Quinn’s Friday March Madness Journal

Welcome to day two of my first ever March Madness Journal! Even though the Indiana Hoosiers’s season is over, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the two best sports days of the year. In fact, I’m going to cover all 32 first round games! Here are below are my game recaps and reactions written immediately after each game ended. I hope you all enjoyed the games and enjoy this little experiment:

Michigan 92, Oklahoma State 91

Honestly I could have just watched this game for 12 hours and be happily entertained. Back-and-forth and more offense than you can ask for, this was a great start to Friday. Derrick Walton Jr. (26 points, 5 rebounds, and 11 assists) is really starting to remind me of Kemba Walker and this Michigan team ( combined 11 of 15 from deep in second half) really believes it can take this magical run all the way to a championship. I don’t think they’ll get much further than the Sweet 16, but then again I never expected they’d get this far just a few weeks ago.

Baylor 91, New Mexico State 73

The victim of multiple first round upsets in recent years, you can’t blame me and others to think the same thing was going to happen when Baylor trailed New Mexico State 40-38 at half. What transpired afterward was a great psychological win for the Bears as they didn’t let the pressure of the past control them and went out and dominated in the second half. I didn’t get to watch much of this game because of the Michigan-Oklahoma State game, but the fact that they dominated in the second half points to the fact that this is a different Baylor team from years past.

Arkansas 77, Seton Hall 71

This was a great gamed that had a terrible end. Khadeen Carrington got trapped and accidently traveled down one with 24 seconds. Then a desperate attempt to foul led to Desi Rodriguez pushing Jaylen Barford from behind resulting in the feet getting tangled and Barford falling down. This was eventually called a flagrant 1 foul and it basically ended any chance of Seton Hall beating Arkansas. To be fair, Arkansas totally deserved to win but it was just a disappointing end to an otherwise great game.

Oregon 93, Iona 77

Didn’t get to watch much of this game either but Oregon definitely showed that the injury of Chris Boucher isn’t going to slow the Ducks down. Tyler Dorsey was sensational with 24 points on an excellent 9 of 14 shooting. Jordan Bell did a great job stepping up in Boucher’s absence as he finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Iona made things a little interesting but you never really felt Oregon was ever in danger.

Louisville 78, Jacksonville State 63

Louisville showed in the first half why I think they will have a hard time advancing very far in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals missed 11 of their first 12 shots and fell behind Jacksonville State by eight points early in the game. The problem is that offensive shortages like this are common for Louisville and while the Cardinals’ defense is excellent, a run similar to the Gamecocks’ run would be much harder to come back from against a better team. Also shoutout to Norbertas Giga, who scored 30 points for Jacksonville State on 11 of 13 shooting including a perfect 5 0f 5 from deep.

USC 66, SMU 65

Our first LEGIT upset! USC continues to amaze me how they are able to overcome big deficits (13 wins in which the Trojans trailed by double-digits), this time down 12 to SMU. It’s a shame the Mustangs are out because they had multiple players that I think could have had memorable tournament runs such as Semi Ojeleye (24 points and 10 rebounds) and Shake Milton (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and some big shots down the stretch). Meanwhile, USC head coach Andy Enfield, formerly the head coach of Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run, is showing he can possibly orchestrate another tournament run.

North Carolina 103, Texas Southern 64

Not much really to say about this game but the fact that unlike with Villanova and Gonzaga, there was never even a hint of drama in this game as North Carolina dominated throughout. Fun fact about is that the Tar Heels’ bench combined for 46 points, 25 rebounds, and 12 assists. The Texas Southern team only had 18 more points (64), 2 more rebounds (27), and 3 less assists (9).

Rhode Island 84, Creighton 72

Just like Michigan, Rhode Island continued its hot play into the first round of the tournament as the Rams led from the start and besides a 17-17 tie with 6:26 left in the first half, had the lead for the entire game.  It obviously helps when you go 28 of 31 (90.3%) from the free throw line. The second round game with Oregon will be a great matchup of the Ducks’ offense vs the Rams’ defense.

