During the waning moments of Indiana‚Äôs 73‚Äì58 loss to No. 10 Kentucky last Saturday, Wildcats coach Tubby Smith told Hoosiers guard Bracey Wright that he thought Indiana was going to have a successful season. ‚ÄúThat made me feel good,‚Äù Wright, a 6'3" junior, said later. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre competing hard as a team. We still think we‚Äôre going to have a good season.‚Äù
That assessment seemed overly optimistic in the wake of yet another woeful offensive performance by Indiana (2‚Äì4), which shot less than 40% from the field for the fifth straight game and has yet to score 70 points this season. But the Hoosiers‚Äô biggest problem these days isn‚Äôt how they‚Äôre playing but whom. The Kentucky game concluded a brutal four-game stretch that included losses to North Carolina (which was No. 9 at the time), UConn (No. 7) and Notre Dame. That slate would test a veteran team, much less one that starts two freshmen and is coming off a 14‚Äì15 season.
Indiana‚Äôs masochistic scheduling has been an annual source of frustration for Mike Davis, who is working for his fourth athletic director since becoming head coach in the fall of 2000. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt mind playing good teams, but why are we playing five or six in a row?‚Äù says Davis, whose Hoosiers next face Missouri and Charlotte. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been complaining every year. Last year they finally said, ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt complain anymore.‚Äô‚Äù Davis says he also raised objections last summer during the Big Ten meetings in Chicago after he learned that the Hoosiers were being paired with North Carolina in the ACC‚ÄìBig Ten Challenge; Indiana was picked by league writers to finish sixth in the Big Ten, while North Carolina was picked second in the ACC. ‚ÄúI was told it all came down to what was good for TV,‚Äù Davis says.
In the meantime Indiana has seen flashes of potential from its two freshman starters, 6'5" guard Robert Vaden (11.2 points and 5.7 rebounds a game) and 6'9" forward D.J. White (8.8 points and 3.8 boards), but the team has suffered from a lack of inside scoring. Against Kentucky the Hoosiers were outscored in the paint 38‚Äì10. Things might have been different had Indiana not lost two of its prized recruits, 6'9" forward Josh Smith, who was drafted 17th overall by the Atlanta Hawks, and 7'1" center Robert Rothbart, who is playing professionally in Europe.
In its four losses Indiana launched 44% of its field goal attempts from behind the three-point line, converting just 32%. During a somber 90-minute team meeting last Thursday, Davis was especially critical of Wright‚Äôs six-point performance against Notre Dame‚Äôs 2‚Äì3 zone the night before. ‚ÄúWe have one zone play,‚Äù Wright had said after that loss. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs all we ran all night. When it didn‚Äôt work, we were stuck.‚Äù
Davis believes Indiana‚Äôs new athletic director, Rick Greenspan, who meets with Davis for an hour every Tuesday, shares his concern about the need to dial back the scheduling in the future. Still, the coach is under enormous pressure to produce results, and neither he nor his players can afford to wait until next year to reverse their fortunes. ‚ÄúI told my guys, you have to decide how you want to be remembered,‚Äù Davis says. ‚ÄúThese people around here, they don‚Äôt care about our schedule. They just want us to win.‚Äù
1 Memphis is in a major tailspin. The Tigers followed up the 19-point drubbing they took from Pitt by losing 65‚Äì53 to Ole Miss, which had a 2‚Äì4 record. The loss was Memphis‚Äôs fourth in its last six games and snapped the Tigers‚Äô 24-game home winning streak.
2 Ellis Myles is underrated. Louisville‚Äôs 6'7" senior center had just seven points and four rebounds against Florida, but the Cardinals would not have won without the toughness he provided while playing a game-high 39 minutes.
3 Travis Diener is a real gamer. Despite aggravating a sprained right ankle during the first half, Marquette‚Äôs 6'1" senior point guard scored 29 points in a 63‚Äì54 win over Wisconsin, helping the Golden Eagles improve to 9‚Äì0 and raising his scoring average to 21.1.