the Hoosiers moved at a dizzying pace against North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and the Tar Heels ate the Hoosiers' dust. Indiana's speed bewildered UNC and led IU to an 83-59 victory.
Against the Orange, the Hoosiers will need a similar pace. Quickly getting the ball up the court should leave Syracuse out of position and disorganized and lead to easy buckets.
If the Orange are able to consistently establish the 2-3, the Hoosiers will be in trouble.
Attack the Basket
One of the reasons why last year's Sweet 16 contest against Syracuse was a nightmare was because Indiana's shooting was atrocious. The Hoosiers settled for jump shot after jump shot and by the end of the game, they could have built a new Assembly Hall with all of the bricks (16-of-48 from the field, 3-of-15 from three).
Indiana has to be aggressive and attack the basket. Will Sheehey was the only Hoosier who went to the hoop a year ago, which can't be the case this time.
Ferrell needs to lead the way. He's much improved and should be able to penetrate the 2-3 zone off the dribble. By attacking, he will find cutting wing players or Noah Vonleh on the block when the zone collapses.
Syracuse is vulnerable—if you take high percentage shots. Indiana should follow California's example. The Golden Bears hung with Syracuse thanks to their 38 points in the paint.
The Hoosiers can't rely on their outside shooting. IU is a frigid 28 percent from beyond the arc.
The bulk of Indiana's shots have to be close to the rim.
Respectable Outside Shooting
Syracuse's 2-3 zone is going to present opportunities for outside shots. A season ago, Syracuse packed it in, showing it wasn't going to let Cody Zeller dominate down low. The Hoosiers on the wings were left open and didn't convert.
Expect a similar strategy from Syracuse this time around as it will want to contain Vonleh.
Even though the Hoosiers will get great looks from outside, they can't fall in love with the three. But, they must knock down more than they did last time (3-15 3PT).
Making threes will force Syracuse's zone to respect the deep shot. This will space out the 2-3 and make it easier for IU to penetrate and attack the rim.
By no means do the Hoosiers have to shoot lights the out to win, they just need to make Syracuse second-guess its decision to let IU have uncontested jump shots.
Yes, these two teams are different than a year ago, but the result of this game will be similar. Last season, when the Hoosiers were one of the top teams in the country and playing on a neutral floor, they couldn't defeat the Orange.
This is the first road test for Indiana, and it won't be a surprise when the young Hoosiers struggle in the first hostile environment they've faced all season.
IU is going to get open looks at the basket like it did a season ago. If the Hoosiers connect, then they have a chance. But, this year's team struggles to hit outside shots, and it will cost the Hoosiers.
For the second time in less than a year, Indiana falls to Syracuse.
Indiana 60, Syracuse 73