The team most likely to carry American Express cards, Toledo, continues its journey into the world of recognition, taking on fourth-ranked Notre Dame in the home state of the Irish Friday at 7 p.m. in the Mideast semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament.
In the second half of the double-header at Market Square Arena, Lousiana State brings its "new personality," but not leading scorer DeWayne Scales, into a 9:30 game with Michigan State, which will probably be without injured starting center Jay Vincent.
The winners play Sunday afternoon for the Mideast berth in the national semifinals in Salt Lake City March 24.
Toledo's 22-7 Rockets, cochampions of the Mid-American Conference, come here bristling with indignation over the nation's surprise at their prowess.
Toledo has defeated Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and, last Sunday. Big Ten trichampion Iowa, 74-72, in a three-year span. So Coach Bob Nichols is in no mood to endorse glass slippers.
"I firmly believe we can play with anyone in the country," said Nichols, "no matter what their rank."
Toledo lacks a big center but is well stocked in the ability to execute team defense and patient offense.
The Rockets hope they can avoid foul trouble in trying to contain Notre Dame's 6-foot-11, 245-pound center, Bill Laimbeer, who outmuscled Tennessee last week for 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Laimbeer's family lives in Toledo. prompting Coach Digger Phelps to comment, "Lam will be psyched. He'll probably foul out in the first three minutes."
Laimbeer said, "I'm really looking forward to it. Everyone in Toledo will be watching. Of course, everyone in Toledo will root for Toledo."
Once top-ranked, Notre Dame claims to have the best 10 players in the land and, when overcoming a tendency to be lackadaisical, wears down opponents with physical play and fresh players.
Notre Dame is a nine-to 10-point favorite. Michigan State (22-6), without Vincent, is only a slight favorite over 23-5 LSU, the Southeast Conference champion.
Vincent played on a sprained foot in Sunday's 95-64 victory over Lamar and didn't practice today. A team spokesman said Vincent is doubtful.
If Coach Jud Heathcote is going to win an NCAA championship in this decade, this may have to be the team to do it. Next year, the Spartans will lose all-time leading scorer and rebounder Greg Kelser, a 6-foot-7 senior forward. And if some National Basketball Association team can ante up the rumored $2 million necessary to lure sophomore All-America guard Earvin Johnson, they may lose him, also.
LSU Coach Dale Brown says his team can "win it all," despite the Nov. 30 loss of forward Durand Macklin to a broken foot and the recent suspension of forward Scales for talking to a pro agent.
"We've changed our personality," said Brown. "When Macklin got hurt, we regrouped. When Scales was suspended, we regrouped.
The twice-regrouped Tigers are led by penetrating guard Al Green with an 18.2 average. His task will be to untie the tangly MSU two-three zone.