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WALLY HALL: Former powerhouses left to face off in NIT

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2019
Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson watches a free throw during a basketball game, Sunday, November 18, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson watches a free throw during a basketball game, Sunday, November 18, 2018 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

It was complete and total domination. The University of Arkansas took the lead 25 seconds into its game with Providence on Tuesday night and never looked back, coasting to an 84-72 win that was not that close.

The Razorbacks did it without Daniel Gafford, but don't read too much into that because the Friars were not quick enough or athletic enough to keep up with the Razorbacks on either end of the court.

The game looked more like Hawgball than any Mike Anderson has coached at Arkansas.

Now comes a trip to Bloomington to take on Indiana, a team once feared nationally but has to a degree mirrored Arkansas on the national level.

Indiana's real glory days were when Bob Knight was the head coach. Knight is a man who seemed to know everything about the game of basketball. Recently, ESPN did a special on him Last Days of Knight, and it reveals a dark side that could be downright scary if you were his target.

Knight, 78, retired from coaching, and ESPN has rumored that he is not in good health. At Indiana, he won three national championships in 29 years and amassed a 662-239 record. He left IU on bad terms and hasn't been back. When you announce you want to be buried upside down so the IU president can kiss your backside you aren't likely to be honored or welcomed back.

After Knight was fired Mike Davis was promoted to head coach, and in six seasons he never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Or to put it another way, he didn't win enough so he was fired.

Indiana turned to Kelvin Sampson who had success at Oklahoma, where he got in trouble with the NCAA for too many phone calls to recruits. Sampson won, but after two years he was terminated for more issues with the NCAA about phone calls.

Sampson sat out a mandatory five-year show cause and became the Houston head coach in 2014. His Cougars are 31-3 this season and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Sampson has had no more issues with the NCAA. Like Knight, his basketball IQ is off the charts.

Indiana then hired Tom Crean from Marquette. Crean, now the head coach at Georgia, seemed to have the ship headed in the right direction leading the Hoosiers to three Sweet 16's, but after the third one he was fired a year later.

Crean, who will get Georgia turned around, won but not at the same rate as Knight and was replaced by Archie Miller, who is the younger brother of Sean Miller, who appears to be part of the FBI probe into college basketball. Archie gained some fame by leading Dayton to the Elite Eight in 2014 and followed that with three more successive trips to the NCAA Tournament.

He went 16-15 in his first season and 18-15 this season, including an 89-72 win over Saint Francis (Pa.) in the opening round of the NIT.

Somehow the Hoosiers garnered one of the four No. 1 seeds for the NIT. Maybe someone didn't notice they lost at Arkansas, 73-72, and the Hogs are a No. 5 seed.

Their conference, the Big 10, led all leagues with eight invites to the Big Dance, and the Hoosiers were 3-10 against those eight teams, although they did beat Michigan State twice, and the Spartans won the league and the Big 10 Tournament.

Still, the Hoosiers lost to Arkansas --Daniel Gafford had 27 points and 12 rebounds in that game -- so Anderson has his "no respect" card if he chooses to play it.

Arkansas holds a career 2-1 advantage over Indiana. Arkansas beat Indiana 86-72 in the 2008 NCAA Tournament two weeks after Sampson was fired.

Now, two former national powerhouses meet again, but in the NIT.

Sports on 03/21/2019

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