The Big Ten Champions seem to have had their expectations dampened over the past 10 days, based initially on a last second loss to a desperate Michigan Wolverine squad in the conference tournament quarterfinal. A bigger blow, in reality, was the Selection Committee's placement of the Indiana Hoosiers on the bracket.
The media has made sure to make a big deal about the 12-over-5 upsets in the build up to this tournament, and naturally, the Big Ten had three teams placed on that line by this year's committee. At the risk of piling on the Hoosier, Indiana will face the team with the second most wins in this tourney field, the Chattanooga Mocs.
Chattanooga is making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2009, and hasn't won a game in the tourney since 1997, back when the school was still going by the Moccasins nickname. That's right, this school used to be named after a comfortable slipper, which is probably the biggest slap in the Hoosiers' face by the committee.
Mocs is now apparently short for Mockingbirds, which is lame as hell. Also lame as hell is that many are picking Indiana as an upset special despite Chattanooga missing its top scorer Casey Jones, who has been out since December with an ankle injury. Jones, a 6-foot-5-inch guard, would have presented a match-up nightmare for the Hoosiers on the perimeter.
Tre' McLean has taken over as the team's leading scorer, and is the same size as Jones, but listed as a forward. Expect either Troy Williams or O.G. Anunoby to be given the duty of guarding McLean.
Speaking of ankle injuries, Indiana guard Robert Johnson should be returning from a high ankle sprain suffered against the Purdue Boilermakers on Feb. 20th.
The Mocs like to apply full-court pressure and force mistakes, which the Hoosiers are prone to. Chattanooga will try to force Bad Troy Williams to come to light, and if the Hoosiers turn the ball over early and often, the Mocs will have a shot at the upset.
The Hoosiers' great counter to this is senior guard Yogi Ferrell, whose shoulder chip likely increased in size this week after being left off of both All-American teams. Ferrell has had just one game scoring in single-digits since the start of conference play, and could simply take over the game himself, especially if he can break the press with his speed alone.
Ferrell going off offensively would spell doom for the Mocs, because if Chattanooga is forced to focus on him, Ferrell has enough options to dish to around the floor. If Thomas Bryant can continue to shoot at the near-70-percent efficiency that he has carried throughout the season, he and Ferrell present a combination that can make a run this month.
I just am not buying the upset hype in this one. The Hoosiers have too many weapons offensively not to make it through to the weekend.Though if Indiana does manage to lose, it will be quite entertaining to watch the IU fanbase flip-flop again and call for Tom Crean's firing despite having just won Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Expect an IU-Kentucky preview in the next day or so.