Visiting the Southwest Conference to watch basketball is like going to France's Bordeaux region for beers. This year's SWC hoop action has everyone looking forward to spring football. "Our conference simply isn't very strong," says SWC spokesman Charlie Fisk. "We're having an off year."
When Houston's head coach for the last 30 years, Guy Lewis, announced on Jan. 21 that he would retire following this season, the Cougars, winless in the SWC and 8-7 overall at that point, finally woke up. They won three of their next four games, starting with a 76-69 win over conference-leading Texas A & M.
Arkansas needs just such a turnabout. Picked in the preseason to dominate the SWC, the Razorbacks are 2-7 in league play, 10-10 overall. Under coach Nolan Richardson, who arrived fresh from Tulsa this season with new ideas about up-tempo offense, the Hogs have looked dazed and confused. Richardson, who has substituted madly in search of a guard combination, lost starting center Andrew Lang for two weeks to a freak injury. Following a two-point loss on Jan. 11 to Texas Tech, Lang's mother had burst into the Razorbacks' dressing room to give her 6'11" son a tongue-lashing. Flustered, the sophomore punched a locker, fracturing a bone in his right hand.
After Arkansas was routed 81-67 Wednesday at Texas A&M, much was made of the maroon blazer Richardson had worn, maroon being one of A & M's team colors. As the Aggies built 23-5, then 35-12 first-half leads, Reveille, A & M's excitable mascot collie, yapped incessantly. The Aggie pep band, 100 pieces strong, made the floorboards vibrate. Just before the second half Richardson took a Frisbee to the back of the head. A & M coach Shelby Metcalf took the mike and implored fans to desist, then added, "But yell like hell for us."
On Saturday, Arkansas lost to SMU 90-80. Richardson, at wit's end, was ejected for the first time in his 22-year coaching career.
After a team meeting during which the players vowed to work harder and not let opposing crowds faze them, Arizona traveled to Washington and upended the Huskies, 70-57. Arizona pressured Washington into 37% shooting from the floor. "We forced almost every shot we took," said Husky coach Andy Russo after the upset. "I could hear groans from the crowd when we were getting ready to shoot, that's how bad it was."
The undefeated Team, always an endangered species come late January, was extinct by week's end as two upstarts from Virginia knocked off previously perfect North Carolina and Memphis State. "Obviously, we're deliriously happy," said Virginia coach Terry Holland after the Cavaliers' 86-73 home win over the Tar Heels on Thursday. The victory was Holland's first at Dean Smith's expense since 1982, when Ralph Sampson was a Virginia junior.
Upset had been in the air in Charlottesville, according to Cavalier center Olden Polynice. "In [communications] class," said Polynice, "I told [guard] Johnny Johnson I was nervous. He said, 'So am I, but I have this feeling.' I said, 'Yeah, I know what you mean.' " Polynice must have. Though he's listed at 6'11"—"I'm really 6'10", maybe 6'9½"," he says—Polynice had 19 points and 10 rebounds against a Tar Heel front line stocked with two 7-footers, Brad Daugherty and Warren Martin.
The box score spoke eloquently: North Carolina had 31 rebounds, Virginia 44, 21 of them at the offensive end. "The fast break doesn't work as well when you take the ball out under the basket," cracked UNC's Smith. "It's unreal to be this far along before we lost. I don't see how Memphis State does it."
Cruising at 20-0 as Smith spoke, Memphis State visited Virginia Tech on Saturday with a No. 1 ranking for the Tigers riding on the outcome. Earlier that week, Memphis State had handed the Hokies their worst defeat in almost 10 years, 83-61. In revenge, Tech guard Dell Curry got 28 points and nine rebounds as the Hokies broke in the Tigers' "L" column with a 76-72 upset.
"Before the year, I said nobody would go undefeated," said Memphis State coach Dana Kirk. "After we were 20-0, I was wishing I hadn't said that." Tech had played the spoiler before. Memphis State was last ranked No. 1 in the wire-service polls that were released on Jan. 10, 1983. That very night, Virginia Tech upset the Tigers 69-56.
The week saw more interaction than usual between fans and participants. After Maryland jogged past Wake Forest 77-55, 54-year-old Charles G. Driesell vaulted the railing at Cole Field House to confront a heckler who was reminding the Terps that they still occupied seventh place in the ACC. "I ain't ascared of anybody," said Driesell. "I said, 'Go on and push me, and we'll get after it. You start it and I'll finish it.' "
Alabama-Birmingham players and coaches mixed it up briefy with Old Dominion partisans behind the UAB bench during Thursday's 71-58 Blazers win. On Saturday, during an 81-75 loss at Western Kentucky, UAB assistant coach Oscar Catlin was struck in the head by a thrown Mars bar. Sun Belt conference officials are taking steps to try to ensure better fan control.
