Cody Zeller and Indiana begin their NCAA Tournament push Friday against James Madison in Dayton.
DAYTON, Ohio (WDRB) – It's a Number One seed against a 16-seed. You know what that means: Question after question that has nothing to do with Indiana actually playing basketball in the Hoosiers' opening NCAA Tournament game against James Madison on Friday.
Let's begin here: Every IU player was asked for reaction to the news that President Obama has picked the Hoosiers to win the national title.
"It is pretty neat," said Cody Zeller, IU's all-American center. "I haven't agreed with some of the other decisions that he's made. So…"
Ooops. For the first time in two sessions, Zeller blushed.
"I'm going to get in trouble for his," he said.
Let's try this one more time.
"I fully agree with everything that Obama does," Zeller said, laughing. "I think it's kind of neat. We aren't worried about it too much I guess."
Silly Topics, Part II: What is JMU's nickname, and where is the campus located?
"The Dukes," said Remy Abell, who played at Eastern High School before moving to IU. "And Virginia."
A wink from Abell.
"I've been doing some studying," Abell said.
Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo were also hit with the James Madison trivia questions. Zeller was ready this time. He could go one-on-one with Jimmy Fallon.
Who was James Madison?
"Do you know what a Hoosier is?" Zeller asked.
"He signed the Declaration of Independence, or something like that," said Oladipo, who represents IU from the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Then he nailed the conference (CAA), mascot and home state, too.
"I think I'm 4-0," Oladipo said. "I think I won that little trivia challenge right there."
The challenge for the Hoosiers now is not to become the answer to a trivia question that would be more stinging than anything in tournament history: Who was the first one-seed to lose to a 16?
The tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Never has a top-seed moved to the exit ramp after one game. There have been several close calls. Respected voices, such as Louisville coach Rick Pitino, have warned that nobody should be stunned if this is the season when it finally happens.
Indiana is favored by 21 ½-points against a James Madison team that lost 14 games and finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. Dismissing teams from the Colonial is foolish. Colonial teams are 8-5 in the NCAA Tournament over the last three seasons. It's not the MEAC. Colonial teams can deliver.
"Pressure is however you view it," IU coach Tom Crean said. "We can look at it like there's been pressure the entire year because we were ranked Number One from like three days after the Final Four last year, or we can look at it like our guys have used all that to fuel them to make them better."
Indiana needs to play better than the Hoosiers have played the last six games, winning three, losing three. Hulls has made only 6 of 24 three-point shots in IU's last five games. Watford scored five against Iowa, three against Michigan. Against Michigan and Wisconsin, Oladipo delivered two of his three worst shooting performances of the season.
The Hoosiers know they must improve. Hulls said he has lost track of how many extra shots he has launched since Sunday. Zeller said he must remember to play with an edge without drifting into foul trouble. Yogi Ferrell, IU's freshman point guard, said the first improvement must always be on defense.
"We've been through a lot," Oladipo said. "We expect nothing but the best. We're going to go in this tournament and try to win it. Any loss before then would be a disappointment because our main goal is to win the tournament."
Now, back to the important stuff: What about President Obama picking Indiana?
"I think it's nice," Crean said. "I haven't seen it personally. Heard about it. I think it's really good. But I'm also concerned that someone said that he was 1-3 in his picks before … you hope he's right on this one."
"That's great," Remy Abell said. "I hope he's right."