Kansas 100, UC Davis 62

And just like that, we’ll have to wait another year to see the 16-1 upset. Not that surprised since none of the one-seeds looked vulnerable, not even Gonzaga. The Jayhawks finished the game shooting 56.3% (36 of 64) from the floor and 44% (11 of 25) from deep in a game that was close for only the first 15 minutes. Frank Mason III off to a great start in the tournament with 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Wichita State 64, Dayton 58

Not the most dazzling basketball in the world, but this was “grind-it-out” game between two teams that deserved better seeds. The key of the game was Wichita State’s domination on the boards, where the Shockers outrebounded Dayton 48-29. Scoochie Smith did his best to keep the Flyers around, scoring almost 25 of the team’s 58 points. It will be interesting, especially since the game took place in Indianapolis, if Dayton Head Coach Archie Miller gets a call from IU about a coaching interview. More than likely, it’s too soon to make that call and besides Dayton isn’t that far away.

Duke 87, Troy 65

Like Michigan and Rhode Island before them, Duke showed that it was still feeling it after the Blue Devils’ ACC Tournament run as they easily beat Troy. Jayson Tatum was easily the best player on the court, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 blocks. When you consider that this team has succeeded this season with mainly Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen carrying the team, Tatum’s performance is a great sign for Duke and a bad sign for the rest of the field.

Cincinnati 75, Kansas State 61

I picked Kansas State over Cincinnati because I wasn’t sure Cincinnati could score enough points. Well I was really wrong about that as the Bearcats scored 75 points on 62.8% shooting. Troy Caupain was the leader behind this attack going 7 of 10 from the floor for 23 points. Obviously thinking Cincinnati will continue to shoot above 60% during the rest of the tournament is silly, but if the Bearcats can hit around 50-55% of their shots and combine that with their trademark defense, this just became a scary team.

Michigan State 78, Miami 58

After a 17-5 start by Miami, it looked like Tom Izzo and his inconsistent and young Michigan State team were headed to another first round exit. Then something clicked as the turnovers stopped and the Spartans outscored the Hurricanes 33-10 over the rest of the first half, taking an 11 point lead into halftime. The Spartans wouldn’t let up as Izzo showed yet again that even with one of his weaker teams it’s hard to beat Izzo in the month of March.

South Carolina 93, Marquette 73

This was a back-and-forth game that ended up turning into a blowout thanks to a great stretch from SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell as he had 10 points during a 22-4 South Carolina run starting at the midpoint of the second half. He finished with a game-highs in points (29) and rebounds (11). Playing in their home-state may help the Gamecocks when they face Duke on Sunday

UCLA 97, Kent State 80

UCLA’s bad defense kept this a relatively close game for most of it as Kent State once narrowed the Bruins’ lead to just five. Thankfully for UCLA its offense rarely missed, hitting 62.7% of its shots and thus never letting the Flashes get much closer. Lonzo Ball (15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists) was very good but not great while it was T.J. Leaf (23 points and 6 rebounds) and Thomas Welsh (16 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists) that impressed me the most. Aaron Holiday also posted a double-double finishing with 15 points and 11 assists.

Kentucky 79, Northern Kentucky 70

I’m so used to Kentucky blowing out mid-major teams in the NCAA Tournament by 20+ points that I was really confused by this game. Give a lot of credit to Northern Kentucky, who down to the final minute and down 10 still didn’t give up, but it was surprising that the Norse even had a chance that late in the game. My friend who is a Kentucky fan explained the Wildcats have played to the level of their competition all year, which really explains a lot and thus shouldn’t put much doubt in those who have Kentucky going deep in their brackets.

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Quinn’s Thursday March Madness Journal

Welcome to my first ever March Madness Journal! Even though the Indiana Hoosiers’s season is over, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the two best sports days of the year. In fact, I’m going to cover all 32 first round games! Here are below are my game recaps and reactions written immediately after each game ended. I hope you all enjoyed the games and enjoy this little experiment:

Notre Dame 60, Princeton 58

Honestly Notre Dame is very lucky to have won this game, as the Irish really became sluggish towards the end. That and missed free throws from one of the best free throw shooting teams almost led to a buzzer-beating upset during our first game of the day. Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson were great for Notre Dame, but they’ll need a third player to step up if they want to continue to advance.

Virginia 76, UNC-Wilmington 71

The Seahawks took control early and started making the numerous people who picked the upset (including myself) feel smart. Then the Cavaliers countered with a 19-3 run over the last seven minutes of the first half to actually take a one-point lead. From there, London Perrantes did what senior leaders do and took over, scoring 19 of his 24 points in the second half as Virginia held off a late UNC-Wilmington run. Fun fact, I actually didn’t get to watch much of the final minute because they decided to run a test emergency broadcast alert during that time.

