Hello, everybody! We're here liiiiive at the MaxiDome, where 400,000 stunned spectators have just watched Princeton's Tramplin' Tigers hold off the Gallopin' Gaels of St. Mary's and take a 174-165 lead into the locker room at the half of the NCAA Midcentral Submetro Semiquarterfinal Regional as we continue the countdown toward the 2001 NCAA Final Four. Coach Billy Tubbs's Tigers converted a passel of their patented five-point field goals from midcourt of the new 150-foot playing floor to get an early 49-point lead before Rick Pitino's Gaels took advantage of the 12-second shot clock to get back in it. Let's look at some highlights.
Here's Princeton's 7'7" Hobey (Dock) Worker absolutely face-jobbing the Gaels with one of his characteristic monster dunks over the 15-foot-high rim. You may recall that following the NCAA's 1998 decision that athletes could be put on an unlimited collegiate payroll, Tubbs dipped into Old Nassau's vast endowment to outbid Duke, UNLV, Stanford, and Franklin and Marshall for the rights to Worker.
But here's Roosevelt (Socio) Path coming right back for the Gaels. Path picked up eight of his allotted 24 fouls in the first four minutes but then broke loose to score 29 baskets in Pitino's laser-break attack. Providence, Kentucky, Puget Sound, Disney Studios, Dantoni Milano, ESPN...everywhere Pitino goes, gangbusters! Rick and the NCAA's wide-open game is a marriage made in heaven.
Stay tuned for the second half and our final two hours of excitement. Is College Basketball 2001, run 'n' gun 'n 'tons of fun or what?!?!
O.K., so that's a bit of an exaggeration. College basketball isn't really headed toward 650-point games at the start of the 21st century. It only seems that, given the NCAA's propensity for changing the rules shortly after each tip-off, the sport is racing into a cross-trained version of equal parts Arenaball, Roller Derby and—aaarrggghh!—the NBA.
Which is not to say that this isn't partly wonderful. By the time the 1982 ACC tournament championship game between North Carolina (with Michael Jordan and James Worthy) and Virginia (with Ralph Sampson) ended 47-45 for the Tar Heels, coaches Terry Holland and Dean Smith had walked their sport into heated controversy. As everybody playing within the jurisdiction of NCAA national rules editor Edward Steitz soon found out, this low-scoring fiasco soon begat:
1) Steitz himself, the previously obscure athletic director from Springfield College, who suddenly began wielding more power than all the Bobby Knights and Billy Packers put together.
2) The brainchild of Steitz's rules committee, the 45-second shot clock, which by the 1985-86 season had become mandatory for all college games and had eliminated those awful delay tactics and most other strategies that had been designed to equalize talent.
3) The three-point goal—from 19'9" away, four feet closer than the NBA's three-pointer—which the rules committee virtually ramrodded into place before the 1986-87 season; it inflated scores, encouraged spine-rippling finishes and gave the have-nots something to replace the stall as a means of beating the big boys.
4) The specter of Loyola Marymount, a small school located across the tarmac from Los Angeles International Airport and coached by Paul Westhead, terrifying purists with a team that last year scored 94 points in a half, had 181 points in a game and finished the season averaging 112.5 an outing.