There’s a reason that the slogan for the NCAA tournament is ‘survive and advance’.
It doesn’t matter how you play. It doesn’t matter how ugly the performance is or how many points you give up to the other team’s star. All that matters is that, when that final buzzer sounds, you have more points that the team that you are playing.
That’s good news for Indiana, as they gave up 31 points to Khalif Wyatt but made enough plays down the stretch to hold on and beat No. 9 seed Temple 57-52, avoiding the indignity of becoming the second No. 1 seed to lose in the first weekend of this year’s NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers will advance. They will be playing No. 4 seed Syracuse in DC next weekend. They still are one of the most talented teams left in the tournament and still can win a national title.
That’s what is important.
But that doesn’t mean that Hoosier fans are going to feel confident about the way that their boys played on Sunday afternoon. There were plenty of concerns coming out of this win.
Let’s start with the obvious: Victor Oladipo got lit up by Khalif Wyatt. Wyatt scored 20 of Temple’s first 24 points. He finished with 31 on the afternoon. During the first half, Tom Crean was forced to switch both Will Sheehey and Remy Abell over to Wyatt for stretches to try and cool down his hot hand. In the second half, he put Oladipo back on Wyatt, but one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders was forced to face-guard the Temple star.
So Wyatt went and stood at half court, completely taking Oladipo out of the defensive possession, until the shot clock wound all the way down. Then he went and got the ball, sizing up Oladipo and trying to beat him 1-on-1. It worked, too, and if one play had gone differently — with the score tied and 1:26 left, Oladipo gambled on a steal and missed, leaving Wyatt with a wide-open path to the basket, but Wyatt pulled up for an awkward, off-balance and rushed three and missed instead of penetrating — the outcome might have played out differently.
Should I mention the fact that all this happened while Temple’s other scorer, Scootie Randall, was 0-12 from the floor?
Honestly, I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. Indiana did a good job defensively overall, and Wyatt is a talented kid and a big-game player; he was going to get his regardless of who was guarding him.
The bigger issue came on the offensive end of the floor. Indiana’s much better when they can get into transition and operate out of a secondary break than when they have to set up and run offense in the half court. We know this. But on Sunday, every set for the last 30 minutes devolved into some kind of 1-on-1, whether it was Oladipo trying to be his man or Indiana standing around, trying to pound the ball into Zeller on the block. Zeller finished with 15 points, but he was 4-10 from the floor with six turnovers. Indiana, as a team, shot just 4-13 from three.
Now, some of that credit needs to be given to the Owls. Fran Dunphy is an excellent game-planner and Temple is a team that is notorious for playing to the level of their competition. There’s a reason they can beat Syracuse in MSG and take Kansas to the final minute in Lawrence while also losing at home to Duquesne. And to be fair, the Hoosiers are good enough on that end that they should be able to figure out their offensive problems.
The Hoosiers aren’t going to win a national title the way they played on Sunday, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
But they made the plays when they had to: Christian Watford’s block on Anthony Lee, Victor Oladipo drilling a three with less than a minute left.
And, at the end of the day, they will still be in the tournament. They are still capable of winning a title.
Survive and advance.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.