The second edition of the Big (sort of) Four Classic in Indianapolis promised to be useful, not so much as a showcase for traditional powers from Kentucky and Indiana as a way to measure how far the mighty have fallen. Indiana had surrendered 208 points in two games the week before, Louisville had already been embarrassed by Xavier and Vanderbilt, young Notre Dame was an unknown quantity without departed guard David Rivers, and Kentucky...well, we all know about the Wildcats' long-running soap opera.
Nevertheless, in a rather amazing display of love or loyalty or, perhaps, morbid fascination, a crowd of 45,214 showed up at the Hoosier Dome. It was the second-biggest audience for a regular-season NCAA basketball event and the fourth largest ever, including tournament play. The gathering was that grand despite the fact that Kentucky returned over 1,500 of its allotted tickets.
The embattled Sutton and his players found only more misery in an 81-65 thrashing by the new-look Irish. While much note was taken of the fact that Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps has dumped his trademark green lapel carnation, a more important difference for the Irish is the addition of 6'9" freshman LaPhonso Ellis, who followed his 27-point debut against St. Bonaventure by working Kentucky for 16 rebounds.
As promising as the Irish looked, the best team in Indianapolis was Louisville, which erupted for a many-splendored 101-79 win over Indiana. The Cards took control at the outset, forcing seven Hoosier turnovers in their first eight possessions. So frazzled were the Hoosiers that at one point, center Todd Jadlow headed to the sidelines, thinking a timeout had been called. It hadn't, and an incredulous Knight had to shove his center back on the floor. "It was just our day," said Louisville coach Denny Crum graciously.
Next year it will be Louisville against Notre Dame and Indiana against...well, that brings up an interesting point. The Big Four Classic has two more years left in its TV contract with ABC; if NCAA sanctions, that Kentucky seems sure to get, include no regular-season TV appearances, what would the Big Four do? Postpone the classic until the Cats get out of the doghouse? Play as scheduled with ABC televising only the game not involving Kentucky? Replace the Wildcats with, say, Western Kentucky?
"I haven't even thought about it," said Indiana athletic director Ralph Floyd. "I don't want to make a comment on that until something transpires."
MICHIGAN AND AGAIN
The way you know for sure there's no such college as Southern Michigan is that it doesn't appear on the schedule of the University of Michigan. This week the Wolverines, still glowing from their win over Oklahoma in the final of the Maui Classic on Nov. 27, begin a 14-day stretch in which they play Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Northern Michigan.
Quick, now. Name the cities where all these Michigans are located. The correct answers are, respectively, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti and Marquette. We've got nothing against any of these schools, but why are they all on Michigan's schedule? Are the Wolverines all taking a course on the state's geography? Or does coach Bill Frieder just want to do some in-state promoting of his new book, Basket Case?
One can only wonder how it is that Frieder missed out on scheduling Michigan Tech, located in Houghton. Isn't there a campus bookstore there?
ROAD TO RECOVERY
Nobody's ready to say that UCLA is set to rejoin the national title hunt, but under rookie coach Jim Harrick, the Bruins got off to a start (3-0) that at least stamped them as one of the nation's most improved teams. The best evidence came last week in road wins over Miami, 91-66, and Brigham Young, 97-87. (The Bruins lost to BYU by seven last season in Pauley Pavilion.)
Harrick came to UCLA from Pepperdine, where he once became angry enough at the ball-control tactics of veteran Oregon State coach Ralph Miller to fume, "I'm sure when he roomed with Dr. Naismith, he learned that isn't the way to play basketball."
While he has come to regret that—"I've had a few operations to get the foot out of my mouth," Harrick says—it's an example of his no-nonsense approach. Under Harrick, UCLA looks sounder in the fundamentals of the game than at any time since 1980, the last year it made the Final Four. And the Bruins have been boosted considerably by 6'10" freshman Don MacLean, who announced his arrival with 19 points against Miami and 26 against BYU. But perhaps the best news is on the recruiting front. In the early signing period, Harrick signed a couple of top Southern California recruits, 6'7" Zan Mason and 6'5" Mitch Butler. He also landed 6'10" Rodney Odom of Kingwood, Texas, who's regarded by some scouts as one of the nation's top prospects.
CHECK HIS STAATS
Alaa Abdelnaby, the 6'10" junior center for top-ranked Duke, is called Alphabet, for obvious reasons, and the Pharaoh, because he was born in Egypt. Now point guard Quin Snyder has come up with another nom de hoop, which was previously applied to the Boston Celtics' Kevin McHale. Noting that Abdelnaby didn't get his first assist of the season until the Blue Devils' third game and has a grand total of only 10 for his career, Snyder said, "We call him the Black Hole, because when the ball goes in to him, it doesn't come out."
But that's at least partly because Abdelnaby does a pretty good job of losing it in the other hole, the one with the twine attached. After making his last two shots in Duke's opener against Kentucky, Abdelnaby went 8 for 8 against The Citadel and 9 for 9 against East Carolina. His 19-for-19 streak put him four over the old ACC record but six short of the NCAA mark set by American University's Ray Voelkel in 1978.
In Duke's 86-62 win over Northwestern on Saturday, Abdelnaby made his first shot, but he missed his second to end the run. "Alaa was just taking what was there," said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. "You have to credit the guys who are passing him the ball."
One of those guys, forward Robert Brickey, has a Spanish teacher who noted that Abdelnaby's rebounding numbers are almost as modest as his assist stats—he had only one rebound in the first two games. The prof asked Brickey, "Why does your starting center have one more rebound than a dead person?" Abdelnaby heard about the crack and said later, "I thought it was pretty funny—but I kept it in the back of my mind." Apparently so. By week's end he had hauled down 11 more rebounds.
When Florida center Dwayne Schintzius was introduced before the Gators' game against Florida State Saturday night in Tallahassee, the air was filled with tennis balls—a reference to the fact that this was Schintzius's first game after a suspension for allegedly attacking hecklers with a tennis racket outside a Gainesville nightclub in early November....
Colorado's 71-70 season-opening loss to UC Santa Barbara came partly because coach Tom Miller kept the Buffaloes in a timeout huddle too long, allowing the Gauchos to score an uncontested layup....
Pacific's 95-74 win over Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo ended the longest losing streak in Division I at 23....
Southern Cal offered free admission to its home game against Howard for anyone producing a ticket stub from the USC-Notre Dame football game, which had drawn a crowd of 93,829 at the nearby Coliseum earlier in the day. The gate for the Howard game was 875....
Georgia coach Hugh Durham, on flinging his jacket during a 102-76 loss at Iowa: "We'll send it to the cleaners and get the powder burns off it. When you get blown out, you always have powder burns."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
In two games Florida Slate's 6'6" point guard scored 54 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and handed out 11 assists, as the Seminoles beat Florida International 100-75 and Florida 104-86.
NORTH CAROLINA (6-1)
GEORGIA TECH (3-0)
FLORIDA STATE (3-0)
OHIO STATE (3-1)
N.C. STATE (2-1)