DAYTON, Ohio —
James Madison couldn’t possibly prepare for everybody. The 16-seed Dukes knew they’d give up a good amount of size against top-seeded Indiana on Friday afternoon so they figured they’d help off of Indiana’s least likely offensive star.
“We were gonna leave Yogi when the ball went in the paint,” James Madison coach Matt Brady said of Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell.
On paper, that may have seemed like a decent plan for the undersized Dukes. Ferrell entered Friday’s NCAA Tournament second-round game averaging just over eight points per game.
But, in practice, Brady’s idea was a disaster. Ferrell scored Indiana’s first nine points in an 83-62 win over James Madison at the University of Dayton Arena, and things were pretty easy for the Hoosiers from there.
Ferrell got to the basket for three consecutive layups to start the game, then knocked in two 3-pointers against a relaxed zone. He scored 14 of the Hoosiers’ first 18 points, and assisted on the team’s other two baskets.
The freshman point guard looked like a tournament veteran.
“We were undaunted by his 3s, it was the speed at which he put the ball down,” Brady said. “He just blew by our guys. He gets so low to the ground. When you get low like that, you’re hard to stay in front of.”
Once Ferrell broke down the James Madison defense early and trashed Brady’s game plan, he got his teammates involved. Ferrell scored only two more points to finish with 16, but he added eight rebounds and six assists.
“He’s always on the attack,” said Indiana forward Will Sheehey. “He makes everyone so much better when he drives in the lane and kicks, gives everyone else open shots. I know I always benefit off Yogi’s drives.”
Added Victor Oladipo: “The stars were out, the lights were on, and he came to perform. He did a great job for us.”
Sheehey said that when Ferrell arrived on campus last summer, he was “Hollywood” and thought rather highly of himself. It didn’t take long for the older players to put him in his place.
“He grew out of that quick because we brought him down to Earth,” Oladipo said. “Reality set in when we started doing conditioning and he wasn’t in front of the pack.”
Ever since then, Ferrell has stayed pretty quiet and worked. His freshman numbers won’t jump off the page at you, but Ferrell has quarterbacked this team from the very beginning of the season until now.
Only three teams in the last 20 years have won a national championship with a freshman point guard (Arizona 1997, Syracuse 2003, Kentucky 2012).
The Hoosiers are hoping they become the fourth.
“He’s a star,” Brady said of Ferrell. “I helped recruit and coach Jameer Nelson for four years. He’s got some of Jameer’s qualities. He’s got that same burst of speed. Jameer’s probably a little better long-range shooter, but he seems to have the leadership skills that Jameer had. He seems to have control of that team. It’s fun to watch.”