(4) Indiana vs. (13) New Mexico State: South Region
Indiana 25-8, 11-7 Big Ten (At large)
New Mexico State 26-9, 10-4 WAC (Conference Tourney Champions)
Time: 9:45 p.m. Thursday
Location: Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
Winner will face: (5) Wichita State or (12) Virginia Commonwealth, Saturday
Indiana No. 16 AP; No. 17 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
New Mexico State 68
Line: Indiana -5½ (O/U 152)
Players to Watch
Indiana: C Cody Zeller, 6-11 Fr. (15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 62.6% FG); G Victor Oladipo, 6-5 So. (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 spg); G Jordan Hulls, 6-0 Jr. (11.5 ppg, 3.2 apg, 49.2% 3s). Zeller continued an impressive initial college basketball season with 36 points on 9-of-18 shooting and 18-of-23 from the charity stripe in two Big Ten Tournament games.
New Mexico State: F Wendell McKines, 6-6 Sr. (18.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.6 apg); C Hamidu Rahman, 6-11 Jr. (10 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 60.3% FG); G Hernst Laroche, 6-1 Sr. (12 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.8 spg). McKines dominated Louisiana Tech in the WAC championship game with 27 points (on 12-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the 3-point line) and 14 rebounds. It was the 20th double-double of the season for the WAC’s leader in scoring and rebounding.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Indiana: The Hoosiers are a great shooting team, averaging 77.3 points per game (18th in the country), 48.7 from the field (eighth nationally), 43.3 from the 3-point line (second in the nation) and 76.2 from the foul line (12th in the country). Indiana can get scoring from everyone it puts on the floor. Four Hoosiers average double-figuring scoring and another three average at least 4.5.
New Mexico State: The Aggies have one of the biggest frontlines in all of college basketball with 6-11 Rahman, 6-10 Tshilidze Nephawe, 6-10 Renaldo Dixon and the strong 6-6 McKines. NMSU’s guard play is also solid with Laroche at the point and freshman Daniel Mullings, who had the first triple-double in school history this season. The Aggies are a great rebounding team at plus-8.7 on the boards this season. They out-rebounded Louisiana Tech by 19 in the WAC championship. They were also second in the WAC in steals at 6.8 per game and forced turnovers at 14.6 per contest.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Indiana: The Hoosiers obviously have no NCAA experience – and they’re still very young. Indiana already lacked quality depth before the loss of Verdell Jones III, who was lost for the season after suffering an ACL injury during the Big Ten Tournament. Size could be an issue, particularly against the huge Aggies. Outside of 6-11 Zeller and 6-9 Christian Watford, Indiana may have to try subs who rarely see playing time to matchup with the bigs. Indiana has struggled defensively at times, including allowing Wisconsin’s Rob Wilson, who averaged three points per game, to score 30 in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
New Mexico State: The Aggies got a bit of a break when Louisiana Tech upset regular-season WAC champion Nevada in the semifinals. NMSU didn’t fare well against the best teams on its schedule, losing games to Southern Miss (twice), Nevada (twice), New Mexico and Arizona. The Aggies’ biggest problem in those losses was turnovers. They coughed up the ball 14.7 times per game.
The Bottom Line: Indiana may be the favorite in college basketball a year from now, but this year’s team can not hang with New Mexico St’s better size and experience.
The Pick: New Mexico State 80, Indiana 75
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-148-6 (Through Sunday, March 11)