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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

IU's first tournament opponent remains unsettled

Right now, IU players know they will play at noon Friday in Chicago against a team that beat them the last time out.

That’s about it.

Illinois and Minnesota will clash Thursday with the winner advancing to play top-seeded IU in Friday’s second round, leaving the Hoosiers to try to solve the intricacies of two teams that outplayed them in just more than the past month.

"You never like to lose and you like to `get back' or however you want to look at it,” senior guard Jordan Hulls said. “But we are just taking it the same way that we always have. We got better after those losses to both teams and come back play well afterwards. We have to go into this tournament with that mindset."

IU is the tournament’s top seed for the first time in school history. Not only that, but this season also marks the first bye in the tournament for anyone on the team. Even the team’s seniors such as Hulls and forward Derek Elston have played a grand total of four Big Ten tournament games leading into this season’s edition.

“We’ve never been in this situation before,” Elston said. “Practice has been a little different. We’ve been going over both teams’ plays and players, really examining what moves to get ready for, but we’re still doing hat we do everyday in practice, getting better every day. It’s been a lot of fundamental stuff every day this week. Once we find out who we’ll play, we’ll be ready to go.”

Regardless of which team IU ends up facing, it does have the benefit of prior experience—including game film—against both teams. Additionally, both IU Coach Tom Crean and the players have spotted some similarities in the opponents that ease preparation.

Junior forward Will Sheehey noted in particular both teams’ propensity for offensive rebounds and effective ball screens.

If IU advances through to the championship game per its top seed, it will mark three games in as many days and the most concentrated stretch of the team’s season. The team played games in consecutive days in Novembers at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N. Y.

Former Purdue coach once said college-aged players are young enough that fatigue does not effect them, but Hulls laughed at the thought Wednesday, saying “that’s not true.”

However, sophomore forward Cody Zeller said the team can draw back on its pre-college experience as proof that the quick turnaround is survivable.

"We obviously don't play a stretch like that during the regular season, but we have played AAU games where it was three or four games in one day,” Zeller said. “I don't think it will bother us too much."

Players admitted it took several days to come off the high of clinching an outright Big Ten title Sunday against Michigan and said it still has not entirely sunk in.

The conference crown earned IU the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament for the first time ever, and with it, added postseason expectations.

“To pull out that tough win at Michigan was huge for our program and huge for our team,” junior guard Victor Oladipo said. “At the same time, we want to accomplish so much more and the Big Ten Tournament is the first step."

As he discussed how much was still left to accomplish, Oladipo wondered aloud how long it had been since the Hoosiers won the conference tournament.

Informed that they never have, he smiled.

“Exactly.”

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