Because the game hasn’t happened yet — remember, it’s Saturday at 6 p.m. CDT at Assembly Hall, with USI hosting at the PAC a gathering of Eagles fans who couldn’t get tickets because the game is sold out — this may be premature. But let’s go for it anyway.
Talking to USI coach Rodney Watson on Thursday, I threw out the idea that getting clobbered by IU might be somewhat discouraging for the Eagles. Watson, of course, begged to differ. (And I fully expect USI to get clobbered; this is a top-notch Big Ten team facing on its home court a top-notch Division II team). He said that the point of the game is to play hard and find out what your team needs to improve, that going against superior players forces a team to stretch itself and, maybe, exceed its limits.
USI has been in this spot before. Recall that three years ago the Eagles played (and lost) at Illinois and Vanderbilt, a Big Ten team and an SEC team, respectively. It didn’t seem to hurt USI, which went on to post a 22-8 record and, at one point, win 14 of 15 games. Then again, don’t expect a whole lot out these games, either. “Exhibition games are not very fun to watch on film,” said Watson. “October and early November games aren’t ones you talk about at your class reunion.”
Still, there’s the possibility his players will be awestruck playing in Assembly Hall, right? “I don’t think our guys have a clue about that,” said Watson. “We had 7,300 last year versus UE (at the Ford Center) and it was really helpful for our guys (by the time the GLVC Tournament came to town in March).
“IU will have a student body there that will try to rattle us. Then you’ll have the band there and the smell of popcorn. It’ll be fun in the layup line as the crowd warms up. But after that, they’ll all forget about it. But it’s still stuff you can’t simulate in practice.”