When Arizona coach Lute Olson said last week "I don't think there's any question that they are the best team in the conference," he wasn't talking about his Wildcats, the team that was everybody's preseason conference favorites, or even about UCLA, which was the consensus runner-up. He was referring to Oregon State, which broke out of the gate with convincing home court wins over Pac-10 rivals Arizona State and Arizona.
Olson also said the Beavers' Gary Payton "may be the best point guard in the country." In last week's two victories, Payton, a 6'4" senior, had a total of 46 points and 22 assists, including a school-record 15 assists in the 87-64 win over Arizona State. At week's end he had 734 career assists, and later this season he should surpass the NCAA career record of 960 set by Sherman Douglas at Syracuse. If Payton plays well this week and the Beavers beat Memphis State and Tennessee on the road, Olson will not be the only one giving Payton some long-overdue recognition.
Arizona, meanwhile, will try to regain the form it showed in an 82-75 season-opening win over Michigan. Before the 84-61 loss to Oregon State last Saturday, the Wildcats were upset 68-63 at Oregon. So far the Wildcats' sophomore center, Brian Williams, the ballyhooed transfer from Maryland, hasn't filled the void left by Sean Elliott's departure, but of greater concern to Arizona may be the guard position. The two starters, Matt Muehlebach and Matt Othick, converted only six of 20 shots all told in the two defeats.
UCLA, 3-0 at week's end, was only slightly better than Arizona, almost blowing an 11-point lead in the last two minutes before holding on for a 58-56 win at Washington. The Bruins then overcame a 13-point deficit to beat Washington State 68-64 in Pullman. Against the Cougars, UCLA was 0 for 12 on three-point attempts until Gerald Madkins made a trey with 45 seconds to go. Said relieved Bruin coach Jim Harrick, "I just want to get out of Dodge."
TWO SURPRISING DEBUTS
Veteran SEC coaches Wimp Sanderson and Don DeVoe were unusually emotional last week after a couple of victories. In Tuscaloosa, Sanderson's 10th Crimson Tide team upended North Carolina 101-93 for its 18th consecutive win at home. The game attracted a full house of 15,043, a sign that basketball finally has developed a serious following in the land of the Bear.
If so, give a lot of credit to Sanderson, who began as a Crimson Tide assistant in 1960 and didn't get the top job until 1980. At week's end Alabama was 4-0, giving Sanderson a 196-91 career record, but the North Carolina win was so special to him that he said, after wiping away what looked suspiciously like tears, "It was a great victory over a great, traditionally ranked basketball program. It's something I'm sure the players will never forget." The Tide was led by forward Melvin Cheatum, who had 23 points; point guard Gary Waites, who had nine assists; and guard Bryant Lancaster, who made nine of 11 foul shots after shooting only 17% from the line last season.
As for DeVoe, he was excited about beating Florida State 82-69 in his debut as Florida's interim coach. He resigned from Tennessee after the Vols lost in the first round of last season's NCAA tournament and looked as if he might be out of work this season until Florida hired him to replace Norm Sloan on a six-month contract two weeks before the season started. "This is an incredible moment for me," said DeVoe. "I still have to pinch myself to believe I'm here. I'm running around saying hello to people I don't even know."
Somebody he does know is Dwayne Schintzius, the Gators' 7'2" senior center, who has a reputation for moodiness. Earlier in the week, Schintzius' bad-boy behavior got him kicked out of practice by DeVoe, whose emphasis on conditioning hasn't gone over well with some players accustomed to Sloan's more relaxed style. Against the Seminoles, however, Schintzius was at his best, scoring 25 points to go with seven rebounds and three blocked shots. "From the first five minutes," said Schintzius, "I knew we had this game won. I wish we had beaten them by more, though." Is he a sweetheart or what?
The final margin was plenty for DeVoe, whose system has Schintzius and the other musclemen in Florida's front line—Livingston Chatman and Dwayne Davis—playing closer to the basket than they had under Sloan. "As soon as they put all three big men down low," said Florida State coach Pat Kennedy, "I knew we were in trouble."
AN INTERESTING CONFLICT
Virginia coach Terry Holland found himself in an awkward position when his Cavaliers played the inaugural game at Davidson's 6,000-seat Belk Arena. He will become the Davidson athletic director at season's end or no later than May 1.
His dilemma stemmed from a promise he made long before he had any idea of leaving Virginia. When the Davidson coach at the time, Bobby Hussey, asked Holland, a former Wildcat player, to bring in the Cavaliers for the opener at the new arena, Holland said, "Yeah, we'll do that when the time comes."
Trouble was, when the time came, Holland was less than enthusiastic about honoring his commitment. "Davidson couldn't find anybody else," Holland said. "It's the kind of game you avoid if you possibly can. I tried to wiggle out of it every way I could. You don't want to go on the road anyway. You don't want to go where you have personal friends. You don't want to open up somebody else's new arena. It all adds up to a perfect situation for an upset."
For 15 minutes before the game, Holland shook hands with Davidson supporters, but then Bryant Stith scored 21 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 71-57 victory. Despite the defeat, Wildcat coach Bob McKillop got one bit of good news—praise from his future boss. "As an athletic director," Holland said, "I can't help but be pleased by the way Davidson played."
THE GREEN WAVE RETURNS
When he decided to allow his school to resume playing basketball after he had shut down the program on April 4, 1985, in the wake of a highly publicized point-shaving and recruiting scandal, Tulane president Dr. Eamon Kelly established new guidelines for the team that emphasized academics. He also decided that the Green Wave would rejoin the tough Metro Conference instead of competing at a lower level.
