WHAT TO WATCH FOR Can Indiana take advantage of a more up-tempo opponent to get some more fastbreak opportunities? ? After spending the last 2 ? months playing the Big Ten?s grind-it-out style of basketball, IU figures to have many more opportunities to attack Gonzaga in transition. That?s a style that could mean a big game for IU point guard Earl Calloway. The senior point guard had a couple of huge games in Salt Lake City a year ago when he went up against Gonzaga and San Diego State, both of whom played a more wide-open game than what IU was used to in the Big Ten. Calloway responded with a near triple double against Gonzaga and an 18-point, 8-of-9 shooting performance against San Diego State. In addition to Calloway?s ability to attack the rim in transition, A.J. Ratliff and Rod Wilmont could have plenty of opportunities for some trailing 3-pointers as well. Ratliff in particular has been effective in spotting up as the opponents? defense regroups and knocking down 3-pointers.
Who wins the battle of the benches? With the loss of Josh Heytfelt and Theo Davis, Gonzaga?s rotation has been cut to eight players. Despite the the short bench, though, Coach Mark Few has a trio of reliable options to turn to. Micah Downs is a 6-8 shooting guard who transferred from Kansas and became eligible in January. He?s averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds/game in only 17.6 minutes/game and is shooting 42.9 percent (24-of-56) from 3-point range. He?s primarily a 3-point threat, as more than half of his field goal attempts have been from deep (56-of-110). While 6?6? David Pendergraft isn?t as big as Downs and is listed as a guard, he?s actually one of the team?s best scorers on the block. He?s a physical, hard-nosed player who averaged 7.2 points and 4.4 rebounds/game in nearly 22 minutes/contest, and he?s a junior who had seven points in 17 minutes in the IU-Gonzaga game a year ago. Finally, Mark Few also has junior guard Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes at his disposal as well. Cespedes started 31 of 33 games a year ago, but has seen his playing time dip significantly this year. But his experience could result in a more prominent role now that NCAA play has started.
How does Gonzaga try to contain D.J. White and how does he respond - Mark Few?s best option against D.J. White is probably JUCO big man Abdullahi Kuso, a 6-9, 228-pounder who had a team-best 40 blocks. But Kuso has been terribly foul-prone, particularly as of late. Kuso fouled out of both of Gonzaga?s West Coast Conference Tournament games, playing a combined 32 minutes in wins over San Diego and Santa Clara. He also fouled out of a game against Memphis in mid-February, and he?s had either four or five fouls in five of Gonzaga?s last six games. With that in mind, it?s hard to imagine Kuso will be able to stay on the floor if he?s matched up with White one-on-one. Instead, Few figures to do what just about every other team on IU?s schedule has done this year and that?s double him with a second big man, in this case Sean Mallon. Odds are Gonzaga will prefer to do that as opposed to dropping down a guard who would then leave one of IU?s perimeter shooters open from behind the 3-point arc. Indiana knocked down 16 3-pointers in the two team?s match-up a year ago, so Few figures to do what he can to keep Kelvin Sampson?s squad from getting as many clean looks as possible.
Will there be an unsung hero - There was a lot of attention on the likes of J.P. Batista, Adam Morrison and Marco Killingsworth a year ago, but one of the players that had a huge impact on the game was Gonzaga forward Sean Mallon, who tied a career-high with 15 points and also had a career-best 10 rebounds. Is there someone who will emerge and have a similar sort of career night in Sacramento? IU should keep a close eye on Micah Downs, who has been hoisting shots at a rapid rate in recent weeks. After attempting no more than six shots in his first 11 games (he became eligible in January), Downs has attempted an average of 13.4 shots in his last five games. As a result, his scoring is way up also ? Downs is averaging 16.6 points and 7.0 rebounds during that stretch and had double-doubles in each of Gonzaga?s West Coast Conference Tournament games. For Indiana, this could be a game where a player such as Armon Bassett becomes better known in national circles. His ability to create off the dribble and shoot from deep makes him one of the team?s most explosive offensive players, and he?ll have a chance to show that Thursday night.
Gonzaga is tied for the sixth-longest active NCAA Tournament streak with nine straight appearances. Arizona leads the way with 23, followed by Kansas (18), Kentucky (16), Duke (12) and Michigan State (10). Wisconsin, Texas and Florida have also made nine straight appearances?Kelvin Sampson?s last six losses in the NCAA Tournament have all come to lower seeds ? to sixth-seeded Purdue in the second round in 2000 (Oklahoma was a No. 3 seed), to 13th-seeded Indiana State in round one in 2001 (Oklahoma was a fourth seed), to fifth-seeded Indiana in the 2002 Final Four (Oklahoma was a No. 2 seed), to third-seeded Syracuse in the 2003 regional final, to sixth-seeded Utah in the second round in 2005 (Oklahoma was a No. 3 seed) and to 13th-seeded UW-Milwaukee in round one a year ago (Oklahoma was a No. 4 seed)?Indiana has won its last three first-round games, defeating Utah in 2002, Alabama in 2003 and San Diego State in 2006. That?s the longest run of first round success since IU won first round games from 1991-94?Gonzaga either allows teams to shoot the 3-pointer or has played against a lot of teams that rely on the 3-pointer. The Zags? opponents have shot 780 3-pointers this year, making 264 of those attempts (33.8 percent). By way of comparison, Penn State gave up the most 3-point attempts in the Big Ten this season with 693.
Roderick Wilmont scored 22 points and hit six of his team's nine three-pointers as the Indiana Hoosiers avenged a loss to Gonzaga last March with a 70-to-57 win in a West Regional matchup.Wilmont shot 8-for-16 and added seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. That ends the Zags' streak of four straight years winning their NCAA opener.
Indiana leading scorer D-J White, who missed last year's loss to Gonzaga because of a broken left foot, scored all but two of his 16 points in the second half.
Indiana moves on to play second-seed UCLA on Saturday.
I watched 1st half. I did wager IU last min basically fading myself. I think many players may have played Zags based on past teams and this years team was not the same talent as the last few years at Gonzaga.