Bloomington, Ind. – Indiana didn't think it was deserving of a No. 8 seed when the NCAA Tournament field was announced Sunday, and Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey appears to agree.
While Indiana's late-season struggles likely caused its stock to drop significantly in the eyes of the tournament selection committee, the first-year Razorbacks coach still foresees a very difficult match-up for his 22-11 squad.
"I think they are better than an eight seed, but nobody asked me," Pelphrey said Tuesday.
Despite IU's 1-3 finish, most had predicted a No. 5 or No. 6 seed due to its 25-7 record, an 8-5 road/neutral court record, and impressive wins over the likes of Purdue and Michigan State.
But when the NCAA bracket was announced it was clear the committee didn't concur. Not only does Indiana go up against an Arkansas team that was the runner-up in the SEC post-season tournament, but the reward for a win is an encounter with the No. 1 team in the entire NCAA field, North Carolina.
But Arkansas doesn't share the committee's opinion about IU. What he sees is an opponent that boasts the Big Ten Player of the Year in D.J. White and one of the premiere guards in the country in Eric Gordon. That's a tandem that ranked 1-2 in the Big Ten in scoring and spearheaded the Hoosiers to their most regular season wins since 1993.
While White has continued to play at an All-America level, things haven't come as easily to Gordon as of late. In the last six games Gordon is just 5-of-40 from behind the 3-point arc (12.5 percent), dropping his percentage on the year to a season's-worst 34.7 percent.
But Pelphrey still sees a player that will command plenty of attention when he comes up with his defensive gameplan.
"Eric Gordon is a phenomenal scorer and he gets to the free-throw line an amazing number of times," Pelphrey said. "He just comes at you."
Despite Gordon's shooting woes, he has still averaged 19.9 points in the last six games. That's due in large part to the fact he's averaged more than 11 free throws per game during the stretch, making 53-of-67 overall.
Gordon led the Big Ten in both free throws made (229) and attempted (271), and he is only 20 made free throws behind former IU great Don Schlundt's all-time single-season school record of 249 made free throws.
"Our leading scorer (Sonny Weems) has taken 70 (free throws) on the year," Pelphrey said. "You can add (second-leading scorer) Patrick (Beverley) and Sonny together and they are still behind."
Gordon's ability to get to the free throw line and the fear of him breaking out of his shooting slump makes him someone Pelphrey fears as they prepare for Friday night's match-up in Raleigh, N.C.
"He's explosive off the bounce and can beat two or three guys," Pelphrey said. "There will not be only one guy guarding him. That's not possible. It will have to be two or three guys."
Pelphrey Doesn't Concur With Committee on IU
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