Butler 76, Winthrop 64

Aside from a 7-0 run that cut the deficit from 14 to 7, early in the second half, Winthrop just couldn’t keep up with Butler as the Bulldogs look poised for a long tournament run despite finishing just .500 in their last 10 games before the tournament. With the two close 5/12 matchups playing at the same time, I didn’t get to see much of the game but what I do know is that if Avery Woodson (team-high 18 points) can continue this hot shooting (6 of 10 from deep), this just became a very dangerous team that North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA probably would like to avoid.

Gonzaga 66, South Dakota State 46

Usually you don’t start getting excited about a possible “16 over 1” upset until you get to the second half, but you can’t blame us for getting interest in this attempt. South Dakota State took an early 2-0 lead and almost went the entire first half without letting Gonzaga get ahead. Considering the Bulldogs NCAA Tournament history, this looked like a real opportunity for a 16-seed to end the streak. Alas Gonzaga finally went ahead with 1:40 left in the first and never looked back.

West Virginia 86, Bucknell 80

Bucknell made this one interesting by constantly trying to make late run, but to West Virginia’s credit the Mountaineers continuously responded to each attempt and prevented the Bison from making that necessary run. West Virginia is able to get the bad taste of losing to Stephen F. Austin last year and now has a pretty good matchup against Notre Dame in the second round.

Florida 80, East Tennessee State 65

East Tennessee State kept this game close throughout the first half and even took the lead at the start of the second half, but for the most part Florida had control of this game. Devin Robinson had a big second half scoring 14 of his 24 points after halftime. Four minutes into the second half, Robinson hit back-to-back threes to turn the Gator’s one-point lead into a seven-point lead. The Buccaneers never got closer than five points during the rest of the game.

Middle Tennessee 81, Minnesota 72

Our first “upset” wasn’t really an upset since most people picked Middle Tennessee in their brackets. Still, it was an impressive win for the Blue Raiders as they weathered a 7-0 start from Minnesota and then survived a furious 14-2 run by the Gophers in the second half thanks to the heroics of Reggie Upshaw. Middle Tennessee will face Butler in the second round and as good as Butler was earlier in the day, these Blue Raiders are going to be a tough obstacle to get through.

Northwestern 68, Vanderbilt 66

Easily the best game of the first half of Thursday. Vanderbilt came from 15 back and took the lead with 1:36 left. What followed was five lead changes in the final minute, including the still baffling intentional foul by Matthew Fisher-Davis right after Riley LaChance gave Vanderbilt the lead with 14 seconds left. McIntosh sank both free throws and somehow the Wildcats escape with a win in their first ever NCAA Tournament game. You can guarantee that foul will find itself on “One Shining Moment”.

Xavier 76, Maryland 65

This was all about Trevon Bluiett and his amazing second half performance. After being held to just three points in the first half, Bluiett was unconscious as he scored 18 in the second half and in the process turned a one-point halftime deficit into a double-digit win. Interesting enough, this ends Maryland’s run of winning at least one NCAA Tournament game, something the Terrapins had done in their previous 12 tournament appearances.

Villanova 76, Mount St. Mary’s 56

This game was basically a rehash of the Gonzaga-South Dakota State game as the 16-seed leads for almost the entirety of the first half only for the one-seed to grab it’s first lead with a minute left and take the lead into halftime. Villanova, just like Gonzaga, dominated in the second half to make the game into a blowout. Unlike in the previous game, I never really felt like the Wildcats were in danger of losing.

Purdue 80, Vermont 70

Vermont was determined to pull an “Arkansas-Little Rock” on Purdue, but these Boilermakers are much more poised than in years past and demonstrated that in this game. The defense allowed nothing easy and Caleb Swanigan was the main reason recording three blocks in the final three minutes. Having proved they can win in the NCAA Tournament, Purdue should have the confidence going forward to be a real threat to the rest of the Midwest Region.

Saint Mary’s 85, VCU 77

The only way to describe Saint Mary’s first half performance was that they destroyed VCU by hitting on 64% of their shots as the Gaels led 46-31. Yet the Rams never quit and while they never retook the lead, they made life extremely difficult for Saint Mary’s in the second half thanks to an 18-4 run that made it just a two-point game with 10 minutes left. A lot of teams may have quit after the first half beatdown, but VCU never gave up and was a few bounces away from possibly winning the game.

