It is time for the NCAA to extend a lifetime automatic bid to Homer Drew. That way the Valparaiso coach with the pressed white shirt and the beatific smile will be around every March to den-mother us through the tournament, pointing out the potholes and steering us gently to the sunny side of the street. For no matter how many smiley-face story lines emerged after last week's first two rounds—you gotta love a Sweet 16 that includes five double-digit seeds (the most ever), Bing Crosby's alma mater, a father-son coaching team right out of Hoosiers, a wondrous Wally and a concoction from an Alaskan medicine man—harsh reality nibbled away a bit at the tournament's sweet underbelly.
There was the suspension, just hours before Minnesota's first-round game against Gonzaga, of four Gophers players (including starters Kevin Clark and Miles Tarver) for alleged academic fraud. There was the death of Kentucky recruit John Stewart, an 18-year-old seven-footer, during a high school playoff game in Indiana last Friday night, a tragedy that left the Wildcats stunned even as they played their way into the Sweet 16. There was the uncomfortable sight of Ron Abegglen coaching Weber State to a stunning 76-74 first-round upset of North Carolina (and a near second-round defeat of Florida, which finally prevailed 82-74) even as the clock on his seven-year career at Weber wound down; Abegglen, the subject of a domestic-abuse restraining order obtained by his wife, Nedra, had already agreed to resign at the end of the season.
And there was the bittersweet image of another lame duck, Iowa's Tom Davis, leading his surprising team into the Sweet 16 with a scintillating 82-72 second-round win over Arkansas. Davis, you might recall, isn't a good enough coach to satisfy his athletic director, Bob Bowlsby, who announced after last season that he wouldn't renew the coach's contract after this year. Should Dr. Tom find a way to upset Connecticut in the West Regional in Phoenix on Thursday, we suspect journalists will need the help of the FBI to locate Bowlsby for a comment.
All things considered, though, the tournament's first two rounds produced more than their share of Homeric moments...as well as a few Homer moments, which we'll tell you about later. Duke did nothing to sully its reputation by winning its first two games, over Florida A&M (page 46) and Tulsa, by 41 points each, even as the hearties on the nation's No. 1 team ignored the odor emanating from guard Trajan Langdon's strained left foot. Well, not from his foot exactly. Langdon has been applying a reddish-brown, oozy salve made from spruce pine and a plant known as devil's club. It was sent by a Tlingit medicine man` from Langdon's home state of Alaska. "I have no idea how it works," says Langdon, who scored 12 points against Tulsa after sitting out the first-round game, "but right now I'll try anything to get this thing better."
Langdon's father, Steve, a professor at Alaska-Anchorage who is on research leave and is teaching a class at Duke this semester, says the salve has spiritual powers. If that's true, future opponents might consider pilfering it from the Blue Devils' locker room, because going through normal channels (shooting, passing, dribbling, etc.) won't get it done against Duke, especially now that a potential stumbling block in the East, Cincinnati—the team that put the lone blemish on the Blue Devils' 29-1 regular season—was eliminated by Temple in the second round. Duke's most serious opponent, in fact, might be its own coach. After finding out last week that his oldest daughter, Debbie, and her husband were expecting their first child, Mike Krzyzewski gave his team the following warning: "If any of you guys call me Grandpa, I'm gonna kick you in the nuts."
If Coach K is looking for grandfatherly tips, he might consult an assistant coach on the staff of his next opponent, 12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State. Sam Alford is not only son Steve's top assistant but also his first-line babysitter. Last Thursday, as the staff prepared to discuss the following day's first-round game against Wisconsin, the senior Alford got his assignment: Watch the kids. Steve's wife, Tanya, was sick, and someone had to care for Bryce, 6, Kory, 3, and Kayla, 1. "Everybody was excited about the tournament," said Sam, "so it was hard to corral them." Sam's sideline tips then helped the Bears corral both the Badgers (43-32) and Tennessee (81-51), putting Southwest Missouri State into the Sweet 16 for the first time.
The younger Alford is reportedly in line for the Iowa vacancy, but wherever he goes, his home-state appeal will continue to make recruiting tougher for Bob Knight, his onetime coach at Indiana. The Hoosier state's 1996 Mr. Basketball, guard Kevin Ault, is in Alford's starting lineup, and another former Hoosier high school star, freshman point guard Brandon Miller, is a key reserve. The immediate problem for Knight, whose Indiana team was routed by St. John's 86-61 in the second round, is not getting new players—it's keeping the ones he has. Rumors have been flying that swingman Luke Recker, guard Dane Fife and forward Lynn Washington are considering transfers and that junior point guard A.J. Guyton will go pro. The first three have pledged fealty to Knight's program, but Guyton sounded less enthusiastic after the loss to the Red Storm. "The NBA is a wide-open game, and I would be able to utilize my true abilities instead of having to play under this team's system, which is fine, too," said Guyton. Bye-bye, Bloomington.
Speaking of the NBA, at least one future pro made himself a lot of money in the first two rounds of the Midwest Regional in New Orleans as he carried 10th-seeded Miami of Ohio to the Sweet 16. Senior forward Wally Szczerbiak was even more wonderful than usual, with 43 points and 12 rebounds in a 59-58 first-round win over Washington and 24 and seven, respectively, in the 66-58 upset of Utah that got the RedHawks to the third round. Those enamored of Szczerbiak's all-American-boy image will be happy to learn that he did not join roommate John Estick (18 points against Utah) for a jaunt to Bourbon Street that included what Estick called "the bead issue." Which is what exactly? "Well, you give women beads [on the street], and they do this," he said, pantomiming the lifting of the front of his shirt. At the time Estick was beading, Szczerbiak was breaking bread with his parents.
Gonzaga junior Matt Santangelo, a throwback guard in the sense that he can either quarterback the Zags or keep them in the game with jump shots, has a chance to be playing with or against Szczerbiak in the NBA someday. Santangelo already enjoys a close relationship with Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, Gonzaga's second-most-distinguished alumnus, behind Der Bingle. Stockton and Santangelo work out together regularly in the fall, and Stockton, not the most communicative of souls, has even telephoned Santangelo with congratulations after a game. Some of Stockton's court-savvy game has rubbed off on Santangelo, but not his ultraconservative look. Santangelo sported sideburns as a freshman and a goatee as a sophomore and has a scraggly beard going now. Told that the beard is dangerous-looking, Santangelo responded, "Why, thank you."
More dangerous than Santangelo (who scored a total of 36 points in Gonzaga's wins over depleted Minnesota and second-seeded Stanford) at the West Regional was Weber State's Harold Arceneaux, who scored 36 in a single game, the stunner against third-seeded North Carolina. Arceneaux's arsenal includes a high-arching jump shot and a variety of body-twisting moves around the basket that earned him the nickname the Show. Actually, that's not the whole story. Arceneaux is also called Duke (for reasons he won't explain) and admits that he was known as Turtle in high school (for his round-shouldered, no-neck look). But he is not the kind of player to go into a shell." "Every time I get a look," says Arceneaux, "I shoot the ball." His performance against the Tar Heels was so electrifying that with 4:02 left and Weber leading by 64-54, most of the crowd of 15,000 gave him a standing ovation. Make that a standing eaux.