It’s North Carolina against Indiana on Friday night (late, since the game won’t start until around 10 p.m.) in an NCAA tournament East regional semifinal.
The Tar Heels and Hoosiers are two of the most storied teams in college basketball history, but their shared postseason history is brief. It’s also memorable.
UNC and Indiana played in the 1981 national championship game, a 63-50 Indiana victory on the same day that President Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt. The Tar Heels and Hoosiers played in the 1984 tournament, too, in what was Michael Jordan’s final college game.
And now 32 years later they’ll meet again. Here’s a primer on the Hoosiers, the No. 5 seed in the East, with all you need to know:
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No. 5 Indiana
Record: 27-7 (15-3 Big Ten).
How they got in: Received an at-large bid.
How they got here: Beat No. 12 Chattanooga, 99-74; beat No. 4 Kentucky, 73-67.
Opponents common to UNC: Wake Forest, Duke, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Maryland.
Record against common opponents: Indiana 3-2; UNC 5-2.
They’re good at: Shooting. Statistically, at least, the Hoosiers will be the best 3-point shooting team UNC has faced this season. Indiana has made 41.6 percent of its 3s, which ranks fifth nationally. Among remaining NCAA tournament teams, only Oklahoma and Kansas have made a higher percentage of their 3s. The Hoosiers are good inside the 3-point line, too, and have made 56.6 percent of their 2-point attempts. That’s also third-best among remaining tournament teams. Overall, Indiana according to kenpom.com has an effective field-goal rate – which more heavily weighs 3-pointers – of 58.9 percent, which ranks second nationally.
They’re not good at: Defense. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Indiana is a fine defensive team. It ranks 54th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and that’s well above the national average. Compared with the remaining 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, though, Indiana is not a great defensive team. Only three Sweet 16 teams – Iowa State, Duke and Notre Dame – surrender points at a higher rate than the Hoosiers. Another weaknesses for Indiana: turnovers. It commits turnovers on 19.6 percent of its possessions, according to kenpom.com, and that’s the highest turnover rate of any team left in the tournament.
Their guy: Yogi Ferrell, Sr., G, 6-0/180 (17.1 ppg; 5.6 apg).
What to know about him: Earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second consecutive season, and was a unanimous selection. Also was voted to the league’s all-defensive team, which is decided by the conference’s coaches. He’s averaging 19 points and seven assists in Indiana’s two NCAA tournament games this season.
Overall threat level: 4 Darvin Hams. (Darvin Ham was the Texas Tech player who broke the backboard on a dunk against UNC when the Red Raiders upset the Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament 20 years ago.)
Rationale: Like UNC, Indiana has elevated its game of late – the loss against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament notwithstanding – and is playing at a higher level than it did throughout parts of the regular season. When the Hoosiers are on from the outside, and they often are, they’re difficult to beat, and they won’t be intimidated by UNC’s potent offense.
Storylines you’ll hear about: “UNC and Indiana: Two of the most storied programs in college basketball history.” … “The Hoosiers provided Michael Jordan with a loss in his final college game.” … “These teams played in the national championship game the same day that Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981.” … “UNC’s Marcus Paige and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell: Two senior guards who stuck around for four years.”
UNC fan should be concerned because: If we haven’t established it here already, the Hoosiers can shoot. Inside the 3-point line. Behind the 3-point line. And doesn’t that always seem to be an Achilles heel for UNC? Perimeter defense?
UNC fan should not be concerned because: While Indiana can shoot effectively, the Hoosiers’ defense leaves something to be desired, and Indiana commits a high rate of turnovers, which should lead to transition scoring chances for the Tar Heels.
Final word: UNC could win comfortably if it plays like it has in recent weeks and if Indiana fails to avoid turnovers. Still, Indiana’s proficiency from outside will always give the Hoosiers a chance.