Florida State 86, Florida Gulf Coast 80

Probably one of the more entertaining games I watched today, the pace of these two teams was fun to watch. I admit that I underestimated the Seminoles and am happy they proved me wrong. Dwayne Bacon (25 points and 9 rebounds) and Jonathan Isaac (17 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists) were just as good as advertised. As expected, Florida Gulf Coast made it difficult as they constantly hung around and wouldn’t let FSU run away with the game.

Wisconsin 84, Virginia Tech 74

Zach LeDay and Virginia Tech really looked like they may take control away from Wisconsin and pull ahead but the Badgers’ experience was just too much for the Hokies. This was a vintage performance from Bronson Koenig, who made eight three-pointers in route to a game-high 28 points. Nigel Hayes also came in clutch as the 58% free throw shooter hit 8 of 9 from the foul line and six big offensive rebounds. Wisconsin is way too good to be an 8-seed and I have a feeling we may see that even more when they give Villanova a dogfight on Saturday.

Iowa State 84, Nevada 73

A trendy 12-5 upset pick, Iowa State really showed from the beginning that they weren’t planning on exiting early. The Cyclones dominated the first half and were able to hold on in the second half to advance to a matchup with Purdue that should be a must-see game on Saturday. Monte Morris was a little more mistake-prone than advertised (4 turnovers) but still impressed me by almost posting a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Arizona 100, North Dakota 82

I’ll just be honest that I didn’t really watch much of this game because I was so tired by then plus it was blowout. From what I saw I can confirm Arizona is just as good as I thought. Just like Villanova and Gonzaga, they took care of business but Arizona never really struggled in its game. This looks like a well-oiled machine led by freshmen Lauri Markkanen and Rawle Alkins who each had 20 points.

Indiana’s NCAA Tournament Hopes Look Grim After Home Loss To Michigan

When the NCAA Selection Committee showed their top 16 teams this weekend, a grim reality sunk in for the Big Ten. None of the top three teams (Wisconsin, Purdue, Maryland) were among those top 16, showing that the Selection Committee does not think highly of the Big Ten this season.

That’s why it was so important for Indiana to beat fellow bubble team Michigan at home. Instead, the Hoosiers lost and now look at the realistic situation of needing to win the rest of their regular season games just to have a chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Unlike the last two losses (at Wisconsin/vs Purdue) where the Hoosiers battled a top team in the conference and fell just short, IU never really gave Michigan much of a battle as the Wolverines scored the first basket and never let Indiana take the lead once. Michigan led by as many as 13 while the Hoosiers never got closer than six points in the second half.

Thomas Bryant, who had averaged 20.2 points over his last five games, was constantly doubled as he was limited to just eight points, five rebounds, and three blocks. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers had a difficult time turning the double team to their advantage and getting the ball to the open man, as Indiana again committed 15 turnovers that led to 20 points for Michigan.

The one person who did step up was De’Ron Davis. Two days removed from taking a shot to the face that made him miss most of the second half against Purdue, Davis was the only Hoosier able to take advantage of Bryant’s double-team as he scored a team-high 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting, including 5 of 6 from the free throw line.

“He played very well considering shot that he took (against Purdue),” said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean. “And we’ve got to continue to play him more. He’s not as great in the ball screens so that sometimes limits (his minutes). But he’s very, very hard to guard and he’s got great feet, great hands and great eyes.”

Crean was really frank about his team’s performance, saying his team needs to get easier shots on offense and has to play with the same intensity as when shots do go in the basket. He was especially frustrated with the team’s consistent overhelping on defense.

“It makes no sense to be coming off the corners the way that we are with what we have out there. That’s not what we do. We guard the ball. We don’t overhelp because it’s teams like Michigan that can shoot the ball so well.”

Crean also talked about everyone on the team needing to improve communication, including himself.

“It’s very easy to be locked in and connected to one another when the shots are going, but when they aren’t going is when real leadership’s got to emerge. And I’m not shirking the responsibility one iota. One thing I’ve learned in nine years it all falls on me. But the bottom line is that we’ve got to do something to get communication up.”

“We still have a season left to play,” said Robert Johnson about his team at this moment. “So we’re not even thinking about quitting. We always look forward to the next game. Now we’re just looking forward to getting better and moving on to the next game. And that’s another opportunity.


