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Hoosiers don't think much of underdog tag
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Indiana has had its share of distractions the last two seasons. So, playing defending champion Duke in the NCAA tournament is a minor sideshow to the Hoosiers.
There's been the Bob Knight saga, a mediocre 7-5 start this year and a late-season injury to Jared Jeffries that probably cost Indiana the Big Ten title outright.
Being the only double-digit underdog in the tournament's round of 16 doesn't faze coach Mike Davis and his Indiana players as they prepare to play the top-seeded Blue Devils (31-3) in the South Regional semifinals tonight.
"The last time I checked there was some bracket deal where over 900,000 people picked and not one person had the Sweet 16 right," Davis said.
The Hoosiers are 12-point underdogs to a team filled with future NBA players. And perhaps no coach has been a bigger underdog than Davis, who took over one of college basketball's storied programs after 29 years of Knight's rule.
Davis, who doesn't wear a red sweater and let his 3-year-old son Antoine help with practice Wednesday, has been a target of some Indiana fans ever since he replaced Knight, who was fired after violating a zero-tolerance personal behavior rule imposed by the university.
"People that got down on us are the ones who didn't want me to be the coach," Davis said. "Here we are Big Ten champs and they're not happy about that. Here we are in the Sweet 16 and they're not happy about that. Here we are with back-to-back 20-win seasons and they're not happy about that.
"I try to put those people out of my mind but it's very difficult. I do have a radio show and they do call in and ask the craziest questions in the world."
A win by Indiana (22-11) would go a long way toward bringing Davis and the school's fans closer together. The Hoosiers haven't been this deep in the tournament since 1994.
"With the fans holding onto the legacy of coach Knight and the tradition he made, that just shows that if we build on the tradition he'll be treated the same way," Jeffries said of Davis. "Maybe 20 years from now it will be the same way about this team and this coaching staff."
The task Thursday night in Rupp Arena won't be easy for the fifth-seeded Hoosiers.
Davis said Duke's backcourt is NBA-caliber, and his club -- one of the best defensive teams in the nation -- still may have a difficult time guarding the quicker Blue Devils, who are making their fifth straight appearance in the round of 16 under Mike Krzyzewski.
"I will be very disappointed if we don't come out and fight like crazy defensively," Davis said. "It may take us three or four minutes -- if we have that -- to adjust to the speed and quickness of their team, but if we can buy some time we'll be OK.
"They're even quick on film and a lot of times guys don't look quick on tape. In person it's going to be like Carl Lewis."
At least Indiana's players are talking a good game, trying to pump themselves up for what is shaping up as a battle of Duke's offense against the Hoosiers' D.
"Don't act like we're an over-60 women's team and someone's just going to murder us," A.J. Moye said. "Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal aren't coming out of that locker room. We won't see Michael Jordan. They're kids, just like us."
A scare against Notre Dame in the second round has gotten Duke's attention.
"Going into last weekend's game we didn't think we were invincible," Mike Dunleavy said. "But I guess it was a little bit of a wake-up call."
Duke is 18-3 in its last 21 NCAA games and Krzyzewski is looking for his 100th career win with the Blue Devils in March.
"I don't think of it as a target," Krzyzewski said. "We've been one of the really good programs for a long period of time, so any program that is enjoying that success is going to get everybody's best shot. For that day people want to take it away from us. I think that makes you better because at this time of the year we're accustomed to it."