PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
Pending this week's conference tournament chaos, and keeping in mind that nothing is as logical as it may seem—especially where the NCAA dart board committee is concerned—here is one fellow's thoroughly edgy-coated guess as to the identity of the top 16 seeds and where they'll be placed in the NCAA tourney, which begins on March 12.
East: North Carolina, Syracuse, Temple, Illinois.
Southeast: Indiana, Alabama, Pittsburgh, Clemson.
Midwest: Purdue, DePaul, Duke, Missouri.
West: UNLV, Iowa, Georgetown, Oklahoma.
Rest assured that win-loss records, strength of schedule and geographic balance will all influence the tournament committee's decisions, to be announced at sundown on Sunday. March 8, but the PGR (potential gate receipts) factor, which will result in some inevitable home cooking, will undoubtedly stir up the most commotion.
For instance, late-season upsets suffered by DePaul, Temple, Kansas, Florida and TCU will probably cost each a drop in the seedings; the latter three must win their conference tournaments to become No. 4 seeds. Meanwhile, DePaul seems certain to host a first-and second-round session at home in Rosemont Horizon. Likewise, Syracuse will surely stay in the East to welcome visitors to another opening weekend in the Carrier Dome even if the Orangemen finish behind Pitt and Georgetown in the Big East tournament. Burned by critics for stashing too many SEC teams in the Southeast Region last year, the committee decided to enforce a rule prohibiting conference brothers from playing each other prior to a regional final That will allow such un-traditional antiestablishmentarians as Pitt to go to the Southeast and Illinois to the East As for Georgetown the farther from DC these ravaging defenders lurk the more panicked everybody else becomes. Don't be misled by that Babes In Hoyaland tag. Georgetown can win this tournament
In addition to DePaul and Syracuse beginning play in their own cozy confines, look for North Carolina, Alabama and the Big Ten champ (Indiana or Purdue) to start the proceedings virtually at home in Charlotte, Birmingham and Indianapolis, respectively.
The truly intriguing question is: How deeply will the NCAA stack the West Region in hopes that someone will ambush UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian and his tankful of treys before they reach the Final Four and maybe, omigosh, win the whole thing?
How about this for a murderers' row for UNLV to negotiate on the way to New Orleans: Arizona (in Tucson), Oklahoma (the only team to beat the Runnin' Rebels), Georgetown and Iowa. Or fill in your own blanks.
"Las Vegas is the goods this time; they can go all the way," says one Southern coach. "But the NCAA—read my lips, r-e-f-e-r-e-e-s—will never let them.
SORRY, NEVER MIND
When Southern Illinois boosters agreed to pledge money for each Saluki dunk shot this season, the project drew promises of from 50¬¨¬®¬¨¢ to $50 per slam. When insider-trading sleuths investigated the books recently, however, they came up almost empty. Through 28 games, Southern Illinois had exactly one dunk.
TINKLE THE TWINE
Before any players win the national championship, of course, they will be subject to NCAA drug tests, with most of the results known before second-round games are played. The list of banned substances is practically endless and includes many common remedies for colds, allergies and the like. "I have a big nose and occasionally it needs spraying. That could show up on a drug test," says Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski whose schnozz hardly runs first among Tobacco Road coaches Of course coaches won't be tested anyway But what really has Coach K kranky is NCAA drug-testing committee chairman John Toners statement that "our first goal is to have a clean Final Four our second goal is to have clean regionals."
"What kind of image does that carry to the public? Does that mean the Final Four wasn't clean before?" says Krzyzewski. "There are probably people out there now saying, 'Boy, I bet that Duke team was really bad last year." This guy is talking like 'Hey. I'm the new sheriff, and we're really going to clean up.' We [Duke] are concerned about this. For one thing, we have a lot of kids who have been sick. What are we supposed to tell them? It's such a concern, we might have medicals before the NCAAs."
North Carolina's Dean Smith shares Coach K's feelings. He says his team's trainer has advised the Tar Heels "not to take anything, just food."
The Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune, right there in the basketball cold bed featuring Lewis-Clark State (a local NAIA school), the University of Idaho (in Moscow, 28 miles to the north) and Washington State (36 miles across the border to the north, in Pullman) has adopted none other than Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as its "official ECAC Metro Conference team." So what if the Red Foxes' campus is 2,500 miles from Lewiston and the only Redd Foxx with whom Idahoans are familiar disappeared when Sanford and Son went off the air?
Last year a Tribune columnist. Dale Grummert, discovered Marist, memorialized it as one of the best teams nobody knew about east of the Pacific Time Zone and listed some of its foreign legion of players on an all-name team. This season Bert Sahlberg, the paper's assistant sports editor, adopted Marist "as kind of a joke, something fun to do." he says.
The Tribune runs stories on all of Marist's games, prints updates on its 7'2" Dutch center. Rik Smits, and has asked readers to compose an original fight song for the Foxes. A Lewiston radio station broadcast the first half of the Marist-Wagner game in Madison Square Garden, one in which Marist placed five men from four different countries in double figures. Before the game an announcer for Marist's local radio station interviewed Tribune sports editor Jeff Spevak, who white-lied that the entire metropolis of Lewiston had closed down to hold a parade for Marist.
While news of the Marist-Lewiston connection was big enough to earn a mention in The New York Times, locally it has been about as big as a want ad, Says Sahlberg, "I think people here realize it's a joke."
SI TOP 20
Staggering to the finish line, 11 of last week's Top 20 lost 15 games—Indiana and Kansas taking double-dips. Oklahoma a triple. Alabama would have lost had a timekeeper not been operating on TNT (Tuscaloosa Nod-off Time) to give the home team at least two extra seconds to make the follow-dunk that beat Florida in OT. And how about Mizzou's late debut? The Tigers are Big Eight regular-season champs.
Bruce Lefkowitz, a 6'8" center for Penn, rocked Brown with 31 points and 20 rebounds in a 95-92 overtime victory. Florida State's PEE WEE BARBER, a 5'1" guard, knocked Miami and Southern Mississippi silly with 40- and 31-point scoring bursts in a pair of Seminole wins.
1. UNLV (30-1)
2. N. CAROLINA (27-2)
3. PURDUE (23-3)
4. G'TOWN (23-4)
5. INDIANA (23-4)
6. ALABAMA (23-4)
7. IOWA (25-4)
8. DEPAUL (25-2)
9. ILLINOIS (21-7)
10. TEMPLE (29-3)
11. PITT (23-6)
12. SYRACUSE (24-5)
13. OKLAHOMA (21-7)
14. N.ORLEANS (25-3)
15. DUKE (22-7)
16. MISSOURI (21-9)
17. CLEMSON (25-4)
18. UTEP (23-5)
19. ST. JOHN'S (20-7)
19. 9 VERMONT* (5-22)
*Congrats to Catamounts, who came in like lambs (4-22. with two wins over miserable Colgate) and went out like lions with a 101-83 win over perfectly respectable Maine. Sap, not saps, will be flowing in Burlington.