Many coaches make their players run wind sprints as punishment. North Carolina coach Roy Williams runs his players through wind sprints to punish the opponent.
Tonight at Assembly Hall, No. 1-ranked Indiana (6-0) faces No. 14 North Carolina (5-1) with full knowledge that it will have to deal with perhaps the nation’s top fast-breaking team. Tip-off is 9:30 p.m.
“We will not have been challenged in transition like we are going to be (today),” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Monday. “I can’t imagine any time since we have been here that it has been like that for us, at home or on the road.
“I mean, we have gone against some great break teams — Michigan State, Michigan — those teams run really well. Kentucky ran really well last year. But this Carolina team is at another level. Their transition is literally second-to-none. It always is with Roy Williams teams.”
While the Tar Heels have tremendous athletic ability to make the whole thing work, it starts with the rebounding of James Michael McAdoo, who is averaging 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.
“We have to get a body on him,” Crean said. “You have to have great awareness of where he is at. He just can’t fly around untouched because he can score from the perimeter. Obviously, he can score from the block; he can drive the ball. He is a high, high-level player. He is as good a rebounder that these young men have seen this year or any other year, in my estimation.”
Indiana forward Cody Zeller will have to respond with a big game against to McAdoo.
“He’s definitely very talented,” Zeller said of McAdoo. “I don’t think you are going to stop him. I think it’s just whether you are going to slow him down or not.”
Zeller will get a chance to show off his ability to run the floor tonight. “They want to get out and push the ball up the court whether it is a miss or a make,” Zeller said of North Carolina, which lost its only game to Butler in the Maui Invitational. “Off turnovers they score and score quickly. It’s going to be a big part of our game, and we’re going to have to get back on defense, and we can’t turn it over. We know they like to run so that’s something that we’re definitely going to have to pay attention to. We have to slow them down a little bit.”
Like Indiana, North Carolina has a wealth of shooters. “They have a couple of guys in (P.J.) Hairston and (Reggie) Bullock that can shoot with anybody in the country,” Crean said. “They have two point guards that can push the ball, get them into the lane and can shoot the ball.
“We have to be really, really good in a lot of facets of the game, but this thing will begin and end with our ability to get back on defense and our ability to rebound.”
Zeller will be playing against a team that recruited him heavily and which was home to his brother, Tyler. “A lot of things have changed since the last time I was down there with Tyler, but I know them all really well,” Cody Zeller said. “Obviously, the coaching staff I have a lot of respect for; they’ve always treated Tyler and I very well. I know the coaching staff and most of the players really well, but at the end of the day it’s just who can score the most points, and that’s all we’re worried about.”
Playing North Carolina brings back memories of last season’s 73-72 win against No. 1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall. “Obviously the expectations were a lot different,” Zeller said. “I think the fans and the students are all excited about this game kind of like they were for the Kentucky game. Everyone has had this game circled on their calendar, but for us it’s just another game. It’s another game to improve.
“It’s a long season, and this will be the seventh game for us, but it should be a fun one.”
Hoosiers freshman starting point guard Kevin “Yogi” Farrell will be experiencing a whole new level of college basketball.
“For the freshmen, I’m just going to tell them to go out there and have fun, play hard and keep your composure.” said Indiana sophomore guard Remy Abell, who got his freshman education last season against Kentucky and in the NCAA Tournament. “It’s going to be an intense game, and there’s going to be a lot of emotions, but you just have to trust in your teammates and play your game. I think everyone will be fine.”