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Original Issue

Inside College Basketball

It's a Guy Thing
The surprise at Tennessee is that the men's team is making more
news than the women's

For the last two decades, life as a Tennessee men's basketball
player has been roughly equivalent to being Madonna's brother.
It's hard to get noticed playing at a school whose six-time
national champion Lady Vols are the most celebrated women's team
in history. Sibling rivalries intensified further on Jan. 4,
1999, when the Tennessee football team won the national title.
However, after last week's 105-76 victory over then No. 7-ranked
Auburn and a 73-66 win over South Carolina, the No. 6-rated
Volunteers were 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the SEC going into
Tuesday's scheduled matchup with Kentucky. That represented
Tennessee's best start since the 1941-42 season. Perhaps more
important--at least for their egos--the Volunteers had a better
record than the Lady Vols through January for the first time in
15 years.

Sophomore forward Vincent Yarbrough has led the revival. He
spurned Kentucky to play with his brother, Del Baker, at
Tennessee, thus becoming one of the most heralded recruits in
the program's history. The youngest player in Division I last
season, at age 17, the 6'7" Yarbrough averaged just 7.6 points
as an afterthought in the Vols' offense.

Over the summer he drilled four hours a day on ball handling and
reducing the arc in his jump shot by a foot. After having
struggled with his revamped jumper through a midseason 2-for-25
drought from three-point range, Yarbrough has recovered to lead
Tennessee in scoring (with a 15.8-point average through Sunday)
and steals (41). He was also the Vols' second-leading rebounder
(6.7 a game) and had a double double in the win over Auburn on
Jan. 25 and another in Tennessee's 81-79 double-overtime upset
of Florida on Jan. 18. Last Saturday he matched his career-high
with 25 points against the Gamecocks. "Last year he sensed what
people expected of him, and it became a burden," Baker says.
"Now he's more relaxed, and he's making a breakthrough. But we
ain't seen nothing yet."

Tennessee has a cadre of other talented players, including
potent inside forces Isiah Victor and C.J. Black and perimeter
threat Tony Harris, who is one of the top three-point shooters
in the SEC (43.9%). Ultimately, however, Tennessee's success may
hinge on whether it can play unselfishly. The pivotal moment so
far this season occurred on Dec. 23, when the Volunteers were
blown out by Tulsa 88-68. Coach Jerry Green pointed out that
Tennessee had averaged less than one pass per possession in the
game. He preached the value of teamwork to his players, and when
Yarbrough began the next game with two forced jumpers, Green
benched him to send a message. "We've learned to share the ball,
and that's making us tougher to guard," Green says. "What began
this season as a group of individuals has become a team."

While these Vols seem certain to break the school record of 22
wins in a season, history also reveals that Tennessee has never
won more than one game in the NCAA tournament. "We know we have
a chance to be the school's best team ever," Yarbrough says. "We
like surprising people, giving opposing fans the ghost face that
says, What just happened?"

Memories of an overconfident Vols team losing 81-51 to Southwest
Missouri State in the second round of the national tournament
last March still haunt Green, who has refused to watch the
videotape of that game. He did have flashbacks, though, when he
saw the boisterous celebration after Tennessee's win over
Auburn. He admonished his Vols by quoting one of his favorite
maxims: A tiger never growls after the kill.

After last week's win over the Gamecocks in the arena at the
intersection of Chamique Holdsclaw Drive and Phillip Fulmer Way,
the Volunteers left the court without a peep. And still hungry.
--Tim Crothers

Somber Seton Hall
In the Aftermath Of the Fire

The phone rang in Shaheen Holloway's dorm room at 5:30 on the
morning of Jan. 19. A fellow student was on the line saying
something about a fire, but the groggy Holloway, Seton Hall's
point guard, thought it was a prank. A half hour later Shaheen's
mother, Claudette, called in a teary panic, wanting to know if
he was safe. Shaheen's phone rang all morning as word spread
about the tragic blaze in a freshman dormitory that claimed the
lives of three Seton Hall students and sent 62 others to the
hospital. Hours before the fire broke out Holloway and his
teammates had been celebrating a 78-70 defeat of then No. 19 St.
John's. The fire gave them a jolt of reality, and they have
since struggled to cope, along with everyone else in the
school's community. "It's been real tough concentrating on
basketball when you know people lost their lives," says
Holloway, a 5'10" senior. "There's just a really sad feeling
around campus."

The Pirates were supposed to play at Syracuse three days later
but rescheduled the game for Feb. 7. The players attended a
campus memorial service last Thursday and will wear a black
patch for the remainder of the season in honor of the victims.
Mostly, they'll try to lift the school's spirits by continuing
to win. Even after its 66-56 loss at UConn on Sunday, Seton Hall
was tied for second place in the Big East with a 5-2 record
(13-4 overall) and looked ready to return to the NCAAs for the
first time since 1994.

