Hoosiers preparing for big test in Durham

It would be wrong to call Tuesday's match-up with No. 8 Duke Indiana's first real test of the season. That obviously came in Conseco Fieldhouse against a very savvy Butler squad, the eventual NIT champions. But that small crowd in Indianapolis will pale in comparison to what the Hoosiers face this week in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

It would be wrong to call Tuesday's match-up with No. 8 Duke Indiana's first real test of the season. That obviously came in Conseco Fieldhouse against a very savvy Butler squad, the eventual NIT champions. But that small crowd in Indianapolis will pale in comparison to what the Hoosiers face this week in Cameron Indoor Stadium. That atmosphere will be unlike any the Hoosiers have seen in quite a few years, filled with rabid fans that create one of college basketball's most intimidating gyms.

"Every game is a big game, but guys are going into this game knowing it's an even bigger game," said senior Rod Wilmont. "We have experience on this team. I have been in big games at Indiana so I just have to let guys like Lance (Stemler) know how it is to play in the big game."

The Hoosiers do have some experience, but their roster is littered with players that will be completely new to this type of environment.

"There were games last year where we had 20 people in stands," said Stemler, who was playing for Southwest Illinois Community College at this time last year. "Going to Duke, I've never really been in situation like this."

The same can be said for projected starting point guard Armon Bassett. Coach Kelvin Sampson hinted earlier that he might throw the 6-foot-1, 176 pound right into the frying pan Tuesday. The Hoosier freshman will have to adapt quickly, but he won't be the only one trying to adjust.

"I don't know how you prepare for that," Sampson said of playing in Cameron Indoor. "It's like coming in here. There's a reason why Indiana's home record is what it is. Great programs' home courts are supposed to be tough to win on. We've all seen hundreds of games at Duke. How many times have you seen the home team lose? That's why they have a great program. It's why it's a great opportunity."

The Hoosiers, still looking for an eye-opening win, are certainly aware of that. A win against Duke would send shockwaves across the country and quickly mark the Hoosiers as contenders this year in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers will give the Blue Devils their best shot, but that's nothing new to the Dookies.

"The thing about Duke is that they are going to get everybody's best shot, whoever they play," said Sampson.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski has built a program that is used to being challenged night in and night out. That has developed a level of toughness and intensity that is rarely matched by opponents, especially on their home court. While Sampson would love to steal one Tuesday night by beating Duke at their own game, he is more interested in keeping his focus on the long run and mimicking Duke's accomplishments.

"When you have a coach like Mike and have a great program over time, you just don't have to coach as hard, because his seniors and juniors and sophomores, as soon as kids walk on that campus in June, they get ingrained into what that system is all about," said Sampson. "When they go play pickup games, they play pickup a certain way. When they go to conditioning, they go do conditioning a certain way. That is our goal here. To build a program where returning kids can teach the younger kids and I don't think anybody in the country does that better than Duke."

Right now Sampson knows the Hoosiers aren't there. His team is a work in progress.

"We are not a complete team," said Sampson. "Duke is a complete team. Florida is a complete team. We are not Florida, we're not Duke, we're who we are. We have this thing figured out, we'll get better. There is good and bad about next week."

The good is the opportunity to play against some very good competition and have another opportunity to improve. The bad, of course, is that it might be biting off a little more than this young and still learning team can chew right now. The Hoosiers are aware of the uphill fight they will face, but they are confident in their approach and their plan.

"Our guys are going to be ready and coach is going to have us right," said Wilmont. "We are going to have our game plan and just keep doing what we are doing and get better."

D.J. White, no stranger to big games himself, also speaks with a veteran's confidence.

"Going to Durham is going to be a great challenge," said White. "You've just got to play. It's just like another road game. I know everyone talks about how big this game is, how tough it is playing Duke. We've got to go in focused just like we're playing here, and put the crowd behind us and go with the game plan."

Peegs.com Top Stories