Talk about winning ugly. Seton Hall didn't just-beat its West Regional opponents. The Pirates pillaged the poor things with an old-fashioned intensity that showed a couple of famous defensive masters—coaches Bob Knight of Indiana and Jerry Tarkanian of UNLV—how perfect a vicious man-to-man can be.
"When you get to this stage [the final 16], nobody feels too comfortable, but we've actually been planning for this all along," said Seton Hall's 39-year-old coach, P.J. Carlesimo, before the action commenced in Denver's McNichols Sports Arena. Now that the Pirates have pounded Indiana 78-65 and UNLV 84-61, handing both teams the worst NCAA tournament defeats in their respective histories, the world outside northern New Jersey might find out just who Carlesimo and the Pirates actually are.
Hey, some of the New York newspapers don't even bother to cover this team with a regular beat reporter, so whaddaya expect? Seton Hall is neither Rutgers nor Princeton nor any relation to Fawn Hall, and its campus in South Orange. N.J., is at least 14 miles of tunnels, bridges and indescribable odors away from the Apple. Besides, there are players on the Hall from places like Australia, Puerto Rico and Haiti, not to mention Brooklyn and the Bronx. And the coach with the initials and the beard, what's his gig? From the looks of things, he's either a philosophy grad student or an Italian rabbi. The only other time his Pirates ever made the NCAAs, which was last March, Arizona wasted them 84-55 in the second round.
If the Pirates, who finished second in the Big East this season behind Georgetown, weren't exactly CinderHalla in Denver, they had a certain Dangerfieldian air about them. A Rocky Mountain News front-page caption referred to the team as the Saints. The public-address announcer spoke of P.J. CarleSEEMo. (It's CarLISSemo.) A hotel fire alarm rudely interrupted one of Carlesimo's press conferences. And that was shortly after his father. Peter—the recently retired longtime director of the NIT and one of the game's legendary banquet speakers—was almost thrown out of the press conference because nobody knew who he was, either.
Knight knew all about Seton Hall, though, and his triheaded Hoosier back-court of Jay Edwards. Joe Hillman and Lyndon Jones, who were harassed into missing 22 of 31 shots, became educated very early. "I can't emphasize enough how well put together this team is," said Knight after the Pirates' big men, led by Ramon Ramos and Daryll Walker, shut down Indiana's inside attack.
Seton Hall had held a previous tournament foe, Evansville, scoreless for stretches of 4:39 and 5:08. This time the Pirates kept Indiana from scoring a field goal for the final 6:20 of the first half and for another 5:41 toward the end of the second. The Hoosiers shot 39.1% for the game, and when they made a run to pull within four points with 5:53 left, the 6'8", 250-pound Ramos—a mainstay on the Puerto Rican Olympic team—bulled his way to some key buckets and rebounds.
Knight acknowledged that "Ramos controlled us at both ends." But one play down the stretch was instructive of the Pirates' entire season. As the Hoosiers again threatened, with less than two minutes to go and the Pirates leading 70-63, Haitian-born Frantz Volcy knocked the ball away from Indiana's Edwards. It was chased down by Seton Hall's Gerald Greene, who baseball-passed downcourt to Michael Cooper, who touch-passed to Walker angling to the basket, who flipped to Australian Olympian Andrew Gaze for the clinching layup.
It was the kind of five-easy-pieces ballet that No. 1 Arizona had been searching for during much of the season. But superstar forward Sean Elliott had simply been too good and the Pac-10 too weak for the Wildcats to improve.
Against Arizona in the round of 16, the Runnin' Rebels' Stacey Augmon, whom Elliott had undressed for 32 points in an 86-75 victory over UNLV in December, forced Elliott into twice as many turnovers (four) as baskets (two) in the first half. Still, Elliott, who finished his brilliant career with game highs of 22 points and 14 rebounds, rallied the Wildcats from seven points behind in the second half to a 67-65 advantage with 1:36 remaining. Then Augmon struck again. He reached in and knocked the ball loose from Arizona's Kenny Lofton, who recovered and passed to Matt Muehlebach. With 30 seconds left Muehlebach was called for traveling on the baseline.