BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana's Victor Oladipo could be coming home.
Yes, that's nice. That's also the last thing on his mind.
The junior guard said he won't allow himself to look ahead and consider a Sweet 16 opportunity in Washington, D.C., which is about 18 miles from his Upper Marlboro, Md., home.
The top-seeded Hoosiers (27-6) have to win two East Region games in Dayton, Ohio, to get there, starting with Friday night's opener against tonight's winner between LIU Brooklyn (20-13) and James Madison (20-14). Then would come a Sunday game against either North Carolina State (24-10) or Temple (23-9).
“I didn't even know the places,” Oladipo said about NCAA tourney sites. “We're just looking forward to playing and getting this thing started.
“We're glad our season isn't over yet. We could have a lot of basketball left. It's up to us on whether we do.”
Indiana is looking to bounce back from Saturday's Big Ten tourney semifinal loss to Wisconsin.
“If you don't win in Ohio, there's no D.C.,” Oladipo said. “It's unfortunate we lost the other day and we're not happy about that.
“We just want to correct things. What better way to do that than the NCAA tournament.”
Oladipo, by the way, is on this week's cover of one of four regional Sports Illustrated NCAA tourney preview issues.
Don't worry about Hulls
Are you worried about Jordan Hulls after the senior sharpshooter (the Big Ten's most accurate three-point shooter) went 1-for-10 from three-point range and 2-for-14 overall in two conference tourney games?
Don't be, coach Tom Crean said during his Monday night radio show.
“Jordan Hulls is fine,” Crean said. “Jordan Hulls is a tremendous guard, a tremendous player that sometimes epitomizes trying too hard. It's all out of sometimes making errors of wanting to be too much for his teammates rather than just letting the game come at times. I think Jordan Hulls will be fine. We don't have a (Big Ten regular season) championship without him.”
Crean isn't so high on the criticism he's heard about his substituting. Basically, it's that he takes key players such as Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller out of games too often and for too long.
"I know people want to crack, 'Well, he's playing his bench too much.'” Crean said on his radio show. “We have to play players. We want to play at a faster pace.
"Everybody thinks they know your team better than you, and I'm not real into that."
Defensive clean up
There are many reasons for IU's season-long success, but perhaps the biggest is its improved defense. The Hoosiers rank No. 19 in defensive efficiency, allowing 89.0 points per 100 possessions. Last year, they were No. 64, allowing 95.3 points per 100 possessions.
That defense buckled against Wisconsin. While the Badgers only scored 68 points, they shot 51.0 percent to become the first team all season to shoot better than 50 percent against IU.
Does this suggest a problem for the NCAA tourney? Not necessarily, forward Christian Watford said.
“We just got to clean up certain things,” he said. “I feel like we over-helped a little bit too much and gave up open shots (against Wisconsin.) We've just gotta keep the ball outside the elbows, normal things we've gotta work on, just gotta polish up.”
Getting Elston healthy
IU senior forward Derek Elston didn't play in the Big Ten tourney. Crean said during his radio show Elston wasn't healthy enough to play. He said Elston didn't show good enough lateral movement during pre-game warmups. Elston also missed some practices.
"Derek just had a tough week with his health," Crean said. "We thought it was going to be better on Saturday. I'm not sure it really was. He wanted to play, but I talked to the coaches on how he was warming up. It's one thing to go out and shoot a little bit, but you've got to have the lateral part. We're hoping he's going to be better this week. There's no doubt we'd like to have him out there."
Elston, who missed most of the non-conference season while recovering from a torn meniscus in his knee, said he could have played in the Big Ten tourney. Instead, freshman Jeremy Hollowell did. He had a block and played solid defense against Illinois in nine minutes. He had a turnover and missed a three-pointer in five minutes against Wisconsin.
“Jeremy Hollowell's got to play better for us in a game like that," Crean said. "He played pretty well against Illinois. He played well against Michigan. He's a freshman. We've got to get that consistency.
"We don't have time for freshmen right now. We've got time for consistency, and that's what we need from him."
The veteran Elston could provide that consistency if he's healthy.
“If I get called to go in, I'll go in,” Elston said. “If not, I'll do whatever I can do on the bench to help these guys out. That's all anybody can ask.”