Don't try telling Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie about Indiana being down.
"That's your opinion," he told a reporter shackled by reality on Friday. "Don't put my name next to 'down' because I don't believe that's true."
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And based on UK's viewpoint, Gillispie could make a case. The Cats, at 6-3, are not in a position to look down at Indiana.
"Their record is one game different than ours," the UK coach said.
Neither Kentucky nor Indiana comes into Saturday's renewal of their blue-blooded rivalry with its usual dynastic luster.
For only the fourth time since 1969, when the neighboring goliaths began playing annually, neither team is ranked. Twenty-one times in that span both have been ranked.
This year Gillispie has a one-year head start on IU's new coach, Tom Crean, in rebuilding a proud college basketball franchise.
"They're not as good as last year," UK big man Patrick Patterson said of the Hoosiers. He meant no disrespect. IU was ranked No. 15 when the teams played last year. Now well-chronicled problems have reduced Indiana to nine scholarship players, six walk-ons and two returnees who scored all of 30 points in their college careers.
Yet, Indiana's cohesive effort and zeal give Kentucky pause. True, Eric Gordon and D.J. White are gone along with every other veteran save for senior Kyle Taber (who played 14 minutes in his first three seasons) and 6-foot-1 walk-on Brett Finkelmeier.
Greg Anthony, who will be making his debut as a commentator for CBS, expressed sympathy for Indiana. "It looks like it's almost unfair to those kids to be put in that situation at a program like that," he said. "Where expectations are so high. ... You feel for those kids. You feel for Coach Crean. You know what a good coach he is. But you can only teach so much. You have to have some ability."
But Gillispie sounded unconvinced. "I'm not falling for it," he said. "Indiana's a really good team."
The key word was "team." The Hoosiers' collective effort can make a difference.
"With all the talent they lost, they got tougher and physical-type players," Patterson said.
Added teammate Perry Stevenson, "I think they're playing with a chip on their shoulder because they don't have big names. But they'll come with an agenda to beat Kentucky."
The memory of an embarrassing 70-51 loss at Indiana last season gives UK an agenda. "I still think there's a score to settle," Patterson said.
When asked if it might be more difficult to get fired up to play Indiana this year, Patterson said, "You just look at the jersey. The jersey says Indiana."
Indiana (5-4) embodies the mantra that Gillispie espouses: play hard, play smart and play together.
"I love to watch them play because of the effort," the UK coach said. "I love the cohesion. I love each individual accepting a role."
In watching tape of the Hoosiers, one role caught UK's collective eye: taking charges. It seems like when an opponent even recognizes a driving lane to the basket, one or more IU players leaps into position to take a charge.
"They're going to fall down a lot," said Gillispie, who noted how he'd warned the Cats to be alert to the tactic. "But you have to be aggressive."
Patterson, who faces freshman Tom Pritchard inside, noticed the tactic on film.
"I think in one sequence, Indiana took like three charges," he said. "Coach told us, when you drive to the basket, don't be afraid to just pull up."
Of course, there's a thin line between taking a charge and flopping. If the Hoosiers flop, it won't surprise Kentucky.
"Pretty much everybody practices flopping," Patterson said. "We practice flopping."
Besides falling to the floor in a heap, the flopper must also add an audio component. A loud grunt or yell helps sell the charge, Patterson said.
"If you don't do the yell, you get the blocking call," he said.
Whatever the perceptions, Kentucky-Indiana represents an early-season game that calls for an emptying of each team's bag of tricks.
Just don't try to convince Gillispie that Indiana must rely only on guile.
"You'll look back in a couple years at three- and four-year starters," he said of the Hoosiers. "You'll think, 'Man, we thought he was pretty good. Man alive, we didn't think they were that good.' "