Crazy? "It's great for us," contended Columbia coach Wally Halas during the brief Vegas visit. "It's an opportunity to see another part of the country. Some of our kids have never been on this side of the Mississippi, and Columbia University is based on providing a variety of experiences."
And, he might have added, providing an education that enables former Columbia players to earn an average annual salary of $181,000. That's the big number a member of the team's advisory committee came up with in a survey of the school's basketball graduates over the past 10 years—a figure made more remarkable by the fact that it does not include any NBA megasalaries.
When asked why a player should go to Columbia, which hasn't had a winning record since 1982, Halas pointed to the career advantages of living in New York. "Our kids get internships at Paine Webber, Salomon Brothers, IBM," he said. "When they get out of college, our kids have resumes that look like they've been out five or six years."
Now that UCLA and Loyola Marymount have stubbed their toes a time or two, hoops aficionados in California, not to mention the rest of the nation, may begin to pay a little more attention to UC Santa Barbara and St. Mary's, two teams that are quietly on their way to standout seasons. UC Santa Barbara's 9-0 record includes victories over Colorado, Pepperdine, Oregon, Arizona State, Iowa State and Loyola Mary-mount. For future reference, file away the name of Eric McArthur: he's only 6'6", but he has already blocked 29 shots this season, as well as averaging 15.3 points and nine rebounds.
Up the coast in Moraga is St. Mary's, the West Coast Athletic Conference team that last season was snubbed by the NCAA tournament committee and the NIT despite a 19-9 record. With all five starters back—5'9" David Carter, 6'9" Dan Curry, 6'7" Robert Haugen, 6'3" Al Lewis, and 6'4" Erick Newman—the Gaels have breezed to a 10-1 start, losing only to Stanford, by a point.
St. Mary's style is the exact opposite of that of high-scoring, hated rival Loyola Marymount. Coach Lynn Nance's team wins with a defense that has so far held opponents to 57 points a game and sub-40% shooting. The Gaels' goals: to become the first St. Mary's team since 1942 to win 20 games and to sweep Loyola Marymount in their two conference games, the first of which will be played Feb. 3. And, of course, to make it impossible for the tournament honchos to overlook them again.
Rick Majerus, whose ample girth is as impressive as his Ball State team's 10-0 start, says of his sweaters, "You could house 20 homeless families in them."...
The Cornell-SMU game scheduled for Dallas was postponed because the Cornell team was stranded at Chicago's O'Hare field by a snowstorm. Unfortunately for the Big Red, they emerged in time to make their appointment at Duke two nights later, and got snowed under, 94-59....