Why not Indiana?
At least one No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 32 of the 36 NCAA Tournaments since the field expanded to 64 teams n 1985. Five of the last nine tournaments have featured multiple No. 12 vs. No. 5 upsets, including three in both 2019 and 2014.
On Thursday here in Portland, Ore. the Hoosiers sit in that Cinderella No. 12 spot when they face St. Mary’s at the Moda Center (7:20 p.m. Eastern, TBS). And the Hoosiers have a lot going their way right now to suggest maybe it is their turn to knock off a No. 5.
First and foremost, IU enters the Thursday evening tilt in the Pacific Northwest healthy. All 13 scholarship players are expected to suit up, and none are believed to have any physical limitations beyond ordinary late season bumps and bruises.
To this point in the season IU has avoided major season-ending injuries. They lost Trey Galloway to 15 games due to a broken wrist and then a pulled groin, and Rob Phinisee missed time with a plantar fascia injury.
“They are a big part of what we do, and we rely on those guys to help us win games,” head coach Mike Woodson said on Thursday in Portland.
Both have been back for a while now — Galloway for the last four games, and Phinisee the last seven. The duo gives IU two of its best perimeter defenders, and it is likely no coincidence the Hoosiers have won three of four as they roll into the NCAA’s round of 64.
“I think it’s really good to have all our pieces in place at the same time. I think we’re playing some of our best basketball as an all-around team,” Race Thompson said on Wednesday in Portland.
“Just having everybody healthy, it just makes everything better. The vibe is better, you get a different spark from each and every person coming off the bench. And I think that Jordan and Trey and Rob give us extra boosts coming off the bench.”
Jordan Geronimo missed the Big Ten semifinal against Iowa, but Tuesday night in Dayton was his turn to shine as he pitched in a career high 15 points to go with seven rebounds in 19 minutes of action.
Now all hands are on deck for a second straight NCAA Tournament contest, this time in Portland.
Just about the only excuse this team has right now is fatigue.
Thursday’s game against St. Mary’s (25-7) will be Indiana’s fifth in eight days, and they didn’t arrive in Portland until 8 a.m. local time after an all-night adventure from Dayton.
Woodson wants no part of any talk about tired legs, however. He even played the — when I was a kid I walked to school uphill in the snow, both ways, card — when asked about it.
“Well, like I told the guys, you know, we could never complain, they can’t anyway, and I know I won’t, about travel. Because in the NBA, back in the old days, man, it might have been the worst travel in the world,” Woodson said.
“I mean, there were red eyes that we had to catch to catch next game the next day, and we were sleeping in chairs in the airport to try to get to where we were going to go. But we were signed up as NBA players, and that was part of it.
“They have it pretty damn good right now, I think.”
And Indiana, healthy as ever, they are playing pretty damn good right now.
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