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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

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IU set to begin run toward NCAA title

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Save for the freshmen, IU’s tournament opener Friday against James Madison is devoid of the novelty last season’s return to the Big Dance had.

The players have been here before, and this time, they will not be content simply with the experience.

“It was the first time for all of us, and we didn’t know what it felt like to get here,” junior forward Will Sheehey said. “Now that we have, we want to build on that and make sure we make a deeper run and do the things that we didn’t do last year very well.”

IU begins its NCAA Tournament slate at roughly 4:10 p.m. EDT in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dukes, a defensive-minded Colonial Athletic Association champion led by stocky senior power forward Rayshawn Goins and athletic freshman guard Andre Nation.

Veteran-laden JMU earned a shot at IU after slowing down LIU Brooklyn on Wednesday in Dayton, freeing the Hoosiers from the limbo of not knowing their opponent after Selection Sunday.

Similar to what he did as IU waited for its first Big Ten tournament opponent, IU Coach Tom Crean had his squad focus on similarities between the teams, as well as IU’s own strategies and execution, as it waited to see which of two vastly contrasting styles of basketball it would face.

“They’re athletic, they’re skilled, they’re certainly experienced when you look at all the fifth-year guys that they have,” Crean said. “They do a great job of blending their experience with their young freshmen, and it’s been really interesting to watch the cohesiveness develop in that team as we’ve watched the films... We have great respect for James Madison.”

Though Goins’ first-half suspension against LIU drew the headlines going in, the Dukes’ win against the Blackbirds ultimately proved to be a showcase of sorts for Nation.

The freshman finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, drawing comparisons to none other than IU junior guard Victor Oladipo, who is likely to guard Nation on Friday.

“He does a lot of things well, whether it be on-ball defending or blocking shots or things like that,” Oladipo said. “We’re going to have to match his intensity.”

Friday’s game marks the first time this calendar year that IU plays a team outside the Big Ten.

Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo commented last week that he would rather face the Los Angeles Lakers than another Big Ten team, and IU players and coaches admitted the change will be refreshing.

“Big Ten (play) prepared us well for whoever we could see, whether it’s up-pace teams, 3-point

shooting teams, slow it down teams,” sophomore forward Cody Zeller said. “I think we’ve really seen every style we might see in the tournament, and it’s prepared us well just because every team in the Big Ten is so good and so competitive that I think we’ll be ready for anything.”

IU has faced JMU only once before — an 84-52 win in 1987 — but the Hoosiers nonetheless share a few connections with their foes.

JMU sophomore guard Arman Marks was a high school teammate at Eastern High School in Louisville, Ky., with IU sophomore guard Remy Abell.

The Dukes also boast Mike Deane as a first-year assistant on their coaching staff.
Deane was Crean’s predecessor as head coach at Marquette from 1994-99.

“Matt Brady is an excellent coach, and he’s got Mike Deane on his staff, who’s one of the best coaches in this game,” Crean said. “I know what kind of character he has, and I know what kind of players and people he recruited and how he coached them because I got to inherit those guys.”

IU was favored to emerge from the first weekend last year as well, but a No. 1 seed is a different animal that brings with it added pressure.

The goal is the Final Four and a championship, Oladipo said, and anything short of that would be seen as a failure.

“We’ve been through a lot, and we expect nothing but the best,” Oladipo said. “We’re going to go into this tournament and try and win it. Any loss before then would be a disappointment because our main goal is to win the tournament, take it one game at a time, and just play together and have fun … and play Indiana basketball.”

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