India Rising, the first-ever all-Indian basketball team to be featured on ESPN, will be facing TBT veterans–and reigning champs–Boeheim’s Army, in the first game of the tournament on July 22 at 7 p.m., in the SRC Arena in Syracuse.
Here are five things to watch for in the matchup:
1. Young Talent
India Rising has put together a younger roster than Boeheim’s Army – 11 players of whom only one is over 30, while the majority of Syracuse’s 9 players are in their 30s or late 20s.
Sukhmail Mathon was the 2022 Patriot League Player of the Year (avg 15.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG), and was eighth in double-doubles (18) in the NCAA in 2022. Guard Aryan Sharma averaged 14.1 PPG with 35.7 percent 3-point shooting for the University of Western Ontario.
2. 3×3 Experience
Two of India Rising’s major players have professional 3×3 experience, playing against athletes from all over the world in the FIBA league.
Guard Inderbir Singh Gill even held the title of No. 1 3×3 Player in the US. The other, Kiran Shastri, is a 6’7″ wing who played most recently at the 3×3 tournament in Manila in May. He’s also the Chaminade Silverwords’ (Div. II) all-time leader in 3-pointers.
3×3 players must be comfortable playing all positions, taking shots from all over the floor and able to adapt to a court that changes quickly. This could be an edge for India Rising.
3. Rotating Centers
India rising has a talented squad of big men –two true centers, one of whom, Sukhman Sandhu (6’10”), led the Canadian Colleges in 3-point percentage this past collegiate season and the other, Josh Sharma (7’), who averaged 12.2 points and 6 rebounds in 21-22 with Poland’s Trefl Sopot.
Boeheim’s Army will likely rotate Christmas, Dolezaj, and Wiltjer in the five spot.
4. Best of India Rising
The aforementioned Gill has been a star 3×3 player. He’s joined by guard Jaz Bains who averaged over 14 ppg for the UK’s Reading Rockets.
Princepal Singh, a 21-year old forward, became the first Indian Basketball Academy graduate to sign with the G-league Ignite and averaged 2.3 points in four games. In 2021, he was drafted by the G-League’s Stockton Kings with the fifth pick of the third round.
5. Bigger than the W
Knowing the importance of representation to making dreams seem possible for kids of all backgrounds, team managers Gautam Kapur and Roy Rana wanted to bring together the best players of Indian descent in the world.
“The broader mission is (to) provide people both in the states, Canada and India the opportunity to tune in, watch a basketball game and see people that look like them,” said Kapur in an interview with The Basketball Tournament.
The sentiment is shared by the players.
“This is the first time that we’re actually going to come together as a community, as a country, and play together without any hate,” Gill said. “We all have one common goal: putting India on the map.”
PREDICTION AND PREVIEW
The biggest risk for Boeheim’s Army in its first game of the TBT is getting overly confident about being the favorites. India Rising is grateful to be on the TBT stage, and while they don’t need the win, perhaps they want it a whole lot more with the goal of breaking barriers for future generations.
Still, Boeheim’s Army edges out India Rising in experience, both on the collegiate and national stages, and has the advantage of playing in its eighth TBT. The team, made up mostly of former Syracuse players, will once again play its famous zone defense, and it should frustrate and counterbalance India Risings’ 3×3 experience in an 68-57 Boeheim’s Army win.