April 15, 1988: once again, thank goodness for the wonder of college basketball and for the remarkable events of the season just ended. With apologies to William Goldman and The Princess Bride: This was my favorite season in all the world, though I've never seen it.
NOVEMBER: As North Carolina's suspended J.R. Reid and Steve Bucknall sit out the Hall of Fame game in Springfield, Mass., on Nov. 21, Syracuse, with Rony Seikaly, Derrick Coleman and Sherman Douglas, pounds the Tar Heels. Following their easy victory, the three Orangemen—none of whom were selected to the U.S. Pan American team—challenge gold-medal winner Brazil for amateur championship of universe.
In the last week of November, opening rounds of Big Apple NIT are played, unbeknownst to anyone, in Ames, Iowa, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and L'Odors De Dump, N.J. Alcorn State. 5-23 last year, is among those invited. Final is moved to upper deck of Staten Island Ferry. Attendance: four seagulls, two winos and Alcorn State.
DECEMBER: In an unprecedented Hoosier Dome doubleheader on Dec. 5, before largest crowd ever to see adult male tear off red sweater and eat it, Louisville beats Notre Dame and Kentucky whips Indiana, after which Hoosier coach Bob Knight throws two chairs, smashes three phones, stuffs several Wildcat fans into trash can and vows to write best-seller about The Washington Post sports department.
On same day, in Atlanta, a long-awaited face-off of freshman fatsoes is witnessed by sellout crowd at the Omni as Georgia's 6'11", 260-pound Elmo Spencer goes lard-on-lard against Georgia Tech's 6'7", 240-pound Dennis Scott. Liz Taylor throws up ceremonial jump ball.
Brazil accepts the challenge of the three Orangemen; game is played as part of the Gator Bowl Christmas tournament. As Jacksonville assistant coach David Robinson, on leave from Kings Bay (Ga.) submarine base, looks on, the Orange trio wins 145-88, despite 79 points by Brazil's Oscar Schmidt. After the game, Robinson offers Schmidt $13 million over four years to play for the San Antonio Spurs.
JANUARY: The Big South Conference, unable to survive defection of Armstrong State, merges with the American South Conference, Trans America Athletic Conference, Southland Conference, Southern Conference and defunct Gulf Star Conference. As first item of business, they hold a conference. Then they form Big Land Gulf South Trans Star American—not a conference but a commuter airline offering service between Nacogdoches, Texas, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian immediately enrolls erstwhile recruits Lloyd Daniels and Clifford Allen in Punta del Este Junior College.
LSU coach Dale Brown announces hiring of Bill Owens Sr. of Carlisle, Pa., as his personal valet, coach Bennie Lewis of Lincoln High in East St. Louis, Ill., as his personal limo driver and Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson of Gulfport, Miss., as athletic dorm mother. Brown denies his actions have anything to do with Billy Owens of Carlisle, Pa., LaPhonso Ellis of East St. Louis, Ill., or Chris Jackson of Gulfport, Miss.—three of the most sought-after high school prospects in the land. Meanwhile the most prized prospect of all, 6'10" Alonzo Mourning of Chesapeake, Va., is named starting center on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team by Georgetown coach John Thompson. Thompson explains that until the Games begin, Mourning will be living in a hotel in an unspecified location.
FEBRUARY: In Florida, Dick Vitale drives ESPN sound truck over cliff and lands in Sarasota Bay. He's unhurt and, upon reaching shore, shouts, "An M 'n' M'er, baby. A mismatch. A real NC—Noooooo Contest."
Notre Dame stuns undefeated, No. 1-ranked Duke at Durham on Feb. 7 as coach Digger Phelps, clad in ND sweatsuit, hula skirt, football helmet and necklace of green carnations, flashes printed signs to playmaker David Rivers and exhorts crowd over P.A. mike. "I couldn't have done it without the players," Phelps roars. "Well...maybe."