Inside College Basketball

February 21, 2000

SOUR ORANGE
After 19 straight wins, Syracuse's streak ended with a double thud

For 19 games Syracuse rolled along. Senior point guard Jason
Hart, whom Orange fans have sometimes treated like "a deranged
villain," as Hart puts it, had heard nary a boo in the Carrier
Dome as he directed a balanced offense in which six players
averaged between 14.8 and 9.1 points. Senior center Etan Thomas
had recovered from an early-season staph infection and
right-ankle sprain, and he was playing like one of the best big
men in the country. Steady power forward Ryan Blackwell--the
third member of Syracuse's troika of senior leaders--was
shooting well, pounding the boards and finding a way to get the
ball to Thomas in the right places. Reserves were taking turns
making significant contributions. (Swingman Preston Shumpert had
26 points off the bench in a defeat of Notre Dame, and in the
next game, a victory over Pitt, shooting guard DeShaun Williams
had 23.) Best of all, "we never exhibited the least degree of
selfishness," said Thomas, the smooth-tongued high school debate
champion. The result? After a 74-58 rout of Providence on Feb.
5, the nine-deep, No. 4-ranked Orangemen found themselves as the
only undefeated team in the nation.

And then?

"And then reality set in," says coach Jim Boeheim.

Syracuse ended a reality-filled seven-day stretch on Sunday with
a 71-67 victory over UCLA at the dome. That win followed a 69-67
homecourt loss to Seton Hall on Feb. 7--forcing the Syracuse
bookstore to cancel its shipment of 20-0 sweatshirts--and
another defeat, 82-69, against Louisville at Freedom Hall last
Thursday. The Orangemen are now the nation's No. 9-ranked team,
and, truth be told, that's closer to where they belong.

The balance that made Syracuse (20-2) so effective early in the
season was delicate. Williams and Tony Bland were playing well
at shooting guard, for example, but Bland, the sophomore
starter, may have begun to look over his shoulder at Williams,
the freshman flash. Bland has gone 3 for 20 from three-point
range in his last seven games. Thomas is a splendid defensive
player who was third in the nation in blocked shots through
Sunday, but on offense he posted up like a statue against
Louisville, clogging up the middle and getting to the foul line
only once. Blackwell--0 for 7 from the field against Seton Hall
and 2 for 8 from the line against Louisville--has been in a
slump since a superb 18-point, 12-rebound performance in an
88-74 win over Connecticut on Jan. 24, the apex of Syracuse's
season. "No matter what contributions we get from everybody
else," says Boeheim, "how far we go depends on our three
seniors."

Then, too, the Orangemen's schedule laid out a smorgasbord of
desserts before the main course. Syracuse dispatched its first
nine opponents, which included the likes of Florida Atlantic,
Colgate, Albany and Hartford, by an average margin of 23.2
points, suggesting a powerhouse was on the loose.

It wasn't. And isn't. Syracuse is among a group of teams that
are very capable but a notch below Cincinnati, the clear No. 1,
and Duke. "Teams were shooting for us because of the streak, and
maybe we were a little tired and sluggish," said Blackwell. "All
we needed was this one [the win over UCLA] to get us back." He
was probably right. Just don't think back means all the way to
the top of the pack. --Jack McCallum

Oklahoma State Rocks
COWBOYS DANCE TO A BIG WEEK

Each time Oklahoma State senior guard Glendon Alexander sinks a
three-pointer, he makes a fanning motion with his hands, as if
he's on fire. Senior forward Desmond Mason celebrates his threes
by raising his arms and making the O.K. sign with both hands.
During the Cowboys' 74-71 win last Saturday at then No. 16
Oklahoma, senior guard Joe Adkins punctuated each of his four
trifectas by shimmying his arms and shoulders in funky-chicken
fashion. "That was the first time I'd seen that one," Mason said
afterward. Adkins, whose 21 points led the Cowboys, doesn't have
a name yet for his new dance, but it appears he'll have plenty
more opportunities to show it off. "I'm a rhythm shooter," he
says. "When I get in a rhythm, watch out."

