Bloomington, Ind. is less than three hours away, so there’s a lot of red-clad fans taking in practices at the University of Dayton Arena, where top-seeded Indiana is prepping for a Friday showdown against No. 16 James Madison. The Hoosiers know that many more miles away, there’s someone else whose bracket depends entirely on Indiana’s success in the tournament. President Obama picked the Hoosiers to win it all.
“That’s pretty cool that the president actually knows who we are,” junior Victor Oladipo said. “He has a lot of stuff going on for him, so to actually know who we are is pretty cool.”
Oladipo is the Upper Marlboro native who was an All-Met honoree at DeMatha just a few years before growing into one of the nation’s top basketball players. Growing up in the Washington area, he always paid close attention to the tournament when he was younger — particularly George Mason’s 2006 run, he said — but Oladipo didn’t find any time to do a bracket of his own this year.
“I’m just focused on being in it,” he said before Thursday’s practice.”Not filling out one.”
While expectations might be high this week, there’s a sense of urgency around this Hoosiers team. They’ve been prepping for this week since last March but learned their path to the Final Four just five days ago.
“It feels like Sunday was like three weeks ago,” Oladipo said.
The Hoosiers will face a hungry JMU team Friday. Players say they’ve already studied tape of the Dukes’ CAA championship game and their victory over LIU-Brooklyn in Wednesday’s play-in game.
“They’re athletic,” Oladipo said. “They can get up and down the floor. They have a lot of players who are capable of doing great things.”