Before every game at Maples Pavilion this season, Stanford
junior reserve forward Mark Seaton has slid The Rocky Story, a
collection of tunes from the Sylvester Stallone movies, into a
CD player in the locker room and turned up the volume. However,
it may be time to retire Seaton's well-worn disc. For Stanford,
which was 16-0 and fifth-ranked at week's end, that underdog
stuff just isn't gonna fly now.
With its 93-80 win over then eighth-ranked UCLA last Saturday,
the Cardinal boosted its national standing to the highest it has
been since Stanford won the NCAA title in 1942. "Today Stanford
proved that it is capable of going to the Final Four," said UCLA
coach Steve Lavin, after his quicker Bruins nearly overcame an
18-point halftime deficit. UCLA's defeat occurred in the same
deafening pit where last season the Bruins suffered their worst
loss ever, 109-61, as signs all over Maples Pavilion reminded
them last Saturday.
Fazed by neither Maples's bouncy, spring-cushioned floor nor the
taunting of the Stanford student section, which chanted
"Ma-ri-jua-na!" each time UCLA's scowling center Jelani
McCoy--fresh from a nine-game suspension for allegedly testing
positive for drug use--stepped to the foul line, the Bruins beat
the Cardinal, the Pac-10's top rebounding team, on the boards
48-36. What killed UCLA was Stanford's perimeter game. After
making 15 three-pointers in its 99-62 pancaking of USC last
Thursday, the Cardinal canned 14 more treys, out of 26 attempts,
against the Bruins. "Stanford has that combination coaches dream
about," said Lavin. "Great interior post play, great three-point
shooters, tremendous depth. It really doesn't have a chink in
January 26, 1998
Indeed, what figured to be a devastating blow to the
Cardinal--the graduation of point guard Brevin Knight, who led
Stanford to the Sweet 16 last March and was then drafted by the
Cleveland Cavaliers--has instead made the Cardinal better. "Last
year a lot of guys would sit back and watch Brevin," says junior
Arthur Lee, who has taken Knight's place as point guard. "This
year we can't rely on one guy. We have to work as a team."
In Stanford coach Mike Montgomery's team concept there's no star
or even a go-to guy. Moreover, the demarcation between regulars
and reserves is murky; despite injuries that have kept sophomore
power forward Mark Madsen and blue-chip freshman center Jason
Collins out, the Cardinal rotation still goes 12 deep. (Against
UCLA, 10 Stanford players saw at least 11 minutes of action.)
Six players have led the Cardinal in scoring. At the end of last
week only one player, junior guard Kris Weems, was ranked among
the Pac-10's top 20 scorers (18th, with 13.8 points a game), and
only 7'1" junior center Tim Young was among the conference's top
10 in blocks (1.5) and rebounds (7.6). But Stanford leads the
Pac-10 in scoring defense, scoring margin, rebounding margin and
field goal percentage defense, among other categories. Says
Montgomery, a man not given to hyperbole, "It's hard to imagine
a team more unselfish than this one."
Even a team as egalitarian as this one needs leadership, and
fortunately Lee picked up a thing or two practicing against
Knight for two years. Described by Madsen as "unafraid of anyone
or anything," Lee is starting to take the clutch shots, starting
to take the vocal lead on what is otherwise a quiet team. He's
even unafraid to say that he shares Lavin's vision of Stanford
as a Final Four team. "Why not?" he says. "Anything short of
that would be a disappointment. We're for real, and it's about
time people realized that."
HOPES AND DREAMS ON HOLD
After just a few weeks of practice, UNC-Charlotte freshman
Charles Hayward was having difficulty keeping up with his
teammates. A 6'8" forward from Alexandria, La., Hayward had
arrived last June as the most touted basketball recruit in 49ers
history, but now he appeared a step slow on defense, lacked the
offensive spark that had initially caught coach Melvin Watkins's
eye and regularly finished last in conditioning drills.
