“We're just going to attack them as much as possible,” Dukes forward Rayshawn Goins said.
And if the Hoosiers overlook them, Goins added, all the better.
“We can use that to our advantage. We want them to take us lightly. That way we can put our foot on the pedal and keep it down for the whole game.”
Some might think James Madison's best chance is if IU plays at a sub-par level given that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — that's an 0-114 record if you're counting. Freshman guard Andre Nation has a different take.
“I hope they know all about us,” he said. “That way they know they have to play their best.
“We wouldn't want an Indiana team that's going to think they can run all over us. We want them at their best. In order to be the best, you've got to beat the best.”
The Hoosiers talk as if they understand the unpredictable nature of March Madness and that today's favorite can become tonight's upset loser.
See No. 1 seed Gonzaga's 64-58 over No. 16 Southern on Thursday as the latest example.
“It's the NCAA Tournament,” freshman guard Yogi Ferrell said, “so anything can happen.”
Or, as senior forward Derek Elston puts it, “We know you have to take each game seriously. That's exactly how we've prepared. We take this game as serious as we can. We know anybody can catch up and get you. We've seen it happen a few times and we don't want it to be us.
“If you don't prepare like they can beat you, then a team can beat you. When the ball gets rolled out, we'll play our game.”
That game will include a heavy dose of defense. The Hoosiers slipped in that area during last Saturday's Big Ten tourney loss to Wisconsin, and they don't want a repeat.
“A defensive mindset is the only way we will be able to go far in the tournament,” Ferrell said. “It's all about getting down and playing our best defense.”
That defense will get tested by James Madison's four- and five-guard lineups, which could give it a quickness edge and a size disadvantage. The Dukes have no one to match the height of 7-foot Cody Zeller and 6-9 Christian Watford.
“We have to do some things to offset that great size,” James Madison coach Matt Brady said. “We have to make sure we're not in single coverage in the post. We have to make sure they're shooting more perimeter shots than post-ups. That's not a theory. How you do it and how you execute it is the key.”
James Madison's execution includes an emphasis on forcing IU to use its bench.
“We want to get them in foul trouble,” Goins said. “We know their bench isn't as strong.
“So we'll attack them. That's the big word we've been using in our film sessions. We'll attack them and try to get them in foul trouble so they'll be forced to use their bench.”
James Madison earned its shot at Indiana by beating LIU Brooklyn 68-55 Wednesday night as part of the First Four tourney opening. The Hoosiers couldn't finalize their preparations until their opponent was determined.
“The Big Ten prepares you for anything and everything,” IU coach Tom Crean said, “and the one thing it totally prepares you for is to never take anything lightly; to have your preparation be as good for one game as it is for the other; to build a consistency in your team that comes from that consistency of work and preparation; and that's exactly how we feel about this tournament. It's totally been about getting ready for one game.”
For the Dukes, it's about maximizing this opportunity and making tourney history.
“This will come down to we've got to play smart and we've got to take away a few things,” Brady said.
“Our confidence is pretty high. We're a focused team. We're going to have to play great and hope they don't play great. But our kids are having fun. They're not going to be in fear.”
Up nextTipoff: Indiana vs. James Madison, NCAA tourney, 4:10 p.m. today
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