A precocious group of newcomers has contributed to the
resurgence--sophomore guard Darius Lane, who sat out last season
for academic reasons, was leading the Pirates in scoring with
14.2 points a game, and 6'11" freshman Samuel Dalembert was
sixth in the nation in blocked shots with a 4.0 average--but
Seton Hall owes much of its success to Holloway's improvement.
For two seasons Pirates coach Tommy Amaker tried, with mixed
results, to coax Holloway into becoming a pass-first,
shoot-second point guard. "I wasn't used to playing that way,
and it caused some conflict," says Holloway. Twice in a row the
Pirates finished 15-15 and lost in the first round of the NIT.
Holloway, who had scored 17.3 points per game as a freshman
under former coach George Blaney, saw his average fall to 15.0
as a sophomore and 9.3 as a junior.

Last fall Holloway walked into the coach's office and encouraged
Amaker to chew him out this season whenever Amaker thought he
deserved it. Holloway has given little reason for complaint,
though. His scoring average was back up to 12.9 through Sunday,
and he was putting up the best shooting percentages of his
career--45.3% from the field, 36.4% from three-point
range--while averaging 5.7 assists and 5.2 rebounds. His
favorite statistic, however, is the Pirates' record. "The scary
part is that we have a lot of room to get better," Holloway
says. Those are welcome words for a school that could use a
little good news.

Rhode Island's Fall
Horns of the Rams' Dilemma

The thinking in the Rhode Island athletic department last spring
was simple: Keep Lamar Odom happy. The school was in the midst
of raising money for a $43.6 million arena and felt it needed
the immensely gifted 6'10" Odom to return for his junior season
instead of entering the NBA draft. The university consistently
took a lenient stance when Odom failed to meet his academic
obligations during his two years at Rhode Island. It even went
so far as to put Odom on the search committee to find a
replacement for coach Jim Harrick, who left last March 31 to
take the Georgia job. Odom attended only one of the committee's
meetings, but the school acquiesced to his wishes anyway by
giving the position to 37-year-old assistant Jerry DeGregorio,
whose college head-coaching experience had consisted of two
years at Mattatuck Community College in Waterbury, Conn.

Odom, of course, took the NBA's money and ran, and the Rams are
now in disarray. DeGregorio couldn't persuade the recruits
Harrick was courting to sign last spring, and 6'8" junior Ed
Brown flunked out. Rhode Island's roster includes eight
scholarship players and four walk-ons--one of whom is
starting--and DeGregorio is doing little to quell the criticism
that he isn't experienced enough for the job. After last
Saturday's 84-44 loss to St. Bonaventure the Rams were 5-15 (2-5
in the Atlantic 10), and while Rhode Island says it still
intends to break ground on an 8,000-seat arena in the spring,
it's less than halfway to its goal of raising $15 million in
private funds. (State appropriations and revenue bonds will
provide the other $28.6 million.)

DeGregorio signed two recruits for next season in the early
signing period in September, but neither has qualified
academically yet. In 6'6" Tavorris Bell, 6'3" Zach Marbury and
6'4" Tip Vinson, all sophomores, the Rams have a decent nucleus
of talent on which to build. "My biggest challenge this year is
not getting wins," DeGregorio says, "it's keeping everyone's
spirits up."

Wins, however, save coaches' jobs. Winning also gets arenas
built, but as Rhode Island is finding out, it's not easy to
build such things on so little foundation.

West Virginia Traveler
Better Late Than Never

West Virginia guard Tim Lyles overcame numerous traveling
violations before starring in the Mountaineers' 69-64 defeat of
Georgetown on Jan. 26. He had returned to his hometown of
Baltimore to attend a friend's funeral and was supposed to fly
back to West Virginia on the afternoon of Jan. 25. His flight
was canceled because of a snowstorm, however, so the
Mountaineers' basketball office checked to see if Lyles could
get a seat on the Hoyas' charter plane which was going to fly to
West Virginia out of Dulles International the next morning. But
that plane was full so he booked a reservation on a flight out
of Baltimore the day of the game, at 12:05 p.m. That, too, was

He then headed to Washington to catch a flight that would land
in Charleston, W.Va., at 3:30. That plane did leave, but Lyles
wasn't on it. He had arrived at the gate five minutes late after
the car service he had taken got lost.

Finally he got a flight from D.C.'s National Airport to
Pittsburgh, where he connected to another flight that was due to
arrive in Charleston at 6:27, 38 minutes before tip-off. His
connecting flight was delayed, however, and didn't land until
8:13. He changed into his uniform during the eight-minute ride
to Charleston's Civic Center Coliseum and arrived with 11:41
left to play and West Virginia trailing by seven. Coach Gale
Catlett put Lyles, a 5'11" freshman, in the game moments later,
whereupon he scored nine points down the stretch to help the
Mountaineers win.

