Raleigh, N.C. – Has Eric Gordon's debut – and possibly farewell - season been everything you'd hoped for?
The Hoosier freshman averaged a team-best 21.3 points/game on his way to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, but some have suggested that the Indianapolis native has come up short of what they expected. He didn't lead IU to a Big Ten regular season or postseason title, and a deep run in the NCAA tourney is a long shot at this point.
While he's been slowed with a wrist injury, many point to his 8-of-52 3-point shooting in his last nine games and his team-high 112 turnovers as evidence he hasn't been as good as advertised.
Don't count Dakich among those who thinks Gordon has fallen short of any measuring stick.
"Has he met my expectations? He's exceeded my expectations," Dakich said.
Dakich points to not only Gordon's on-the-court numbers, but also his ability to bear the burden of being one of the most coveted recruits to ever put on an IU uniform.
"When you come to Indiana and you are as publicized as Eric Gordon is, I've only seen it one other time, Damon Bailey, when he came here after the Season on the Brink book," Dakich said. "I saw Damon handle that better than any adult that I know or have ever known.
"Eric has been the same thing. He hasn't let anything going on around him either positive or negative effect him."
If the magnitude of the moment is getting to Dan Dakich, it isn't showing.
The Hoosiers' interim coach found himself sitting courtside at the RBC Center waiting for the start of his team's media session Thursday afternoon. With the court vacant and no security guards in site, Dakich invited a few surprised on-lookers to join him for a free-throw shooting contest.
Dakich shared some laughs with his competitors, all of whom eventually fell victim to Dakich's charity toss prowess.
"It looked like people were sitting around obviously waiting for the net team and they looked like they were bored," Dakich said. "So that was a contest I never lose, because I cheat, quite frankly. If I miss the first free throw it's a practice one, and then I make them. It's about the only thing I can do in basketball fairly well is still shoot free throws."
It's not the sort of thing you see everyday on the day before a NCAA Tournament contest, but Dakich is having some fun in his first trip to the Big Dance as a head coach. While he was a frequent visitor as a player and IU assistant, he didn't earn any invitations in his 10 years at Bowling Green.
Jordan Crawford is excused for being a little bit distracted.
The Hoosiers' RBC Center locker room was over run with cameramen and scribes Thursday, some 50 people packed into a room equipped to handle about 20. While the rest of his teammates fielded a barrage of questions about the Hosiers' chances against Arkansas, Crawford was seated in the locker room corner, fixated on a television set showing one of Thursday's NCAA tourney games.
But the Hoosiers' sixth-man wasn't being an outcast or giving the media the cold shoulder. Instead, he was keeping an eye on his older brother, Joe, whose Kentucky Wildcats were playing Marquette in Anaheim.
"The game is going good and he's doing good, and I'm just hoping they win – that's the main thing," Crawford said with three minutes left in the contest.
Unfortunately for Jordan, he's now the only Crawford left in the tourney. Despite 35 points from his older brother, Kentucky lost to Marquette 74-66.
Don't tell Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey that Indiana is ripe for the picking after back-to-back losses to conclude the season. While many don't expect the Hoosiers to bounce back from its recent struggles with a good effort Friday night, Pelphrey isn't in that camp.
"We fully anticipate them playing their best tomorrow," Pelphrey said.
If that's going to happen, the Hoosiers will need to play as if they've finally put the distraction of Kelvin Sampson's resignation behind them and get back to playing the way they did in January and in the first half of February.
It's been obvious his departure has had a lasting impact on this IU team, and Arkansas' players can sympathize with what their counterparts are going through.
"I couldn't imagine – it's a lot of adversity for a team in the middle of the season," said Arkansas center Steven Hill. "It's got to be a huge adjustment."
Arkansas went through its own adjustment in the off-season when Coach Stan Heath was let go and the Razorback brass brought in Pelphrey from South Alabama. While an off-season coaching change is a little easier to deal with than an off-day change, their experience gives them some sort of taste of what the last couple of weeks have been like for IU's players.
"I think it shows a lot about their character as a whole, because that's a difficult situation," said Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin. "That's not something that you come across through anybody's time in college."
Whenever the Hoosiers' season comes to an end, the IU basketball program won't be off the front pages.
First of all, there's a coaching search to conduct. Secondly, there's a talented freshman guard who could very well be one-and-done in an IU uniform.
Eric Gordon has said publicly he isn't thinking about that decision yet, but it's a question that figures to be asked often in the coming days and weeks. But if Gordon asks Dakich for his opinion on the subject, IU's interim coach says he'll steer him in another direction.
"I'd tell him to ask someone who has a little beter feel for the NBA, first off," Dakich said. "What the NCAA does a great job of, in conjunction with the NBA, is get information on what you should do."
NCAA Notes: Has Gordon Lived Up to Hype?
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