Before the start of the 2012-2013 college basketball season, Indiana was considered to be the class of the NCAA.
As March Madness gets underway, that feeling hasn’t changed much.
The Hoosiers enter the 2013 NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites to win the national championship. Only overall No.1-seeded Louisville has been given better odds of cutting down the nets on April 8.
At 27-6, Indiana finished the regular season ranked fourth in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 poll. The club had the best record in the Big Ten, which may be the most competitive conference in the country.
Few teams had as many big wins as the Hoosiers. They beat Georgetown, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State a total of six times. All of those teams are either a No.2 or No.3 seed in their portion of the bracket.
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Down the stretch, Indiana stumbled somewhat. They lost three of their last six contests and failed to reach the final of the Big Ten Tournament.
Despite their late season struggle, Indiana was named the No.1 seed in the East region. On Friday, they will look to start their first Final Four run in 11 years.
Below is a complete preview for Indiana in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Cody Zeller may be the most dangerous player in this year’s tourney. He entered the season as the frontrunner to be named the National Player of the Year and will likely be one of the top prospects selected in the 2013 NBA Draft.
At seven-feet tall, even the best teams have a hard time matching up with the sophomore. Zeller has been credited with strong presence in the interior, and few teams have low-post defenders who can contain him.
Victor Oladipo is also a potential lottery pick. He makes 60 percent of his shots, even though he takes more than two three pointers per game. Oladipo has been compared with NBA star Dwyane Wade.
Indiana relies heavily on their two stars, and their few losses have come in games in which Zeller and Oladipo have underperformed. Zeller has shot 59.3 percent from the field in wins, compared to 48.3 in losses. Oladipo’s shooting percentage is down 14.5 points when the Hoosiers don’t win.
If the Hoosiers top two players perform up to their capabilities, they may have the best chance of winning the title.
In their first round matchup, Indiana is scheduled to take on No.16 James Madison. The Dukes went 11-7 in the CAA, which is one of the worst conferences in Division 1.
North Carolina State or Temple would be the Hoosiers next opponent. Both teams made the NCAA Tournament without winning their conference championships.
The top of the East region may rival that of the Midwest. Miami is the No.2 seed, a team that may have deserved of a No.1 seed. The Hurricanes had the best record in the ACC and won the conference tournament. Marquette and Syracuse come in as the No.3 and No.4 seeds. Both teams played in the tough Big East, and the Orange were ranked in the top 3 in early 2013.
The Hoosiers should easily get by James Madison on Friday. Indiana is a 21.5-point favorite in a game that features the second-largest point spread in the Round of 64.
With Indiana’s level of talent, it would be surprising if they were upset any time before the regional finals. They have numerous weapons on offense and finished third in the nation in scoring at 80 points per game. Even a matchup with Syracuse shouldn’t prevent them from reaching the Elite Eight, as the Orange may have no answer for Zeller inside.
Zeller may only be a sophomore, but the team is led by upperclassmen that have plenty of experience. Seniors Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls round out a starting lineup that is as balanced as any in the country.
Indiana has slipped up a few times this season, so an exit shortly after the Sweet Sixteen remains a possibility. However, when they are at their best, even teams like Louisville, Kansas Gonzaga and Duke might not be able to stay with them. The Hoosiers may be hitting their stride at the right time.
Predicted Finish: National Champions