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Back home again in Indiana
Posted: Friday October 23, 1998 04:16 PM
Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim checks in with the third in a series of glances around the college basketball scene.
TEAM: Indiana Hoosiers
VENUE: Assembly Hall (17,357)
`97-98 record: 20-12 (Lost to UConn in NCAA East second round)
PREDICTED `98-99 STARTERS: G Dane Fife, F William Gladness, G A.J. Guyton, F Luke Recker, F Larry Richardson
Hola from Bloomington. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll come clean and announce with unabashed pride that I was once a "cutter" (a.k.a. "townie") who spent his first 18 years in this quintessential college town. Still, any childhood antipathy I had for Indiana students--say, for the times they threw eggs at my car or wouldn't let me into their parties--is long since out of my system. Regardless, every time I return home, I can't help but notice how little IU has changed since it was depicted in the 1979 classic flick Breaking Away. The campus is a swirling mix of cutters and students, jocks and fratheads, fratheads and GDI's (goddamn individuals), in-staters and rich kids from Chicago suburbs. But somehow every student loves old IU and is happy to have spent his or her six years of college there.
MOOD: Depending on whom you ask, the campus, nestled in the folds of the Bible Belt an hour south of Indianapolis, is either a hotbed of activism or the final resting place for apathy. There's plenty going on here. James Carville and Bill Gates are among a number of prominent guest speakers who have already visited campus this semester; an ugly racial incident last year involving a fraternity house still hasn't entirely faded from memory; and there are the usual smattering of overwrought protests for/against affirmative action, abortion rights, Chilean grape growers, cable in the dorms, etc. But, as junior Pamela Grunt put it, "Unless it has to do with sports, people don't seem to care that much." Whatever.
DUDE: Though he's only 5'10", the big man on campus these days is unquestionably the Hoosiers' starting quarterback, Antwaan Randle El . A redshirt freshman who runs the option with skill and poise, Randle El has singlehandedly brought some excitement to what has been a moribund program. Heading into this weekend's game at Michigan, the team was only 3-3, but with such a young quarterback at the controls, there is already plenty of talk of Big Ten title contention next year. What's more, after the football season Randle El will trade his cleats for high-tops and play backup point guard for the basketball team.
FOOD: Bloomington bears the imprimatur of an official college town now that there is a behemoth Borders/Starbucks store, a microbrewery, and a burrito shack all within spitting distance of campus. The best victuals in town, though, remain the old standbys: a gyros platter at the Trojan Horse, the meatloaf and home fries at the Uptown Cafe, anything greasy at Ladyman's, Garcia's deep dish pizza, and the chicken fingers at Yogi's Sports Bar.
HOOPS: The real nourishment in these here parts, however, is IU basketball. Just consider that more students filed into Assembly Hall at midnight on October 17 to watch the team's first practice of the season than attended Gates' lecture there the day before. The skinny on this year's team is that it won't be contributing a sixth NCAA banner to the Hall's rafters, but will be exciting to watch nonetheless. The Hoosiers' backcourt is as good as any in the country.
Junior A.J. Guyton is a legit pro player who can handle the ball, create his own shot and knock down the jumper; while sophomore swingman Luke Recker is a more athletic incarnation of former Hoosier Damon Bailey . Recker held his own at Michael Jordan 's camp this summer and is even making noise about turning pro after this season. Dane Fife , the younger, more talented brother of former Michigan guard Dugan , is the best freshman in a decent recruiting class.
Indiana's problem, however, is that it plays in the Big Ten, not the 6'5"-and-under league. The loss of forward Andrae Patterson to graduation didn't exactly induce tears, least of all from the Man in the Red Sweater. But after Jason Collier , a habitué in coach Bob Knight 's world famous doghouse, transferred to Georgia Tech last winter, the Hoosiers were left with no upperclassmen taller than 6'8". The front-line-by-committee of Recker, junior Larry Richardson , senior Will Gladness and freshman Kirk Haston ought to be good enough to get the Hoosiers into the tournament for the 14th straight season and maybe even put them in the running for the title in the diluted Big Ten. But the Chicken Littles who are getting antsy for a return to the Final Four will have to wait another year. The good news is that by season's end, the Little 500 "bike race" (read: weekend of obscene debauchery) is only a few weeks away.
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