It’s easy to put attention on No. 18 North Carolina after its challenging week and notable four-overtime game.
But perhaps No. 10 Indiana should be the headliner when the Hoosiers and Tar Heels meet on Wednesday as part of the last Atlantic Coast Conference/Big Ten Challenge in Bloomington, Ind.
“Come Wednesday we’ll see where we are,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said.
Indiana (6-0) hasn’t played since a 90-51 romp past winless Jackson State on Friday. Tamar Bates posted a career-high 22 points in that game for the Hoosiers, who are eager to face North Carolina.
“We have to take care of our bodies and be mentally sharp, and I think that we’re ready to play,” Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson said.
North Carolina (5-2) dropped from No. 1, where it had been since the preseason, after the losses to Iowa State and Alabama as part of the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore.
“It’s only November. We’ve played seven games,” Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said. “I think we have a lot more to go. And so, it’s a long season. I feel like we’re taking steps forward to be the best that this year’s team can be.”
The Tar Heels hope to recover from a 103-101, four-overtime setback to Alabama on Sunday.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way,” Davis said, “and so when they don’t go your way, you have a choice. And I told the team, you can whine and complain and point fingers and make excuses and stay down or you can get back up and compete and fight.”
North Carolina’s Caleb Love, RJ Davis and Leaky Black all played more than 50 minutes against the Crimson Tide, topped by Love at 58 minutes.
Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot sat out some of the overtime sessions due to a sore ankle. The ailment also puts in doubt his status for the Indiana game.
The Hoosiers expect Bacot to be on the court.
“They have a big dinosaur coming down in Armando,” Johnson said. “We have two or three big dinosaurs as well that are ready to compete at a high level, and I think they’re ready to play.”
North Carolina has surrendered seven 3-point baskets to an individual on the opposing team in each of the past two games. Part of preventing that might involve the Tar Heels better maintaining defensive focus for an entire possession.
“I think we’re a really, really good defensive team for the first 20-25 seconds,” Davis said. “So it’s late shot clock, just trying to stay disciplined in terms of our technique and things that we have to do.”
The Tar Heels might have Bates rising on the scouting report. In his breakthrough game, he displayed why he gives the Hoosiers, who are 6-0 for the second season in a row, another serious offensive weapon.
“He has shown some signs of maturity,” Woodson said. “We’re going to need that from him because he can make shots and he can do things from an offensive standpoint that I want him to do.”
–Field Level Media