Indiana Basketball: What Hoosiers Must do to Beat Syracuse Thursday

By Eric Smith


Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Hoosiers and Syracuse Orange meet Thursday night in the East Regional Sweet 16. The winner will move to Saturday’s Elite Eight with a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta on the line. The Hoosiers will be favored in the game Thursday and must do these things correctly to advance past the Orange.

First off, Syracuse is one of the best teams on the defensive end of the floor. They play nothing but a 2-3 zone and like to use their height to alter shots in that zone.

The Hoosiers can sit back and breathe a bit on Thursday night as they won’t see the type of pressure Temple put on them Sunday afternoon. That’s not who Syracuse is. They will literally sit back in that zone all night and never get out of it.

Anyone that’s a shooter and played against a 2-3 salivates at the mouth for these types of games. Open looks will be there if the zone all night if the offense is run correctly. If IU tries to stall and not do much then they likely will go home early.

Syracuse ranks second in field goal percentage defense as teams only shoot 36.3 percent against them. Against the three Syracuse only gives up 29.1 percent.

As much as that may scare people look no further than how well Indiana shoots the ball. The Big East doesn’t have many teams that shoot as well as Indiana. In fact, no one really does.

The Hoosiers rank third nationally from three point land as they hit 41.1-percent from behind the arc. They average a little over seven made threes a game. If they can get to that average they will win.

The biggest keys to beating the zone and getting to that average is ball movement and a big man flashing to the middle. Indiana does both very well.

The Hoosiers offense is nothing but fast paced ball penetration and movement. Mix in flashing Cody Zeller who’s a very underrated passer to the high post and they will be tough to stop.

Jordan Hulls will be able to score in bunches if Zeller flashes as he’s a deadly 46.4-percent shooter from behind the arc. He has endless range and a quick trigger. He ranks 16th nationally from long distance and will be tough to stop for the Orange. Their height shouldn’t bother him.

Also, Victor Oladipo will be the opposite of Hulls and he can hit threes with ease if given space. If  Yogi Ferrell can penetrate and kick and Indiana can move the ball around quicker than Syracuse can adjust Oladipo will knock down everything. He’s a 43-percent shooter from long range and hits anything when left open ie the last three point basket of the Temple game.

Then there’s the x-factor Christian Watford.

Indiana will likely use Watford as the runner on the baseline and run off screens to chase whatever side the ball is on.  He’s a very good and reliable three-point shooter as he ranks seventh nationally with making 49.1-percent of his three point shots. His height also will be a problem for Syracuse as he’s their height level and doesn’t allow bigger players to alter his shot.

Having three guys who rank near the top 100 nationally in three point percentage is something Syracuse hasn’t faced all year. They’ve struggled at the end of the year with teams speeding the tempo up on them and that’s exactly the style Indiana plays.

Another thing the Hoosiers can do to win is create turnovers on the defensive end.

Syracuse will turn the ball over and they don’t shoot very well either. They rank 128th nationally in field goal percentage and shoot a dismal 33 percent from three point land. They also are terrible from the charity stripe at making just 67.5 percent in the regular season and could struggle with Indiana’s pressure.

All of those factors spell trouble as fast break points would be detrimental to the Orange. They don’t have the personnel to get back and defend fast breaks and foul trouble could haunt them.

If Indiana does these things like they should and follow their scouting report they will advance to the Sweet 16. But, if they get too complacent and lazy look for them to go home. This is all about effort and making shots.

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