Sunday's shockers followed a surprise of almost equal magnitude the day before, when Maryland knocked off second-seeded Massachusetts. Last week the UMass team met the press wearing T-shirts that read THE SHOW HITS THE ROAD. The next day the Show was closed, mainly by the Terps' freshman of the year, Joe Smith, who had 51 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in two games in Wichita. That marked the revival of an old production: Maryland basketball.
It hasn't always been a smooth run, though. Last season Simpkins, who contributed 20 points against UMass, told the press he hated coach Gary Williams. During one stretch early this season, Simpkins's backcourt mate, Johnny Rhodes, missed 18 straight three-pointers. Nonetheless, forward Exree Hipp—his dad is a full-blooded Cherokee, and Exree means Little Brave—told a Baltimore newspaperman during the preseason that Maryland was going to the Sweet 16. Late in the 95-87 defeat of UMass, in which he made eight of his 11 shots, Hipp sought out the scribe at courtside to say joyously, "I told you so. I got you now."
None of these four Cinderellas has a dominant upperclassman, but many of the teams that advanced more predictably last week boasted stars both seasoned and surpassing.
Connecticut junior Donyell Marshall made sure that his team hadn't packed in vain when the Huskies stuffed enough clothes in their suitcases to head directly from Rounds 1 and 2 on chilly Long Island to this week's East Regional in Miami. "That's what we were working for, to get the summer clothes out and put the winter clothes away," said the quiet star (whose nickname is Yell) after UConn dispatched Rider 64-46 and George Washington 75-63 behind Marshall's total of 37 points. The custom in sports these days is that you go to Disney World after winning a title. But UConn, which is on spring break, will be going to Orlando beforehand. Marshall says he's most looking forward to seeing It's a Small World during that visit. But if he wants to prep for Florida's 6'7", 287-pound Dametri Hill, he should probably check out Big Thunder Mountain.
Missouri, the West region's top seed, will depend most heavily on senior guard Melvin Booker, who scored 52 points in wins over Navy and Wisconsin; but when the turning point came against Navy, Booker wasn't even on the floor. Ten minutes into the game, with Mizzou down a point, coach Norm Stewart yanked his starters and sent in the end of his bench—including Chip Walther, a 5'10" walk-on. Walther is so lightly regarded that he doesn't fly with the rest of the team but tags along with the radio announcers on another flight. Yet the scrubs fared better than the starters, helping to boost Mizzou to a 29-24 halftime lead and an eventual 76-53 victory. "The coolest thing was the timeout," said Walther. "We got to sit on the chairs, and the other guys had to stand around us for a change. It was awesome." As was Missouri's offense in a 109-96 badgering of Wisconsin that sends the Tigers on to the regional semifinals against Syracuse.
Purdue junior Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson treated Central Florida and Alabama as if they were fire hydrants, turning in his seventh and eighth straight 30-points-plus games as the Boilermakers rolled, 98-67 and 83-73, respectively. Making Purdue hotter still is the charge that it's a one-man team. "If we were a one-man team, I'd see the box-and-one every night," says Robinson. And he doesn't because teammates Matt Waddell and Cuonzo Martin have played so well. Up next: Kansas, which beat Wake Forest by using 10 players at least five minutes each. To keep Big Dog down, coach Roy Williams will rely on his depth. "We gotta get the Pound Puppies to go after him," says Williams.
When Denny Crum called his Louisville team "a bunch of dogs" at one point this season, he was certainly not being flattering, and he was definitely including Clifford Rozier, his 6'9" junior All-America, in his assessment. Following a first half on Sunday in which Rozier stubbornly tried to wheel and score against a collapsing Minnesota zone and the Cards fell behind by 13, Crum set up obedience school in the locker room, telling Rozier, "We aren't gonna win if you're gonna be shooting against three people." Rozier didn't take a shot in the second half, instead kicking the ball to teammates, who ended up hitting 11 three-pointers, including five by Dwayne Morton, as the Cardinals won 60-55. As Rozier has said of Crum, "You can't argue with the Boss Man now that he's in the Hall of Fame." If Rozier really wants an argument, though, he should be able to get one from Reggie Geary, the lippy defensive specialist who has breathed new fire into formerly placid Arizona, the Cards' next foe.
Duke senior Grant Hill responded well to the pressure he feels to lead the Blue Devils back to the Final Four. He scored only 11 points in an easy 82-70 win over Texas Southern but poured in 25 in an 85-74 defeat of Michigan State and helped hold Spartan star Shawn Respert to a measly two shots in the first half. "There was an article in the Durham paper that called me the third-best defensive player in the league," Hill said. "I wanted to show that they were wrong." Hill and his teammates must have been particularly pleased to see the elimination of both North Carolina and Wake Forest, which combined to knock off Duke four times this season. Should the Dookies get to Charlotte, they can now claim the town as their very own.
But, as always, it's the Cinderellas who will draw the most interest as the tournament progresses. Now that they're no longer secrets, how far can they go?
BC faces Indiana, whose entire team seems to be taking an elective called Anatomy 101. There's Pat Graham's twice-fractured left foot, Alan Henderson's bum right knee, Brian Evans's separated right shoulder, Damon Bailey's strained abdomen, Sherron Wilkerson's broken left leg—and now coach Bob Knight's aching back, which forced him to stand up while facing the press last week. "Standing doesn't bother me," he said. "In fact, with you people it gives me sort of an aura of power, addressing the masses." Henderson wants to be an orthopedist someday; he can diminish Boston College's chances of advancing if he studies very hard, very fast.