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Coaches feeling heat all over

This has not been a good week to be a coach. Quin Snyder immediately resigns at Missouri. Eddie Sutton goes on leave at Oklahoma State after an auto accident, admits he has an alcohol problem and is charged with driving under the influence. Gary Waters foolishly runs afoul of his athletics director at Rutgers.

And the Mike Davis saga at Indiana finally reaches an end, as the beaten-down former Bob Knight assistant admits he's had enough. Davis has never been able to escape Knight's shadow in the eyes of the former coach's supporters and has too often shown his emotions and insecurities in front of fans and media.

Calls for Davis' ouster spread last week as fans wore black to the Hoosiers' home loss to Iowa to mourn the program's fall. Davis came down with the flu and missed that game, further raising questions if he can take being in the Indiana spotlight.

Then on this week's Big Ten conference call, Davis stunned listeners by admitting he felt like an outsider.

"Indiana needs to have one of their own," Davis said. "They need to have somebody that's played here so they can embrace them. They need that."

So now it looks like it's Steve Alford's job to lose. The Iowa coach and former Knight star is already ready for the avalanche of questions. On his weekly teleconference Friday, he took a pre-emptive strike against Indiana inquiries.

"Out of respect for me and my program, I hope all questions are directed at this year's team," Alford said in opening the call. "For those of you that have that incredible urge to go elsewhere, out of respect for you, I have this comment: My entire focus and energy is helping my team win a Big Ten championship and get ready for the NCAA Tournament. This is my only concern."

Waters, meanwhile, has plenty of concerns after missing Rutgers' home win Sunday over Marquette because he was stranded in Ohio due to the Northeast blizzard that struck overnight Saturday. Waters had returned to Kent State, his former employer, to be inducted into that school's hall of fame and never got out of Cleveland.

Rutgers hasn't been happy with Waters anyway, since he hasn't produced an NCAA bid and is 3-34 in Big East road games. Assistant Fred Hill, one of the east's top recruiters, directed the win over Marquette and would likely take over.

Waters gave Hill a chance to show off his wares and gave his detractors more ammunition for his dismissal. Athletics Director Bob Mulcahy grudgingly said Waters got permission to go and made every effort to get back, but he was clearly annoyed at the situation. The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting the school thinks Waters may have violated his contract and could be subject to dismissal.


>Busters a bust?

There's an unbelievable amount of carping going on from mid-majors regarding this weekend's BracketBusters event. Several schools, notably Bradley and Hofstra, were furious they were left off the TV schedule, and almost everybody is concerned about playing a nonleague game only a week or two before conference tournaments.

The Busters were originally designed to give mid-majors another game to enhance their NCAA resumes. In fact, the games often do just the opposite and act as elimination affairs that hurt the loser enough for the selection committee to leave them out.

There are definite problems with the setup. One hundred teams is too many. And how did the Missouri Valley Conference, whose commissioner has been the brainchild behind the whole thing, avoid any rugged games against Mid-American schools?

But there are positives, too. These schools rarely get on national TV and get huge help in filling their schedules, both with this game and the mandated return game against the same opponent next year.

The best bet on the court today is Bucknell's trip to Northern Iowa (noon, ESPN2). Both teams should have at-large bids if they lose in their league tournament, although Bucknell's status is shakier and it could use the win more. Oddly enough, Bucknell had no band last year for its NCAA Tournament win over Kansas, and Northern Iowa's band donned orange shirts and played for Bucknell.

The Bucknell band has made the trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for today's game and will play the Northern Iowa theme as a thank you to its counterparts.

Two other key games are Missouri State at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a 2 p.m. game and George Mason at Wichita State in an 8 p.m. tipoff. Both are on ESPN2.

>Around the horn

* Louisville coach Rick Pitino doesn't think his team will accept an NIT bid because it can get a head start on some players' surgeries if its season ends without a bid in the Big East Tournament. The Cardinals (16-8, 4-7) play tonight at Syracuse (17-8, 5-6) in a 9 p.m. game on ESPN. Louisville has a half-game lead over Rutgers and St. John's for the last Big East slot.

* Syracuse has its own problems. The Orange is just 2-6 after a 15-2 start, and its NCAA status is shaky at best. Syracuse definitely could use a win tonight but has three huge RPI opportunities left, Monday night at home against West Virginia, next Saturday at Georgetown and the March 5 season finale against Villanova.

* Ohio University guard Jeremy Fears, the back-flipping freshman who helped engineer last year's MAC Tournament final win over UB, has taken a leave of absence and is expected to transfer to a Chicago-area school to be closer to his Joliet home.



>Big 4 three-pointer

* UB's 111-107 double-overtime loss Wednesday to Kent State was the highest-scoring game in Alumni Arena history and Kent's 111 points were the most by a visitor, breaking the mark set by Brockport State in a 111-109 UB win in old Clark Hall on Jan. 27, 1976.

* It's common knowledge in MAAC circles that Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez and Niagara coach Joe Mihalich aren't on each other's Christmas card lists. After his team somehow pulled out Monday's overtime thriller in the Gallagher Center, Gonzalez reveled in the fact the Jaspers broke their two-game losing streak against NU. "We recruit against Niagara," Gonzalez said. "And I just don't want anybody saying there's any dominance going on with them putting three in a row together against us."

* St. Bonaventure should try to stay out of Philadelphia, but that's a big problem considering three Atlantic 10 teams call the city home. Wednesday's loss at La Salle dropped Bona's road record against Philly schools to a ridiculous 6-51 since it joined the A-10 (0-24 at Temple, 3-23 at Saint Joseph's, 3-4 at La Salle).


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