The second edition of the Big (sort of) Four Classic in Indianapolis promised to be useful, not so much as a showcase for traditional powers from Kentucky and Indiana as a way to measure how far the mighty have fallen. Indiana had surrendered 208 points in two games the week before, Louisville had already been embarrassed by Xavier and Vanderbilt, young Notre Dame was an unknown quantity without departed guard David Rivers, and Kentucky...well, we all know about the Wildcats' long-running soap opera.
Nevertheless, in a rather amazing display of love or loyalty or, perhaps, morbid fascination, a crowd of 45,214 showed up at the Hoosier Dome. It was the second-biggest audience for a regular-season NCAA basketball event and the fourth largest ever, including tournament play. The gathering was that grand despite the fact that Kentucky returned over 1,500 of its allotted tickets.
The embattled Sutton and his players found only more misery in an 81-65 thrashing by the new-look Irish. While much note was taken of the fact that Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps has dumped his trademark green lapel carnation, a more important difference for the Irish is the addition of 6'9" freshman LaPhonso Ellis, who followed his 27-point debut against St. Bonaventure by working Kentucky for 16 rebounds.
As promising as the Irish looked, the best team in Indianapolis was Louisville, which erupted for a many-splendored 101-79 win over Indiana. The Cards took control at the outset, forcing seven Hoosier turnovers in their first eight possessions. So frazzled were the Hoosiers that at one point, center Todd Jadlow headed to the sidelines, thinking a timeout had been called. It hadn't, and an incredulous Knight had to shove his center back on the floor. "It was just our day," said Louisville coach Denny Crum graciously.
Next year it will be Louisville against Notre Dame and Indiana against...well, that brings up an interesting point. The Big Four Classic has two more years left in its TV contract with ABC; if NCAA sanctions, that Kentucky seems sure to get, include no regular-season TV appearances, what would the Big Four do? Postpone the classic until the Cats get out of the doghouse? Play as scheduled with ABC televising only the game not involving Kentucky? Replace the Wildcats with, say, Western Kentucky?
"I haven't even thought about it," said Indiana athletic director Ralph Floyd. "I don't want to make a comment on that until something transpires."
MICHIGAN AND AGAIN
The way you know for sure there's no such college as Southern Michigan is that it doesn't appear on the schedule of the University of Michigan. This week the Wolverines, still glowing from their win over Oklahoma in the final of the Maui Classic on Nov. 27, begin a 14-day stretch in which they play Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Northern Michigan.
Quick, now. Name the cities where all these Michigans are located. The correct answers are, respectively, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti and Marquette. We've got nothing against any of these schools, but why are they all on Michigan's schedule? Are the Wolverines all taking a course on the state's geography? Or does coach Bill Frieder just want to do some in-state promoting of his new book, Basket Case?