In addition to the surprising play of the Hoosiers in Bloomington (page 42) the state of Indiana has two other Division I teams that have won regular-season conference titles and are looking forward to getting some recognition in the NCAAs. Ball State has the nation's best winning percentage, .926 (25-2), and quite likely the biggest coach, Rick Majerus, who weighs more than 300 pounds. Earlier this season, in discussing his 7'1" reserve center, junior Roman Muller, Majerus said, "When I recruited him in high school, he was 6'10" and about 170 pounds. He weighed about as much as my thigh. Any self-respecting cannibal would have rejected him."
But Majerus wouldn't, and by bringing in Muller, Shawn Parrish and Billy Butts from the juco ranks along with transfers Curtis Kidd and Paris McCurdy (both from Arkansas-Little Rock), he has turned a team that went 14-14 last season into the Mid-American Conference champion. The Cardinals have no single offensive star—nobody averages more than 14 points—but they're tough on defense, having held 12 opponents to less than 40% shooting.
Evansville, which is 23-4 and champion of the much improved Midwestern Collegiate Conference, also relies on a slick transfer and sticky defense. The D is no surprise considering that coach Jim Crews spent 12 years as a player and assistant under Bob Knight. The Purple Aces' trump card is guard Scott Haffner, a transfer from Illinois whose 24.2 average led the conference in regular-season scoring and who earned national recognition for his 65-point outburst against Dayton on Feb. 18. "Until this season he was basically a three-point shooter," says Crews. "But now he drives more, cuts more to get the open 15-footer and shoots more free throws."
Officials in both the Mid-American and the Midwestern Collegiate conferences probably wouldn't be too angry if their regular-season champs were upset in this week's conference tournaments. That way each league might squeeze a second team into the NCAA field—and pick up another share of tournament money. With their strong records, Ball State and Evansville seem to be shooins, even if they fail to get the automatic bid that comes with winning their conference tournaments. "We're looking forward to the NCAAs," says Crews, no doubt speaking for Majerus as well, "and we're expecting to compete, not just to get in it."
RELIEF, AT LAST
The end couldn't come soon enough for George Washington coach John Kuester and his players. With a 74-63 loss to Duquesne in Saturday's opening round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Colonials finished 1-27 and tied the NCAA record for most losses in a season. However, only one of the other three teams that share the record—U.S. International in 1984-85—ended up 1-27. Washington State was 6-27 in 1952-53, and Pacific went 3-27 in 1983-84.
"I'm happy that it's finally over," said senior forward Max Blank. "It's been like a nightmare from the beginning. I wouldn't wish what's happened to us on my worst enemy."
The Colonials' troubles began in their third game, when forward Brian Royal was sidelined with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury. Eleven days later guard Ellis McKennie, the team's leading scorer last season, went down for the year with a stress fracture in his right foot. Blank, who was plagued throughout his career by knee troubles, was limited all season by a hamstring injury. To top things off, Kuester suspended McKennie and guards Frank Williams and Ricardos Smith on Feb. 10 for allegedly using meal coupons in the school cafeteria after they had accepted meal money from the athletic department. Their futures at the school are in doubt.
The injuries and suspensions left Kuester with only seven healthy scholarship players, forcing him to add two walk-ons to the roster. Somehow Kuester has kept his sense of humor. "One story sums the season up," he said. "Up at Temple we were having a terrible time with their press. I sent two kids to the scorers' table to check in. Just as they got there, one of our kids made a spin move to get away from a trap. He turned, saw Clint Holtz standing at the table and threw him the ball."
Kuester paused and said, "It was the best pass and catch we made all season."
Princeton won the Ivy League championship the same way it runs its offense—very deliberately. With three games remaining the Tigers were 10-1 in league play and had clinched at least a tie for the title. They took a mighty cut on Feb. 28 at Pennsylvania and whiffed, losing 43-42. Dartmouth hurled strike two last Friday by beating the Tigers 53-43 and putting them in the position of having to defeat Harvard the next night to avoid a one-game playoff with the Big Green.
"This ends one of the worst weeks of my life," said Princeton coach Pete Carril after a 73-64 win over the Crimson. "I felt like the guy whose house catches fire and wonders, Was somebody trying to punish me?"
The Tigers, who will enter the NCAA tournament with a 19-7 record, buried Harvard early in the second half with a 25-8 run. They also converted seven straight three-pointers in the half, including four by senior Bob Scrabis. The victory gave Carril his seventh Ivy crown, but his first since 1984. "With one senior, one sophomore and all these freshmen, I'd have felt great going 19-7 and not winning the league," said Carril. "But to have gotten a chance to steal a title and then not done it would have felt terrible."
Colorado State of the WAC clinched its first regular-season conference championship in 20 years by converting 14 of 18 shots (77.8%) in the second half of an 89-72 win over BYU. As usual the Rams were led by 6'8" senior forward Pat Durham, who scored 31 points....
If New Mexico State doesn't make the NCAA tournament, the Aggies, who are 19-10, might blame the state legislature for mandating that both State and New Mexico schedule at least one game a year against a smaller, in-state school. This season State complied by routing Western New Mexico 89-54, but the NCAA selection committee frowns on the scheduling of patsies. "If you win, you don't get anything for it," says Aggie coach Neil McCarthy. "If you lose, you get your——run through a ringer."...
Robert Morris edged Fairleigh Dickinson 67-66 in the Northeast Conference tournament final to gain an NCAA bid. During the game Robert Morris students flashed signs that read WE WANT ARIZONA and WE WANT OKLAHOMA. Said coach Jarrett Durham afterward, "For the record, I did not say that."...
Ten nicknames that you've never heard on ESPN: the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, the Amherst Lord Jeffs, the Oberlin Yeomen, the Tufts Jumbos, the Webster Gorloks, the Whittier Poets, the South Dakota Tech Hardrockers, the Heidelberg Student Princes and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Bloodhounds....
After SMU's 82-79 loss to Texas on Feb. 28, losing coach John Shumate, irate because a foul was not called against Texas on a close play in the closing seconds, gave his Longhorn counterpart, Tom Penders, a hard hand slap instead of a shake. Penders was left with a jammed thumb but no hard feelings. "They tell me I'll be able to bowl by Monday," he said.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Mississippi's 6'6" junior forward scored 53 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in a 113-112 victory over LSU. Three nights earlier he had 35 points and eight boards in a 70-69 loss to Kentucky.
N. CAROLINA (24-7)
SETON HALL (25-5)
WEST VIRGINIA (25-3)
BALL STATE (25-2)
FLORIDA STATE (21-6)