Indiana has lost 9 of 14 games coming into this year's NCAA Tournament - but they made it which is more than they can say about last year's squad. The Hoosiers received their first ever double digit seed when they were handed a #10 seed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. They will take on what many people believe to be the most under seeded team in the tournament in Wichita State (#7) later today. Let's take a look at some of the keys for Indiana to pull off the upset:
While many across the country believe the Hoosiers are a one trick pony as a do or die three point shooting team - I would argue their wins and losses are more driven by whether they win the rebounding battle. Early in the season and early in conference play, the Hoosiers were winning the rebounding battle and they were also winning games. Late in the year, Indiana really struggled to rebound the ball which primarily was driven by player bigger basketball teams. In my opinion, that is what led to 9 losses in the last 14 games. Yes, they didn't shoot the ball as well either - but rebounding and either giving themselves more chances or limiting the chances the opponents get is what is driving Indiana basketball right now and what will drive them on to the 3rd round of the tournament or home for the offseason. The Shockers will likely start a 6'7" center and that is a huge break for an Indiana team looking to clean up the boards. Indiana ranks 88th in the country with 36.0 rebounds per game compared to Wichita State who ranks 108th with 35.6 rebounds per game.
The Shockers are ranked #301 in adjusted tempo in the country. For those wondering, there are only 351 division 1 basketball teams. What this means is Wichita State is going to do everything they can to dictate the pace of this game. For Indiana, this is likely going to be comparable to facing teams like Northwestern (ranked #338) in the B1G Conference from a tempo perspective. The Shockers are going to use the entire shot clock to find the shot with the highest percentage. It is going to be crucial for the Hoosiers to avoid the silly turnovers that they are sometimes prone to having when getting up and down the court quickly. Every turnover in this game is going to be magnified as it may take another 35 seconds to gain possession of the basketball. Indiana needs to try and dictate a faster tempo - but they can't allow an increase in turnovers to also occur and that is going to be a tough task.
3 Point Shooting
Indiana ended the regular season ranked #8 in the country in three point shooting at 40.3%. The Shockers rank #190 in three point percentage defense giving up 34.5%. The Hoosiers have to take advantage of this statistic as Wichita State ranks #45 overall in shooting percentage defense - meaning they are really tough inside the arc even without a big man. For a frame of reference, Purdue is #44 overall - and we all know what that defense did to the Hoosiers this year. Indiana will need to hit a couple of treys early to build up some confidence and may need to hit 12 to 15 for the game to give themselves a shot against this very good Shocker team.
One other interesting item to note is that Hanner Mosquera-Perea may return for this one after what looked at first to be a season ending injury against Northwestern in the B1G Tournament. This will provide some added size for Indiana and if Perea can be active out on the court (especially from a rebounding and defensive perspective) - he will cause this shorter Wichita State team some issues. Indiana has the talent to beat almost any team in the country and we will find out later today if they are finally able to put that together in order to advance in the NCAA Tournament.