"The fast game fits me," says Nolan Richardson, whose Razorbacks were 25-7 in his fourth season at Arkansas. "Everything I do is fast. When I play golf, I swing way too fast. I can't help it. That's me. But I can't imagine anything better than what we had last year. We totally won over the fans. The more we scored, the more they wanted. A lot of them were blue-collar people who came in tired or dissatisfied with their jobs. They left unwound and happy. That's what up-tempo basketball can do."
"That's why I don't like baseball," "says South Ala bama coach Ronnie Arrow "You sit there for three hours and the score is 1-0." Arrow's Jaguars led the Sun Belt Conference in scoring last year with 91 points a game (ninth in Division I) and have now won 38 games in the last two years. But Arrow made his mark at San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas. It was the jucos-along with the NBA-influence of Pitino, Westhead and Bradley's Stan Albeck-that have fostered the sprint-and-stun attack that is so fashionable now at the major college.
But some coaches still don't like the no-defense connotations of the running, game. "We're not a run-and-gun team," insists Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who would be hard pressed to persuade the 30,000 or so upstate New Yorkers who trek through snow squalls to view UNLV East games of that fact. "We're fast-break like the Lakers or Celtics, but I'd be very upset if we were ever referred to as a run-and-gun team. Our defense generates our running game. A team like Loyola Marymount lets; the other team score, then tries to outscore them with threes. We don't even emphasize the three."
Traditionalists might be surprised to discover that amid all this newfangled scoring mess, the conference that led the nation in three-point accuracy last season (.409) was the supposedly tedious Big Ten. Moreover, the reputedly deliberate formerly fourcornered Tar Heels of North Carolina have led the ACC in scoring in three of the last five seasons. The Heels scored 90 points per game last year.
The Big Eight has been more affected than any other conference by the careening of the college game. It has been transformed from a plodding conglomerate into a glamorous collection of speed merchants and has led all other conferences in points scored for six years running.
For many years the Big Eight couldn't attract players who could run. That changed when the conference built new arenas, which lured better players, which in turn attracted television in a self-perpetuating cycle. The big Eight got turned around quickly after Tubbs came to Oklahoma from tiny Lamar in 1980 and began ''getting players like Stacey King and Mookie, Blaylock, NBA first-rounders this season; arid after Johnny orr moved to Iowa State from Michigan, also in'80. Larry Brown contributed to the style "at Kansas from 83 to 88. This season the runnin'est Big Eight team might be, that's right, Oklahoma State, which was called Oklahoma A&M back in the 1940s, when Henry Iba's teams won two NCAA titles by scores of 49-45 and 43-40.
"I heard the rumblings when I came into the league that I couldn't play this way, says Tubbs. But I knew if I got the players I wanted, I'd play any old way I wanted. What I want to be like is the UCLA of the old days. The Bruins scored 100—and nobody ever accused them of being out of control.
We re in a cycle that says it's neat to score points. But we think at a different level at Oklahoma. One hundred points is an average game for us. People yawn and say O.K., what else is new? At 120, we're not doing too bad. At 130 to 135, that's better. At 150 and above, we're really cooking.
"What's coming? A 100-point half, a 200-point: game. It's going to happen [best bet: Sooners at Loypla Marymount, Dec: 23]. Look, I'm not advocating-everybody play this way, bat we've got 10 games on national TV this season. Tell you something? We go into homes across the country, and people know the names of players on our bench! You go into a home and a 14-month-old kid is nicknamed Mookie. That's TV, like it or not. I like it."
That's also entertainment. And run 'n' gun. And college basketball exploding on the brink of the 1990s. And Tubbs hasn't even considered the Princeton job yet.