•North is South, South is North, and the twain have long since collided. Providence Coach Rick Barnes is from Hickory, N.C. He had 43 relatives drive over to Greensboro to cheer for the Friars against Clemson. A band from nearby North Carolina A&T was provided tickets and T-shirts by Providence in exchange for playing the Friars' fight songs throughout their 72-71 defeat. Duke's Christian Laettner is from the Buffalo suburb of Angola, a Syracuse stronghold.
And John Crotty, a 6'1" guard out of Spring Lake, N.J.—this gets confusing; pay attention—whose father played at North Carolina and whose uncle played at Georgetown, plays for Virginia. He lit up the Meadowlands with 25 points and eight assists as the Cavs beat Villanova 73-65. "I had a couple hundred people here—ticketwise," Crotty said.
•Though the Challenge wound up all even: A) The ACC could easily have won 6-2 if Wake Forest forward Anthony Tucker's 25-footer had stayed in, instead of popping out as the buzzer sounded, and if Syracuse sophomore David Johnson, a career .500 free throw shooter, had missed rather than made two free throws with three seconds left against Duke; and B) the Big East could easily have gone 6-2 if Pittsburgh had shown even the slightest inclination to check Georgia Tech's no-more-pigouts Dennis Scott (42 points) and if Clem-son's Dale Davis, another horrific foul shooter, hadn't converted two clutch free throws at the end of a victory that enabled Tiger coach Cliff Ellis to actually mean it when he said the triumph would have "postseason implications."
•Despite its being made for TV (the conferences have a four-year, $7 million contract with ESPN for the Challenge), its outrageous ticket prices ($30 apiece) and its somewhat disappointing crowds, especially in 15,700-seat Greensboro Coliseum, where fewer than 7,000 fans showed up for the Dec. 5 doubleheader, the Challenge is the best thing to happen to college basketball in December since Dick Vitale contracted/conquered (pick one) the big STP: strep-throat problem.
And the Challenge proved once and for all which is the best conference, too.
The Big Ten.
THE BALL HOG
It's not as if Scott, Georgia Tech's junior shooter, had an ongoing fat attack during his first two seasons in Atlanta, but he had metamorphosed from a svelte 217-pound finesse player into a 251-pound trifecta specialist, the waddling definition of a ball hog. "We looked at game tapes from last year, and he didn't look difficult to guard," said Pitt's Darelle Porter after Scott had gobbled up the Panthers. "Then he came out on the floor and...whew!" No more Roseanne jokes. Having eliminated Wendy's from his diet, Scott is down to 220 and still possesses marvelous touch. Spotting up outside a ridiculous Pitt zone that never did find him, Scott made eight treys and six other shots, the final one for the victory after he fumbled a pass and went sprawling across the lane among a bewildered non-pride of Panthers.
Similarly, Maryland's Williams is not used to his team being outhustled, but that's what Connecticut did, smothering the Terps' woeful guards under hordes of pressing defenders. Guard Chris Smith is the Huskies' star, but the name to remember may be 6'7½" forward Nadav Henefeld of Ramat-Hasharon, Israel, who earlier this season traveled from Storrs, Conn., to Tel Aviv to Anchorage so he could play for both the Israeli national team and U Conn in the Great Alaska Shootout. In 24 minutes against Maryland, Henefeld had 11 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
A SHOW AMONG NO-SHOWS