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Sweet 16 Preview
Indiana didn't look all that convincing in their win over Temple, but they are still getting plenty of love from the outside world. The Hoosiers come into this game as -5.5 point favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook over a team that is playing at the top of their game in Syracuse. The Orange only beat California by six points, but they never really looked in trouble during that game, having a 10-point lead with 30 seconds to go. In their first game, their defense dismantled Montana en route to a record-breaking 47-point win.
The Hoosiers are solid favorites in this one, but this is going to be a huge task for them. Syracuse made a mini run in the Big East tourney before finally tiring out and losing to Louisville in the final. They have continued their play and look ready to upset the No. 1 team in the country. The Orange defense has caused problems for the two teams they've faced so far. California shot 4-for-21 from long-range while Montana was 4-for-31. In a half court set, not many can succeed against this defense. Louisville won the Big East title game due to their defense and transition points, not in the half court.
That leads to Victor Oladipo being the one to watch in this game as he averages over two steals per game for the Hoosiers. The way to beat Syracuse is by confusing their guards in Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche and forcing them into tough situations. Surprisingly, Oladipo hasn't really shown that side of his game yet as he only has one steal in two games and Khalif Wyatt made work of him in their matchup. If Indiana can't force turnovers and lets Carter-Williams operate, the Hoosiers could be in trouble.
The matchups will be interesting to watch in this game. Cody Zeller should be able to have his way with either Rakeem Christmas or C.J. Fair, but the problem lies in James Southlerland who is basically Syracuse's small forward at 6-8. With Oladipo at the three-spot for Indiana, he's going to have a size disadvantage, but also his quickness should help offensively. Off the bench, Will Sheehey can be a big help as well due to his size and will probably guard Southerland when he's on the court. Plus, he's scored 25 points in the last two games so that helps. Jordan Hulls is also going to be an important part for Indiana as he leads the team with 80 three-pointers made this season. He returned after injuring his shoulder last game, but if he's hurting at all, that should be taken into account.
For Syracuse, they need to play smart basketball. The five turnovers Carter-Williams had against California are going to make a bigger dent in the box score against one of the best and most efficient offenses in the nation. Brandon Triche also needs to take smarter shots and try to drive the lane a little more. After playing all 40 minutes last game, he finished only 1-of-8 from the floor. Of course, Southerland will also be a key offensively for the Cuse as he hits 2.5 threes per game. If he gets matched up with Oladipo, it's going to be very interesting to see if he moves around more instead of just sitting in the corner.
The Hoosiers were the preseason No. 1 team in the country and many are still riding that prediction to see them through in this game. However, their offense will need to kick it up a notch against the lengthy Syracuse to survive. Unless the Orange lose focus and turn the ball over consistently, this will end up being a really close game.
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