Indiana's Wilson playing no-respect card

My friends at ESPN Radio 1000 here in Chicago are conducting interviews with Big Ten coaches to preview the season, and they got things started with Indiana's Kevin Wilson.

When "Chicago's GameNight" hosts Jonathan Hood and Nick Friedell told Wilson he was first on their interview lineup, the coach joked, "I'm sure that since we're the first ones, you're going in reverse order of who you're picking [to win the league]."

Wilson has made many statements like this since taking the Indiana job. Every time we've chatted, he gets in a jab -- mostly playful -- about me picking the Hoosiers at or near the bottom of the conference. I'm sure Wilson will have something to say at media days about our recent preseason position rankings, in which Indiana finished 11th or 12th in six of the eight categories.

Playing the no-respect card is hardly a new tactic for coaches taking over downtrodden programs. Indiana has won only three Big Ten games the past three seasons and produced just one winning season since 1994. Wilson can't change these facts; nor can he change the perception that Indiana will struggle in 2011.

What he can change is the mindset among his players. When you've heard how bad you'll be for so long, you sometimes start to believe it.

"He wants us to believe in ourselves more than we do," Hoosiers offensive lineman Justin Pagan told me this spring.

It takes more than a positive attitude or a chip on your shoulder to consistently win Big Ten games. Indiana must upgrade its talent and depth, particularly on defense.

But the right mental approach can make a difference. Look what Gary Barnett did at Northwestern in 1995.

Indiana has been close a lot in recent years, particularly in 2009. The Hoosiers have to believe they can take the next step.

"We're really working hard with our team on who you're locking into and who you're locking out, what are you listening to?" Wilson told ESPN 1000. "On the preseason ballots, you've got us picked where you do. I don't think anyone had that national championship game pegged last year.

"I've been in places where we shouldn't have won and we have. To me, the deal is, what are our kids listening to? How do we keep them tuned in on positive thoughts?"

Wilson doesn't think the talent level at Indiana is far below what he worked with at Oklahoma.

"The attitude's a lot different," he said. "We're been working more on coaching attitude more than worrying about what we don't have. We've got a team that's going to be very competitive.

"We're not going to surprise ourselves, but I think some of you guys will be surprised."