Louisville's two losses last week, 95-92 to Southern Mississippi and 72-68 to Memphis State, left the Cardinals with a 10-8 record. Despite the efforts of center Pervis Ellison and forward Herb Crook and the sometimes sensational efforts of freshman guard LaBradford Smith, Louisville is facing a repeat of last season's disappointment. As defending NCAA champs, the 1986-87 Cards slogged through a difficult schedule with an 18-14 record and didn't get an NCAA tournament bid. The popular theory on the NCAA's refusal to invite the Cardinals was that it wanted to send a message to the Metro Conference, which had permitted Memphis State, which was on probation, to participate in its postseason tournament. The Tigers won the tournament, and afterward neither Louisville nor any other Metro team was asked to participate in the NCAAs.
Perhaps the Metro didn't get the message: This season it will permit two schools on probation, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, to participate in its 1988 tourney, even though neither will be eligible for the NCAAs. More ominous for teams like Louisville, either the Gamecocks or the Hokies could win the tournament. At week's end, South Carolina was tops in the league with a 4-1 record (13-4 overall), and Tech was a surprising 14-5 for the season.
When Indianapolis radio station WIBC received a call last week from someone claiming to have heard on ESPN that Indiana coach Bob Knight was about to resign, WIBC reported the story as fact—and the state of Indiana went bonkers. Switchboards at newspapers and radio stations lit up all over Hoosierland. One radio station was even reported to have gone so far as to announce that University of Evansville coach Jim Crews would be named as Knight's successor.
The story apparently was touched off by pranksters—ESPN had aired no such report—but it took Knight himself to lay the matter to rest. Asked about the news by the Hoosiers' radio announcer, Don Fischer, Knight said, "I picked up a rumor this afternoon, Don, that the Ohio State game may well be your last broadcast. I heard you are going to Uruguay to be the No. 1 announcer on the Montevideo bullfighting circuit. The key word in this whole thing, Don, is bull."
Louisiana State coach Dale Brown says Knight intimidates officials. Oklahoma's Billy Tubbs says Brown intimidates officials. Pitt's Paul Evans says Georgetown's John Thompson intimidates officials. A week doesn't go by without one coach claiming that another has the refs in his back pocket. But what do the zebras have to say about it? Are certain coaches able to psych them out?
"I think the perception that it happens is much greater than the reality of the situation," says NCAA coordinator of officials Hank Nichols, who wore the stripes for 17 years at the Division I level. "People tend to believe officials are getting browbeaten by the coaches because they hear it on TV. But you get to know which referees are stronger and weaker. If a guy stays weak, he doesn't survive. For most guys, the coaches' antics just become old hat."
ESPN analyst Irv Brown, who spent 25 years as a college official, believes intimidation does occur, particularly with younger refs. Brown recalls working a game during his first season in which Evansville coach Arad McCutchan had him completely bamboozled. "This guy knew he had a rookie," says Brown. "He had me so I didn't know where I was. I didn't know which team had the ball out-of-bounds. I'm sure I gave him 51 percent of the gray area. It's a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. But if you hang around a while, you're not going to get intimidated."
Says N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, the son of an official as well as something of a ref baiter, "Just as there are great players and great coaches, there are great officials. Some refs can handle the pressure better than others. By its nature, it's an impossible job." Of course, Valvano supports the right of coaches to get exercised: "They say, 'Don't get emotional.' Hey, my whole life, my self-image, is all on the line 30 nights a year, and they say don't be emotional? The coaches are the only ones in the building whose livelihood depends on the outcome of the game."
This season of upsets has produced a few surprise teams with staying power. Vanderbilt, which shocked North Carolina in December, last week added wins over Kentucky, 83-66, and Florida, 92-65. Kansas State, which had upset Oklahoma earlier, defeated Kansas 72-61 last week to end the Jayhawks' 55-game home winning streak.
Vanderbilt, which at week's end was 6-3 in the SEC and 13-4 on the season, has fallen in love with the three-pointer. Says coach C.M. Newton, "It makes no sense to shoot from 17 feet for two points when you can shoot for three from 19'9". Let's either take the ball and penetrate or take a step back and shoot for three." The Commodores hit 13 of 20 treys against Kentucky and 7 of 18 against Florida.
Kansas State, 4-0 in the Big Eight and 12-4 overall, is led by 6'5" forward Mitch Richmond, who scored 35 points, including eight straight free throws in the final 1:27, in a win over Kansas. Says former NBA star Bob Lanier, a commentator for the Mutual Broadcasting Network. "If Richmond doesn't make it big in the pros, I'll eat my shoes." That's a strong endorsement: Lanier wears size 18½Ds.
PAYING TO PLAY
During Ralph James's high school days, hordes of recruiters came to call—no surprise since the 6'5" forward was averaging 23.5 points and 10 rebounds for Archbishop Molloy High in Queens, N.Y. The stunner was that James rejected full offers from Notre Dame, De-Paul, Stanford, Wake Forest and Michigan State and chose instead to pay $18,500 a year and attend Harvard, which gives no athletic scholarships. "It came down to Harvard and Stanford," says James. "Stanford had a better program, but I thought I'd afford my parents the chance to see me play."
Fine, but could they afford Harvard? James's parents, Ralph and Betty, are both social workers. "They basically said, 'Wherever you want to go, we'll make the sacrifice.' " And what about his future as a pro? "I wasn't really thinking about a pro career," he says. "I was thinking more along the lines of what a Harvard education could mean in the long run." In the short run, James, a freshman who plans to concentrate on either premed or business, has meant 15.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Crimson.
John Long, the NBA Indiana Pacers guard, is the proud uncle of two successful college players: Michigan sophomore center Terry Mills (12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds a game) and Eastern Michigan senior forward Grant Long (22.5 and 10.7)....
How's this for three-point mania? USC guard Anthony Pendleton has attempted 123 treys (and made 44) and only 24 two-pointers (and made seven)....
Talk about squeaky clean: In four games this season, Arizona guard Steve Kerr has had no fouls and no turnovers. In Tucson, they're calling that stat a double-zero....
The futility continues for the University of Dallas. The Crusaders' 80-67 loss to Millsaps dropped their 1987-88 record to 0-22 and their losing streak to 85 straight....
The 18-2 Lady Longhorns of Texas are averaging 7,885 for their home games, more than any of the men's teams in the Southwest Conference.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma's 6'10" junior center had 55 points and 30 rebounds in two Sooner wins over Iowa State, by scores of 109-86 and 96-91. He had a career-high 36 points and 21 rebounds in Game 2.
NORTH CAROLINA (15-3)
ST. JOHN'S (14-3)
TEXAS-EL PASO (17-4)