Indiana Hoosier guard Victor Oladipo and forward Cody Zeller celebrate during the second half of their third round NCAA tournament basketball game against the Temple Owls in Dayton

Previewing the East Regional: Does Indiana survive the chalk?


Favorite: Indiana

The Hoosiers have their issues. They haven’t played all that well in this tournament to date. They lack some toughness in their front court. Their back court doesn’t have the size to deal with bigger guards like Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. But at the end of the day, Indiana was still the best team in the country for the majority of the regulars season. They are still the outright champs of the Big Ten conference. There is a reason for that, and it’s more than the simple fact that they have a pair of all-americans on the roster.

But they could also win: Miami

Personally, I think that the loss of Reggie Johnson is being a bit overblown. Yes, he’s big. And yes, he helps rebound and takes some of the pressure off of Julian Gamble. But Johnson hasn’t played well in more than a month. He’s not the same player he was early in the season, and the 1.9 points, 5.5 boards and the 20% he’s shooting from the floor prove that. Yes, this hurts Miami’s depth, and it certainly puts more pressure on Gamble to stay out of foul trouble. But the Hurricanes are still a very good basketball team, and they still have a healthy Shane Larkin.

(Click here to browse through all of our Sweet 16 previews)

Most Important Player: Victor Oladipo, Indiana

Syracuse, Miami, and Marquette all have one thing in common: their most important player is a guard. Michael Carter-Williams is the engine that makes Syracuse run, Shane Larkin is one of the best point guards in the country, and Vander Blue has arguably been the best player in the tournament to date. Part of the reason that I like Indiana to come out of the East is that I think Oladipo shuts down all three of those guys, and that very much changes the dynamic for all threes teams.

Story line to watch: There are a number of them. Jim Boeheim is looking to make his first Final Four since 2003 while proving to the nation that he’s not actually leaving after this season. Indiana won’t officially be back until they get to a Final Four, which should happen this year. Miami’s turnaround this season has been one of the year’s most fascinating stories, as Jim Larranaga has turned a bunch of Frank Haith’s recruits into a national title contender. And who wouldn’t want to see dancing Buzz Williams cutting down the nets?


Rank ’em:

1. Indiana
2. Miami
3. Syracuse
4. Marquette

And the winner is?: Indiana

For all the reasons listed above, I just think that Indiana’s going to be able to get it done. They have the best post scorer in the region in Cody Zeller and the best perimeter defender in DC this weekend in Oladipo. They surround Zeller was four guys that can bury the three. Yogi Ferrell is playing great basketball at the point guard spot, and Will Sheehey is one of the best sixth men in the country.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”