Forget UNLV-Arkansas. Without much fanfare, the best game of the season may have taken place on Sunday when No. 2 Ohio State edged No. 4 Indiana 97-95 in double overtime in a battle for Big Ten supremacy.
The victory gave the Buckeyes (22-1 overall and 12-1 in the conference at week's end) the clear upper hand over second-place Indiana (22-3, 10-2) in the Big Ten race, but it was significant for other reasons.
For one thing, the game highlighted the versatility of Jimmy Jackson, Ohio State's 6'6" sophomore swingman. Jackson played every position from point guard to power forward, scored 30 points, sent the game into the first overtime with a spinning drive down the lane and set up forward Treg Lee's game-winning, 10-foot jumper by drawing in the defense and passing to Lee alone on the baseline.
The game might also be remembered as marking the coming of age of Damon Bailey, Indiana's heralded freshman guard. Bailey led all scorers, with 32 points, making 11 of 15 shots, and he scored seven of the Hoosiers' nine points in the first overtime.
"It was a great college basketball game," said Ohio State coach Randy Ayers. "I don't think I've ever been involved in a better one."
It wasn't all good news for the Buckeyes, though. They lost point guard Mark Baker for an estimated seven to 10 days with a sprained ankle. That's potentially a key injury, because Ohio State and Indiana are fighting not just for the Big Ten title but also for one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
With UNLV casting an imposing shadow over the rest of the country, seeding is even more important than usual this year. The best way for the nation's top teams to stay out of the West regional, in which the Rebels are sure to be the top seed, is to earn one of the other three No. 1 seeds. It's likely that the Big Ten champ will be top-seeded in the Midwest and that Arkansas will be No. 1 in the Southeast. Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse appear to be the leading contenders for the No. 1 seed in the East.
That would leave teams like Arizona, Indiana and the ACC runner-up, among others, as candidates for the No. 2 seed in the West. Staying away from UNLV as long as possible is both a competitively and a financially sound move. Assuming the Rebels blow through the tournament field as expected, the team that loses to them in the regional finals will earn $250,000 less than the team that loses to them in the national semifinals.
Damned If You Do
College players are constantly urged not to count on NBA careers, and to use their college years to prepare for life away from basketball. But NCAA rules can become a roadblock to that preparation, as Chuck Giscombe, a guard at Canisius College in Buffalo, has discovered.
Besides being the Golden Griffins' second leading scorer, with an 11.4-point average, Giscombe, a 6'3" senior, is also the lead singer for Jus Right, a rap and rhythm-and-blues band. The band isn't just a hobby; Polygram Records last summer offered to pay for the band to record a demo album. Giscombe couldn't accept the offer because he would have had to do the recording during the fall, and that would have violated an NCAA rule.
That rule prohibits scholarship players from holding a job during the school year. It's the same rule that caused UNLV guard Greg Anthony to give up his scholarship this season so he could keep his outside business interests. The rule was instituted to eliminate scandalous no-show jobs. It wasn't meant to hurt players, but sometimes it does.
"I wanted to play my senior year and get my degree," says Giscombe. "But it's unfortunate to be prohibited from taking advantage of a great opportunity. We're here at school to better ourselves and improve our chances at making a living in the real world, and here was my chance to start making a living, and I couldn't. Sometimes even when you're doing something it seems the NCAA would like, you're breaking a rule."
The performance of this year's Kansas team is a mirror image of what it did last season. The Jay-hawks won their first 19 games a year ago and were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 for 13 consecutive weeks before fading badly, dropping three of their last six games, including a 71-70 upset loss to UCLA in the second round of the NCAA tournament. This season the Jayhawks started relatively slowly, losing four of their first 13 games, but at week's end they had won 10 straight and looked like a good bet to triumph in the Big Eight.
