Upset? Did someone say upset? Why, yes—West Virginia coach Gale Catlett was upset, because Mountaineer guard Holman Harley tried a bounce-it-off-the-floor dunk shot in a first-round loss to Old Dominion—and missed. That zany play had nothing to do with upsets, but could anything better symbolize the wildest and unlikeliest opening rounds of NCAA tournament play in recent memory? Catlett wouldn't discuss how upset he was, but Syracuse's Jim Boeheim—before he was upset—would. "There aren't any upsets these days," he said. "There's only bad predicting."
Or questionable seeding, smug favorites and juiced-up underdogs. The tournament was barely four days old, and the body count was already long and grisly:
?One top seed ( St. John's), two seconds ( Michigan and Syracuse), three thirds ( Memphis State, Notre Dame and Indiana) and three fourths ( Illinois, Georgetown and Oklahoma) had lost.
?A year after three of its teams held a requiem Mass for the rest of college basketball at the Final Four, the Big East flamed out utterly—four teams losing by a total of 45 points.
?The Big Ten found its honor vouchsafed solely to the stubby hands of Michigan State's Scott Skiles, a scrappy 6'1" miscreant who may need a cut man more than a coach.
Certainly the conference tourneys offered no clue to this madness; the postseason title in nearly every major conference—ACC, Big East, SEC, Big Eight and Metro—went to the regular-season champion. And even after the NCAAs began, the upsets kind of sneaked up. Lower-seeded teams beat higher seeds in only six of the 32 first-round games; one such "upset"—LSU, seeded 11th in the Southeast, beating No. 6 Purdue—owed itself largely to the Boilermakers' playing the Tigers on their Deaf Dome home court in Baton Rouge. And Cleveland State's 83-79 defeat of Indiana and Arkansas-Little Rock's 90-83 victory over Notre Dame seemed less startling under closer scrutiny. The Vikings led the nation in victory margin, the Trojans were second in rebounding margin.
But raw reason couldn't explain Dale Brown's faith healing actually working for LSU, Auburn's thumping the Redinthefacemen, Navy's avenging (by a swing of 34 points) a Pearl Harbor Day rout in Syracuse and Iowa State coach Johnny Orr's defeating Michigan, a team he coached for 12 years.
"I want the kids to understand that in the tournament there are going to be teams you haven't heard much about who you've got to respect," said Kansas coach Larry Brown, sounding as if he had been placed in the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Regional. "Everyone who gets this far is pretty special."
Indeed. With such heavy demand for glass slippers, the NCAA may have to raid the basement and boudoirs of Malaca�ang Palace for enough crystal footwear to go around.