The Race Is On

Indiana was the sole survivor in a week of Top 10 upsets that portend a wide-open NCAA field
March 02, 1992

The normally Maniacal Duke student section was taken to task for being too docile, and, for once, even Dick Vitale wished Dick Vitale had stuffed a sock in it. Those two shocking developments alone would have stamped last week as a truly strange one in college basketball, but when the teams in the Associated Press Top 25 fell more often than the top women figure skaters in Albertville did, it was clear that March Madness had arrived prematurely.

Seventeen of those 25 teams lost at least once during the week, including 10 of the top 11. And when No. 1 Duke joined the crowd by dropping a 72-68 decision at Wake Forest on Sunday, the path was clear for No. 7 Indiana, which had already dumped No. 6 Ohio State 86-80 in another Sunday matchup, to conceivably ascend to the top spot. Every team ranked between Duke and Indiana—in order, UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona and Ohio State—had lost earlier in the week.

In fact, if Indiana hadn't survived the seven days unscathed—the Hoosiers also demolished No. 11 Michigan State 103-73—the highest-ranked team to make it through the week without a defeat would have been No. 12 UNLV. And the Runnin' Rebels no doubt would have sued to get the No. 1 ranking. As it was, the events of last week stirred up the Top 10—even though Duke remained No. 1 in the most recent rankings, Indiana rocketed to No. 2, UNLV moved to seventh, and North Carolina, which lost twice, fell all the way to 10th—and left the feeling that this year's NCAA tournament will be wide open after nearly three seasons of dominating play by the Runnin' Rebels and the Blue Devils.

That bit of news should be enough to shake the Duke students, the Cameron Crazies, out of the lethargy Blue Devil coach Mike Krzyzewski detected during his team's 91-89 victory over Maryland last Thursday. "When I came out after halftime, I saw our students sitting down," Krzyzewski said after the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. "I've never seen that. I told my players to get off their butts. I think our students should get off their butts, too. I think they're spoiled, and maybe my team is, too. We played spoiled, and we cheered spoiled."

Krzyzewski's blast didn't keep the defending national champion Blue Devils, who were 17-0 when point guard Bobby Hurley broke a bone in his right foot on Feb. 5, from stumbling three days later against Wake Forest to fall to 21-2. Duke was squandering a 10-point lead not long after Indiana had wrapped up its impressive victory, which ended Ohio State's 30-game home winning streak at St. John Arena. More important to the Hoosiers, who are now 20-4, the win gave them a 1½-game lead over second-place Ohio State in the Big Ten and the inside track on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Such good standing might eventually lead to a change in Indiana coach Bob Knight's impression of his team.

Before the Ohio State game Knight had been less than complimentary about his players, who, in his eyes, have given several listless efforts of late. "Our team has a very poor competitive personality," he said. "We have great kids, nice kids, but we haven't had that kind of personality for two years."

That didn't appear to be the case on Sunday. The Hoosiers were poised and resilient against a Buckeye team that was itching to avenge a 91-83 defeat in Bloomington on Jan. 14. What's more, Indiana held off Ohio State before a sellout crowd that was particularly angry thanks to two comments made by Vitale about Buckeye forward Lawrence Funderburke.

During ESPN's telecast of the first Indiana-Ohio State game, Vitale had said on the air that Funderburke, a 6'9" sophomore transfer from Indiana, "should be kicked out of the game" after he was called for an intentional foul against Hoosier guard Damon Bailey. Then, during a commercial break in ESPN's Feb. 18 telecast of the Ohio State-Iowa game, Vitale watched a replay of Funderburke and Hawkeye forward Chris Street exchanging forearms and called Funderburke a "cheap shot——." Vitale didn't realize his remark could be heard by fans watching the satellite feed of the telecast, which doesn't show the commercials.

Vitale tried to make amends two days later by phoning Ohio State coach Randy Ayers. He also faxed an apology to Funderburke. The player was not at all bothered by Vitale's words—"He can say what he wants, but I'm going to make it; that's what counts"—but not all were in such a forgiving mood. A poster at Sunday's game read APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED, BABY, and Buckeye athletic director Jim Jones vowed to bring up Vitale's comments for discussion at a Big Ten athletic directors meeting this week in Chicago. "This isn't something that we're just going to forget about," Jones said. "It's not just going to go away, I can assure you of that."

Against the Hoosiers, Funderburke continued to look like the inside force Ohio State needs. He pulled down nine rebounds and blocked seven shots, although Indiana limited him to only one shot in the second half. Still, the Buckeyes overcame an 11-point deficit to tie the game at 62 with 10:16 remaining, compliments of their star, 6'6" junior guard Jim Jackson. He took matters into his own hands, using his strength and guile to back defenders into the lane for three nifty jumpers.

Jackson, who finished with 24 points, may be the best clutch player in the country, and he is capable of carrying Ohio State a long way in the NCAAs—if only the Buckeyes will let him. After drawing Ohio State even with Indiana, Jackson didn't touch the ball on the next three Buckeye possessions. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers went on to score seven unanswered points. End of game.

"I was a really good English student here," said Knight, Ohio State class of 1962. "But I'm not sure I ever used the word 'marvelous.' Jimmy Jackson is a marvelous player."

The performances of three Hoosiers—Bailey, who had 17 points, and forwards Calbert Cheaney and Alan Henderson, who scored 28 and 24, respectively—also bordered on marvelous. Bailey, aside from two recent inexplicably scoreless games, has had an excellent sophomore season. On Sunday he made three crucial treys, including a 30-foot glass number at the halftime buzzer with a Buckeye in his face. For Cheaney the Ohio State game was the latest in a series of strong performances that began after Knight brought in two former Indiana All-America forwards, Scott May and Mike Woodson, to talk to him about looking for his shot more aggressively. Cheaney was scoring 15 points a game in the 14 games before the discussion; in the 10 games since then, he has averaged 21.2. As for Henderson, after a slow start he now may be playing as well as any freshman in the country who's not residing in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Overall, the Hoosiers produced the kind of effort they will need if they are to advance far in the NCAAs. After the madness of last week, no doubt other teams in the Top 25 feel better about their chances of playing well into March. Suddenly, no one is casting an imposing shadow over the field. And all of college basketball can enjoy the light.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGHVitale's criticism didn't hinder Funderburke (34) against Hoosiers like Henderson (44). PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGHJackson and Bailey were a pair of double deuces who came up aces when the chips were down.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)