TCU had so thoroughly pounded the weaker teams on its slate—Delaware State and Texas Pan-American, for instance, succumbed by 63 and 66 points, respectively—that, going into their game against New Mexico on Monday, the Frogs had two players in the nation's top 20 scorers: 6' 9" center Lee Nailon (24.8 points per game) and 6' 3" guard Mike Jones (22.9). Malcolm Johnson, the Frogs' 6' 4" shooting guard, wasn't far behind at 18.1.
According to Jones, who transferred to TCU from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 1996, playing for Tubbs is an ideal situation for juco transfers like him and Nailon and Johnson: "When you're coming out of a JC, you want to go to a program that's rising, and, deep down, running and gunning is every player's dream."
Of course, one man's dream is another man's nightmare. Tubbs's lust for triple digits is so acute that, with 10 seconds left and his team leading Baylor 97-74 on Dec. 13, he stood on the sideline wildly exhorting the Horned Frogs to "shoot the three." When point guard Prince Fowler instead drove the lane for an easy two points, the players got an earful from Tubbs. "That could have been a critical last-minute situation," Tubbs barked. "You have to be able to execute."
It certainly wasn't a critical last-minute situation that compelled Tubbs to keep his press on late into a 138-75 blowout of Delaware State. "That was an abomination of basketball," Hornets coach Jimmy DuBose fumed afterward. "If I'm up like that, I'm taking my starters out. When you have your press on with four minutes to go, that's ridiculous."
But Tubbs, the unapologetic opponent-crusher who says that one of his goals at TCU is to have "a real classy program," has about as much sympathy as he does mercy for his victims. "Our job as coaches is to make our team look as good as it possibly can, and the other team as bad," he says. "That's called winning."
After Hawaii upset Kansas 76-65 in Honolulu on Dec. 30 in front of 10,300 screaming fans inside the Special Events Arena, Rainbows senior guard Alika Smith said the win was "better than the invention of the plate lunch," a popular local repast that consists of meat, rice and macaroni salad. Lest anyone mistake that for faint praise, it should be known that Smith, a Hawaiian, holds the plate lunch in particularly high esteem. "I love it," he says. "Honestly, that's the best comparison I could make. I'd never heard anything like the noise that night. It gave you chicken skin. To beat Kansas and Indiana in the same year is a dream come true."
Like Tulane and BYU, Kansas and Indiana fell to Hawaii by double-figure margins, as did Norfolk State, which left Honolulu last Saturday with an 86-67 loss and the distinction of being the last team to face the Rainbows while they were still a well-kept secret. Now 11-1 and among the ranked (at 21 in the AP poll) for the first time in 24 years, Hawaii, which felt slighted by the NCAA tournament selection committee despite its 21-8 record last season, has finally gotten some respect.
Much of the credit for that goes to senior point guard Anthony Carter, a 6' 2" former high school dropout with a 40-inch vertical leap and rare court vision who has helped coach Riley Wallace, a former mortician, resurrect a moribund program. When Wallace took over at Hawaii in 1987, the Rainbows had done little of national note since '71, when Hawaii's Fabulous Five arrived in New York City for the postseason NIT with their own hula dancers. Wallace's first team went 4-25 and earned The Salt Lake Tribune's tribute as "the worst basketball team in the world." Since then the Rainbows have had seven winning seasons, but acclaim hasn't come as easily as ignominy. Though Hawaii is probably the most popular road destination in the country—since 1968-69 the Rainbows have averaged 19 home games a season because opponents enjoy traveling to the islands—the Rainbows have been strangers in their own land. Until last year women's volleyball consistently outdrew men's basketball.
Enter Carter, 22, a playground phenom from Atlanta who earned his high school equivalency degree with the help of the I Have a Dream Foundation before enrolling at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif., where he led the California Association of Community Colleges with a 27.4 scoring average as a sophomore. After moving on to Hawaii for the 1996-97 season Carter earned the WAC Pacific Division player of the year award, and at week's end he was averaging 17.7 points per game and was seventh in the nation in assists, with 8.0 a game, in the most recent NCAA statistics. "A.C. has made everyone on this team 110 percent better," says Smith, who was averaging 18.0 points per game, tops on the team. "He has eyes everywhere, he gives you the ball where you want it, and he makes the big shot when we need it."