Losing confidence and taking heat from coaches and teammates,
Hayward, at the suggestion of trainer Bret Wood, had a blood
workup done on Oct. 28. Two days later he went to University
Hospital in Charlotte for more tests. On Halloween doctors told
Hayward that he had acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer that
affects blood-forming tissues. "I couldn't believe it," Hayward
says. "It was scary. I felt like I was watching a movie. The
first thing I thought about was basketball. Would I ever be able
to play basketball again?"
Basketball turned out to be the least of his worries. He was
hospitalized from Nov. 2 through Dec. 19, during which time he
underwent intensive chemotherapy. Making matters worse, Hayward,
whose father died when Charles was four and whose mother, Janice
Harrell, worked part time and struggled to make ends meet for a
family of five, didn't have health insurance. The school's
athletic foundation immediately established a fund in Hayward's
name and raised more than $40,000 through donations, a gumbo
dinner and the sale of pins with Hayward's name and his number,
45, on them. School officials arranged for some coverage by
Medicaid and helped bring his mother and older brother, Eric, to
Charlotte, where they have been staying for free at a nearby inn.
Hayward has remained reasonably upbeat, even though he had to
check back into the hospital on Jan. 14 for four more weeks of
chemotherapy. He hopes to have a bone marrow transplant when the
treatment is completed, but as yet a genetic match for his
marrow has not been found.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have dedicated their season to him. They
wear his number on their uniforms and leave a chair with his
name and number on it on the sideline at every home game. During
timeouts that chair is brought to the floor with five others.
Because of injuries to other players, UNC-Charlotte was off to a
slow start, but a recent surge had lifted its record to 8-6
overall and 4-0 in Conference USA through Sunday. The 49ers were
a half game behind Cincinnati for first in the conference's
American Division. The UNC-Charlotte players got an unexpected
lift from Hayward on Jan. 3, when he sat on the bench for the
first time during an 81-55 victory over DePaul.
"Charles is like Superman," says senior guard Sean Colson. "You
come away thinking you could do anything after visiting him. He
has an unbelievable attitude and helped us realize what's
important. You look at him and you see that things like
basketball and school aren't that hard." --B.J. SCHECTER
THE RECKERING CREW
Bob Knight didn't say much to his Indiana team before Sunday's
game against ninth-ranked Purdue in Bloomington. He didn't need
to. Knight has faced mounting criticism and dwindling fan
support because of his harsh coaching style (the sudden transfer
of sophomore center Jason Collier in December drew an
unprecedented volume of anti-Knight letters to an Indiana
fanzine) and unspectacular results (the Hoosiers' first 0-2
start in the Big Ten in a decade). The last thing he needed now
was a third straight home loss to the intrastate rival
Boilermakers and a fifth consecutive defeat to them overall.
So before the loudest gathering in the 17,357-seat Assembly Hall
this season, Indiana played its best game of the season,
shooting 63.6% in the second half, making 21 of 23 free throws
for the game and even playing a zone, a form of defense
heretofore anathema to Knight. The result was a 94-88 victory
over a fast-closing, uncharacteristically quick Purdue team.
"This was definitely a must-win situation," said 6'6" freshman
guard-forward Luke Recker, who hails from Auburn, Ind., after
the best game of his young career. "Ever since I can remember,
the IU-Purdue rivalry has been important to me. I've been pretty
frustrated the past few years." Indeed, Recker, who scored 27
points, had 12 rebounds and took three charges, played as if he
had a personal score to settle, but he wasn't even in
Bloomington last season when Purdue won the game in OT on a Chad
Austin jumper with 0.6 of a second remaining.
Indiana sophomore guard A.J. Guyton was there last year, and he
feared a reprise of that nightmare after Purdue cut a 16-point
Hoosiers lead to four with 1:27 remaining on Sunday. "I could
see it happening all over again," said Guyton, who had 21
points. "I knew they'd come back."
That they didn't is a credit to Indiana's mental toughness,
something the Hoosiers have evinced only sporadically over the
last few years. Whether their performance against Purdue was a
sign of maturity or another random sighting of teamwork, it was
an important victory nevertheless. "It's a special win for me,"
said Recker. "I just hope it's not the climax."
