I assume that the Sampson household is similar to yours and similar to mine. And while it might be a tad larger than ours, I am betting that it functions in the same ways for the most part. A television to zone out to, a dining room table with a centerpiece, a kitchen with utensils and a telephone (cell phones to be exact) to call friends up and greet them warmly.
I am wondering whether the sound of the dull vibrating buzz against the solid granite counter top sounds a bit different to Sampson these days? I am curious as to whether or not the sight of his cell phone makes him a tad squeamish, the way a recovering alcoholic gets chills when he sees a friend nursing a whiskey or the way an addicted gambler sweats a bit every time he sees an ad for a budget vacation to Vegas.
I am going to assume that every time the phone rings, Sampson is reminded of his little problem. But calling it “little” no longer does it justice.
The report is damning. Five “major” violations. Five-hundred-and-seventy-seven phone calls outside of the boundaries set for him by the NCAA after he was caught for similar offenses while coaching Oklahoma to years of fantastic and high profile seasons. There was a reason for it, too.
Kelvin Sampson is a cheater. Plain and simple. Always has been.
Tonight will likely be Sampson’s last game in Crimson and Cream. He will walk onto the court with that understanding — and will probably acknowledge this fact to his players as well. His stars, Eric Gordon, who he snaked from Illinois, and D.J. White, who is hobbled by a sprained knee, will most likely tell him that they respect him no matter what happens, and tell him that they believe in him no matter how it plays out.
That is because the game against Purdue tonight couldn’t be any bigger.
In a way, it’s for all the marbles. If Purdue wins, they will have put themselves in a pretty strong position to take the Big Ten crown outright. If Indiana wins, their hopes to revive will stay in tact and it will be a dogfight until the end. The implications are enormous, considering the fact that this is the first time in over six decades that Purdue and Indiana will face each other just once in the regular season. The history of the programs and the rivalry that has accompanied them is storied and well told. Bobby Knight and Gene Keady fought to the death every year during the eighties and nineties, and this battle was once considered to be as harrowing as UNC-Duke. It’s faltered a bit, but, like most things that have passion behind them, it has risen up again in fine and rivaled fashion.
The Boilermakers are simply the talk of the league and, on some websites, of the nation. Matt Painter is a shoe-in for Big Ten Coach of the Year and is making a fine case for National Coach of the Year as well. Scott Martin, one of the four players from what is now being dubbed “Mount Froshmore,” is back from being sidelined by an ankle sprain and his counterparts, Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore, have come out of their shells in a fashion that predicts 2nd Team All Big Ten Player selections perhaps.
Indiana has their work cut out for them, even with the game being at home in Bloomington.
In the end, however, the outcome of the game tonight is pretty small in the face of what is to come for Indiana. Even if the Hoosiers celebrate a victory tonight on their home court, reservations regarding the future will remain. After all, this could be their last shot at the post-season for years to come.
Let’s see what’s on tap for this week:
Season’s Record: 117–36
Last Week’s Record: 6–4
Big Ten Record: 50–18
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Michigan State 73
Penn State 65
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Michigan State 69
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Penn State 70
Ohio State 72