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October 3, 2010

Roundtable: Debating the underachievers

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We had two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Which is the most underachieving Big Six conference program over the past five seasons?

David Fox's answer:
Originally, I didn't want to call Indiana underachievers because of probation, but that's precisely one of the reasons the Hoosiers are the biggest underachievers of the past five years and probably longer. Indiana would be expected to struggle while on probation, but the Hoosiers have been utterly dismal the past two seasons. Returning to the NCAA tournament is still a few years away. But the underachieving predates Kelvin Sampson or even Mike Davis. I'd consider Indiana to be in a class with UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and Duke as far as the best programs in the history of the sport, but the Hoosiers haven't been close to that level since the final years of Bob Knight, other than a trip to the championship game under Davis. Indiana should be above this -- above the probation, above hiring Sampson, above winning 16 games in two seasons.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I cannot fathom how Michigan -- which can recruit nationally in football with no problem -- has been so mediocre in basketball for the past decade or so. The Wolverines have made one NCAA appearance since 1998; that's pitiful. What makes it worse is that rival Michigan State is one of the premier programs in the nation. I'm not saying Michigan needs to be as good as its in-state neighbor; I am saying Michigan should be as good as Wisconsin or Clemson or Texas A&M, schools that have become annual visitors to the NCAAs.

Jason King's answer:
Iowa State has been through a rough stretch since Larry Eustachy left Ames in 2003. The Cyclones have made just once NCAA tournament appearance since (in 2005) and don't appear to be headed for the postseason any time soon. No one would be surprised if Iowa State finished last in the Big 12 this season. It's a sad situation for a school that used to have one of the best programs in the league. Eustachy's team won a conference title and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2000 before adding another league crown the next season. Before that, Tim Floyd led Iowa State to three consecutive NCAA appearances from 1995-97. Hilton Coliseum -- when it's full -- is one of the top home courts in the Big 12. And despite its location, Iowa State has proven it can attract top players such as Marcus Fizer, Jamal Tinsley, Kelvin Cato, Craig Brackins and others. Perhaps new coach/Iowa State legend Fred Hoiberg will get things back on track.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I'd have to go with Indiana. The Hoosiers haven't been that bad the past five seasons, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2006 and 2007 and also earning an NCAA bid in 2008 before going a combined 16-46 the past two seasons. And it also is easy to understand the reason for the Hoosiers' demise. Kelvin Sampson put the program in hot water with the NCAA before his forced departure after the 2008 season. Tom Crean inherited a no-win situation when he took over for Sampson, and any shot at major improvement last season disappeared when Maurice Creek suffered a season-ending injury. Crean won consistently at Marquette, and I believe he eventually will turn things around at Indiana. That said, it just doesn't seem right when a program with Indiana's history is near the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Indiana ranks alongside Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and perhaps Duke as the nation's top programs. Those schools never should suffer through back-to-back 20-loss seasons.

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