With Indiana probably needing to win out to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, here is a breakdown of the final five games:

  • February 15 – at Minnesota
  • February 21 – at Iowa
  • February 25 – vs Northwestern
  • February 28 – at Purdue
  • March 4 – at Ohio State

The problem with Indiana’s remaining schedule is it’s difficulty level. The slate of teams may not all be at the top of the Big Ten standings, but that doesn’t matter when you realize the Hoosiers have struggled heavily on the road this season, going 1-5 so far with the one win coming via a James Blackmon Jr. buzzer-beater at Penn State.

There’s also the fact that other than beating Purdue in West Lafayette, none of the other potential wins would be huge resume-building wins. Iowa and Ohio State are likely going to the NIT, and while Minnesota and Northwestern would be nice wins, neither is guaranteed to be in the NCAA Tournament and both would likely take a hit to their resumes if they did lose to Indiana.

Basically the formula for Indiana to have a shot come Selection Sunday is to get a huge win at Purdue and pad the overall record by avoiding anymore losses. It will be a tough road ahead, but if Johnson is right and this team isn’t quitting, they still have chance no matter how small.

Potential IU Championship Run Could Include The Ultimate Cathartic Scenario

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following article is drowning in hypotheticals and should be seen not as a prediction of what will happen but as a fun observation that makes for a great story. This is basically a big “What-If” that will likely only be relevant this week before the games start. So please stick around and enjoy if “movie scripts/storybook endings” interest you.


When the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament rolls around, the fans of the remaining 16 teams are allowed to start dreaming  about the possibility of a the national championship. Of course, it’s strictly “dream-only” at the moment as these teams have only completed a third of this three-week marathon. Nevertheless they can still dream, and you can bet Hoosier Nation is daydreaming like crazy.

Despite having a tough matchup with the  top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, Hoosier fans are on cloud nine after a cathartic second round win over the Kentucky Wildcats. It was cathartic not only because it was the first time the rivals had played in four years, but also because that last matchup ended with Kentucky beating Indiana in the Sweet 16 en route to an eighth national championship.

The Hoosiers hope the same happens for them this postseason but standing in their way is a talented North Carolina team that will be tough to beat. More likely than not, Indiana’s unexpectedly successful season will strike midnight when the clocks in Philadelphia also strike midnight on Friday, but this Indiana team has beaten the odds so many times this season that you can never count them out.

So let’s play the “What-If” game. I’m pretty sure Hoosier Nation would find any possible scenario that ends with a sixth  national championship banner being hung in Assembly Hall to be cathartic (especially after going 29 years since the last one), but the level of how cathartic it can get is so insane that one would think this was a cliché Disney sports movie. IU could potentially win the championship by defeating the three teams that in recent college basketball history have made life difficult for Hoosier Nation. So let’s have fun and take a look at what would be the ultimate “Hoosier Catharsis”:


While there hasn’t been much recent history between Indiana and North Carolina, the two titans of college basketball have met twice before in the NCAA Tournament.

The first one came in 1981, when the Hoosiers defeated the Tar Heels 63-50 in the National Championship game. The Hoosiers were led by Isiah Thomas, a guard who wore #11 and scored a game-high 23 points.

The second time came in the 1984 Sweet 16 as the underdog Hoosiers beat the top-seeded Tar Heels 72-68 in what would be Michael Jordan’s last college game. Guarding MJ was Dan Dakich, a guard who wore #11 and held the AP player of the year to just 13 points on 6 of 14 shooting.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone that this year’s Hoosiers also has a difference-maker in Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell,  a guard who wears #11.


But it’s the regional championship round (or Elite Eight) where things start to get interesting. The opponent of the UNC-IU winner will either be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or the Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams faced Indiana during the season and both would work as compelling rematches.

Indiana’s 15-point comeback win over the Fighting Irish during the Crossroads Classic turned into a pivotal crossroad for the Hoosiers as ever since that comeback IU has transformed from a terrible defense to one that just allowed 0.94 points per possession to a Kentucky team that ranked second in the country in points per possession. Adding that new defensive intensity with the pre-existing offensive brilliance created a combination that was able to turn around the season and win the Big Ten regular season championship outright.

While it would be cool for Indiana to face the team that provided the game responsible for the turn around, there are two problems with it. The first problem is that this potential matchup could turn into a “revenge game” for Notre Dame; after all it was the Irish that blew a 15-point lead in that game. The second reason is that there’s a better potential matchup that could await the Hoosiers.

