Syracuse, SI's and a lot of other people's preseason No. 1 pick, may be suffering from the pressures of proving its worthiness. Tenseness among the Orangemen, more than anything Cornell's players had done, seemed to have been at work on Dec. 7 when Syracuse's Derrick Coleman, followed by a bunch of his teammates, leaped off the bench to mix it up with the Big Red's Greg Gilda during a 95-59 rout by the Orange. And nine days earlier there had been a heated exchange between center Rony Seikaly and coach Jim Boeheim after Syracuse's 79-63 win over Alabama-Birmingham. Seikaly was irritated because the Orange guards weren't getting him the ball frequently enough. Seikaly reminded Boeheim of the fact that he had forgone the pros to play another season at Syracuse and demanded that Boeheim return the favor by ordering the backcourtmen to pass him the ball. "A typical European response," said Boeheim xenophobically of his center from Greece. "He hasn't changed since he's been here." Boeheim's real trouble, though, is that the 6-2 Orangemen have yet to solve the shooting woes that cost them dearly in losses to North Carolina and Arizona: They're 24 for 65 from three-point range and 141 for 234 from the free throw line.
A brouhaha is brewing down in Louisiana over the Northwestern State women's team media guide. The cover photo, dreamed up by sports information director Tom Wancho, shows players clad in bunny ears and cottontails, THESE GIRLS CAN PLAY, BOY is the billing. Wancho says he has been shocked by the reaction, which has included at least one call for his firing, from Donna Lopiano, women's athletic director at the University of Texas. Says Wancho in his own defense, "The girls are happy with the publicity. They didn't mind. If it had offended the girls, I never would have done it." Wancho probably didn't help his case by pointing out that the players rejected his earlier idea: to pose the team seductively behind a bed sheet. The proposed billing: THE GIRLS OF NORTHWESTERN.
These are hard times for college hoops in Los Angeles. UCLA lost four of its first five games, including a 72-64 beating by St. John's last Saturday that gave UCLA three straight defeats at home. As a result, the Bruins are off to their worst start since the 1945-46 season. And across town at USC, things have been even worse. The Trojans' 74-61 loss to Tennessee dropped their record to 1-6. That's their worst start since 1931-32. Southern Cal has looked even worse in light of coach George Raveling's optimistic preseason predictions. "In my enthusiasm, I may have gone overboard on the assessment of our talent," said Raveling in the understatement of the week.
The women's teams at the two schools are also mired in mediocrity, both having started out 2-3. After the Women of Troy's 85-57 loss to Auburn, angry shouting could be heard from the locker room, most notably from assistant coach and former USC standout Cheryl Miller.
John Wooden, meanwhile, doesn't seem to be too sympathetic about the plight of the L.A. coaches. On a recent national TV broadcast, the Wizard compared today's coaching challenges with those of his era: "It's easier now [to build a winning program] because there are more good players and there's freshman eligibility."
Grayson Marshall, Clemson's fine point guard, is on target to break the ACC's alltime career assist record of 781 set last season by Wake Forest's Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues; in the process he will surpass the totals of such North Carolina notables as Kenny Smith (768) and Phil Ford (753). As impressive as Marshall's accomplishment may be, it might not provide a full measure of his achievement.
Barry Jacobs, the author of the Fan's Guide to ACC Basketball, has calculated the number of assists per home field goal for each of the ACC teams over the past season. Jacobs's figures show that, on one end of the spectrum, Virginia credits its players with assists on only 45.8% of the field goals made on its home court; at the other extreme, North Carolina players are credited with assists on a whopping 72.2% of their field goals at home. (On the road, both teams are credited with assists at a nearly identical rate: 57.8% for the Tar Heels and 57.5% for the Cavaliers.)
The conclusion? When it comes to meting out assists, official statisticians in the ACC exercise a discretion verging on the arbitrary. Clemson stat people, it turns out, are only slightly less stingy with assists for the home team than those at Virginia; Clemson ranks seventh in the ACC. Marshall can only dream about what his record might have been if he had played for the Tar Heels.