The beat was definitely on at Oklahoma State last week. The
Cowboys led off by handing Kansas its worst loss in 25 years
with an 86-53 drubbing on Feb. 7 in Stillwater. That prompted
Jayhawks coach Roy Williams to say, "I was totally outcoached in
every way, and we were totally manhandled on the court." On
Saturday, Oklahoma State blew a 20-point first-half lead and had
its two top scorers, Mason and 6'10" senior forward Brian
Montonati, in foul trouble for most of the second half but held
on for the win to maintain a share of first place in the Big 12,
with Iowa State. The Cowboys ran their overall record to 20-2
and their league mark to 9-1. "We're a complete team that can
beat you in a lot of ways," Mason says. "Now we have some
momentum going."

A big reason for that momentum is that the 6'5" Mason has
evolved into a complete player. When he arrived at Oklahoma
State three years ago, he was good at swooping to the basket for
dunks, but his outside shooting was lackluster. He made only
32.7% of his three-pointers as a freshman but through Sunday he
was making 47.5% this year and was third in the Big 12 in
scoring, with a 19.0-point average.

He's getting plenty of help from the rest of a Cowboys roster
that includes six seniors among its top eight players. Oklahoma
State's three leading scorers--Mason, Montonati and
Alexander--were shooting a combined 52.1% from the floor. Most
important, after several years of a generosity on defense
uncharacteristic of Eddie Sutton-coached teams, the Cowboys once
again were leading the conference in field-goal-percentage
defense (37.6%) and three-point-percentage defense (29.6%).

One player who hasn't had much practice celebrating his
three-point shooting is senior point guard Doug Gottlieb, who
was leading the nation in assists with a 9.0 average but had
made just six treys all season. During Oklahoma State's first
possession on Saturday, Sooners fans taunted him by screaming
"Shoot!" as soon as he touched the ball. Gottlieb responded by
swishing an 18-foot two-pointer and then gleefully holding his
finger to his lips to hush the crowd as he ran back on defense.
He didn't make any of the five other field goals he attempted in
the game, but the Cowboys still made their point. As Adkins
might put it, Oklahoma State is in a rhythm now, and the rest of
the league better watch out.

Temple's Hot Streak
THE OWLS ARE LOOKING WISER

Temple senior point guard Juan (Pepe) Sanchez averages only 6.5
points per game, but probably no college player is more critical
to his team's success than he is. Early this season, when
Sanchez sat out eight games with a badly sprained right ankle,
the Owls lost three times. Since his return, Temple has won 12
of 13 games, including a 73-65 victory over No. 22 Maryland on
Sunday. The Owls are averaging 6.9 more assists and 3.4 more
steals and allowing 12.8 fewer points a game with Sanchez in the
lineup. "Without him I'm not sure they're a Top 25 team," says
Rhode Island coach Jerry DeGregorio. "With him I think they're a
potential Final Four team."

Sanchez says that he concentrates so hard during games that he
sometimes suffers intense headaches, but the results speak for
themselves. He has a stellar 4.6-to-1 assist-turnover ratio and
would have ranked fifth in the nation in assists (8.1) and
steals (3.8) through Sunday if he'd played enough games to
qualify. (By season's end he could have enough to be included in
the rankings.) Already Temple's alltime steals leader, Sanchez
is the linchpin of the Owls' draconian matchup zone, which at
week's end had held foes to a nation's low 53.8 points per game.

Sanchez's Achilles' heel is his 30.9% shooting, which prompted
Fordham coach Bob Hill to instruct his defense to leave Sanchez
open on the perimeter during last Thursday's game with the Rams.
Hill looked like a genius when Sanchez missed his first five
three-pointers, but Pepe recovered to sink his next six treys
while scoring a season-high 20 points in a 75-61 victory. "I'll
score if I have to, but I don't want to take that many shots,"
says Sanchez, who averages only 6.7 attempts per game. "I'm
afraid my teammates will hate me."

