Blue-bloods battle in the NCAA Second Round

Guard Tyler UIis fights for the ball during the Wildcat’s game against the Stony Brook Seawolves during the first round of the NCCA tournament at Well’s Fargo Arena on March 16, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Taylor Pence

While Syracuse and Middle Tennessee are meeting in the Second Round on one side of the bracket, Indiana and UK are meeting in the same round in the East Region in a game that will eliminate a contender way too early.

When the names of the programs are stripped away, what is left are two regular season champs from their respective conferences that are noticeably seeded unfairly. But then when the names are added back, they reveal a matchup between two blue-bloods of college basketball that has every analyst drooling.

The game features two storied programs with a combined 13 national championships and 25 Final Fours. It also forces a matchup between two teams that once played an annual series.

The UK-Indiana series was never renewed following the drama that surrounded the last regular season matchup during the 2011-12 season in Assembly Hall. Indiana won the game on a buzzer-beater from a Christian Watford shot that would go on to be highly decorated by Indiana and the nation.

“It was such a dramatic shot at a time when our program needed a real shot in the arm, right?” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “And that’s exactly what that shot provided. It was a great game.”

Indiana used the momentum from that shot to earn a four seed in the NCAA Tournament and played its way into a rematch with the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, UK. The Cats took advantage of their second opportunity against the Hoosiers and won an up-and-down, high scoring Sweet Sixteen matchup 102-90.

Now with both teams facing off again in the NCAA, that game seems to be a great indicator for what to expect in the Second Round matchup this year.

“I see this being a very fast tempo game, two high-powered offenses, especially both of us, we like to get up and down,” Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell. “I expect it to be a multiple possession game on both ends.”

Indiana ranks inside the top 15 in average points per game and also is top five in team three point percentage. UK, on the other hand, prides itself on being number one in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com , which measures a team’s effectiveness when scoring on the average Divison I defense.

Both teams also feature All-American point guards, according to USA Today, with Tyler Ulis making First Team for UK and Ferrell making Second Team for Indiana.

“They both lead their teams. Yogi (Ferrell) is probably more of a perimeter shooter than Tyler (Ulis) and I think Tyler (Ulis) is probably more of a mid-range game than Yogi (Ferrell),” UK head coach John Calipari said. “But I think they both play extremely hard, extremely smart, know how to create fouls, know how to turn down pick and rolls, know when to speed up their team and when to (say), ‘Hold up, guys, let’s play basketball here.’”

Ferrell is coming off a game in which Indiana scored 99 points and he contributed a double-double with 20 points and 10 assists.

The Hoosiers’ offense had 23 assists on 37 made field goals against Chattanooga. Third Team All-Big Ten member Troy Williams and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Max Bielfeldt provide versatility on the wings for Indiana. Both guys have size, standing 6’8” and 6’7” respectively, to help inside on the glass as they make up two of Indiana’s top three rebounders, but they also can step outside and hit shots from deep.

Bielfeldt leads the team shooting at a 43.9 percent clip from deep, and Williams provides the dual-threat of hitting 21 threes on the season while also leading the team in rebounding at six per game.

When game planning, Indiana will likely have to make special arrangements for guarding Ulis along with freshman Jamal Murray. The duo tore up the SEC and earned All-SEC First Team honors in response.

While Ulis hurts a team with his overall impact on UK’s offense, Murray has made his name by being a dynamic scorer for UK. The freshman scored 20 points or more in 12 straight games for the Cats to close the season. Murray will be looking to get off to a better start than his first NCAA tournament game as he got off to a cold start against Stony Brook starting the game 1-for-9 from the field.

When asked about what other player could give Indiana trouble beside Ulis and freshman Murray, Hoosier players’ main concerns were the players inside for UK.

The Cats put on an impressive show coming up with 15 blocks in their first round matchup against Stony Brook. The NCAA record breaking performance obviously left an impression on the Hoosiers and highlighted how UK hopes to go into the game — with more of a defensive mentality.

“You’re going to have to win this game with defense so, you know, we don’t want them scoring really high,” Ulis said. “But if it is, Coach talked about it earlier, we have to outscore them. We’re going to come down and focus defensively and try to lock in.”

With the Hoosiers’ offensive reputation, UK’s defense will have a difficult time shutting them down like it did Stony Brook. Either way, the matchup between the blue-bloods that fans and analysts have yearned for since the series was cancelled will finally take place in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday at 5:15. A great show is almost guaranteed with Ulis and Ferrell powering the opposing sides.