Tom Crean will have a major challenge on his hands in Philadelphia on Friday as he and the Indiana Hoosiers face a team that won the ACC regular season and ACC Tournament. This is the same ACC that featured 6 of the 16 teams left standing. While Indiana won the Big Ten regular season, they disappointedly fell in their first game in the Big Ten tournament to Michigan.
The Hoosiers haven't let their Big Ten Tournament failure get in the way of their play in the NCAA Tournament as they took care of Chattanooga before taking down the Kentucky Wildcats. Let's take a quick look at the keys to the showdown Friday night in Philly.
1. Yogi Ferrell vs. Marcus Paige will be huge
There's no question about what individual battle people will be watching in this game. Two of the premier point guards in the nation will be going head to head all game Friday. While Paige has had an off shooting year, averaging just 12 points per game on 39% shooting, he is still the undoubted leader of the Tar Heels. Much like Farrell, he runs the offense and when he gets hot, North Carolina can be unbeatable.
No matter who the other point guard is, Yogi Ferrell is a huge key for the Hoosiers. Just look at his shooting in the 7 losses for Indiana; in those games, the senior has shot just 31% from deep and under 41% from the field. In the 27 wins for the Hoosiers, Ferrell shoots 44% from three and over 47% overall.
Ferrell can't let the individual matchup get in his head though. When he and the Hoosiers are at their best, Ferrell is getting all his teammates involved, and creating open shots in the open floor. This is what he'll need to do against Paige to keep Indiana close.
2. The Hoosiers bench needs another big performance
Tom Crean has seen unbelievable production from his bench in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. The non-starters have shot 22-30 in the first two games scoring 55 points. For a team who relied heavily on their starters throughout the season, this is a huge and unexpected contribution.
One of the main reasons the bench has been so good is the high level of play from OG Anunoby. The freshman forward averaged just 4.5 points per game during the season, but is averaging over 10 points in the two tournament games, which has been a huge boost.
The big question for the 6'8'' Anunoby will be if he can come in to the game and hold his own on the boards. With a matchup against rebounding sensation Brice Johnson looming, Indiana will look to put as many bodies as they can on the forward. Max Bielfeldt will be another key off the bench for the Hoosiers as his three point shooting can change the momentum of a game.
3. The winner can taste the Final Four
With Wisconsin and Notre Dame meeting up in the other east regional semi-final, the winner of this game will be the favorite to reach the Final Four. Not only that, but Michigan State is out of the Midwest region, leaving just Virginia and Iowa State as the only single digit seeds remaining.
This game takes on even more magnitude with both teams knowing this will be the tougher of the two games to try to reach the Final Four. While these are historic programs, North Carolina hasn't been to the Final Four since 2009 and it's been since 2002 for Indiana. Both schools are hungry to reach Houston, and the stakes can't get any higher than this Sweet Sixteen matchup in Philadelphia on Friday night.