Coach Joan Bonvicini, whose ascendant Arizona women's team beat
then 11th-ranked Stanford 91-90 last week, snapping the
Cardinal's 48-game Pac-10 winning streak, credits the Wildcats'
emergence to a player who specializes in getting the better of
larger opponents. Senior power forward Adia Barnes is only
5'11", a fact that caused many schools to overlook her when she
was playing center at Mission Bay High in San Diego. But what
Barnes lacks in stature, she makes up for in quickness and
ferocity. Off the court she's personable, but on it, says
Bonvicini, "she's a mean sucker."
Barnes, who through Sunday was averaging 22.0 points, 7.4
rebounds and 1.9 steals this season for seventh-ranked Arizona
(11-3, 5-1 in the Pac-10) and already owns seven Wildcats career
records, takes exception to her nasty on-court reputation. "I'm
just really aggressive and competitive," says Barnes, whose
father, Pete, was an NFL linebacker for 11 years. "I don't like
to lose. But I'm not mean."
In any case, Bonvicini loves Barnes's attitude. "If you say Adia
can't do something--and I don't say that too often--she'll prove
you wrong," says Bonvicini.
Wresting the Pac-10 title from Stanford would be a triumph for
the Wildcats, who knew little but the conference cellar in the
five seasons before Bonvicini's arrival in 1991. Barnes,
however, has her sights set beyond that. "The men's team is an
inspiration for us," says Barnes. "No one expected them to
become national champions [last season]. Maybe we can do that,
A NICE FALLBACK
The postseason prospects for Texas (7-9, 1-4 in the Big 12)
appear dim, but at least one Longhorn has something to look
forward to come March. Once the season ends, sophomore guard
Ivan Wagner, a burly, 6'1" transfer from North Carolina State,
will focus on defending his NCAA high jump title. With a leap of
7'6 1/2", his career best, he gave Texas its only individual
victory in last June's outdoor track and field championships and
declared himself an Olympic hopeful. "If I can jump that high
consistently, I'm on my way to good things," says Wagner, who
grew up in San Antonio and whose previous best had been 7'4 1/2".
Not that he's in a hurry for the basketball season to end. After
his winning high jump, which ranked 21st in the world last year,
Wagner skipped the U.S. nationals to attend summer school and
earn extra credits to help ensure his academic standing for
basketball. "I have a passion for both sports, but basketball
has the edge," he says.
Wagner, a sometime starter at the point, has struggled
offensively (5.5 points a game) since joining the Longhorns, but
he has brought good defense and much-needed leadership to a
Texas team on which 80% of the minutes go to underclassmen.
For the latest scores, polls and recruiting news in men's and
women's college hoops, check out www.cnnsi.com
WEEKLY SEED REPORT
The biggest change in this week's seedings, according to our
poll of ersatz NCAA tournament selection committee members,
occurred at the top as Duke and North Carolina switched regions.
If you think that's no big deal--or that the regular season
doesn't mean anything in college ball--guess again. The East
Regional finals will be played in Greensboro, N.C.; the South
Regional finals in St. Petersburg, Fla. Whichever Tobacco Road
powerhouse plays in Greensboro will have a tremendous advantage,
which adds all the more luster to their Feb. 5 showdown in
As for the rest of the seeds, one voter put it best when she
said, "I couldn't find enough deserving Number 3s, but I wish I
had more room for Number 4s." Into that void jumped Michigan,
the big winner of the week, coming from off the charts to a No.
3--mostly by virtue of not losing its lone game at Ohio State.
Syracuse and Mississippi got knocked down a peg for losing to
Providence and Tennessee, respectively, but the week's big loser
was Florida State. The Seminoles fell out of our seedings with a
loss to Clemson and briefly claimed last place outright in the
brutal ACC. Keep an eye on up-and-coming Cincinnati (winner of
nine straight at week's end), which got three votes as a No. 3
seed but otherwise failed to crack our Sweet 16.
1. Duke 1. North Carolina
2. Connecticut 2. Kentucky
3. Purdue 3. UCLA
4. Princeton 4. Syracuse
1. Kansas 1. Arizona
2. Stanford 2. Utah
3. Michigan 3. Iowa
4. South Carolina 4. Mississippi