Anybody but Alabama

Indiana coach Mike Davis did not want to play Alabama in the first round. In fact, of all the teams that made the field of 65, the Crimson Tide would have been No. 65 on his wish list.

"I've played at Alabama and you always follow your school and when they said we get to play them I didn't want to play them," Davis said. "I didn't get any sleep because of the fear of losing to them; the fear of not playing well."

During his team's press conference the day before Indiana's match-up against his former school, Davis said nobody from his hometown, Fayette, had called him all week to wish him good luck against the Tide. He joked that he would not even want to go home should his Indiana squad drop a game to the Tide.

"My phone's been ringing off the hook (today)," Davis said after Indiana beat Alabama Friday. "One of my best friends called me today and said everyone in my hometown has been wearing Indiana shirts to show they still love me."

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried remembers Davis very well from his playing days at the Capstone. Gottfried was coming into Tuscaloosa the year after Davis graduated and the two worked out together during the summer off-season in between. The two have remained good friends since.

Davis talked about the experience of coaching against his former team. "I was looking through the media guide because you always look through and read about who you are going to play," Davis related. "They had an old picture of me playing and I asked my son, 'Who's that?' He had no idea.

"That's how bad I looked back in the day."

Davis actually had a stellar playing career in both high school and college in Alabama. As a high school senior, he was named Mr. Basketball for the state before signing a letter of intent with the Tide.

Davis remembered that he was beginning to lean towards going to Auburn, but then-Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson caught wind of Davis' intentions and immediately saw the high school senior in person, convincing him to stick with the Tide.

During his four-year (1980-83) tenure as a player in Tuscaloosa, Davis' teams played in two NCAA Tournaments, including one trip to the Sweet 16 in 1982. Individually, Davis led the Tide in steals in '81 and '82, finishing third in that category on Bama's all-time list. Though noted for his tough defense, Davis' 1,211 career points still rank him 26th all-time for the Tide.

The third-year Indiana coach explained that hearing the Alabama pep band play the fight song Friday during Indiana's game with the Crimson Tide made him flash back to his career at Alabama.

"When they started playing the fight song during the game, I thought I was still playing," Davis said. "Every time you hear the Alabama fight song you get that feeling like the first time that you walked out the tunnel when you played basketball. I had to block that out a little bit."

The week leading up to his first-round game was even more tense than usual for Davis. His players said they could notice some subtle changes. Indiana guard Tom Coverdale said Davis seemed a little tense during the previous week's practices.

"He wants to win this bad every single game, but you could tell he was a little up tight," Coverdale said. "We're glad we could get the win for him."

Alabama's loss ended a frustrating season for the Tide. The defending regular season SEC champions, Alabama started strong, climbing to the first No. 1 rating in the program's history. But a midseason slump, coupled with serious struggles on the road, created genuine doubt that the Tide would even make the NCAA Tournament.

When news of the bid reached the team, Gottfried and his players hoped to redeem the season with a tournament run. But reluctant opponents or not, Davis and the Hoosiers put an end to those dreams.

Davis said the only other team that he would never want to play is Texas Tech where his former employer, Bobby Knight, coaches.

After defeating the Tide, Indiana lost its second-round game Sunday to Pittsburgh. Now that the experience is over, Davis can sit back and relax.


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