Kansas (19-4) doesn't have stars, with the possible exception of senior center Mark Randall, but it does have depth: Ten players average at least 10 minutes a game. When coach Roy Williams put all five starters on the bench for the last 6:55 of the first half against Missouri on Feb. 12 because of poor play, the Jayhawk reserves held their own until halftime, and Kansas recovered from a nine-point deficit for a 74-70 win on the road.
"I've taken all five starters out before, but never left them out that long," says Williams. "I've never been as discouraged with them before, either."
That wasn't the only time Williams has used a firm hand. A stickler for punctuality, he has disciplined players four times this season for being late by a minute or less, and he left point guard Adonis Jordan home after Jordan missed the team bus for a trip to Oklahoma State. After a game with Kentucky, Williams had the bus leave the hotel for the Lexington airport precisely on time—without athletic director Bob Frederick, who arrived in the hotel lobby less than a minute late.
Williams's tactics seem to be working. Although a Jayhawk may still show up late now and then, the team has apparently learned how to peak at the right time.
At their final home game of the season, on Feb. 27, William and Mary's women basketball players plan to replace their regular warmup shirts with ones that read: WHAT IS TITLE IX? The future of their program may depend on the answer.
The school administration announced cost-cutting plans last week to eliminate women's basketball, along with wrestling and men's and women's swimming, at the end of the school year. The women's basketball team has retained lawyer Arthur Bryant to contest the decision.
Bryant has a strong track record in such cases. He successfully represented the Oklahoma women's team last year after the school tried—and failed—to abolish women's basketball. At the heart of his case is Title IX, the federal legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs or activities at schools receiving federal funds. He will argue, as he did in Oklahoma, that Title IX requires a school offering a contact sport for men to offer the same sport for women if there is sufficient interest among students to field a viable team. The William and Mary administration says the school is required only to offer the same number of contact sports for men and women.
It would be unfair to cast the administrators as sexist villains. Athletic director John Randolph points out that William and Mary would still be offering 21 varsity sports (11 men's, 10 women's), and that the $230,000 saved by dropping women's basketball would be spent on other women's sports in which the Tribe is more competitive. The women's basketball team, 42-115 over the last six seasons, has been "the most expensive and least successful" of the school's nonrevenue-producing teams, according to associate athletic director Millie West.
But it's hard to argue with the women players' contention that the nonrevenue sports bear too much of the cost-cutting load. Says junior Susan Lyon, an injured forward who is leading the fight to save the program, "The question is, Do you support a few teams being treated like royalty or do you support having a lot of students getting a chance to participate?"
If William and Mary supports the latter, it will reverse a decision that violates the spirit, if not the letter, of Title IX.
Division II Troy (Ala.) State became the first college team to score 100 points in a half when it put up 103 in the second half of a 187-117 victory over an NAIA team, DeVry Institute, last Friday. The 187 points broke the Division II single-game scoring record, which Troy State had set the night before in a 162-130 win over Columbus (Ga.) College.... First-year Drake coach Rudy Washington, the only black coach in the Missouri Valley Conference, says he has been the target of racial slurs uttered by fans at Indiana State, Southern Illinois and Southwest Missouri State. MVC commissioner Doug Elgin says the league will investigate.
When Lee buried this 10-footer, he also may have interred Indiana's Big Ten title hopes.
Giscombe thinks he got a bum rap from the NCAA.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Jimmy Jackson, a 6'6" sophomore swingman for Ohio State, scored 21 points in a 73-71 win over Wisconsin, then had 30 points, 11 boards and six assists in a 97-95 double-overtime defeat of Indiana.
Jodi Evans, a 5'10" senior guard for the University of Calgary, had 45 points, 23 rebounds and 19 assists as Canada's sixth-ranked Dinosaurs twice beat No. 3 Victoria, 75-68 last Friday and 88-65 on Saturday.
Salisbury (Md.) State's 6'6" junior forward, Andre Foreman, the nation's leading Division III scorer, averaged 43 points and 13 rebounds as the Sea Gulls defeated Lincoln 106-96 and Upsala 121-86.