As the NCAA basketball tournament rolls into the second day of round one, Duke Coach Bill Foster has a peculiar problem: convincing his Blue Devils that Rhode Island and the maligned East Region deserve every bit as much attention as the Atlantic Coast Conference schools and their tournament.
"We have to come down form the euphoria and the celebration of last week," said Foster, who earned his first-ever trip to the NCAA tourney and Duke's first since 1966 by sweeping the ACC tournament. Duke (23-6) faces Rhode Island (24-6) in one of today's East Region games at Charlotte (4 p.m. WRC-TV-11)
In other East games, Penn (19-7) takes its home court against St. Bonaventure (21-7) and Villanova (21-8) makes it a doubleheader with La Salle (18-11).
The other game at Charlotte pits Indiana (20-7) against Furman (17-10).
In the Midwest, Houston (25-7) challenges Notre Dame (19-6) and Louisville (22-6) meets St. John's (21-6) at Oral Roberts (2 p.m., WRX-TV-4, WBAL-TV-11) while DePaul (25-2) plays Creighton (19-8) and Missouri (14-15) tries to reach the 500 plateau against Utah (22-5) at Wichita.
Rhode Island enters today's game with and eight-game win streak, and during the season has beaten San Francisco at San Francisco and Providence and Wake Foarest at home. it is a smart, ball-control club with quickness.
They'r a heckuva club," said Foster. "We can't play an average game and beat this team.
"it's seems like everyone around town already has us going to Providence (the next stop on the East Region tour). We have to dismiss that from the minds of our players and make sure we don't think we can waltz through. We got where we are by working our butts off, and if we don't continue to do that, we don't deserve to win.
"My feeling on the talk about the East regional is this: I talked to a New England radio station that said Rhode Island has the best chance to win, and I talked to and Indiana writer who said that around there they said Indiana has the clear shot.
"Each team has confidence. I think we have a good chance. The players seem confident but not cocky."
In some parts, Duke has been tabbed the favorit in the East. For Foster, it has to seem quite an assignment in hs rookie debut here.
"The interesting thing here in Charlotte is that the other three coaches have all been to the Final Four," said Faoste. "Jack Kraft (Rhode Island's coach) went with Villanova, Bobby Knight (Indiana), of course, won the whole thing two years ago and Joe Williams (Furman) took his Jacksonville team.
"I'm confident, though. It all boils down to what happens at 4:15."
Indiana became a very young team after five players quit last yar, but the Hoosiers have put it together quickly, winning their last eight Big Ten games to earn a second-place tie with Minnesota and the NCAA bid. Michigan State won the Big Ten with a15-3 mark, and Minnesota and Indiana both finished 12-6. Mionnesota is on NCAA probation and cannot participate in the tourenament.
Indiana beat heavies in Notre Dame and Alabama in the early part of the season and split with league champion MSU. The Hoosiers still seem to be the team for Duke to beat.
The Notre Dame-Houston matchup could provide an upset. Notre Dame, rated in some preseason polls as high as No. 2, has played magnificently at home, losing only to DePaul in overtime, but the Irish have struggled a bit outside the Athletic Convocation Center, losing to big guns Indiana, Kentucky and San Francisco early in the year, and recently bowing to lighter competition at South Carolina and Dayton.
Houston, meanwhile, is still feeling the effects of an 84-75 upset over Arkansas and might have the confidence to handle Notr Dame on neutral ground. Both are physical clubs and officiating could be a key.
If Notre Dame falters, 64-year-old Ray Meyer might feel chipper enough to step right into the Final Four with his DePaul club. Meyer cut Notre Dame's home winning streak at 22, and has lost only at LSU (by a point) and at Marquette (big six points).
Louisville upset Florida State in a last-second win for the Metro-Seven tournament title. The Cardinals have come along eith the improved play of 7-foot Ricky Gallon, and with the help of All-America Rick Wilson, Louisville could bethere at the finish in the Midwest.