Seton Hall won a Big East game on the road, an event that occurs almost as frequently as a presidential election. In an 85-73 victory over Pitt—which improved the Hall's alltime league road record to 2-43—the Pirates hit eight of their first nine shots, took a 21-7 lead and never had to worry. "It was a 12-point game on the scoreboard but about a 30-point game on the court," said Panther coach Roy Chipman, whose slumping squad dropped to 4-5 in league play. "We came so far tonight it's not even funny," said Seton Hall's coach, P.J. Carlesimo. Chipman agreed. "I've not been this embarrassed in the six years I've been at Pitt," he said.
Likewise, Northeastern coach Jim Calhoun had powerful emotions after Canisius broke his Huskies' 13-game winning streak, 58-47. "It was a disgusting performance, the most disgusting from a Northeastern team in the last five or six years," fumed Calhoun. The Griffins, on a nine-game streak of their own, jelled in the Siena game on Jan. 8, when coach Nick Macarchuk started his son at point guard. Nick III isn't much of a scorer, but he does know how to run the old man's offense. The Macarchuks go out of their way to preserve a player-coach relationship—even at home. Says Nick II, "He's strictly a boarder in our house. I treat him like anybody else on my team who comes to my house for dinner."
Wagner's Terrance Bailey, the scourge of the ECAC-Metro—and, incidentally. Division I's leading scorer, with a 30-point average—had an extraordinarily productive week even by his prolific standards. On Wednesday, the junior guard scored 49 points in the Seahawks' triple-overtime 105-103 win over Brooklyn College. He cooled slightly in Saturday's 85-81 defeat of defending regular-season champion Marist, contributing 46 points, eight on slam dunks, including one over 7'3" Marist center Rik Smits. To offset the dip in offense, Bailey grabbed 12 rebounds, a career high. Bailey, 6'2", has dunked 47 times this season.
Ohio State went 0-2 but made its opponents feel terrific. On Saturday the Buckeyes allowed Iowa, midweek winners over Indiana, to complete what coach George Raveling called his team's best back-to-back performances of the season. "I'm pleasantly surprised with our record at this point," said Raveling, his Hawkeyes now 16-6 after beating OSU 86-75. "I thought we'd be lucky to win nine or 10 games."
Two nights earlier, 13,344 fans gave the home team a roaring ovation as Minnesota beat the Buckeyes 70-65 with one hand figuratively tied behind its back. Three Gopher players had been suspended after being charged with sexual assault in Madison, Wis. on Jan. 27; interim coach Jimmy Williams suspended two others for disciplinary reasons, leaving only six scholarship players on his roster. One of those, Dave Holmgren, had missed most of the season with sore knees, and played less than two minutes against Ohio State, while three walk-ons never left the bench.
Larry Brown, flying along at a 68-21 clip since taking over at Kansas, is a pedestrian 0-3 in games at Ames. Johnny Orr's Iowa State Cyclones did it to Brown's team again with a 77-74 upset of the fifth-ranked Jayhawks. Cyclones Jeff Grayer and (What The) Sam Hill combined for 36 points. Point guard Jeff Hornacek dealt 12 assists and hit six key free throws to seal what Orr called his biggest victory in six years.
Any remote Big Eight regular-season title hopes harbored by Nebraska dissolved during Saturday's easy win over Colorado. Dave Hoppen, the Huskers' 6'11" center and, going into the game, the conference's leading scorer and rebounder, collided with Buff center Randy Downs in the first half, injuring his left knee. He crumpled to the floor. Hoppen returned in the second half with the knee taped, played a minute, but collapsed again. He is to undergo arthroscopic surgery this week. Doctors suspect ligament damage.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
TERRANCE BAILEY: Wagner's 6'2" junior guard, Division I's leading scorer, had 95 points, 19 rebounds and three steals as the Seahawks beat Brooklyn College 105-103 in triple OT and Marist 85-81.
N. CAROLINA (22-1)
MEMPHIS STATE (20-1)
GEORGIA TECH (17-2)
ST. JOHN'S (20-3)
VIRGINIA TECH (18-4)
NOTRE DAME (14-3)
N.C. STATE (14-6)
* Last week