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In Indiana, Basketball Is in a Sad State

The Hoosiers (6-7) lost to North Carolina by seven, at Connecticut by five and then lost at home to Notre Dame by 10, the Fighting Irish's first victory at Bloomington's Assembly Hall since 1973. Indiana followed that with losses against Kentucky, its fifth in a row in the series, and to Missouri and the UNC Charlotte. After rebounding to beat three lesser opponents, the Hoosiers lost their Big Ten Conference opener, 73-52, at Northwestern on Jan. 5.

When the Hoosiers returned to Bloomington to beat Wisconsin on Jan. 8, Davis heard a loud chorus of boos during pregame introductions. Despite leading Indiana to the NCAA championship game against Maryland in his second season in 2001-02, and averaging 20 victories in his first four seasons, Davis knows he probably won't return as Indiana's coach next season.

Coach Mike Davis followed the legendary Bob Knight at Indiana. He was booed at a recent home game. "It's sad," Davis said. (George Widman -- AP)

_____Game of the Week_____
Game of the Week

No. 3 North Carolina at No. 4 Wake Forest, 1:30 p.m. today

This Tobacco Road thriller is the "Gone With the Wind" of college basketball: There's no sequel to this classic. Because of ACC expansion, the North Carolina schools play only once during the regular season after meeting at least twice in every season since 1922 (the Demon Deacons didn't field a team in 1944 because of World War II). If both teams are really as good as they look, there's a good chance they could meet again in the ACC tournament final at MCI Center or at the Final Four in St. Louis. The Tar Heels have played like the ACC's best team during the past month, beating Virginia Tech by 34 points, Maryland by 34 and No. 8 Georgia Tech by 22 on Wednesday night. The Demon Deacons have won nine games in a row; the Tar Heels have won 14 games in a row. The game features two of the nation's best point guards, Carolina's Raymond Felton and Wake's Chris Paul, and two of the ACC's best big men, Tar Heels junior Sean May and Demon Deacons junior Eric Williams.

_____Top Five Mid-Majors_____
Top Five Mid-Majors

1. George Washington (11-2): Colonials should cruise until a four-game stretch at the end of the month that includes games at Richmond, at home against Xavier and Dayton, and at Temple on Feb. 5.

2. Gonzaga (12-3): Zags won't walk through the West Coast Conference this year; lost at Saint Mary's (Calif.), 89-81, on Jan. 8.

3. Southern Illinois (13-3): Salukis won toughest road test in Missouri Valley Conference, winning at Creighton, 69-63, last Sunday.

4. Hawaii (10-2): The Rainbow Warriors could be eyeing 24 victories.

5. Wichita State (11-1): The Shockers' only loss was a 64-59 loss to Manhattan on Jan. 3.

_____RPI Watch_____

Temple is off to a 2-0 start in the mediocre Atlantic 10 and undoubtedly will receive an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament if it finishes with a winning record in the league. The Owls (6-6) had an RPI ranking of 19 entering this week, thanks to the second-toughest schedule in the nation. Temple's nonconference schedule included road games at Georgetown, South Carolina, Alabama and Duke, and the Owls will play at Maryland today. Temple played Auburn, Arizona State, Pennsylvania, Wake Forest and Princeton at home and played Villanova at the Palestra. Senior guard Mardy Collins is one of the most underrated players in the country, averaging 17 points and 4.3 assists and leading Division I with 3.8 steals. As usual, Temple is taking care of the basketball meticulously, averaging 9.2 turnovers.

_____Men's Basketball Basics_____
basketball Scoreboard
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Men's Basketball Section

"You'd think I was averaging 10 wins," Davis, 44, said last week, during an interview in his team's locker room. "I just want to be sure my boys are protected. They're going to be a part of Indiana basketball for the rest of their lives. It's amazing they have to go through this. It's sad. They're getting booed. They need to be able to enjoy their college careers. I want them to have that great memory."

Knight's Legacy

In September 2000, Davis was given the unenviable task of replacing the legendary Knight, who was fired for violating then-Indiana University president Myles Brand's zero-tolerance policy by grabbing the arm of a 19-year-old student to lecture him about manners. Knight won more than 600 games, 3 national championships and 11 Big Ten titles during his 29 seasons at Indiana but had a volatile personality that sometimes overshadowed his success on the court.

"Anytime you follow a legend, it's difficult," said Alford, a two-time all-American at Indiana, who led the Hoosiers to the 1987 national championship and is now the basketball coach at the University of Iowa. "Look at the guys that have had to follow John Wooden at UCLA. There's not much more you can do at Indiana than what Coach Knight did."

Davis said he has done enough in his five seasons at Indiana, becoming the first Hoosiers coach to win 20 games or more in each of his first three seasons. He is starting three freshmen this season, including all-American D.J. White, a center from Tuscaloosa, Ala. Davis has signed three more recruits for next season and two of his team's best players, forward Marco Killingsworth and point guard Lewis Monroe, are ineligible to play this season after transferring from Auburn.

"People think it's so easy to recruit for Indiana," Davis said. "But it takes a lot of character for guys to come play for me in all this. If you had a son, would you let him walk into this? I wouldn't. These boys deserve better than this."

Davis said a lot of Indiana fans come to the games rooting for the Hoosiers to lose, hoping a poor record will ensure his dismissal. The heckling has gotten so bad that Davis is considering telling his wife, Tamilya, and son to stay home. After the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin, 74-61, in what might have been the team's best performance in two seasons, one Indiana fan walked out of the stands of Assembly Hall red-faced and wearing a shirt emblazoned with a logo for Texas Tech, the school Knight now coaches.

"Any time a player walks into that gym and looks like somebody who used to play here, that's who they want that player to be," Davis said. "They're living in the past."

Davis's players aren't sure what it will take to quiet their coach's critics.

"You never know what the people here want," said Hoosiers forward Patrick Ewing Jr., son of former NBA star Patrick Ewing and a former standout at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington. "I figured everybody in Indiana would be pulling for him since he took the team to the Final Four. If you're not supporting the coach, you're not supporting the team."

Said White after the Wisconsin victory: "It won't shut them up. It's only one win. They might be happy we won."

'It's Not as Much Fun'

Keady, 68, knows he's coaching his last season at Purdue after 25 years at the school. The Boilermakers (4-9) have played in the NCAA tournament only once in the past four seasons, and they haven't won 20 games in a season since finishing 24-10 in 1999-2000. Purdue has produced only one all-Big Ten selection in the past five seasons and hasn't had an all-American since Glenn Robinson in 1994. Things got so bad last season, when the Boilermakers lost eight of their last 10 games to finish 17-14, that Keady considered retiring or leaving to take a job at the University of San Francisco.

But Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke persuaded Keady to stay one more season. Keady reluctantly agreed to stay and was allowed to name Painter his successor. Painter coached last season at Southern Illinois, leading the Salukis to a 25-5 record and the NCAA tournament. Keady chose him over more established coaches such as Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings, Illinois' Bruce Weber and former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, who also were his assistants at Purdue.

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