Last March, when Indiana made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Tom Crean, the Hoosiers had a roomful of media watching along with them to see where they’d be going.
With a No. 1 seed locked up heading into this year’s tournament draw, the Hoosiers watched the show in private.
“It was a lot more fun because none of you guys were there,” Cody Zeller said to the media afterwards. “It was fun seeing where we’ll go, where we’ll play. We can get back to work now.”
“Back to work” seems to be the Hoosiers’ mantra as they enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed in the East Regional.
Indiana (27-6) had locked up one of the top seeds in the tournament entering Saturday’s games, according to tournament selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski.
But after Louisville won the Big East Tournament while the Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, the Cardinals earned the overall top seed for the NCAA Tournament and placed into the Midwest Regional.
That means, barring an opening weekend upset, Louisville will play in Indianapolis on the tournament’s second weekend while the Hoosiers go to Washington, D.C.
“That’s just the road we got,” Christian Watford said. “We didn’t expect it to be easy.
“Coming out of the Big Ten, nothing’s been given to us, nothing’s come easy. We kind of expect the tough road. We embrace it and we’ll take our road mentality and we’ll be ready.”
The Hoosiers fared well on the road, winning seven of nine conference road games this season.
But they still expect a supportive crowd when they play the second and third rounds of the tournament in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday and Sunday.
“There’s Indiana fans everywhere,” Zeller said. “There will be a lot of fans in Dayton; we don’t worry past that too much.”
A trip to D.C. would be a de facto homecoming for Victor Oladipo, a native of Upper Marlboro, Md. But Oladipo said he wasn’t even aware before the draw where the Hoosiers might play.
“I’m not really aware of all that kind of stuff. I’m just looking forward to playing, man, getting this thing started,” Oladipo said. “Glad that our season isn’t over yet. We could have a lot of basketball left, it’s just going to be up to us whether or not we do.”
Watford agreed that the Hoosiers were ready to get back to work, especially after losing to Wisconsin for the 12th straight time.
“Guys are very excited to get back on the court and get that taste out of our mouth. We’ll be ready when it’s time to go,” Watford said.
The Hoosiers will face the winner of one of the four first-round games. James Madison and LIU Brooklyn will play Wednesday night in Dayton to see who faces IU on Friday.
“I haven’t dove into the tape yet, but they seem to be two contrasting styles,” Crean said of the two teams. “I do know enough about both of them that [LIU] coach [Jack] Perri and [JMU] coach [Matt] Brady are both excellent, excellent coaches. They’re fundamental, they won in their leagues, they won consecutive games, they’ve gone on big runs.”
LIU Brooklyn averages 79.5 ppg, fifth in the nation. James Madison is an experienced team with six seniors on the roster.
“The balance of both teams just goes to show they’ve got a lot of different guys at different positions that can make plays,” Crean added.
While the Hoosiers aren’t sure yet who they’ll be facing, Crean noted that film study for the players would happen soon.
“They’ll have an idea of what those players look like before that game is played Wednesday night,” he said.