No Big Ten team has bullied the Hoosiers as badly and as long as the Wisconsin Badgers. While a couple of recent victories for Indiana at Assembly Hall has relieved some of the psychological hold the Badgers had over IU, there is still the fact that the Hoosiers haven’t beat Wisconsin outside of Assembly Hall since the 2006 Big Ten Tournament but even that game was in Indianapolis. That last time the Hoosiers beat the Badgers outside of the state of Indiana was the 2001 Big Ten Tournament in Chicago.

While this potential game wouldn’t be played in Wisconsin (where IU hasn’t won since 1998), it would still be a huge accomplishment for this Indiana team to reach the Final Four by beating the one team that has been a thorn in its side for so long.


If Indiana was able to make it this far it would be its first Final Four in 14 years (2002). One of the major reasons it took so long to return to the Final Four was because the best Hoosier team during that stretch lost in the Sweet 16 three years ago to the Syracuse Orange. Wouldn’t you know it that not only is Syracuse still alive in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but if both Syracuse and Indiana kept winning they would face each other in this season’s Final Four.

Unfortunately this is the least likely of the things that are needed to go right in this hypothetical. The Orange were a bubble team that was not only graciously granted a 10-seed, but lucked out when 15-seed Middle Tennessee State upset a Michigan State team that would have easily ended Syracuse’s season. Seeing Syracuse beat Gonzaga and then either Virginia or Iowa State seems fairly unrealistic given what we know at the moment.

However, if they did reach Houston it would probably be the single most cathartic win in this championship run scenario. There’s only one other game against one other team that would make a better “revenge game.”


That game would be against Duke.

If the Notre Dame game was the crossroad moment the Hoosiers turned things around, then the Duke game was the moment that forced IU into that crossroad.

How bad was the 94-74 loss on December 2nd? The 1.53 points per possession that Indiana allowed to Duke on that night  are the most allowed by an NCAA basketball team in the last three seasons. I’m not just talking about the “power-five” conferences: none of the 351 teams in the NCAA allowed more points per possession in a game than Indiana did to Duke on that early December night.

Three and a half months later, that same Indiana defense allowed Kentucky to only score 0.94 points per possession. Don’t brush off Indiana’s defensive improvement as hyperbole. This drastic transformation is real and I bet Hoosier fans would love another chance at Duke with their improved defense.

A loss to Duke during the middle of the season was rock bottom. A championship win over that same Duke team would be the ultimate “revenge game.” That is the true definition of catharsis.

The Top 5 Subplots Heading Into Indiana Vs Kentucky

We all know the main plot of Saturday’s second round NCAA Tournament matchup between Indiana and Kentucky: two longtime college basketball rivals who not only share a border but also share a history of winning championships, who haven’t played each other since the 2011-2012 season when Indiana upset Kentucky on Christian Watford’s buzzer-beater in the regular season and the Wildcats outlasted the Hoosiers 102-90 in the Sweet 16. Four years later, the NCAA Selection Committee intervened by placing both as the four and five seed of the same region. Now two teams have been thrusted into an old rivalry that no player on either team has ever experienced and on the line is a trip to Philadelphia to play on the second weekend of the tournament.

Honestly, that’s enough of a reason to get anyone to watch this game, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The amount of subplots underlying the main plot is staggering and cover not only the game but the aftereffects of the game. Here are what I consider the top five subplots (in no particular order) of Saturday’s Indiana-Kentucky matchup.

1) Ferrell vs Ulis: Even if the main plot didn’t exist, this matchup between two of the five best point guards in all of college basketball would be enough to hype this game. Both Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Tyler Ulis are the textbook definition of a “floor general” as both are responsible for scoring as well as helping their teammates score (Ferrell averages 17.1 points and 5.7 assists per game while Ulis averages 17.0 points and 7.1 assists). Both also average around 35 minutes a game so it’s entirely possible neither one leaves the floor unless they get in foul trouble. It will also be interesting to see if they guard each other.

2) Will Players Treat This Like A Rivalry Game?: No doubt both teams will play very hard because this is the NCAA Tournament, but will it go any farther than that? Remember that not a single player on either roster has played against each other so unless any of them were fans of the school before attending, they don’t really know what they are getting into. If one team goes up big, will they coast the rest of the way (how a team may play against someone they have nothing against in the NCAA Tournament), or will they step on the opponent’s throat and try to humiliate them (how one rival would play against another rival in the NCAA Tournament)? Neither team will likely get that big of a lead, but the way the teams treat each other will still be a great indicator of whether or not they see it as a rivalry game.

