One of the greatest moments from this college basketball season was Christian Watford’s game-winning three against Kentucky, a shot that gave the Hoosiers a once-unthinkable victory over the most talented team in the country. The good news is that these two illustrious programs are set to square off again in the Sweet 16.
Thanks to Will Sheehey’s go-ahead baseline jumper with 12.7 seconds remaining in the Hoosiers round-of-32 game against 12th-seeded VCU, Tom Crean’s squad will have a chance to prove that the Dec. 10 victory over the Wildcats in Bloomington was more than a fluke.
Guest post by Chris Johnson from bigtenorbust.com.
Since that Watford Buzzer-beater, Kentucky has won all but one game, falling to Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship game. The Wildcats have used their slip-up in Bloomington as motivation all season, so expect Anthony Davis and co. to treat this one like a payback game.
Indiana, meanwhile, used that early season win to fuel their most successful Big Ten run in years, a campaign in which the Hoosiers compiled 11 conference wins—the most since 2007. Even if this team isn’t a championship contender, one thing is clear: the Kelvin Sampson scandal and the sanctions that followed are now in the rearview mirror.
The Hoosiers are “back”, but a second win over Kentucky—generally regarded as one of the most dominant teams in the one-and-done era—would be the perfect way to legitimize them in the minds of critics who have doubted them all season.
But in order to knock off the one-seeded Wildcats—to dethrone Calipari’s group of future NBA stars—the Hoosiers will need to show the same resilience that was on display against VCU.
The Rams are a good team, and they proved that by knocking off fifth-seeded VCU in the round-of-64. But Kentucky will be a much tougher challenge. In fact, many pundits believe it will be an insurmountable challenge.
Lest we not forget, the Hoosiers were able to upset Kentucky earlier this season at Assembly Hall. When these two high-major powers match up on Friday, the game will be played at the Georgia Dome in front of a vindictive UK-heavy crowd.
Even more discouraging for Indiana is Kentucky’s marked improvement over the last three months. These Wildcats are nothing like the squad that walked into Bloomington three months ago. They’re much better.
Davis—once a good athlete who could do little more than block shots and dunk—is now the most dominant defensive player in the nation and his polished offensive skill set includes a wide array of post moves and the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers.
Point guard Marquis Teague was the Kentucky’s “weak-link” earlier this season, but the freshman was the Wildcats’ best player in their, 87-71, beatdown of Iowa State on Saturday. Teague went 10-for-14 from the field, finishing with 24 points and seven assists.
Indiana has improved, but not enough to hang with this SEC Power, the team that most think will get Calipari his first championship.
Can the Hoosiers knock off the nation’s best team away from home?
Doubtful. But if it’s a close game and Watford is on the floor, anything is possible.
Chris Johnson is a sports writer for The Daily Northwestern. He is also the Michigan beat writer for bigtenorbust.com and a writer for WildcatReport.com (Northwestern Rivals). Follow him @chrisdjohnsonn. contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow paulmbanks