16 ways Indiana can beat Kentucky in the Sweet 16

It’s no secret by now that Kentucky will be enormous favorites when both teams meet in the Georgia Dome on Friday night. Pretty much every analyst and prognosticator all over the country will pick against IU, and some might even pick the Hoosiers to get run out of the building. But the Hoosiers proved once that they can beat the unbeatable Wildcats. Sure, some wrote it off as lucky, but they did something to beat Kentucky last time. How exactly can they expect to do it again? Here’s 16 ways Indiana can hope to have a chance against the national title favorites:


Indiana shot an incredible 7-of-9 in the second half from beyond the arc with one especially famous 3-pointer to end the game (I think you’ve heard of it). That’s a clip that the Hoosiers haven’t really matched in a half all season, and it’s almost impossible to expect them to shoot that well. But with how impressive Kentucky’s defense is on the interior, Indiana may have to rely on 3-pointers to get quick offense. It’ll be key to use high screens to get open looks, as Kentucky has struggled with that at times, and the Hoosiers took advantage when they played before.


The Wildcats have had a tendency to let their opponents stick with them for the first half, and then explode on the offensive end in the second when they’re more in rhythm. That’s what happened against Iowa State, and we can expect that to happen again against Indiana. With how physical and imposing its defense is, Kentucky tires teams out a lot, especially inside, and although Indiana’s never really looked winded in games this season, they haven’t played a defense like Kentucky’s since…well…Kentucky.


Turnovers were a problem the last time Indiana played Kentucky, and a whole lot of them were unforced. The Hoosiers will have to be much smarter with the ball to win this time because 18 turnovers just won’t cut it. Jordan Hulls will be the most interesting piece of this equation, as he was guarded by lengthy guard-forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist last time, and that led to five turnovers. If Hulls can limit his turnovers and the rest of the team can focus on not playing too fast to the point of getting erratic, they’ll be much better off.


This is obvious, but also much easier said than done. Davis hasn’t accumulated more than three fouls since their last meeting in December, and he averages around only two fouls per game. Kidd-Gilchrist has struggled more as of late, but he’ll still be a factor when it comes to the rebounding battle. If Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo, or Cody Zeller can get him in trouble early, it’ll be a huge boost. But Davis is the key here, as his presence in the game changes the game’s entire landscape. It’ll be tough to replicate, but the key to forcing fouls isn’t so much to pound it inside with Zeller, but to have Oladipo and Watford go as strong and aggressive to the hole as they have all season. Penetrating that post area will be the only way to catch Davis off-guard and out of position.


The Hoosiers may very well miss Verdell Jones a lot in this game, despite the fact that Jones had five turnovers in their last meeting. That’s because Jones offers another ballhandler on offense that can carry some of the burden when Hulls is being blanketed by Kidd-Gilchrist. Abell also has the ability to drive and hit 3-pointers, so his versatility could allow for others to get open shots on the perimeter. His length will also help disrupt Marquis Teague, who’s quickness has been near unstoppable lately. And speaking of Teague…


Teague’s calling card at the beginning of the season was that he’s a point guard prone to making mistakes, but he’s really cleaned up that part of his game in the second half of the season. And with the exception of the SEC Championship game, he’s proven to have some playmaking offense in him, as he’s scored 15, 12, and 24 in the other three games of the postseason. This will likely be Victor Oladipo’s assignment, and if he can get into Teague’s head like he has with other mistake-prone guards this season, Oladipo could win this matchup.


Jones had an absolutely awful game against Indiana the last time around, but it’s not likely that he’ll be caught that frustrated again. He’s averaged a double-double since the postseason started, and he’s been on a serious tear for a while before that. But he’s still capable of getting frustrated and has had problems with Christian Watford guarding him in the past. The Hoosiers, and especially Watford, need to be as physical as possible with him for the opening tip, and even force him to make shots from the charity stripe by keeping him from getting any easy baskets. After all, he’s only a 65 percent free throw shooter.


Crean said in his press conference on Tuesday that the Wildcats are a better 3-point shooting team than they were at the beginning of the season, and although that’s true, Kentucky’s weakness still comes from behind the arc. Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are the two Wildcats who can hurt you from long range, and if Indiana can force guys like Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones, and Teague to take long shots, its doing something right. No starter on Kentucky, aside from Lamb, shoots better than 33 percent from 3-point land.


This is also easier said than done, but Indiana has some comfort playing fast and if they can limit turnovers in that kind of game, it can be an effective weapon. Kentucky can get lobs in transition, and when that’s happening, there isn’t much hope of beating the Wildcats. But with Zeller as fast as he is in the open court, Indiana could have an advantage in the transition game. If they use that advantage, they could score in bunches.


This works hand-in-hand with shooting the lights out. If Indiana can utilize screens, which Kentucky has struggled at overcoming at times this season, then the Hoosiers could take and hit open shots. Zeller off the pick-and-roll could also help confuse Davis into making bad fouls. Really, there’s no down side to utilizing screens as much as possible in this one to overcome Kentucky’s superior length.


