North Carolina (30-6) vs. Indiana (27-7)
Philadelphia – Wells Fargo Center
Friday, approx. 9:57 p.m.
TBS (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith, Dana Jacobson)
“What he's done this year is he's totally taken his leadership to another place. And I think that's what's made him even that much more of an incredible player, because he not only leads his teammates but he shares -- he talks to them constantly. And Yogi is a very, very smart player -- a smart person, but he's a very, very smart player.” – Indiana head coach Tom Crean on Yogi Ferrell
“I knew who I was and what I had to do and what I could be when I got here. It was just a matter of me just learning the process, sticking with my teammates. Even when I'm wrong, my teammates are always helping me out through it. And I just push myself to get better each and every day.” – Indiana freshman forward Thomas Bryant on his improvement
Season to Date: Indiana enters Friday’s matchup with a 27-7 record. The Hoosiers’ road to the Sweet 16 started on shaky ground as they dropped early-season contests to Wake Forest and UNLV before getting blown out by 20 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. After that 5-3 start, Tom Crean’s squad reeled off 12 straight wins and 20 of 23 in winning the Big Ten regular season championship. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Michigan’s Kam Chatman knocked Indiana out of the conference tournament.
How The Hoosiers Got Here: Indiana opened the NCAA Tournament against the 12th-seeded Chattanooga Mocs. The Hoosiers led by seven points at halftime and then used a 19-10 second-half run to secure a 99-74 victory and advance to the round of 32. It was there that Indiana reignited a rivalry with the fourth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, who many experts had as a sleeper pick to win the East Region. Freshman Thomas Bryant scored a game-high 19 points for the Hoosiers, including 15 points in the final eight minutes, to claim a 73-67 victory and set up a Sweet 16 showdown with the Tar Heels.
Yogi on Point: Yogi Ferrell leads the Hoosiers with 17.1 points and 5.6 assists per game. The senior point guard averaged 19 points and seven assists in the opening weekend of the tournament, including a 20-point, 10-assist outing against Chattanooga, marking only the second time in Indiana history that a player has accomplished that feat. What makes Ferrell dangerous, especially for North Carolina, is that he is skilled in quarterbacking the fast break and can knock down 3-pointers, shooting 41.9 percent from beyond the arc and leading the team in made treys. This diverse skillset has delivered a slew of individual honors this season, including Second-Team All-American selections from USA Today, ESPN, NBC Sports and The Sporting News, First-Team All-Big Ten team honors, and consideration for the Wooden and Naismith Awards (National Player of the Year) and Cousy Award (Best Point Guard).
Deadly Offense: The improved UNC defense will get its biggest test of the year against the Hoosiers, who are second in the nation in field goal percentage (50.5 percent), fifth in 3-point shooting (41.6 percent) and 10th in scoring offense (82.5 points per game). This scoring comes efficiently, too, according to KenPom.com. The Hoosiers are ranked eighth in the nation, scoring 118.9 points per 100 possessions. They are the best shooting team still alive in March Madness, especially from the perimeter. Seven Hoosiers are shooting 41.9 percent or higher from 3-point range, including four players with a minimum of 55 attempts.
Bielfeldt Off the Bench: Indiana doesn’t have a ton of depth in the post behind Bryant, which makes the play of fifth-year senior Max Bielfeldt off the bench a critical piece of the rotation. Bielfeldt earned Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year honors this season, averaging 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. His 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame will give him some size to match up against UNC’s bigs, and should Bryant find his way into foul trouble, the veteran post player can step in without a dramatic dropoff.
Even On Boards: While the Tar Heels like to impose their will on opponents on the boards, Indiana will be more than up to the challenge Friday night. The Hoosiers average 36.9 rebounds per game with a plus-6.9 rebound margin. What’s intriguing about how the Hoosiers corral missed shots is that every player contributes. Indiana has seven players averaging at least three rebounds per game. No Hoosier averages more than 5.9 boards per contest (Troy Williams). Everyone on UNC’s roster, from the forwards to the guards, will have to box out because of how the Hoosiers crash the boards.
Last Meeting: The Hoosiers routed the Tar Heels, 83-59, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Bloomington, Ind. on Nov. 27, 2012. Indiana blew open a tied game with a 28-6 run overlapping the halves. UNC shot 37.7 percent, including a 27.8 percent effort after halftime. Dexter Strickland led UNC with 14 points, while Marcus Paige (11) and Brice Johnson (10) both scored in double figures.
Series History: Indiana leads the all-time series, 8-5.
5 Troy Williams (6-7, 215, Jr.) – 13.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg
11 Yogi Ferrell (6-0, 180, Sr.) - 17.1 ppg, 5.6 apg
30 Colin Hartman (6-7, 215, Jr.) - 4.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg
31 Thomas Bryant (6-10, 245, Fr.) – 11.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg
2 Nick Zeisloft (6-4, 210, Sr.) - 6.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg
3 Og Anunoby (6-8, 215, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg
4 Robert Johnson (6-3, 195, So.) - 8.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
0 Max Bielfeldt (6-8, 240, Sr.) – 8.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg