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COLUMN

Tough Temple squad will test Indiana

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Tipoff: Indiana vs. Temple, 3 p.m., Sunday
RADIO: 1250-AM
TV: CBS

Online: For more on college athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Easy games over for top-seeded Hoosiers

Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 3:52 am

DAYTON, Ohio -- This wasn't reality. Not even close. For the rest of the way in the NCAA tourney for top-seeded Indiana, whether it's one more game or five, nail biters and cliffhangers are likely in its future.

You've seen the upsets already. Third-seeded New Mexico went down to 14th-seeded Harvard. Thirteenth-seeded La Salle shocked No 4 Kansas State and 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast stunned No. 2 Georgetown. Gonzaga barely avoided being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed when it escaped Southern.

The Hoosiers' Friday 83-62 East Region demolition of James Madison was never close. They covered their 21-point favorite spread, led by as many as 33, and could have won by 40-plus points if it had served a purpose.

It did not.

IU thrived as you'd hope a No. 1 seed would. It ruthlessly ensured 16th seeds would remain winless.

The Hoosiers scored off the fast break (15 points) and off the bench (26). They scored in the paint (36 points and off of James Madison turnovers (15). They controlled the boards (38-28), took care of the ball (17 assists against nine turnovers) and showed they can be a dangerous team into April.

“You score on us and we're going to run it down your throat,” forward Derek Elston said. “That's been our goal all season.

“We did that. We pushed. When we do that we're a hard team to stop. We're one of the best teams in nation in doing that.”

Now comes ninth-seed Temple, a surprising 76-72 victor over season-long under-achiever North Carolina State. It seems the Owls did the Hoosiers a favor. Eighth-seed North Carolina State was an ACC favorite who played to also-ran status. The Wolfpack had Final Four talent and First-Four toughness, and that's not a knock on First-Four teams. They could have been a formidable opponent if they had played to their potential.

In other words, if they had played like Temple.

What the Owls lack in North Carolina State's high-profile ability they make for in skill, patience, poise and toughness, even if they did nearly cough up what had been an 18-point lead.

The Hoosiers began preparing for Temple last week with associate head coach Steve McClain leading the way. It was in limited doses because they also had North Carolina State and James Madison to consider, but coach Tom Crean won't enter a game unprepared.

Temple gives you much to prepare for.

It has the Atlantic-10's top scorer in guard Khalif Wyatt (19.8 points). It has a shot-blocking and rebounding threat in 6-6 Rahir Hollis (1.0 blocks a game, 6.2 rebounds). It has a defensive specialist in guard Will Cummings (1.4 steals a game).

Wyatt scored a game-high 31 points despite going just 1-for-7 from three-point range, in part because he was 12-for-14 from the free throw line.

Coach Fran Dunphy has won 158 games in seven seasons with the Owls. He's won 468 overall with 13 conference championships, three in the Atlantic 10, 10 in the Ivy League with Penn.

The Owls, by the way, are one of just eight teams to have appeared in the last six NCAA Tournaments. The others are Wisconsin, Michigan State, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville and Marquette

“Fran Dunphy is a phenomenal coach and it starts with him,” Crean said. “He's been a great coach for a very long time. They play in a highly respected league, a tough league, a league that's got a little bit of everything.”

The Atlantic 10, by the way, included Butler and VCU this season.

“(Temple) is going to deal with pressure,” Crean said. “They're going to deal with zones. They're going to deal with tempo.

“(Dunphy) takes these tough, athletic guys and gets them to really move the ball. They know what they want early in the shot clock. They know what they want late in the shot clock.”

Temple was so focused on preparation that it missed last Sunday's NCAA tourney selection show because of a team meeting.

“That's a serious team,” Crean said. “That's a team not to be taken lightly.”

The same, of course, is true of Indiana.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.