Sanchez looks almost sheepish as he confesses that while growing
up in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, he was a shameless gunner who
once scored 104 points in a club tournament game as an
11-year-old. He never even played point guard until he joined
Argentina's junior national team at 16 and discovered the fun in
fundamentals. It's a testament to his grasp of the game that
coach John Chaney offered him a scholarship solely on the basis
of five minutes of game tape during which Sanchez never launched
a shot. "Pepe has this special ability to unscramble a game with
his eyes," Chaney says. "He's one of those players like Larry
Bird who sees the game in slow motion."

Sanchez, whose nickname derives from a Clouseau-like Argentinian
comic-book detective named Pepe Sanchez, appears to play the
game in slow motion as well, dictating a Temple tempo that on
Sunday tranquilized Maryland's powerful offense. The Terps ended
up scoring 12 points fewer than their average. After that
victory, in which Owls forward Lamont Barnes scored 23 points
and swingman Mark Karcher added 18, Chaney said the game's MVP
was a player who made one basket, took four shots and scored
five points. Sanchez also had 11 assists and a career-high nine
steals but only three turnovers against Maryland's pressing
defense. "All that pressure really tired out my brain," Sanchez
said afterward. "This was a four-Advil game." --Tim Crothers

Winthrop Learns a Lesson
THROAT SLASHING NEARLY A KILLER

Winthrop senior guard Tyson Waterman won't have to be reminded
not to make foolish gestures anymore. He did a little excess
celebrating in an 81-78 win at Big South archrival Radford on
Feb. 9, and it nearly cost the Eagles the game.

Winthrop (15-7 through Sunday) was protecting an 80-76 lead when
Waterman was fouled with two seconds left. Thinking the victory
was iced, he turned to the crowd and drew his right index finger
across his throat, which earned him a technical from referee
Kelly Lombard.

Waterman made one of his two foul shots, but then Radford's
Byron Hall made both ends of the technical and the Highlanders
took the ball out with a chance to tie with a trey. Hall's
three-point attempt was blocked by Derrick Knox at the buzzer.
"It was a terrible mistake and very immature," said Waterman,
who, to make matters worse, is the Winthrop captain. "I told my
teammates it will never happen again. I've never had to
apologize so much after a big win."

For the latest scores and recruiting news, plus more from Seth
Davis and Grant Wahl, go to cnnsi.com/basketball/college.

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Sanchez took only four shots against the Terps but was still MVP, with 11 assists and nine steals. COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Louisville's Marques Maybin left three Orangemen in his wake as he scored two of his 16 points.

WEEKLY SEED REPORT

There was blood on the ballots again this week as 10 of the 16
teams in last week's report lost at least once. The biggest
loser, of course, was Syracuse, which validated the cynicism
over its weak schedule with a pair of defeats and plummeted from
a top seed to a No. 3. That created a scramble for the vacant
No. 1 spot in the South, which went to Arizona in a tight race
with Tennessee.

The other big losers of the week were Oklahoma and Connecticut,
with the Huskies dropping out of the seedings for the first
time, thanks to their second loss to Notre Dame this season.
Moving in for the first time were Iowa State and Temple, which
debuted as third and fourth seeds, respectively.

EAST
1. Duke (19-3)
2. Oklahoma State (20-2)
3. Indiana (18-4)
4. Kentucky (17-7)

MIDWEST
1. Cincinnati (23-1)
2. Ohio State (17-4)
3. Iowa State (21-3)
4. Auburn (19-4)

SOUTH
1. Arizona (21-4)
2. Tennessee (21-3)
3. Syracuse (20-2)
4. Temple (18-4)

WEST
1. Stanford (21-1)
2. Michigan State (18-6)
3. Tulsa (22-2)
4. Florida (18-5)

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)