In 1987, Indiana defeated Syracuse in the national championship game.
Hoosiers guard Keith Smart hit a jumper in the final seconds to give Indiana the title. Twenty-six years later, the two teams will meet, once again, during March Madness.
On Thursday night, Indiana and Syracuse are set to face off in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The game will be shown on TV on CBS at approximately 9:45 p.m. ET.
For much of the season, these two teams were considered among the best in the country. Losing four of their final five regular season games, Syracuse fell to a No.4 seed in the East region. Indiana’s first place finish in the Big Ten earned them a No.1 seed.
Indiana enters the contest as favorites. The consensus betting line at most Las Vegas casinos has the Hoosiers giving the Orange 5.5 points.
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Despite the point spread, Syracuse has had an easier time in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Orange had one of the most dominant performances in the second round, beating No.13 Montana 81-34. On Saturday night, Syracuse struggled down the stretch, but led for the final 38 minutes of their game with No.12 California.
Indiana breezed through their first game, but came close to being upset in the round of 32. They defeated No.9 Temple by six points, but trailed with less than two minutes remaining. A three-pointer by Victor Oladipo with 15 seconds left sealed the victory for the Hoosiers.
Thursday’s game will feature one of the best offensive teams in the country against one of top defensive units in the nation. Only two teams score more than Indiana’s 80 points per game. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone has held opponents to 37.3 percent field goal shooting, which is good for third in Division I college basketball.
The Orange will need their defense to step up if they want to keep their Final Four hopes alive. Against California, Syracuse had a 12-minute span in which they did not make a field goal. The backcourt of Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams struggled, shooting a combined five for 16 and totaling eight turnovers.
For Indiana, Cody Zeller will have to play like the top NBA draft prospect that he is. The sophomore made his just four of his 10 shot attempts against Temple, contributing to the Hoosiers lowest scoring output of the season.
If Syracuse plays its best, there’s a good chance the Orange will advance to the Elite Eight and face the winner of Miami vs. Marquette. However, their inconsistencies and poor play at the end of games gives the Hoosiers the upper hand.
Prediction: Indiana 68, Syracuse 60