WASHINGTON D.C. -- John Harbaugh puts his money where his faith is. He has airplane tickets to Atlanta booked for the extended weekend of April 5-8.
Harbaugh is the Super Bowl-winning coach of the Baltimore Ravens. He's also the
brother-in-law of Indiana coach Tom Crean.
Harbaugh didn't achieve his success through negative thinking. He's embraced the belief that the top-seed Hoosiers (29-6) will beat fourth-seed Syracuse (28-9) tonight, then either second-seed Miami (29-6) or third-seed Marquette (25-8) on Saturday and advance to the Final Four in Atlanta.
The Final Four is April 6. The national title game is April 8.
“I've got plane tickets to Atlanta,” he said. “I'm not going if the Hoosiers don't go.”
Harbaugh was at Wednesday's open practice at the Verizon Center. He wore a gray Indiana University sweat shirt and a big smile.
“I've never been to a regional tournament or a practice like this,” he said. “So I'm like anybody else. I'm in awe. I'm excited to be a part of it. I love these players. It's a great experience.”
Harbaugh was an IU assistant football coach in the late 1990s under Cam Cameron before moving on to the NFL. He said he still has friends in Bloomington he hopes to connect with during the regional.
“I understand what Indiana is all about,” he said. “It's a pretty special place.”
What does he think of what the Hoosiers have achieved this season?
“To hold the No. 1 spot for as long as they did (10 weeks), with the way college basketball is this year, it's an amazing accomplishment,” he said. “They've been consistent. They've been steady.
“I loved the Temple game. I love overcoming adversity the way they did and finding a way to win at the end. It reminded me of our Ravens. That wouldn't be a bad thing.”
Hulls and Sheehey good to go
Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey are fine. They will play against Syracuse. They are, they said, ready for whatever awaits.
“We've seen nothing that would lead me to believe we have to game plan differently,” coach Tom Crean said.
Hulls hurt his right (shooting) shoulder in last Sunday's win over Temple. Sheehey banged his head in the same game.
“My shoulder is good,” Hulls said. “Once it got loose, I was able to shoot it well. The doctors are doing a great job of getting me back in shape and feeling good.”
Added Sheehey: “I'm fine.”
Beating the zone
So how do you crack Syracuse's fierce 2-3 zone?
“It's a challenge, especially when you're trying to get the ball inside, because with their length, they can just swat balls away,” freshman guard Yogi Ferrell said. “We have to use ball fakes, pass fakes. If we can knock down some shots early. We'll be fine. That will open up the zone more.”
Forward Christian Watford, who can score from three-point range as well as bang in the paint, will be a zone-busting key.
“There are a number of ways to beat their zone,” he said. “You can try to attack it. You can't sit back and pass it around the perimeter. You can't be passive. If we do that, by the time we look up, there will be five seconds left on the shot clock.”
Hesitation against Syracuse, coach Tom Crean said, means disaster.
“If you think you can stand around and pass the ball around the perimeter, that is a recipe for defeat.”
Sheeheys and Syracuse
Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim are very family to the Sheehey family. Will's father, Mike, was a two-year Orangemen reserve from 1979-81 before transferring to St. Bonaventure.
The older Sheehey is now the senior vice-president for content for NBC Sports and Comcast. His son is known for his feistiness, and that's fine with Crean.
“It's like having an extra player on the floor,” he said. “You've got to have, for lack of a better word, a real chip on your shoulder. Every once in a while it will get overstepped, but so what? You've got to have guys who are not afraid of big moments because they've practiced and prepared.”