Indiana was ranked No. 1 in the preseason in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, picked to win the Big Ten and generally considered among the favorites to win the national championship, the Hoosiers' sixth and first since 1987. IU has spent the past four months mostly living up to expectations.
The Hoosiers were the outright Big Ten regular-season champs.
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They'll enter the NCAA tournament with nine wins against the top 50 of the RPI and zero losses outside of the top 50, thanks to an offense that ranks first nationally in efficiency and a defense that history suggests is good enough to cut nets in April. Yes, the Hoosiers have six losses. But all of them came against schools also in the field of 68, and none of them were by double digits. So the resume is strong, perhaps the strongest in college basketball. That's why Indiana earned a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.
Coach: Tom Crean | NCAA tournament record: 7-6
Best finish: Final Four in 2003 (Marquette)
Assistants: Tim Buckley, Steve McClain, Kenny Johnson
G: Yogi Ferrell
G: Jordan Hulls
G: Victor Oladipo
F: Christian Watford
C: Cody Zeller
Top reserve: Forward Will Sheehey
Leading scorer: Cody Zeller (16.9 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Cody Zeller (8.2 rpg)
National titles: 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987 | Last Final Four: 2002
Why Indiana might win it all: The Hoosiers are so talented that their leading National Player of the Year candidate (Victor Oladipo) is neither their top scorer nor rebounder, which could be unprecedented. I mean, seriously. When's the last time somebody had a top-three candidate for National Player of the Year and another guy (in this case, Cody Zeller) who averages a team-best 17 points and eight rebounds? That's strong. But this isn't a two-man team. Indiana is at best great and at worst above average at every position. The pieces fit together well.
Why Indiana might not win it all: Can you trust the Hoosiers? Sure, they're the Big Ten regular-season champs, and that's great. But they've also lost three of their past six games -- the losses coming to Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin -- and two home games this season. Only two of the past six national champions have lost more than one home game. So Indiana is more vulnerable than most, it seems.
Player to watch: Though Zeller is the leading scorer and rebounder, the star is Oladipo. The 6-foot-5 guard entered this season known as a great perimeter defender and little more. But now he's a shot-maker (44 percent from 3-point range) and projected lottery pick, somebody who is averaging 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Oladipo has been a pleasant surprise. In a college basketball season that figured to lack stars, he's emerged and served as a bright light.
One guy soaring -- Cody Zeller: Zeller has struggled with a perceived lack of aggression this season, but has been awesome lately and is averaging 20.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in Indiana's past five games. The 7-0 center collected 25 points and 10 rebounds in the regular-season finale against Michigan and 24 points and nine boards in the Big Ten tournament against Illinois.
One guy slumping -- Jordan Hulls: Hulls is shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range, which ranks first nationally among players who have launched at least 150 3-point attempts. But he was just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc in the Big Ten tournament, 2-of-14 on shots in general. Hulls missed six of seven 3-point attempts against Wisconsin in the semifinals. That's why Indiana lost early, at least partly.
Notable stat: Indiana, thanks to the size of Zeller and athleticism of Oladipo, rebounds 39.7 percent of its own missed shots. That ranks sixth nationally and is among the reasons why the Hoosiers can win games even when they don't shoot the ball all that well, even against quality opponents like the many they faced in the Big Ten throughout January, February and March.
Final thought: Any team that won an outright Big Ten title with an offense that ranks first at KenPom.com has a chance at cutting nets in April. In other words, keep an eye on the Hoosiers. Yes, they've had baffling moments and lost multiple times to inferior opponents. But it happens, right?
They're still 27-6 overall.
They're still great offensively and good enough defensively.
Nobody should be surprised to see them in Atlanta at the Final Four.
This program made the Sweet 16 last season and is obviously better equipped this season.