DECKER: Week's Results A Coach's Dream

INDIANAPOLIS-It was a dream week for IU Coach Mike Davis. Is that a typo, you ask? Certainly Saturday's 79-53 trouncing of ‘them jokers' from Lexington was reason to revel. But Tuesday's head scratcher in Terre Haute will surely keep the Hoosiers from climbing in the national polls, and should temper Davis' optimism, right? Wrong.

INDIANAPOLIS-It was a dream week for IU Coach Mike Davis.

Is that a typo, you ask? Certainly Saturday's 79-53 trouncing of ‘them jokers' from Lexington was reason to revel. But Tuesday's head scratcher in Terre Haute will surely keep the Hoosiers from climbing in the national polls, and should temper Davis' optimism, right?

Wrong.

When Indiana returns to the practice floor this week, Davis has coaching's version of pocket aces to show his team thanks to this past week's results. He can point to the team's two most recent outcomes as proof his 2005-06 Hoosiers are good enough to beat anyone…and can play poorly enough to lose to anyone as well.

When he begins preparation for a road trip to say, East Lansing, Mich., Jan. 11, the 26-point win over Kentucky and the near-miss against No. 1 Duke gives Davis the ammunition to suggest to his team that if all goes according to plan, they're good enough to win in an arena that has witnessed 11 straight IU defeats to Michigan State dating back to 1991.

Conversely, when the IU coaching staff talks about the potential pitfalls of a Feb. 1 home matchup with Northwestern - a team that hasn't won in Bloomington since 1968 – the Indiana State result shows there's danger every time the official hoists the opening tip into the air. After all, Northwestern arrives in town just three days before Jim Calhoun's UConn Huskies invade Assembly Hall, creating a near perfect match for Webster's definition of a college basketball "trap" game.

Last week's results provided Davis with just about anything and everything he needs to work with as he tries to lead his team to a Big Ten title and a deep run in the postseason.

First of all, Indiana needed the Kentucky result in the worst of ways. Never mind the fact that the only resemblance between this year's Kentucky team and the previous 11 were the uniforms they showed up in. It's still Kentucky, it's still a top-25 team (at least until the polls come out Monday), and it's still a game that means a whole lot anyone with Cream and Crimson loyalties.

This is also an Indiana team, mind you, that could count its wins over top-20 teams during the last two years on a single index finger, so a victory over a marquee program was a must to build some confidence.

Confidence is good, but over-confidence can lead to lackluster efforts and stunning setbacks, such as Tuesday's 72-67 loss to the Sycamores.

Tuesday's outcome provides Davis with the ability to tell Marco Killingsworth that trying to go one-on-three isn't a good thing. It gives the Hoosiers' sixth-year coach something tangible to point to when trying to convey the message that superior athleticism and depth isn't necessarily enough to overcome the sort of hustle and heart that most Big Ten foes will throw at them when the Hoosiers venture into opposing arenas.

On Thursday, Davis insisted that the outcome of Saturday's Indiana-Kentucky contest wasn't as critical as others wanted to make it out to be, a statement that belied the series' recent results and his own seemingly shaky standing as IU's head coach. His words seemed to be more of an effort to pre-empt the onslaught that figured to follow if Indiana lost to one of its biggest rivals…again.

Davis insisted Saturday's match-up was only one game, and it was what happened in March that mattered, not December.

That much I can believe, and there's no mistaking the value of the Kentucky win and the Indiana State loss in that quest.

If you're a college basketball coach trying to put together the pieces and deliver some messages in December, the week's results were downright dreamy.


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