3) IU’s Turnover Problem Vs UK’s Defensive Rebounding Problem: Both teams are really good at a lot of different things, but both also have one weakness that ranks in the bottom 100 of all NCAA teams. For Indiana it’s turnovers as the Hoosiers turn it over on 16.6% of their possessions (254th in the NCAA). For Kentucky it’s defensive rebounding as the Wildcats allow opponents to grab 30.2% of their misses (274th in the NCAA). At first glace it looks like the Hoosiers can take advantage of the Wildcats’ weaknesses easier, as IU ranks as the 13th best offensive rebounding team (grabbing 36.5% of its misses). Yet while Kentucky doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, it does have a top 10 shooting defense (allowing an effective field goal percentage of just 44.3%) that can make those inevitable turnovers even more devastating. Whichever team does more to exploit the other’s weakness should win.

4) The Outcome May Determine If This Becomes An Annual Rivalry Again: A lot of media members have talked about this possibly sparking a renewal of the yearly rivalry game between the two programs. While some may brush it off as wishful thinking, I do think this game will hold weight in any possible decision. Unfortunately, I think it will require a specific outcome to get the ball rolling on a possible series revival. The Wildcats’ non-conference scheduling approach has been to find teams that can challenge them so they can test their freshmen and make them battle-tested for the SEC and hopefully a long NCAA run. If Kentucky were to handedly beat Indiana on Saturday, would they really bother with trying to get the series with Indiana going again? As weird as it may sound, getting the yearly series back may require an Indiana win or an overtime classic to get talks going again. That scenario also makes sense for IU, as even though the Hoosiers did beat the Wildcats in their last regular season meeting the wins in the series have been few and far between for a long time. When two potential rivals don’t play in the same conference it takes a little extra to keep that rivalry going and competitiveness is the big thing that can get this one going again.

5) Does Loss = Failed Season?: This game feels like an Elite Eight or Final Four matchup because both teams are that good, but the reality is that one of them will see their season end before the Sweet 16. Despite both teams exceeding expectations and winning their conferences, the fans of Saturday’s loser will feel like this season was a failure because they were bounced in the first weekend. But should they? You’d think an exception would be made for the talent level of the opponent, but I doubt either fanbase would accept that as an excuse. An Indiana loss would mean Tom Crean has still not led an Indiana team past the Sweet 16, and a Kentucky loss would mean John Calipari would miss the Sweet 16 for the first time (during years Kentucky made the NCAA Tournament) and would come a year after they fell short of an undefeated season with 10 McDonald’s All-Americans. It’s unfair on a lot of levels, but one team will treat this season as failure after the final buzzer sounds on Saturday night.

Three Reasons Indiana Will Get To Face Kentucky And Three Reasons It Won’t

The Indiana Hoosiers’ quest for a sixth national championship was already going to be a difficult one as they are one of many who have a legit shot of cutting down the nets in Houston, but the road to the Final Four got exponentially tougher when then the NCAA Selection Committee decided to place the Hoosiers in the East Region (or what FIFA fans would call “The Group Of Death”)

North Carolina, Xavier, West Virginia, and Kentucky are all national championship contenders, just like Indiana. Unfortunately, through a sick twist of fate, only one at most will even make the trip to Houston at the beginning of April. In fact, at least one title hopeful won’t even make it to the Sweet 16.  Indiana vs Kentucky could have made an entertaining Elite Eight or Final Four matchup, but instead it may be a critical Round 2 game with the loser feeling like it’s season was a disappointment.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, both team’s still need to win their round one matchups.  IU drew a very tough opponent in Southern Conference regular season and tournament champion Chattanooga. Can the Hoosiers avoid the infamous 5-12 upset and face off with Kentucky in the second round? Here are three reasons why we will finally get IU-UK and three reasons we won’t.

Three Reasons We Will Get To See IU vs UK

  1. While the Chattanooga Mocs have one of the better defenses in all of college basketball, there is one weakness that can be exploited and that is their defensive rebounding. The Mocs have let their opponents rebound 26.5% of their missed shots, which ranks 113th in the country. While still ranking in the top 50% of teams, it becomes a little bit more glaring when you consider that the Hoosiers are the 12th best team in the country at grabbing offensive rebounds, grabbing 36.5% of their missed shots. Against a good defense like Chattanooga’s, it’s important to get second chance points.
  2. A theme in recent in NCAA Tournament history has been that a team has a chance to go far if they have superior guard play. Well, when you have Indiana’s all-time assist leader and the school’s seventh-ranked scorer in Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, I think you can claim to have superior guard play. Ferrell won’t let the Hoosiers lose in the first round because he knows that this is his last chance at a tournament run.
  3. As I said after the Hoosiers’ loss in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers actually benefitted from the early exit as banged up players like Juwan Morgan and Collin Hartman should be ready to go for IU’s matchup with Chattanooga. If the Head Coach Tom Crean can get quality minutes out of both of them, the Hoosiers can go back to using their depth as a weapon to tire out the opponent. If Rob Johnson is able to play it only tilts the depth advantage in Indiana’s favor.

