ATLANTA - You never really know just how a team prepares itself until its out in the open.
The NCAA Tournament facilitates such an opportunity.
Teams that reach the round of 16 in the 68-team playoff get the opportunity to workout for 50 minutes in front of their fans. Most of the times, however, that privledge is reversed as the curtain is pulled back on the usually closed door preparations of college teams.
Sometimes they reveal little and sometimes a lot. What a coach does for the time is not mandanted and in fact a team can opt out of some of the time if they wish.
In making their first Sweet 16 appearance in ten years, however, Indiana showed a little wrinkle to its preparations right out of the game.
Can you say Everlast?
"It's getting over screens," said Will Sheehey of the Hoosiers' pre-practice routine of running into and sometimes around a few managers holding pads for five minutes.
Some of the pads are large, like you would see on a football field for lineman drills. Others are simply cover the hands and resemble those used for punching drills in boxing. Neither of those skills apply here as the players try to work their way around and sometimes through the particular padded obstacle.
"If there is a screen on the perimeter those guys out there with the pads they act like a screener, just try to get your leg over them or drive over them," explains Sheehey of the drill. "It's kinda like if a man is in front of you with the ball, that guys like a ball screener, you either go over or you go under."
Victor Oladipo says the team has used this workout since the beginning of the season to prevent the aformentioned screens from causing problems on defense.
"That's just to get our blood flowing, you know, and to just simulate things that will happen in the game," said Oladipo of the drill-and they'll likely come in handy against Kentucky on Friday night.
Indiana's opponent is one of the best offensive teams in the country, averaging 77 points per contest with is 20th best in Division I basketball. Their starting lineup features four players who average double figures in scoring, led by Anthony Davis with 14.3 points per contest.
At the same time, three of the five in the first team stand taller than six-foot-seven, meaning that the Hoosiers time with the pads could pay off tremendously in their Sweet 16 match-up.
"Getting over and under screens," said forward Derek Elston of what the team will need to do against Kentucky and how the drill helps. "That's gonna be a huge part of this game, just getting our arm through, getting our leg through so we don't get caught up in a screen."
Of course the ability to get a small hit on some pads does bring some more than just techincal skill to these Hoosiers.
"It's a little bit of defense to start a practice, which it should be," said Sheehey. "It gets your blood pumping, get loose, know what your gonna do for the day."
Even if those in the crowd for this rare open practice never saw it coming.
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