Indiana and North Carolina mirror each other a bit. Both rosters have strong veteran leadership, and like to play fast. When at its best, North Carolina is arguably the best team in the country; Indiana, meanwhile, can play with anybody. Unfortunately, not many teams can play with the North Carolina team that showed up on Friday night. So, what did we learn from Indiana-North Carolina?
1. Indiana weathered North Carolina's early onslaught pretty well, but never could fully recover.
North Carolina started on fire. In particular, Marcus Paige hit four threes and had 12 of the Tar Heels first 14 points. Paige hadn't been shooting particularly well coming in, but was a danger to get hot.
Indiana stayed in touch until about the 10-minute mark of the first half, when North Carolina began to extend its lead into double-digits. The Hoosiers kept it to 11 at the half, but could never get the lead under 10 for the rest of the game. (Part of it was the fouls. Indiana put Carolina in the bonus only several minutes into the second half. The Tar Heels shot 33 freethrows in all.)
The fast Tar Heel start meant Indiana had to chase a really fast team. The Hoosiers can erase big leads (because they also play fast and shoot so well), but not against Carolina which thrives at that tempo.
2. Paige was great, but North Carolina's size gave Indiana more sustained trouble.
No denying Paige's contributions and yes, Carolina shot the ball incredibly well, but Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson applied great pressure to Indiana's defense. Their length and athleticism effected the game on both ends.
Even Tom Crean commented at the half about not letting Carolina establish such deep position. The three North Carolina forwards combined to score 49 points, led by Johnson who finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
3. With that said, if Carolina shoots the ball this well, nobody will beat them.
The Tar Heels shot 11-for-20 from three, and overall more than 50 percent from the floor. Indiana never had a chance to gain any footing; the Hoosiers never challenged the lead.
Indiana needed to double-down inside, and North Carolina made them pay by driving or hitting open threes. Hitting outside shots meant they were balanced. (Four Tar Heels finished in double figures.)
4. While a disappointing end, Indiana's season was successful.
The Hoosiers, undoubtedly, wanted to go further. But, the success this season was unexpected, at least from an outside perspective. Indiana won 27 games and the Big Ten regular season title, when everyone assumed they'd fade in the standings in favor of Michigan State, Maryland or even Iowa.
Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt and Nick Ziesloft are gone, and possibly Thomas Bryant to the draft. No doubt those're big losses, and a great deal of leadership and production to replace, but Indiana will still have talent on the roster. And, the 2015-2016 season is one on which to build.
Unfortunately, Indiana's loss seals the fact that the Big Ten won't send any teams to the Final Four this year. The NCAA Tournament doesn't discredit the regular season, but the Big Ten's so-so performance leaves a bitter taste.