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COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Morin Bishop
January 25, 1988
MOST UPSETTING
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January 25, 1988

College Basketball

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TOP 20

THIS WEEK

 

LAST WEEK

1

ARIZONA (16-1)

1

2

MICHIGAN (14-1)

4

3

NORTH CAROLINA (13-1)

5

4

KENTUCKY (12-1)

6

5

PITTSBURGH (13-1)

7

6

TEMPLE (12-0)

8

7

PURDUE (15-1)

9

8

DUKE (10-2)

2

9

UNLV (14-1)

16

10

IOWA STATE (15-2)

17

11

BYU (12-0)

20

12

SYRACUSE (12-4)

3

13

WYOMING (12-3)

12

14

OKLAHOMA (14-2)

10

15

GEORGETOWN (11-3)

11

16

ILLINOIS (13-3)

17

N.C. STATE (10-2)

18

TEXAS EL PASO (15-2)

19

BRADLEY (10-2)

20

AUBURN (10-3)

18

MOST UPSETTING

Before the season began, many prognosticators insisted parity was so widespread in college basketball that any of, say, 40 teams could win the national championship. While that may have seemed an exaggeration at the time, it now looks as if it might have been an understatement. Last week was the wildest yet in a season in which upsets have become as common as coaches' temper tantrums. The teams in the SI Top 20 last week played 39 games; 10 of those teams lost—and had a total of 15 defeats among them. A few of the toppled 10 were more upset than others:

•Indiana fell 66-64 on the road to an injury-riddled Northwestern squad that had a 5-6 record going into the game. Five days later the Hoosiers succumbed 75-74 in overtime at Michigan State, which had been 5-8. In that loss, Indiana watched the Spartans' 6'6" senior guard Ed Wright can a three-pointer from the corner to force the game into OT and their 7-foot center George Papadakos win it with a sweeping hook with 13 seconds left. "I don't know what happened," said Hoosier guard Keith Smart, putting the entire week in perspective.

•Georgetown lost twice in the Big East, 78-74 to Providence and 68-66 to Boston College, both of which are considered to be among the conference's weaker sisters. At BC, the Hoyas were done in by a stunning 30-point performance by Eagle junior guard Dana Barros, but the loss at Providence was even more startling. Just hours before the game, popular sophomore forward Marty Conlon, the Friars' second-leading scorer, with a 13.2-points-a-game average, had left the team for unspecified reasons, a turn of events that only added volume to the now-familiar booing by the Providence fans of first-year coach Gordon Chiesa—during the pregame introductions, no less. And high-scoring senior guard Delray Brooks was coming off an 0-for-7 performance from three-point range in the Friars' previous game, a loss to Connecticut. But against Georgetown, Brooks converted seven of 11 three-point tries, and the fans' jeers turned to cheers.

•Syracuse also lost two Big East games, to Villanova and Connecticut. "We're not a dominating Top 20 team, we're just working hard," said Wildcat forward Mark Plansky, the only remaining member of Villanova's NCAA championship team of 1984-85. Plansky led the surprising Wildcats (12-4 at week's end) with 21 points in the 80-78 win in Philadelphia. Connecticut's hero was forward Cliff Robinson, who calmly sank a free throw with two seconds remaining to win it for the Huskies 51-50, the only time they were ahead of the Orangemen the entire game. The victory was Connecticut's third in front of the tough crowd in Syracuse's Carrier Dome—a shocker in its own right.

•High-flying Oklahoma began the week averaging 115.5 points per game. But the Sooners scored only 139 points in two games, losing on the road to LSU, 84-77, and Kansas State, 69-62. Senior swingman Mitch Richmond led K-State with 33 points and nine rebounds and the Wildcats made their last 12 free throws to finish off the Sooners.

•Duke's Blue Devils had a hellish time with Maryland, losing 72-69 to the visiting Terps as Maryland forward Derrick Lewis's slam dunk with 24 seconds left put his team in front for good. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski blamed the loss on "some tired passes" in the last five minutes of play. Blue Devil forward Danny Ferry had gone sleepless the night before with an upset stomach, which may have accounted for his 8-for-25 shooting. But the rest of the Duke players looked just as sick; they hit only 25 of 65 shots and lost the rebounding battle 38-27.

Why the rash of upsets? Most coaches agree it's simply a matter of abundant talent being spread so widely. "There are just more and more good players out there every year," says Iowa State coach Johnny Orr, whose Cyclones have beaten Iowa and Kansas in what seemed like upsets when they occurred—and have lost to unheralded Butler. "I'd say 75 percent of the teams in the country can beat anyone on any given night." Lute Olson, coach of No. 1 Arizona, cites another factor—increasingly vociferous home rooters: "These crowds are getting more and more knowledgeable, and a big, vocal crowd points out a lot of things to officials that might not otherwise be noticed. And I think it just raises the level of the home team's play."

MASTERS OF SURPRISE

All in all, it was the kind of week to warm the heart of the most "upsetting" coach in recent seasons, LSU's Dale Brown. According to the Gold Sheet, a newsletter for bettors, Brown is 12-6 as an underdog in games played at home or on a neutral court since the beginning of the 1985-86 season. Among these triumphs have been NCAA tournament upsets of Kentucky and Temple. His Tigers did it again last week, against previously undefeated Oklahoma, and Sooner coach Billy Tubbs thinks he knows Brown's secret: intimidating the referees. "You can tell Dale he doesn't have to gripe about Bobby Knight anymore," said Tubbs. Responded Brown, "If I did [intimidate the refs], it would be the first time in 31 years I've had any impact."

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