Thursday, March 28, 2013
W2W4: Syracuse vs. Indiana
By Kieran Darcy
Here are three things to watch for when Syracuse (28-9, 11-7 Big East) plays Indiana (29-6, 14-4 Big Ten) in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9:45 p.m., and you can watch the game on CBS.
CLASH OF THE TITANS: Two of the best brand-names in college basketball go head-to-head, with a berth in the East Regional final on the line. No. 1 seed Indiana won the Big Ten regular season title this year. No. 4 seed Syracuse finished tied for fifth in the Big East, but heated up in March, advancing to the Big East championship game before losing to Louisville.
Entering this season, Syracuse had the fifth-most wins in Division I (1,844), while Indiana was 11th (1,690). The last time these two teams met in the Big Dance, though, was way back in 1987 -- in the national title game, won by the Hoosiers thanks to Keith Smart's jumper with five seconds remaining.
Both teams have strong fan bases, and should be well-represented in D.C. Will the Orange look a little more comfortable? Perhaps. Syracuse played in this building less than three weeks ago, on March 9. The Orange lost big to Georgetown that day, 61-39. But they're playing much better right now.
X-FACTORS: For Syracuse, it's James Southerland. The 6-foot-8 senior from Queens is the team's third-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game, but is capable of far more -- just look at what he did in this year's Big East tournament, when he knocked down a record 19 treys in four games. Southerland shot 3-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first two games of this tournament, but don't be surprised if he looks for his shot more Thursday night. With his size, he's difficult to stop -- and if he's on, watch out.
For Indiana, it's Victor Oladipo. Sophomore center Cody Zeller is the team's leading scorer (16.7 ppg) and rebounder (8 rpg), but Oladipo (13.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the Hoosiers' go-to player in crunch time. The 6-foot-5 junior is shooting 59.4 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from deep. He was also named the Big Ten defensive player of the year. And this is a homecoming for Oladipo, who is from Upper Marlboro, Md., and starred at nearby DeMatha High School.
CULTURE CLASH: Indiana is the No. 3 scoring team in all of Division I at 79.5 points per game, and No. 6 in offensive field-goal percentage (48.6). Syracuse is No. 3 in defensive field-goal percentage (37.3) and holds teams to an average of 59.4 points per game. Something's got to give.
Can Indiana handle Syracuse's trademark 2-3 zone? We'll soon find out. The Hoosiers must find the open man in the middle of the zone when possible, and try to break the defense down from there. Having Zeller, a 7-footer, should certainly help.
A couple more things to keep in mind: Indiana is No. 3 in the country in 3-point field goal percentage (40.8) -- that should help against the 2-3 zone, too. And the Hoosiers are 25th in free-throw percentage (74.7). Syracuse, on the other hand, is 234th in free-throw percentage (67.5). If the game comes down to foul shooting, advantage Indiana.