BOWLING GREEN - A winning streak, a national ranking, votes in the polls, conference wins on the road - Dan Dakich tells his team that things that are so hard to earn also are worth protecting.
The Bowling Green State University coach tells the Falcons those things are like a treasure chest, and somebody else is going to take it away unless you beat back every challenge.
Dakich and the Falcons are 13-1 and riding a 12-game winning streak, the school's longest winning streak since the 1943-44 season. They are 3-0 in the Mid-American Conference, and go into tomorrow night's game at Ball State as the only unbeaten team in league play. BG is receiving votes in the national polls, and has been tabbed as one of the top two mid-major programs in the country by one prominent internet site.
"I lay it on the line," Dakich said yesterday. "I tell our team all of the reasons we can get beat. You're No. 1 in the country in the College Hoops Insider poll, I talk about Keith McLeod being an All-American, you got this winning streak - here are all of the reasons for you to get beat; you want them, here they are. We're not going to hide from it."
There are no undefeated teams left in Division I, and although BG has one of the best winning percentages in the country, and moved up as high as No.7 nationally in the RPI, the Falcons still find themselves left out of a prominent position in the national polls. BG is ranked 32nd by the Associated Press, 35th by The Sporting News and 38th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.
"Pollwise, guys in the MAC would be lying if they didn't say that it would be nice to be in the Top25," Dakich said. "I remember being No. 1 in the country [at Indiana], and I remember thinking, 'Oh, isn't that great.' But it didn't mean a thing. All it meant was everybody was trying harder against you. It made it harder."
Dakich said the reality of the national picture is that a MAC team can work for weeks or months to get recognized, and then fall off of the map with a single defeat. BG has not lost since a Nov.17 game against Washington. The Falcons have won 12 straight since then.
"I know this, in those situations with polls, once you lose then it negates the 12 wins."
Dakich said he expects Bowling Green's record, its winning streak and the bits and pieces of national recognition the Falcons have received to be used by Ball State as additional motivation for tomorrow night's game.
The Cardinals (10-5, 3-1) made shock waves nationally by beating Kansas and UCLA to start the season, prompting a brief stay in the Top25.
"That stuff enters into the formula on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, until that ball is tipped up," Dakich said. "It matters for a little bit, but this is going to be about who is going to sustain and be tough and aggressive. When that ball goes up in Muncie, it's going to be two teams playing their brains out.''
The 1949 BGSU team coached by Harold Anderson was ranked 10th nationally, won the NIT championship and finished 24-7 behind All-Americans Mac Otten and Charlie Share. Anderson's 1962 team, which featured Nate Thurmond and Howard Komives, was ranked as high as No.8 nationally, and finished 21-4.