Minutes before FIU left for its Louisiana-Lafayette-South Alabama trip Wednesday and hours before the University of Miami treated No. 1 Duke like the Blue Devils were Marcellus Wallace in the wrong pawn shop, I asked FIU coach Richard Pitino about the effect FIU and UM's surprisingly good seasons had on college basketball in a city that usually treats college basketball little better than curling.
"Most of the schools in the state of Florida besides Miami, Florida and Florida State are young universities that don't have a lot of great basketball tradition," Pitino said. "Miami could even be said to be that as well. Miami doesn't have a great basketball tradition. So, they go through what we go through (in a) relative (way) -- they're going against Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. They're trying to build their own tradituion. And, they've got to do it one game at a time and build their fan base that sees basketball. It's not just about football. We're doing the same thing. We're going through it just like they are."
A pair of wins on this trip would push FIU (10-8, 5-4 in The Belt) into second in the Sun Belt's East Divsion behind Middle Tennessee State (16-4, 8-1). A split, particularly a win tonight at Lou-La and a loss to South Alabama, probably leaves FIU in the pack with Western Kentucky and FAU behind second-place South Alabama.