Both shot pretty well in the last game, and both have shown a propensity to succeed in mid-range (mostly Sheehey, but Oladipo to some extent). This time around though, Oladipo will likely have to take shots, especially if Kentucky gives them to him. With Davis in the game, Oladipo isn’t likely to be getting to the hole on every possession. He’ll have to hit shots.


Darius Miller might start for Kidd-Gilchrist, but either way, the Wildcats only have two guys that come off the bench and play meaningful minutes. Miller and Kyle Wiltjer can be taken advantage of, as long as you don’t leave them open, and when they were in the game in December, the Hoosiers tended to excel more on the offensive end. So foul trouble may not come down to just Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist — any foul trouble will help.


Kentucky is out for blood in this one. Whatever they may say in the week leading up to the game may not completely reflect that, but trust me, that’s the case. The Wildcats feel like they had the game stolen from them last time around, and they’ll feel like they deserve to win this next one. That’s where Indiana can take advantage, playing strong defense from the jump in order to frustrate Kentucky when things aren’t going its way. It’s a long shot because Kentucky will be awful motivated, but hey, so is Indiana.


Under no circumstances will Indiana win this game if Cody Zeller spends a lot of time on the bench. As their best rebounder, Zeller will need to play one of his best games in the post and remain as vertical as possible on penetrating drives to keep from fouling. Zeller should play the majority of this game, and his speed may be his best weapon against Davis. But in foul trouble? Indiana stands no chance.


I’m expecting the Georgia Dome to be a fairly even split between blue and red, but there’s no doubt that Indiana’s home-court advantage played a part in the Hoosiers win last time around. Any part that the crowd can play in this one will be huge for the Hoosiers. It’s going to be a pretty chippy environment between two of the chippiest fan bases around, so the crowd environment will be an interesting battle of momentum.


Against VCU at the end of the first half, Christian Watford stepped up and went on his own 8-point run to keep Indiana in the game. And at the end of Indiana’s game against Kentucky, Watford did the same thing, scoring the Hoosiers’ final seven points in the contest. I doubt it’ll be Watford this time around (you have to imagine Kentucky will be sure to guard him fairly closely), but there are plenty of players who could break out at the right time when IU needs them most. Kentucky will make several pushes in this game, but if someone like Hulls, Oladipo, or Sheehey could get hot from the field, then Indiana’s job will be much easier all around.


  1. Nice article, Ryan. #17 for me on the list is for Indiana to not be intimidated by what I am predicting will be a more pro-UK crowd (I do not see a 50/50 split) and believe that they can truly win this game. UK is going to come out throwing some hard body punches, but if IU is able to keep themselves within at the very least shouting distance (<10 pts. IMO) as the game starts winding down, I think UK is going to tighten up. IU has nothing to lose in this game; UK has everything to lose.

  2. I suspect there is another revenge story for this game, Remy Abell. He in this game more than any other will be at full sail from tip-off to the buzzer. He is going to want to make sure Criminalipari never forgets his name or his game. I would think his D in this game will become his trademark.

  3. The Friday NCAA match-up of Indiana and Kentucky will be an absolutely great game. The winner will have a great track to the Final Four and a match-up with MSU to get to the Championship game. One of these two could easily hang another Banner-it might as well be IU. But for a moment, before this Big Game, think of next year. Kentucky will lose: Darius Miller 6’8 G and Eloy Vargas 6’11 Big (seniors); Terrence Jones 6’9 Monster, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 6’7 Great and Anthony Davis 6’11 Great (to the NBA); and possibly Doran Lamb 6’4 shooter and Marquis Teague 6’2 PG (less certain to the NBA). The only other guy on the roster who plays for KY is Kyle Wiltjer 6’9 Fr. Meanwhile IU will add Maurice Creek, Yogi Ferrell, Hanner Perea, Jeremy Hollowell, Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin to it’s current roster and only lose Tom Pritchard and Matt Roth (Verdell Jones will also be gone but he can’t play on Friday). Matt Roth will have the option of walking-on at IU for a 5th year if he wants to. Indiana will have great senior leadership from Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston. KY will have none: Jon Hood and Twany Beckham never play. Yes KY will add #12 Goodwin, #19 Poythress, and #39 Cauly, but only #1, #7, #9, #33, and #46 are uncommitted in the top 50. Ky will be good but no longer ahead in talent and leadership over a great Indiana roster. The “Worm has turned”!

  4. Looking at the options with next yrs players – the old and the new, I have one big worry.

    Coach Crean’s head may explode with so many choices.

    I see many games of trial and error getting to that perfect balance.

  5. Ron, To my way of thinking his only choice to reach anything like a perfect balance is to develop O and D styles to RUN, run FAST and run ALL THE TIME. The players would then expect to be shuttled in and out. Just one thought.

  6. Thanks for the 16 ways, Ryan. It’s going to be a tough one that’s for sure. For both teams. Looking forward to a good game and an IU victory! Go IU!!!

    Ryan, any insider info on why Smotrycz is leaving Michigan?

