Indiana coach Tom Crean stalked the court Thursday at UD Arena with the kind of intensity you might expect at the Final Four — not at a practice the day before the Hoosiers’ opening game in the NCAA tournament.
“Let’s go!” he shouted. “Let’s go. Other side.”
The Hoosiers switched baskets a number of times during the practice, getting used to both rims. Crean, wearing grey sweatpants with a practice schedule or something stuck in the back waistband, directed traffic the whole time. The top-seeded Hoosiers had some fun — exciting the couple hundred IU fans in attendance with a few dunks toward the end of the 40-minute session — but this was mostly about business.
Indiana (27-6) plays No. 16 seed James Madison (21-14) at 4:10 p.m. today. It’s Indiana’s third NCAA tournament appearance in Dayton, and the last time the Hoosiers started here, in 1981, they won the national championship.
Crean sang the praises of Dayton on Twitter on Thursday.
“We had a great welcoming at the hotel with Scottish bagpipes,” Crean wrote, “and a group of Dayton’s finest people playing the fight song. Dayton is class.”
Later in the pre-practice press conference, Crean said, “It’s very easy to understand why there’s been more NCAA tournament games in this city than any other place.”
Crean might not appreciate Dayton as much if the Hoosiers become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed today. James Madison beat Brooklyn 68-55 in a first-round game at UD. It was the Dukes’ first NCAA tournament win since 1983.
“When you’re looking at James Madison, you’re looking at a battle-tested team,” Crean said. “You’re looking at a team that can score inside and outside and freshmen that are starting to get better. They know how they want to play. They know how to win.”
Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo passed his first NCAA tournament test — sort of — when a reporter asked if he knew where James Madison was located, what kind of mascot it has and what conference it plays in. He got the first three correct and sort of knew about the real James Madison, the fourth president and father of the Constitution.
“He signed the Declaration or something like that,” Oladipo said. “He signed something big, like the Declaration of Independence. I’m right, right? Emancipation Proclamation, something like that. I know he’s a big historic figure in U.S. history.”
Oladipo got the reporter back, asking “Do you know what a Hoosier is?”
“Not really,” the reporter said.
“I think I’m 4-0,” Oladipo said. “I think I won that little trivia challenge right there.”