HOW WE GOT HERE
A BATTLE for the allegiance of one teenager ignited a war between two bordering basketball nations. Eric Gordon, a 6'4" prodigy from Indianapolis's North Central High, was the first major recruit to commit to Illinois coach Bruce Weber following the Illini's Final Four run in 2005. But in March '06, Kelvin Sampson was hired in Bloomington, and he says the Gordon camp reached out to him—"We just reacted to [the family], really"—setting in motion a quiet courtship. On Oct. 13, 2006, Gordon announced he had changed his mind and would attend Indiana. Instantly, Illini and Hoosiers factions clashed on message boards. Gordon received threats, allegedly from Illinois fans, on his MySpace page. Security had to be beefed up at his games. Come Feb. 7, in what might be his only trip as a Hoosier to Champaign, Gordon will have to face the music. "I'm ready for it," he says, "but I have to treat it like just another good game on our schedule." If only it were that easy.
4 Illinois-bred players on Indiana's roster, including three juco transfers.
RELATIONS between Weber (left) and Sampson were probably forever strained after the Indiana coach made a couple of key additions to his staff. In May 2006 he added Jeff Meyer, the former coach of Gordon's father at Liberty University; three months later he brought in Travis Steele, Gordon's AAU coach in Indianapolis.