TERRE HAUTE —
James Madison coach Matt Brady sat in the locker room at halftime of his team’s game Wednesday night and pleaded with them to play their best basketball.
The Dukes led LIU Brooklyn 32-31, with the winner advancing to today’s NCAA Tournament second-round game with No. 1 seed Indiana.
“I wanted them to get the opportunity to play [the Hoosiers],” Brady said Thursday, as his team prepared for today’s game with IU after defeating the Blackbirds 68-55 in the tournament’s first round.
“I think you can see now, they’re joyous about it,” Brady said. “They’re not overwhelmed by it, but they’re excited about it.”
Even if history is not on their side. No No. 1 seed has ever lost to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The season likely ends today for the Dukes (21-14). But they won’t go easily.
“The pressure ain’t on us,” JMU’s senior forward Rayshawn Goins said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country, we’re just going to go out and play our best basketball.”
Well, the Hoosiers (27-6) aren’t the No. 1 team, of course — IU is ranked No. 4 in both polls and Louisville is the tournament’s overall top seed — but expectations have been high for the team since last season ended.
IU’s players welcome it.
“We expect nothing but the best, and we’re going to go into this tournament and try to win it,” Victor Oladipo said Thursday.
Oladipo drew some laughs when he was asked if any of IU’s players knew who James Madison was.
“He signed something important. He’s a major historical figure,” Oladipo said.
For the record, James Madison was the fourth president of the United States. And Oladipo claimed he won the “history quiz” when the questioner admitted he didn’t know what an Indiana Hoosier was.
The Hoosiers know what they’ll be facing today.
“We watched a little bit of their game yesterday, they do a lot of things well,” Oladipo said. “The great thing about the Big Ten is it prepares you for anything, and it prepares you to not take anyone lightly.”
The Dukes used a five-guard lineup at times against LIU Brooklyn, but Brady said that won’t happen today.
“If we do, that’s not a good sign for my team,” he said.
The Dukes know containing Cody Zeller will be important. Goins is ready for the challenge.
“I’m going to try to do my work early, to limit those touches,” Goins said. “If he don’t have the ball, then he can’t score.”
Of course, Zeller’s not IU’s only weapon, so Brady knows his team will have to “pick its poison.”
“We’ll have a game plan … try to figure out who we want for them to shoot the ball to beat us,” Brady said.
“There’s nothing we can do to them that they have not seen and [Indiana coach] Tom [Crean] has not prepared his team for,” Brady said. “This really comes down to the fact that we’ve got to play with confidence and we’ve got to play smart, and we’ve got to take away a few things.”
Bottom line, Brady acknowledged: the Dukes will have to play great and hope the Hoosiers don’t play great.
“We wouldn’t want to play an Indiana team that’s going to come out and think they can run all over us,” JMU freshman Andre Nation said. “We want them at their best. Like I said yesterday, in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”