Tipoff: Indiana vs. James Madison, NCAA tourney, 4:10 today
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DAYTON, Ohio -- Make no mistake. Indiana is here for the long March Madness haul. That's not overconfidence, guard Victor Oladipo said. It's fact.
The East Region's top-seeded team is a national title favorite. Anything less than a Final Four appearance, would be a big blow, Oladipo said.
“We've been through a lot and we expect nothing but the best. We're going to go into this tournament and try to win it. So any loss before then would be a disappointment. We'll take it one game at a time and play together and have fun. Play Indiana basketball.”
Play starts today against No. 16 seed James Madison (21-14). A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed. No, Oladipo said, that doesn't put extra pressure on the Hoosiers (27-6).
“We're going to play the way we've played that got us to this point. We can't wait to get started.”
So what does it mean that the President of the United States picks you to win the national title?
“It's great,” IU guard Yogi Ferrell said. “He recognizes us as one of the top programs in the country. For him to recognize us like that is a great opportunity. There's no pressure. We'll just play our game."
President Barak Obama filled out a bracket for the fifth straight year. His Final Four picks were IU, Louisville, Ohio State and Florida. He picked the Hoosiers to beat Louisville in the national title game.
“I think it's Indiana's year,” he told ESPN.
That's fine with IU president Michael McRobbie.
“We are delighted that someone as knowledgeable about college basketball as President Obama has shown the same type of confidence in IU's fortunes that Hoosier Nation has had in the team all season,” McRobbie said in a university release.
Delight brings perspective.
“It's all just fun and games,” forward Derek Elston said. “It's cool to look at, but unless we play our game, who knows what's going to happen. The fact the president chose us is cool, but we still have to go out and play basketball.”
Coach Tom Crean said that President Obama is 1-3 in his previous national title picks.
“You're always going to hope he's right on this one,” Crean said, “but we're not going to look too far ahead. The most important thing is our guys have been really good about taking what's been said and not letting it affect them either way.”
Prospects are good that senior Derek Elston will play today. He missed last week's two Big Ten tourney games because of a sore surgically repaired knee that sidelined him for most of the non-conference season.
“Last week it wasn't the best, but it feels a lot better than it has,” Elston said. “Sometimes I need something extra to keep me doing. When I don't feel any pain like this, I feel real confident.
“That's my problem. I feel I could go in and play in agony. Coach will put people in he knows can win the game for him. If he doesn't have confidence in me, he has to keep asking me if I feel good. Coach has seen I'm ready to go.”
Elston did admit that there's almost no chance he'd tell Crean he should stay on the bench even if he was hurting.
“But that's just me. With my style of play, he'd see it if I was in pain.”
James Madison coach Matt Brady is in the final year of his contract. Speculation about his job security had surfaced during the season, although winning the NEC tourney title and earning the automatic NCAA tourney bid, plus winning a NCAA tourney game (the Dukes beat LIU Brooklyn 68-55 Wednesday night), has to help.
“I haven't given it a lot of thought,” Brady said. “I've coached in this situation all year long.
“This is a dream for me to be in the NCAA Tournament as a first-time head coach and I plan to coach against a guy (Crean) who has rebuilt his program in a remarkable fashion.
“Everything else will work itself out. I'll be coaching somewhere.”
The Hoosiers were asked to give their best Oladipo story. Senior guard Jordan Hulls got the advantage by answering first.
“He's always singing, no matter where we're at,” Hulls said. “At our Hoosier Hysteria, he performed a little Usher for everybody at (Assembly Hall). That was pretty cool.”
Added forward Cody Zeller: “I appreciate that he gets a little country in there, so he always mixes it up.”
"A reporter quizzed the Hoosiers about their knowledge of James Madison the school and the former U.S president. Questions included if they know James Madison's conference, mascot and where the school is located.
Oladipo, who grew up in the same East Coast area, nailed the answers.
“They're in the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association). I think they're the Dukes. James Madison Dukes. They're from Virginia.”
Then the reporter asked if they knew who James Madison was.
Oladipo said Madison “signed something big, like the Declaration of Independence. The Emancipation Proclamation. Something like that. I know he's a big historic figure in U.S. history.”
For the record, Madison was the fourth U.S. president, serving from 1809 to 1817. That included the period of the War of 1812. He did not sign the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation, but was the key figure in drafting the U.S. Constitution.
Zeller responded by asking the reporter if he knew what a Hoosier is
“Not really,” was the response.
“I think I won that little trivia challenge right there,” Oladipo said.