We've waited all season for this, and we got exactly what we wanted. We get to open close to home in Chicago in a highly favorable opening matchup and a favorable second round. For once we don't have to be sent to Portland, Spokane, or the third moon of Neptune to open play. We get to play just two and a half hours from campus in the second and third rounds. We then get a possible matchup against Scott Martin after
traitorous unfortunate departure three years ago.
My colleague, Matt Grecco at SBNation: Indiana is confident that we can "put Purdue into the Sweet 16 in pen". We know that it will be a little harder than that after seeing how hard it has been to reach the last two years. We should have a relatively easy opener against St. Peter's, but Georgetown, USC, and VCU as potential third round opponents each bring different styles.
Of course, the goal has always been to get to Houston and win the whole thing. For our profile, I think we got one of the best draws we could possibly get. Let's look at it round by round:
Round 2 vs. St. Peter's Peacocks
Here is what I had to say about St. Peter's last week:
St. Peter's (20-13, 11-7) Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions
The Peacocks will be making their first NCAA appearance in 16 years after winning the MAAC. They are projected in the 14-15 range, so it is a strong possibility we will see them. We even have a common opponent as they beat Alabama 50-49 in the last game of the Paradise Jam. They got to the tournament by upsetting top-seeded Fairfield in their conference tournament, then beating Iona (who has a win over Richmond).
St. Peter's is one of the lowest scoring teams in Division I at just 61 points per game. They do have four scorers in double figures led by Wesley Jenkins at 12.8 points per game. Size would be a major detriment though. Only Ryan Bacon at 6'7" could come anywhere close to stopping JJ.
This will be our first meeting with the Peacocks, and I don't think there is any reason to worry about being a first round upset victim unless we are completely off. They rank 316th in scoring in Division I and now they have to play against a team that prides itself on defense. They got into the tournament by beating three teams they went 1-5 against in conference play. As mentioned above, they have no one even close to big enough to stop JJ. Alabama is the only thing they have close to a good win. Old Dominion is the only NCAA Tournament team they played, and that was a 59-52 loss in the second game of the season.
We're 1-1 against Georgetown, with no meetings since 1976. We're 3-4 against USC with the last meeting coming in 1988. We have never played VCU. Obviously, we would have a rest advantage against USC or VCU. They likely will have played two tough games to get to the third round. We will have played only one game, and that against an easy opponent.
Georgetown went 21-10 against the nation's toughest schedule and had its best stretch from January 15 to February 13 when it beat St. John's, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse, and Marquette. Outside of their conference they earned wins over Wofford, Old Dominion, Missouri, and Utah State. This is a very tested team that will not be intimidated by us. They also ranked 12th in field goal percentage nationally. This team scares me because they score well (71 ppg) and they can challenge our defense. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark are experienced guards that can hurt us. Julian Vaughn is their only decent rebounder, so JaJuan Johnson should have another favorable matchup. Henry Sims can also logs some decent minutes in the post. Wright is currently injured, however, and it is unknown how effective he will be in the tournament. To speak frankly, it is about time someone else had to deal with injury issues.
Of the three teams we could face in the round of 32, I think Georgetown is the one with the best shot to beat us. USC had a 20 point loss to mighty Rider, while VCU lost to Georgia State.
Akron is the least likely team to meet here, so let's ignore them. We are very familiar with Texas A&M from last year, while Florida State can either be very good (they beat Duke) or very bad (they lost to Auburn). Likely we will get just our second meeting with Notre Dame since 1966. Aside from that, there is the obvious Scott Martin backstory.
This will not be the easy win that some people think. Notre Dame has earned this #2 seed. All six losses were to NCAA Tournament teams, with three of them against top four seeds. They beat Wisconsin, Indiana State, and Gonzaga as NCAA teams out of conference. They score more than Georgetown and are led by Ben Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year. Six players average better than 9.7 points per game, but they don't have a player with size like JJ.
Obviously, this would be the game most up in the air, as upsets happen all the time. Kansas was shocked in round two last year. Could UNLV or Illinois do the same again? Maybe. We're more than aware that Richmond is a dangerous 12 seed for Vanderbilt. Morehead State has the nation's leading rebounder and owns a win over Indiana State, as well as a six point loss to Florida. I think Morehead State and Richmond could be two of the better double digits seeds and possible first round upset types.
If we do make it to Houston, I think we would have a very favorable matchup to make it to the championship game. Pitt, Florida, and BYU do not frighten me. Belmont, Utah State, and Wofford could all win first round games too. Don't forget Butler. They aren't as good as last year, but they have more tournament experience than just about any team in the country.
I still expect to make Houston, but we will not make it unless we go back to how we were playing in February. Our effort of the last two games might be enough to beat St. Peter's, but it would not be enough to get past the next round. Despite all of our regular season accomplishments we still have not made it past the Sweet 16 in 11 years. All we can do is beat who is placed in front of us. Right now, that is St. Peter's. That means it is time to grab some Yuengling and tune in. The time we have been waiting for is finally here.