What all this meant to new coach Perry Clark, who had been an assistant under Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech, was that the comeback would take longer than it would if, say, he had been allowed to pack his roster with transfers. Only three of Clark's players have any experience above the high school level, a weakness that was painfully apparent in the Green Wave's 0-3 start.
However, Tulane has reason to hope. Last Saturday night a crowd of 3,455 saw the Green Wave take on visiting Hofstra in Fogelman Arena, the ancient campus facility that has been renovated. The Flying Dutchmen, coached by Butch van Breda Kolff, escaped with an 81-80 overtime victory that could easily have been a Tulane win.
The Green Wave was led by junior guard Michael Christian, who originally enrolled at Georgia Tech when Clark was working for Cremins. Christian transferred to Delgado Community College in New Orleans for the 1988-89 season and then signed with Tulane. Against Hofstra he had 24 points, three more than 6'9" Anthony Reed, who is Clark's first blue-chip freshman recruit.
In interviews Clark constantly refers to the "great unknown" that the Green Wave will face against potent Metro foes like Louisville and Memphis State. "I just don't know how we're going to react in certain situations," he says. "Basically our basketball program is only a month and a half old."
Tulane will take its lumps, but it's good to have the Green Wave back and trying to abide by the rules. Kelly acted properly when he closed down the program, and he's acting properly in giving the Green Wave a chance to remove the tarnish.
MERCY, MERCY, MERCY
A lot of coaches and athletic directors are opposed to the proposal by the NCAA President's Commission to reduce the number of regular-season games a team can play from 28 to 25. That would give the players more time for studies and extracurricular activities other than basketball, but it would also curtail revenues at a time when most schools are paddling hard to keep from drowning in red ink.
However, when you look at some of the scheduling farces that exist in December, it's difficult to argue against the proposal. Consider, if you will, the tournament that St. John's sponsors to honor Joe Lapchick, who was a coach at the school from 1956 to '65. The Redmen's 76-56 pasting of Wright State in Sunday's final gave them a 30-0 record in the event and their 15th straight title. One wonders if Lapchick would really feel honored by having St. John's beat up on a bunch of patsies in his name.
And then there are the Oklahoma Sooners and their coach, Billy Tubbs, who are making a joke of themselves and a travesty of the NCAA record book. You probably saw that the Sooners set a record for points in a half with 97 in a 173-101 romp over U.S. International on Nov. 29. That was tacky enough, but three days later they outdid themselves with a 146-51 victory over Northeastern Illinois. The 95-point victory set a record for a winning margin.
Sorry, but we fail to see any redeeming value in such grotesque mismatches. Unless coaches and athletic directors schedule teams that at least offer a modicum of competition, we would rather watch pro wrestling and free the basketball players to do something constructive. This isn't to say that a team doesn't have the right to schedule an occasional W. We like what North Carolina coach Dean Smith had to say Saturday after his team's 92-42 win over Central Florida: "It's fun to have one of these on the schedule, but that's it for the year."
IF THE SHOE FITS, KEEP IT
Keith Campbell, a 6'4" senior forward for Texas-Pan American, has plenty of tongues wagging: the tongues on his Cons, his Air Jordans, his Reeboks and the rest of his collection of some 100 pairs of basketball shoes. Half the sneakers foul the air in his Memphis home, the other half sit untreed in his apartment in Edinburg, Texas.
He started collecting sneakers quite innocently, but now his passion is out of the closet. Campbell turned up a pair of particularly vintage sneaks from the mid-'70s while rummaging through the Pan American equipment room. "It was an old pair of Converse sneakers they wore a long, long time ago," he says. "Even before the Dr. J All-Stars."
Campbell, who through Sunday was averaging 9.8 points as a starter for the 3-1 Broncs, collects for the sheer sport of it. "The shoes have no resale value at all," he says. He then dares to dream a sneaker-buff's dream. "Now, if I got some shoes from somebody famous," says Campbell, "if I got a pair of Michael Jordan's shoes—then I'd have something."
New Marquette coach Kevin O'Neill on recruiting: "It's ridiculous for young players to have 30 grown men call them up every night and tell them how much they like them."...
Brian Hendrick, a 6'8" redshirt freshman, made all 10 of his field goal attempts and five of seven free throws for 25 points in California's 83-61 win over San Francisco. He's a son of George Hendrick, the former major league baseball player....
Purdue coach Gene Keady, after the Boilermakers' 65-63 win over Utah: "Any road win in December is great." The game was played on Nov. 30....
Texas A&M is again the tournament champion. By Dec. 28, the Aggies of coach Shelby Metcalf will have played five tournaments over a 38-day stretch in which they will have covered 16,500 miles. "If anybody has a tournament," says Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, "they call Shelby first."...
If you have the feeling that the last few minutes of any game take forever because of all the fouls and timeouts, consider this: Alabama and North Carolina needed 24 minutes and 12 seconds to play the final 2:42 of their game on Nov. 30. Rule makers, get to work.
Payton (20) should tower over all others in career assists by the end of the season.
With only three transfers on his roster, Clark will not revive the Green Wave overnight.
Is it any wonder that when he takes a load off his feet, Campbell dreams of Air Jordans?
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Gary Payton, a senior point guard at Oregon State, scored 46 points, dished out 22 assists and had 9 rebounds and 10 steals as the Beavers opened Pac-10 competition by defeating Arizona State 87-64 and Arizona 84-61.
Andrea Stinson, a 5'10" junior guard for North Carolina State, had 50 points and six assists in a 112-111 overtime loss to Providence. She also scored 22 points in a 77-66 win over Maine and 25 in a 90-47 victory over Western Carolina.