A.J. Davis led James Madison with 20 points in the Dukes' win over Long Island-Brooklyn. - Gregory Shamus
No. 1 Indiana battles No. 16 Dukes Friday afternoon
Indiana plays Duke on Friday!!!
Wait, not Duke, the Dukes.
Top-seeded Indiana will take its first step in its journey towards the Final Four when it faces off with No. 16 seed James Madison at 4:10 p.m. Friday in Dayton in a game that will air on TBS.
Since the tourney expanded in 1985, a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. There have, however, been some close calls, including 12 games decided by single digits. The most recent such affair came in 2012, when Syracuse defeated UNC Ashville, 72-65.
One of these days, it's going to happen. Hopefully Friday isn't that day.
Indiana is a top seed for just the third time in the program's storied history. The Hoosiers were a No. 1 seed when they won it all in 1987, and they held a top seed in 1993, when they lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
In its previous first-round games as a one seed, Indiana beat Wright State, 97-54, in 1993 and routed Fairfield, 92-58, in 1987.
James Madison, making its first Big Dance appearance in 19 years, advanced to the "second" round with a 68-55 win over Long Island-Brooklyn in a play-in game Wednesday night. The contest was fun to a fun-to-watch, up-tempo affair, and one that the Dukes took control of early.
James Madison (21-14) came into the game advertised as a halfcourt team, averaging just 64.5 possessions per game, but the Dukes were more than willing to run with fast-paced Long Island. When Blackbirds fought back in the second half, even taking the lead for 45 seconds, James Madison had an answer. The Dukes held a three-point lead with 8:02 to go before closing the game on a 14-2 run.
A.J. Davis (20 points), Charles Cooke (15) and Andre Nation (14) combined to score 49 of James Madison's 68 points. Nation added seven rebounds and five blocked shots. Davis nailed four of the Dukes' eight 3-pointers. Cooke had hit just one field goal in the previous four games.
James Madison got to the NCAA Tourney by winning the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. The Dukes finished fourth in the CAA in the regular season, but got hot in the postseason, capping off their CAA Tourney run with a win over regular season champion Northeastern in the title bout.
The Hoosiers (27-6) have been one of the nation's top teams all season long, beginning the year as the top-ranked team and remaining near the top of the rankings for the duration, including a season-high 10 weeks at the No. 1 spot. Indiana emerged from the rigorous Big Ten as the outright champion.
Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, a pair of All-Big Ten performers, power the Hoosiers. Zeller leads the team in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (8.2). What area of the game doesn't Oladipo -- one of the top candidates for the Wooden Award -- impact? In addition to playing relentless, smothering defense, he averages 13.6 points, 6.4 boards, 2.2 steals and 2.1 assists, all while shooting 59.9 percent from the floor.
Christian Watford hits 49 percent of his 3-point tries and averages 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds. Jordan Hulls hits 46 percent from deep and scores 10.1 points per game. Will Sheehey, the Big Ten's Six Man of the Year, adds 9.4 points off the bench. Point guard Kevin Ferrell averages 7.8 points and 4.2 assists -- to 2.0 turnovers -- but hits merely 29.6 percent of his 3-point tries.
The Hoosiers are battled tested, talented and, obviously, the better team. But anything can happen in March.
Indiana has lost three of its last six games while James Madison is on a five-game winning streak. The Dukes are led by Rayshawn Goins, who averages 12.7 points and 7.4 boards. Goins -- built like former Michigan player Robert "Tractor" Traylor -- had to sit out the first half of Wednesday's play-in victory due to suspension.
Davis (12.1) and Devon Moore (11.6) also average in double figures for the Dukes.
James Madison and Indiana don't have any common opponents. UCLA is only foe on the Dukes' schedule that can compare at all to the Hoosiers in terms of ability and athleticism. The Bruins thumped James Madison, 100-70, in the season opener.
As Indiana fans, we've been spoiled by getting to watch this group for the past two seasons. We have just six games left -- maybe less -- to enjoy watching these Hoosiers. Soak it up, guys. This is a one-of-a-kind group. Here's to the beginning of something great.