WASHINGTON – Indiana will try to reach a regional final in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
The No. 1 seed Hoosiers (29-6) take on No. 4 seed Syracuse (27-9) at 9:45 tonight in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in the Verizon Center. The winner will advance to the East Regional final on Saturday and player the winner of tonight's game between No. 2 Miami and No. 3 Marquette.
And with as much hype that the Orange's 2-3 zone defense has gotten leading into this game, the Hoosiers can take solace in the fact that it is not impenetrable.
The latest example of Syracuse's vulnerability came in the finals of the Big East tournament when Louisville overcame a 35-22 deficit to defeat the Orange 78-61.
The Cardinals scored 56 points in the second half against the Orange on 53.3 percent shooting. Louisville was held to 25.9 percent shooting in the first half of the Big East title game.
"Louisville did in the first half exactly what Syracuse wants, which is to stand and take bad shots," IU forward Cody Zeller said Wednesday. "In the second half, they attacked the zone more."
Even though, the Hoosiers saw how a team can score against Syracuse's defense, Zeller also pointed out that familiarity probably helped Louisville.
"Louisville plays them a few times each year," Zeller said. "They are kind of used to the zone. They've kind of seen it before. I think it will be different for us, hopefully we can attack it."
Also as much as tonight's game is about the Hoosiers overcoming a zone they don't see very often, the Orange still has to score on Indiana.
IU has held teams to 62.1 points per game and 38.9 percent shooting. Syracuse averages 71.5 points and shoots 44.1 percent from the field.
"We had on up and down year (on offense), nobody has a perfect season," Orange forward C.J. Fair said. "We had our down point in the season, but I feel like we are playing our best basketball now."
Prediction: Indiana 66, Syracuse 63