Indiana basketball began the season as the top-ranked team in both the coaches’ and media polls, but have yet to be the unanimous pick for No. 1.
The Hoosiers entered this week sharing votes with No. 2 Duke. But after IU’s 83-59 romp over No. 14 North Carolina late Tuesday, might some of those votes go to the Hoosiers?
Whether they do or not, North Carolina coach Roy Williams is convinced the Hoosiers are ranked right where they should be.
“The thing I like about them is they really are a team,” Williams said. “They don’t have one guy that beats you up; they beat you up so many different ways.”
Case in point: Christian Watford missed his first five shots and finished 1-of-9 for two points. And the Hoosiers still won by 24 points, IU’s largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since 2005.
“We’ve been working really hard and you guys know just as well as I know that this program, well not last year, but over the past couple of years has really been struggling,” Victor Oladipo said. “We were trying to get it back to where it belongs, which is on top.”
Tuesday’s game pitted two programs with five national titles apiece, tied for third all-time behind UCLA (11) and Kentucky (8). But IU hasn’t hung a new banner since 1987.
If the Hoosiers (7-0) keep playing defense the way they did against the Tar Heels (5-2), that streak might come to an end in April in Atlanta.
North Carolina entered the game 10th in the nation in scoring, averaging 85.3 ppg. IU held the Tar Heels to 37.7 percent shooting (26-of-69), including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.
“First half, some of our baskets were really hard to get, while some of theirs were a little bit easier,” Williams said. “I thought we would make a comeback the second half, but it just didn’t get going for us.”
“We played well in the first half, but in the second half we realized that the game wasn’t over and we had to come out on top, on our ‘A’ game,” Oladipo said.
There’s still room to improve, and a long season ahead, and the Hoosiers stick by their “one-game-at-a-time” approach.
Well, for the most part.
“We prepared for this game for a couple of weeks now,” Will Sheehey admitted.
Certainly Tuesday’s game was the marquee non-conference matchup on IU’s home schedule. The only other real challenge the Hoosiers will face before the Big Ten schedule is Butler, on Dec. 15 at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis.
That’s the same Butler team that defeated these same Tar Heels a week prior in Maui.
Still, the Hoosiers are trying to maintain the underdog mentality that served them so well last season.
“We have to be the hunters, not the hunted,” Cody Zeller said. “We can’t be comfortable with where we are.”