Looking to make good on the expectations they have shouldered all season the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers will begin their quest for a national title when they face the 16th-seeded James Madison Dukes in East Regional second-round action at UD Arena on Friday.
After claiming an upset over CAA regular-season champion Northeastern in the conference's tournament final to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, James Madison got past Long Island, 68-55, in the first round on Wednesday to advance. The win improved the Dukes to 21-14 overall. This marks James Madison's fourth appearance all-time in this event and first since 1994.
Although the Hoosiers are the only No. 1 seed out of the Big Ten, they did not fare so well during the conference tournament as they bowed out in the semifinals to Wisconsin, 68-56. Indiana was one of several teams to spend time at the No. 1 spot in the national rankings this season including its perch at the top in the first six weeks of the year. Indiana is sixth in all-time appearances in the NCAA Tournament (37) and seventh in wins (62). The team's run a year ago ended in a 102-90 loss to eventual champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
These teams have never faced off on the hardwood before. The winner of this game will go on to battle either eighth-seed NC State or ninth-seed Temple in third-round action.
A 14-4 run down the stretch allowed James Madison to pull away from Long Island in its first-round matchup. The Dukes were able to weather the storm in the first half when Rayshawn Goins was sidelined due to a suspension and netted 48.3 percent from the floor when Goins returned in the second half.
The Dukes certainly can't survive without Goins (12.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) for an extended period against the Hoosiers. The 6-foot-6 forward needs to find the rhythm early on as he has failed to score in double figures in five of the last seven games. Devon Moore (11.6 ppg) will also need to bounce back after he had just five points on Wednesday. A.J. Davis (12.1 ppg) and Andre Nation (8.78 ppg) have been doing just fine with Goins and Moore struggling. Davis poured in a game-high 20 points against Long Island and Nation has been in double figures in three straight contests.
Indiana had a rather weak offensive showing against Wisconsin in yet another Big Ten slugfest last weekend. The Hoosiers shot at just a 38.2 percent clip in the contest but trailed by just a point midway through the second half. However, the Hoosiers were then victim to an 18-7 run in the last 10 minutes to drop the decision.
There's a reason so much is expected of Indiana. Despite some stumbles this season the Hoosiers have been one of the most dominant teams in the country on both ends of the floor. They are a top-10 team in both points per game (80) and field-goal percentage (.486), while holding foes to 62.5 points per game on 39-percent shooting on defense. A pair of Naismith Player of the Year candidates pace the Hoosiers in Cody Zeller (16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Victor Oladipo ()13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Zeller was the favorite for the award coming into the year and posted a strong season, but it was Oladipo that took the college basketball world by storm with his athletic ability and versatility. Christian Watford (12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is another strong scorer for the Hoosiers, while Jordan Hulls' shooting from long range has been valuable.