  7. if iu has to come up with 16 ways to beat uk then i would say they don’t have a dog’s chance on the interstate. the hoosier fans might want to storm the court after the national anthem.

  8. …and yet we still won. Kentucky lost and Indiana won and no amount of whining, insulting, or dire predictions will change it.

    Indiana won, Kentucky lost. Indiana knows they can beat Kaintuck. All the Kitties can do is HOPE they can beat Indiana. Until they actually do it all the talk means nothing.

  9. Geoff-

    I only ask this of you because you likely have the soruces and methods find the stats much faster than I..

    Question: How many total players from Indiana can be found on the combined rosters all the teams making up the Sweet 16?

    Other than the many on our Hoosier team, I can think of quite a few just off the top my head…OSU-Thomas; MSU-Branden Dawson(injured)and Branden Wood; UNC-Tyler Zeller; Kentucky-Teague. Pretty amazing when you think of the key players on many these teams a lot of the experts have picked as Final Four candidates. I have no idea if there is much representation on the their benches or some of the other teams I don’t follow closely in the early rounds of the tournament.

    The Hoosiers may have been absent the tournament for much of the last 10 years, but Indiana kids seem to be always playing substantial roles in the dancing. Obviously, Butler brought a pretty large sample set deep into the tournament the last couple years.

    Anyway, don’t feel like you have to bother with wasting the time..I just thought it might be kinda interesting.

  10. I just don’t see a pro UK crowd. My wife is a former SEC athlete (UT) and she says the SEC schools HATE Kaintuck It’s not like IU cheering Michigan State. They WANT UK to lose. After them, everybody else in the country hates UK for what they represent (i.e. the worst in college athletics).

    I expect to be sitting amongst a crowd of Hoosier fans (that would work out best for them).

  11. No need..I already covered it. Other than IU, only five other teams have kids from the state of Indiana.


    Dee Davis
    Greg Dougan
    Justin Martin
    Jeff Robinson


    Branden Dawson
    Brandon Wood
    Russell Byrd


    Kyle Kuric
    Stephan Van Treese


    Ethan Jacobs
    Walter Offutt


    Tyler Zeller

  12. Oops..7 other teams.


    Deshaun Thomas


    Jeremiah Davis III

    That makes for a total of 14 players on the 7 other teams. We have 9 players on our current roster from Indiana.

    Total from state of Indiana in Sweet 16 = 25

    Of course, we had Michigan, Purdue, and ND that would have increased the totals considerably had they made it one more round.

    I’m bored.

  13. Oops..No wonder I often fail the spam question.

    Total from state of Indiana in Sweet 16(14 + 9) = 23

  14. Duke and the Plumlee brothers would have added a couple more.

    I’m out of here. Gotta go dig ditches.

  15. Harvard, what the heck, let’s split the difference between your 25 and 23, and say 24. Which it is because you left Teague out of the count I think.

  16. This game is a long shot for us, but I love how KY thinks that first game was stolen from them. If anything, they almost stole it. We outplayed them almost the entire game.

  17. I’ll be damn, I did leave out Teague…and Scott Wood. Guess that puts us back at 25.

    Not very familiar with Scott Wood..Is he any good?

  18. HfH, Even though you passed over a few, you sure proved your point. The NCAA BB Tournament would not be the same for a whole slew of teams if not for the state of Indiana. POTFW!

  19. Hope the Hoosiers go home crying at 12:01 am on Saturday. Fortunate shot they had in December and played a hell of a great game. Not this time. It is OK to call the other team good people. it is OK to say they play good basketball. Word to the wise: You look stupid when you don’t.
    GO CATS!!!

  20. Woo-hoo!!! Just picked up my buddy with the tickets at the airport. The tickets are in Lower Section 133, row 22.



  21. Truth is(I live in the ville, grew up In mitchell) all UK fans do think this game will be a blow-out and we got lucky in december. There’s no question UK is the best team all year. But on dec. 10 you weren’t. I don’t care about that game right now, however, I’m soooo ready for this game to start. No more radio talk, no more tv stuff, no more conversations about it, no more articles! Let’s get on the court and let the score do the talking!!!

  22. Hey, LOVE ME SOME WILDCATS, maybe you should take your own advice about looking wise. You are right in using the term ‘fortunate’ in describing that shot but you missed who the recipient of the fortune was. You guys were fortunate (not without some great effort from your team) to make a run and get the game close enough to come down to a last second shot. IU handled your Cats for most of the game. The Hoosiers got out of synch on offense and defense late in both halves. Without the letdowns this could have easily been a 10-15 point win for IU.

  23. The Hoosiers played poorly that day and still won. It’s not like we played great. We didn’t.

    But we still won.

  24. Weled 2 times by 10 and when davis went to the bench we were outscored by 12 points on top of that they shot 53 percent from the field in the 2nd and didn’t hit one 3 in the 2nd either. So UK actually played well just didn’t shoot well outside and well when davis went to the bench. I don’t see UK outplaying us when d is on the bench or them going 0-1 from 3 in the 2nd….screw it let’s play.

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