Indiana has won seven straight games to open the 2011-12 season. Do they have what it takes to upset No. 1 Kentucky?
Indiana has started their season with a bang by going undefeated in their first seven games, an uplifting streak for a team that lost nine games to end the 2010-11 season.
The Hoosiers proved their tenacity in a close win against North Carolina State on Nov. 30. While they have yet to play any ranked opponents, Indiana has a solid squad that will end up being ranked if they are able to continue playing good basketball.
The 7-0 team will face No. 1 ranked Kentucky on Dec. 10 at home, which will serve as the Hoosiers' first real test against a top team in the country. Well, not a top team, the top team.
Indiana has plenty on their plate for their early-season matchup against a strong returning Kentucky team.
Here's why they will win it.
Younger brother of North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller, Cody Zeller has hit the ground running at Indiana. He is currently averaging 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and began his career as a Hoosier with a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds).
The Hoosiers have a big presence in the paint with the aggressive 6'11" Zeller, who chose Indiana over joining his older brother at North Carolina. Zeller is tenacious with the ball in his hands and is a physically strong presence.
Cody Zeller will be determined to show the country that Indiana can go blow-for-blow with the best college basketball teams in the nation.
No. 1, bring it on!
Although he currently averages 9.7 points per game, guard Jordan Hulls has scored 14 or more points on four occasions for the Hoosiers this year. In Indiana's most recent game against North Carolina State, Hulls scored 20 points with five assists and two steals.
If Hulls stays as hot as he is right now, he will cause some major defensive problems for Kentucky, who will find themselves jumping around the court between the three-point line (from where Hulls is shooting 52 percent) and Cody Zeller in the paint.
Although they haven't played the most prestigious basketball teams, Indiana can put points on the board—and lots of them. The Hoosiers currently average 85 points per game (11th in the NCAA) and have scored over 90 points three times.
Reverting to the more concrete evaluative statistic of field-goal percentage, the Hoosiers are No. 5 in the nation with a 53.2 clip. Exclude the padding of Cody Zeller's 72.5 percent field-goal percentage and the Hoosiers' other starters are still shooting over 50 percent.
Kentucky has yet to face a team with such offensive explosion as Indiana. The highest-scoring team that the Wildcats have faced is Kansas (73 points per game) to which they allowed 65 points.
Tom Crean has taught this team how to move the ball well, which is part of the reason why they've scored so many points. The Hoosiers currently average 17 assists per game, led by senior guard Verdell Jones III who is averaging four assists.
Kentucky has yet to play a team that spreads the ball over the court as well as Indiana, and may have become accustomed to facing opponents with less vibrant offenses such as Portland and Old Dominion.
The Wildcats have a tough defense but Indiana will give them trouble with their ball movement.
Assembly Hall is going to be filled to its capacity of 17,456 on Dec. 10 in Bloomington. Every Hoosier fan is going to want to be at the game where Indiana has a chance to upset the No. 1 team in the nation.
And it's going to be loud.
Home-court advantage is at its greatest in college sports, and this game will be no exception. With the motivation and encouragement of thousands of fans, the Hoosiers will play their best basketball.
It won't be a steal, but the Hoosiers can pull away from this victorious—with something more like an assist.