All was right (or at least Knight) in the world for about 20 minutes yesterday. I was sitting in the Las Vegas Westgate Sports Book sipping on a complimentary vodka and tonic because I was playing video poker and I.U. basketball was on one of the big screens. Even though the Hoosiers lost control of the game after a 12-0 Boilermaker run, I knew something special was about to happen. A friend and former I.U. basketball player, had just posted a picture of himself and Coach Bobby Knight in one of the hospitality rooms inside Cook Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. The legendary General was about to step on the court for the first time in two decades, hopefully cementing a future relationship with the school after all those years of bad blood. It was a tearful moment for me even though Knight had become the public a-hole that we all knew he could be as a coach. He looks fragile after all those years with the mannerisms that my dad displayed in his eighties. He was shaky and unsteady but still had fire in his eyes. I was glad he was back, and I think so was he!
After the glow of halftime wore out, the team failed to respond despite the hype, a week-off to prepare, and a must-win situation. Even Knight’s presence couldn’t fix the Hoosiers. They are in a bad place, in the middle of a schedule drought that mimics the scoreless streaks they display on the floor. Just three weeks ago they were a “lock” for a bid to the NCAA Tournament, even after a home court collapse against Maryland. Today, it’s time to face the reality of another NIT. Archie can’t beat Purdue, so when they meet again in Lafayette, the outcome will probably be even more embarrassing in his fifth attempt to succeed. Even with a poor season, a single Purdue victory can at least save a job.
There are eight games left this season before the BIG tournament that I.U. has never won. The Hoosiers have dropped to the near the basement of the conference, tied with Michigan at 5-7. Michigan has at least won recently. Only Nebraska and Northwestern have no post-season chances, and I.U. doesn’t get to play either one. They do have one more shot at the Wolverines but that’s in Ann Arbor. Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Penn State come to town. I.U. will be lucky to win two of those games and could easily lose all four. In addition, they travel to Minnesota and Illinois. They’ve already lost four straight – how long will this losing streak persist? I’m worried! Penn State, Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan have all started timely winning streaks. Nebraska has lost 8 straight and Northwestern 6, but once again we don’t play either of them, and it took overtime to beat Nebraska at home.
Bob Knight led the Assembly Hall crowd with a chant of “Defense.” We gave up 74 points against Purdue, 68 versus Ohio State, 64 to Penn State, and 77 to Maryland in this four-game slump. That’s certainly not Bob Knight defense! I hope I’m wrong and that Archie gets the win in Lafayette and the NCAA seed to get two of the monkeys off his back. Otherwise, he’ll soon be packing, although I still believe that’s a unnecessary setback that the program simply can’t endure. Let’s start with Iowa and at least get to 20 victories this year. Indiana…I’m all for you – thanks for patching the wounds from 20 years ago, and welcoming Coach Knight back to Assembly Hall.