Indiana Basketball: 5 Reasons Why Hoosiers Are the Favorite to Win NCAA Title
The Indiana Hoosiers started the season as the No. 1 team in basketball, and now they're the favorite to finish the season in the same fashion.
At 26-5, the Hoosiers will enter the Big Ten Tournament as a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. There are still some games to play, but the Hoosiers are pretty much a consensus top seed pick.
With so many teams in the NCAA tournament, it’s impossible to accurately predict what will happen. However, the Hoosiers are still the favorite to win it all for a number of reasons.
If there's one thing that makes the Hoosiers stand out from the rest of the competition, it's their ability to score.
The Hoosiers average 80.8 points per game as a team, the second most in the NCAA. The only team to score more than them is Northwestern State, who average 82.4 points per game.
This impressive offense is the result of a group of five starters who play well together. Four of their starters average at least 10 points per game, while Yogi Ferrell does a great job distributing the ball and running the fast-paced offense.
The offense for the Hoosiers has given some really good teams headaches. As long as they continue their scoring barrage, they will be the favorite in their matchups.
2. Strength of Schedule
The Big Ten is arguably the toughest conference in the country, yet the Hoosiers have done a good job against conference opponents.
The Hoosiers finished the regular season with a 14-4 conference record, giving them the outright B1G regular season title.
What makes the Hoosiers even more credible is the fact that their opponents had a combined 60.9 win percentage. That was the seventh-highest mark in the country. The Gonzaga Bulldogs, who are currently the No. 1 ranked team, are 72nd on the list.
It's been a tough journey, but the Hoosiers have gotten through it with only a few losses all against teams in the RPI Top 50.
3. Quality Wins
The Hoosiers had a tough schedule, yet still came up with some very solid wins.
When playing opponents in the RPI Top 25, the Hoosiers went 8-3. Those eight wins are more than any other team in the country. What's even more impressive is that they went 5-0 against teams ranked in the AP Top 10.
Big contenders didn't seem to scare the Hoosiers, as they played well in games where they really needed a win.
They were able to defeat the Michigan Wolverines in the final game of the regular season, giving them the B1G title outright. They beat them again earlier in the year to retake the No. 1 ranking in the NCAA. They also beat the Michigan State Spartans and Ohio State Buckeyes on the road even after critics said they couldn't win games away from Bloomington.
The Hoosiers had some big victories, and that's pretty evident when looking at their schedule. They can beat elite teams, and that will be important if the Hoosiers reach the Sweet 16.
4. Production from 6th Man Will Sheehey
A lot of the production from the Hoosiers comes from the starting lineup, but Will Sheehey has been able to bring some scoring off of the bench.
Sheehey has been a great option for the Hoosiers, averaging 9.5 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting, leading the Big Ten in scoring from off of the bench. He can shoot from behind the arc or drive to the basket, making him a dangerous and versatile scorer.
The junior forward-guard certainly proved himself over the season, earning the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Award. He is also a leading candidate for the National Sixth Man of the Year.
For a team to make a big tournament push, they need someone to come off of the bench and step up. Sheehey has proven that he can do that, and will continue to do so for the rest of the year.
5. Star Power
A team is in good shape if they can find a star player on their team.
The Hoosiers have two of them.
Both Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have been phenomenal this season, pushing their team to a Big Ten title and a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournaments. Along with the team's success they have both been recognized for their individual success, with both making the list of Wooden award finalists.
Zeller was the Preseason Player of the Year, and has done a great job ever since, averaging 16.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 57 percent from the field. He has stood out on both sides of the ball, leading the Big Ten with an estimated 7.3 win shares.
Oladipo has been phenomenal as well, earning recognition as the Sporting News National Player of the Year (IndyStar.com). His numbers were impressive with 13.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. He shot an incredible 61.4 percent from the field, which was the best in the B1G, and he also carries a defensive rating of 85.8, earning him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.
To have two players like this on the same team makes playing against the Hoosiers a real nightmare.