DAYTON, OHIO —
Temple was respectful. Temple was almost deferential.
But it was clear during Saturday’s press availability prior to today’s NCAA Tournament third round matchup between Indiana and Temple that the Owls welcomed the challenge of potentially taking down the East Region’s No. 1 seed.
“That’s why you play basketball. You want to play against the best,” Temple guard Khalif Wyatt. “It’s a good challenge for us, a great opportunity for us, and we’ll be ready.”
As always, the challenge starts in the paint for Temple where IU center Cody Zeller holds sway. Zeller had 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting in IU’s 83-62 victory over James Madison on Friday and has averaged 16.7 points this season overall.
“It’s an even bigger challenge because Zeller is a big guy,” said Temple’s Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson on IU’s seven-footer. “He gets a lot of rebounds and everyone on their team crashes the boards well. We have to just battle and try to stay physical with these guys.”
Temple coach Fran Dunphy knows that for the Owls to topple the Hoosiers, he will have to be flexible in his plan of attack. He’s also aware that’s easier said than done.
“There might be possessions where we get our best look at 10 seconds on the shot clock. Or we may have to wait 30 to 35 seconds to get a decent look. There may be possessions where we don’t get a shot at all,” Dunphy said.
“How we run our offense will dictate how we play our defense. If we shoot good shots, then we’ll be in pretty good floor balance,” Dunphy added. “One of the concerns about Indiana is that they push the basketball on makes and misses and they have a great transition game. They find each other very, very well, so we have to be prepared for any style of game.”
• Well-rested Hoosiers – Because IU put James Madison away early on Friday, IU coach Tom Crean was able to rest several of his starters.
Temple, on the other hand, had to play its starters regular minutes after a North Carolina State second half comeback fell short in a 66-62 Owls’ victory.
Despite that, and even with a short turnaround, the Hoosiers downplayed any advantage they might have.
“I don’t think it’s going to matter too much. I think both teams are in great shape. We played a lot of guys yesterday, but this time of year, you get a lot of adrenaline. I don’t feel like I get too tired in games like this just because they’re such big games,” Zeller said.
• Upset avoidance — IU hasn’t been in the position of being the hunted instead of the hunter in several seasons. Given that, the Hoosiers haven’t had to worry about the fate that befell New Mexico and Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday and Friday.
The Lobos and Hoyas were on the wrong end of memorable upsets. The No. 3-seeded Lobos fell to No. 14-seeded Harvard on Thursday. No. 2-seeded Georgetown fell to high-flying No. 15-seeded Florida Gulf Coast on Friday.
Though a Temple upset today wouldn’t have the same shock value as the aforementioned second round upsets did, IU forward Victor Oladipo admitted he wants no part of being another team’s One Shining Moment.
“We want to go in this tournament and be successful. That’s the beauty of this tournament is there’s so many good teams. If you’re in this tournament and playing at this time, you’ve got to be good, which is why you’ve got to be ready to play,” Oladipo said.
IU has been on the wrong end of two famous upsets in the Bob Knight era – a 1986 loss to Cleveland State and a 1988 defeat at the hands of Richmond.
• Evans loomed large in previous NCAA meeting – IU and Temple have met nine times overall, the Owls have a narrow 5-4 edge, but the Hoosiers won their only previous NCAA matchup – a 67-58 victory in 1994 in Landover, Md. that helped IU advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Terre Haute native Brian Evans was the Hoosiers’ standout in the contest. Evans had 18 points – on 4-of-6 3-point shooting – to lead IU. Todd Leary chipped in 15. The Hoosiers won despite a 24-point effort from Eddie Jones and an 18-point output from Aaron McKie. Evans, Jones and McKie later played in the NBA.