On the undercard, Syracuse's 77-63 win over Providence could not have been uglier: the most miserable, both-teams-guilty semifinal in decades. By upsetting North Carolina and Georgetown in the regionals, the Orangemen and Friars had prevented a reprise of the brilliant Heel-Hoya title game of '82 in this very same Superdome. Instead, we got a farce that saw the Friars' "Rainbow Coalition" backcourt brick on 24 of 33 shots, and Orange hero Coleman flail a roundhouse rabbit punch at an opponent which—like the teams' combined .403 shooting—missed everything. "I saw guys swinging so I swung," said Coleman with typical Big East logic.
"Not exciting? A bad game?" Seikaly said. "Definitely. I felt that. This game was ugly, very ugly."
As for the new champs, Knight's Indiana (or is it the other way around?) isn't all that pretty either. But if this third national title represented Sir Bob's coronation—his giant step beyond the Smiths and Crums and Thompsons toward Wooden-land—he couldn't have asked for a more prototypical monument to his coaching genius. Alford and Thomas: slow, deliberate, limited in natural ability. Rick Calloway: a star in the regional, scoreless in the final game. Smart and Garrett: juco free-lancers woven into the fabric of a controlled, even repressive, system. Joe Hillman, Steve Eyl: stiff, obedient, role-playing benchmongers.
Taking his triple crown in luxuriant stride, Knight credited this wholesome yet colorless band only with playing "beyond its potential." But, really now, who else on God's green earth could have won the national championship with a team like that? No, not even Gene Hackman. It was reassuring to hear Knight throw a bone to Alford who, from swaddling clothes to husband-to-be (he'll marry sweetheart Tanya Frost in July), may be the hardest-working Hoosier ever. "If Steve has an everlasting claim to basketball immortality, it's what he got out of himself," Knight said.
To which one might say of the Indiana coach's claim to immortality: It's what he got out of others.