LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Setting the table for a wonderful week – and fascinating evening:
*Tonight's the night that Bob Knight finally speaks the name of one of the two programs he has worked overtime not to say much good about in recent years – Indiana basketball.
As much of the world has been fascinated by his persistent digs at Kentucky, it's been equally interesting listening to what Knight has not said about IU, the school where he once won three NCAA titles and coached from 1971 until 2000.
Things like: "I really respect the way Tom Crean has rebuilt the Indiana program. His team's APR is off the charts. He's the right guy for Indiana."
Or, "Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls and the rest of these players remind me of the guys who played for me at IU. I really like the way they play."
You can fill in your favorite sentence. We'll get at least a few answers Monday at 5:30 p.m. when Knight calls his first Indiana game as an ESPN analyst. The Hoosiers play Georgia at 5:30 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The game will be carried on ESPNU.
Knight-ologists will be breaking down the telecast like the Zapruder film, trying to determine if Knight's decision to work the game signals a legitimate thaw in the icy relations that have existed between the coach and IU in the dozen years after he was fired.
I don't expect to see Knight in Assembly Hall this season, but this is a small step in closing the massive divide. If Knight's only thoughts about IU were ugly and adversarial, he wouldn't be working this game. He'd find a way to avoid IU again.
And one wise person who knows Knight well told me this several years ago: Bob Knight will make peace with Indiana when IU is back on top and he isn't.
From week one, Crean has worked relentlessly to make certain that Knight's former players have understood they're welcome around the program and that their contributions are valued.
Guys like Steve Green, Tom Abernethy, Brian Evans, Wayne Radford, Damon Bailey, Greg Graham and Jim Crews have visited Assembly Hall. Calbert Cheaney's decision to work for Crean as the director of basketball operations last year was another positive endorsement.
When Crean was losing during his first three seasons, Knight could have sent him a lifeline with a public endorsement. Never happened. Crean got Indiana back into the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen last season on the strength of his own boundless work ethic and determination. Crean pushed his own ALL CLEAR button. IU starts this season ranked Number One.
What do I expect tonight?
A ton of media overkill with people scrambling to discover if Crean walks over to shake Knight's hand or if Knight walks over to greet Crean. Every eyebrow twitch will generate a dozen Tweets.
I suspect any substantive greeting will occur in the privacy of a morning shoot-around. Word around the IU program is that Knight has never had an issue with Crean. One source said that word has been delivered through back channels that "Indiana finally got it right," when Crean was hired from Marquette in 2008.
On the air, I'd look for Knight to play it straight and focus on calling the game -- which means high praise for shot fakes, hard screens and taken charges. But not a ton of public drama -- unless ESPN play-by-play man Dan Shulman asks Knight directly about his feelings about a detente with Indiana or about his decision to sell his Olympic gold medal, IU NCAA title rings and other memorabilia.
*Kentucky is the consensus winner with the best 2013 basketball recruiting class, but don't sleep on the work that Crean and Louisville coach Rick Pitino have delivered.
Ask Eric Bossi of Rivals.com. He raved at the play of IU recruit Noah Vonleh and U of L recruit Terry Rozier at the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Conn., this weekend.
Vonleh was a beast, scoring 27 points with 18 rebounds for New Hampton (N.H.) Prep. Bossi made a special note of Vonleh's aggressive approach around the basket. Vonleh is 6 feet 8, but has a wingspan of more than 7 feet. He also has the largest hands I have ever seen and a legitimate inside-outside game.
Rozier, a 6-1 guard, continues to impress. Bossi called him one of the biggest revelations of the event and expects Rozier to climb in the rankings from a Top 80 prospect to Top 40. He also likes his teammate at Hargrave Academy – Anton Gill, who is also bound for U of L.
*Point spreads for the weekend: Louisville by 13 over UConn; Tennessee by 14-1/2 over Kentucky; Purdue by 5-1/2 over Indiana; Western Kentucky by 11 over North Texas.
Here is what the Sagarin ratings say: Louisville by 15; Tennessee by 13-1/2. Purdue by 5; WKU by 12-1/2.