After losing a big game and then hearing they would lose a banquet, the Indiana Hoosiers are hungry.
"We need to start listening to the coach and communicating among ourselves," said guard Greg Graham as the Hoosiers prepared to meet Eastern Illinois tonight in an opening-round game of the NCCA basketball tournament.The fifth-ranked Hoosiers appeared ready to vindicate themselves following a disheartening 61-59 loss to Purdue on Sunday. The loss not only cost the Hoosiers a share of the Big Ten title, it likely knocked them out of the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Instead, they were sent to the West, where they are the No. 2 seed behind UCLA.
Indiana coach Bobby Knight didn't have much good to say about his team, but he insisted he didn't cancel an awards banquet to punish his players.
"If I were going to use that as a tool with my players, I would have added a banquet or two, rather than take one away," he said. "My players are so happy they don't have this banquet. The coaches are happy. The banquet has become a passe thing."
The day after the loss to Purdue, Knight canceled the team's annual awards dinner scheduled next month. The dinner had been sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Bloomington for 41 years.
Knight said he had been trying to get rid of the banquet for eight years, and it just happened to be announced on Monday.
"Had we won the ball game Sunday, there would be no banquet," he said. "Taking away the banquet to punish the players is like not having practice for two days or telling them they can only eat three steaks for supper. I really don't understand the issue that was made of that."
Meanwhile, the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils are going after a second straight national championship - something that hasn't been done since 1973 when the UCLA Bruins won their seventh consecutive title and ninth in 10 years.
The Blue Devils, who beat Kansas in the 1991 title game, open defense of their title against Campbell in the East Regional at Greensboro, N.C.
"This is the first time we know we can win the national championship," Duke guard Brian Davis said. "In the past, maybe there's been some apprehension. There have been some other good teams.
"We know how it's done, we know how to get there. All the things that are needed, we can provide."
The tournament's first round will be completed Friday with four games each at Worcester, Mass.; Atlanta; Dayton, Ohio, and Tempe, Ariz.
In the 18 years since the end of UCLA's domination, only three teams have won the NCAA title more than once - Indiana in 1976, 1981 and 1987, North Carolina State in 1974 and 1983, and Louisville in 1980 and 1986.