March Madness Pick
This isn’t North Carolina vs. Kentucky, but it can be just as good, or maybe even better. Indiana played like they had been the entire Big Ten season and took down the Wildcats last round, despite 43 points from Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis.
The advantage in that Game was obvious. The Hoosiers actually had some bigs they could turn to down low in the post, while Kentucky had nothing of the sort. And if Kentucky did win that Game, they probably would’ve been exploited even more against North Carolina.
The Tar Heels have come out slow in their first two Games, but eventually opened things up and dominated the second half in both. Everything happened as expected against Providence. The Friars’ two-man team simply wasn’t enough against a UNC squad that had five players reach double digits, including Isaiah Hicks off the bench.
The Heels are decently favored, around the 6-point mark at some places, and that’s mainly because of their first two blowouts. But it’s important not to compare those Games to this one. Indiana has an all-around athletic squad that can keep up on the scoreboard with anyone. The Hoosiers will have a problem in the frontcOurt like most teams against UNC, but that’s not something they haven’t dealt with before. Indiana beat a huge Purdue team about a month ago and didn’t get beat up too bad by the Boilermakers.
Stopping Brice Johnson will be a huge task, but that’s the case for every team. Off the bat, Thomas Bryant will probably be matched up with Kennedy Meeks so that will leave either Collin Hartman or Troy Williams on Johnson. Both give up size on the defensive end, but they both can also shoot the three-ball, which will take Johnson out of his comfort zone on the defensive side. If that doesn’t work out for Indiana, they also have OG Anunoby who is breaking out in the Tournament and Max Bielfeldt off the bench. The Hoosiers have a number of options to throw at Brice Johnson and that should be helpful.
The backcOurt battle will be close, but the edge will go to whichever point guard takes control. Yogi Ferrell has been the better overall player this season, while Marcus Paige has been mostly disappointing in his senior season. Ferrell has been great for the Hoosiers and if he can win that matchup, Indiana will have a good chance at an upset.
The reason UNC has been successful even with Paige struggling is that Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Nate Britt have all been solid on the perimeter. Those guys can often find mismatches in opposing defenses, but Indiana has the size and athleticism to deal with those guys. Troy Williams or Anunoby will be tasked with the lengthy Jackson at times. Anunoby defended Jamal Murray a decent portion last Game and came up with a big block in the final minute. But an important piece that may push Indiana over the top is the play of Robert Johnson. He re-injured a high-ankle sprain last Game and his minutes will be important off the bench, especially if he’s tasked with Britt.
A lot of people still seem to be overlooking Indiana because they weren’t good early in the season, but as Kentucky realized, that’s a mistake. The Heels will have a slight size advantage down low, but the Hoosiers match up well with them which should make for a tighter Game than the spread is predicting.
Our Pick – Indiana +5.5