Taking a Bite Out of the Shark

During a shootaround before Fresno State played at SMU on Jan.
22, Bulldogs assistant coach John Welch threw a ball to coach
Jerry Tarkanian. Tark, however, wasn't looking, and the ball hit
him squarely in the face, opening a cut on the side of his nose.
With his staff and players surrounding him, the 69-year-old
Tarkanian quipped, "That was the hardest pass anyone here has
made all year." Fresno State (14-7), meanwhile, took a giant
step toward respectability last Saturday with a 75-73 win over
then No. 13 Tulsa, thanks in large part to senior Larry Abney's
24 rebounds....

The tip-off of last Thursday's game between California and
Washington State had to be delayed for 22 minutes after steam
emanating from a hot dog cooker set off a fire alarm inside the
Haas Pavilion, Cal's new arena. It was the third time this
season that a fire alarm has caused the building to be evacuated.

For the latest scores and recruiting news, plus more from Seth
Davis and Grant Wahl, go to

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO With a double double against Florida, Yarbrough showed he has begun delivering on his promise.

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Coppin State's upset of South Carolina showed that underdogs can play.

COLOR PHOTO: WINSLOW TOWNSON/SCHWARTZMAN SPORTS The improved Holloway and the Pirates are trying to lift the spirits on their saddened campus.

Save Cinderella
The NCAA play-in plan would stick it to the little guy

When seven schools left the WAC to form the Mountain West
Conference this season, the WAC lost its automatic bid to the
NCAA tournament. But next year the WAC is expected to gets its
berth back and the Mountain West should qualify too, and therein
lies a problem. That would bring the number of conferences with
automatic bids to 31. Add that to the 34 at-large bids the NCAA
doles out on Selection Sunday, and you get 65 slots for a
64-team tournament. How, then, will the basketball committee
solve its numbers problem? By doing what it always does when
it's in a bind: Stick it to the little guys.

During its midseason meeting in December the committee agreed to
add a play-in game before next season's tournament that would
feature the 64th- and 65th-ranked teams in the field. The game
would take place on Tuesday of the tournament's first week,
meaning the winner would then have to face a top-seeded team two
or three days later.

While the selection committee will use a variety of factors in
determining the play-in participants, it will rely heavily on
the RPI ratings, which give a disproportionate advantage to the
so-called power conferences. Considering that it's almost
impossible for teams from low-rated conferences to improve their
RPIs because high-powered foes won't come to their gyms for
games, asking those teams to play their way into the tournament
seems unfair.

If the tournament were to start this week, the two lowest-rated
leagues would be the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and
the Mideastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), both predominantly
made up of historically black colleges. "Money is power," says
coach Ron (Fang) Mitchell of Coppin State, which is in the MEAC.
"Anytime you make adjustments, it's always going to work against
people like us who are on the lower end."

Though the loser of the play-in game will receive the same share
of revenue as it would have for a first-round loss, it will
still miss out on a rare opportunity for national exposure, to
say nothing of the excitement of the NCAAs. The tournament will
miss out, too, because teams from the smaller conferences
annually produce some of the NCAAs' most memorable moments--even
when they lose. Such was the case three years ago when Coppin
State, a No. 15 seed, knocked off second-seeded South Carolina
in the opening round before losing an 82-81 thriller to
10th-seeded Texas. Instead of preserving a David-and-Goliath
matchup by increasing the number of automatic berths to 31, the
committee has chosen to protect a berth for a going-nowhere
fifth-, sixth- or seventh-place finisher from a big-time

Basketball committee chairman Craig Thompson points out that the
NCAA's membership can still reject the proposal for a play-in
game, but he concedes that that's not likely to happen. "There's
no question there's an intent to protect the 34 at-large bids,
which in essence go to the conferences whose teams have
participated most frequently in the tournament," he says.

The committee should have learned its lesson in 1989 after
16th-seeded Princeton almost toppled No. 1 Georgetown in the
first round before falling 50-49. There's nothing college
basketball fans love more during March than a good Cinderella
story. Too bad the people who run the game spend the other 11
months acting like wicked stepsisters. --S.D.


While all four No. 1 seeds looked indomitable, an interesting
battle shaped up among the second seeds. As things stand now,
the No. 2 spot in the Midwest figures to go to the Big Ten's
best team: Michigan State, Ohio State or Indiana. Earlier this
year the governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, offered to broker a game
between Cincinnati and Ohio State, two powers that haven't met
since 1962. The committee could set them on a collision course
by seeding both the Bearcats and the Buckeyes in the Midwest.
The Spartans, however, would love to play in the Midwest
regional finals in the Palace at Auburn Hills, which would give
them a big home court advantage. We'll go with the Buckeyes for
now, but they'll have to earn it.

1. Duke (16-2)
2. Indiana (15-3)
3. Connecticut (15-4)
4. Florida (15-4)

1. Cincinnati (20-1)
2. Ohio State (14-3)
3. Kentucky (15-5)
4. Texas (14-5)

1. Syracuse (17-0)
2. Tennessee (18-2)
3. Arizona (17-4)
4. Kansas (16-4)

1. Stanford (17-1)
2. Michigan State (15-5)
3. Auburn (17-3)
4. Oklahoma State (16-2)