Three Reasons We Won’t Get To See IU vs UK
  1. Another reason grabbing offensive rebounds is important for IU is because it will help make up for the team’s lost possessions because of turnovers. And there will be quite a few turnovers as Chattanooga ranks 49th in forcing while Indiana commits a turnover on 16.7% of its possessions (which ranks 257th in the country).
  2. With a record of 29-5, the Mocs were a popular upset pick before the NCAA Bracket was announced. While Indiana is a tough matchup, Chattanooga won’t be intimidated as the Mocs have already beaten a couple of power-five conference schools this season (Georgia and Illinois). Maybe even more impressive is the Mocs’s road win at Dayton, who is a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament. For the record, Indiana’s best true road win is also against a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament (Iowa).
  3. Who says Indiana is the only one that can ruin the IU-UK reunion? Kentucky has its hands full too with a first round game against Stony Brook. Just like the Hoosiers, the Wildcats have a lot of strengths but also have one glaring weakness. While that weakness is turnovers for IU, it’s defensive rebounding for UK. Kentucky allows opponents to rebound 30% of their misses, which ranks 260th in the country. Meanwhile, the Seawolves rank 31st in offensive rebound percentage and have a skilled frontcourt scorer in Jameel Warney (who had 43 points and 10 rebounds in the American East championship game).While an upset is unlikely, the Wildcats still shouldn’t overlook their round one opponent.

Hoosiers’ Early Exit From Big Ten Tournament Could Be Blessing In Disguise

The Indiana Hoosiers’ struggles in the Big Ten Tournament continued as the Michigan Wolverines pulled off the 72-69 upset to knock the Hoosiers out of the quarterfinals on Friday. The Hoosiers are now 11-19 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament.

Troy Williams led the Hoosiers in scoring with 16 points. Thomas Bryant had 13 points and seven rebounds while Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell added 14 points and eight assists. As a team, the Hoosiers went just 4 for 17 from three-point range and committed 15 turnovers.

Indiana had a three-point lead in the final minute but back-to-back three-pointers, including Kameron Chatman’s game-winner with 0.2 seconds on the clock, gave Michigan a much needed win as the Wolverines try to make a final push for the NCAA Tournament.

Yet even though the Hoosiers went one and done in the Big Ten Tournament and will miss out on a top-2 seed, there is still plenty of room for optimism.

Unlike for a team such as Iowa, an early conference tournament exit isn’t as big of a blow to Indiana because the Hoosiers had nothing to prove. While Iowa needed a good run to erase the bad taste from what has basically been a late-season collapse (five losses in final seven games before Big Ten Tournament), The Hoosiers came into Indianapolis having won five in a row en route to clinching the regular season conference championship. While a loss halts that momentum it doesn’t erase it.

In fact, you could argue that an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament is a blessing in disguise. The Hoosiers have been beaten up the last couple of weeks and the last thing this team needs is to play three games in three days. The time off will help a lot of players such as Juwan Morgan, who finally finshed a game after leaving early during Indiana’s last two regualr season games. It will help players who have continuously taken a beating over the season such as Collin Hartman, who took a tumble against Michigan, and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, who probably leads the Big Ten in number of drives to the basket that draw contact but don’t draw a foul. It also lets Indiana focus more attention on getting Rob Johnson back from his ankle injury and make him ready for the NCAA Tournament.

With all that being said, this was still a dissapointing performance for a team that will now likely earn a 3/4-seed and will have to face one of the better mid-majors for their first NCAA Tournament game. It also was a shame that this specific Hoosier team, one that has exceeded expectations and has proven to be different than other recent good Indiana teams, couldn’t win the school’s first Big Ten Tournament championship.

But at the end of the day, all that matters is winning in the NCAA Tournament and losing to Michigan during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament won’t prevent that from happening. Let March Madness begin.