The team's best player, 6'6" junior swingman Louis Banks, broke his left—or nonshooting—hand on Dec. 9, forcing him to play with the hand heavily taped. Oddly enough, Banks's shooting has improved since the injury. "When I was shooting poorly early in the season, I was guiding the ball with my left hand." says Banks. "Now I can't get a good grip on it with my left hand, so I'm using my shooting hand more and shooting better." Against Louisville, Banks's 18 points led four Bearcats who scored in double figures.
Nevertheless, Cincinnati's strength is its defense, which changes constantly but never lets up. "We have to keep 'em guessing, because I've never had a team big enough to do anything else," says Huggins, who went to Cincinnati after coaching at Akron for five seasons. With only a year of scholarship restrictions remaining on the Bearcats' NCAA probation, Huggins hopes they can steal enough W's by March to earn their first NCAA tournament bid since 1977.
New Virginia Commonwealth coach Sonny Smith, who became known for his sense of humor during his 11 years at Auburn, has been having trouble mustering a smile this season, and the reason has little to do with the Rams' 5-5 start. If you think you have problems, read on.
Smith's 72-year-old mother, Irma, is ill with cancer and heart disease. On Christmas Day, her Roan Mountain, Tenn., house burned down, apparently because of an electrical problem. Smith's brother, Jim, suffered burns and smoke inhalation trying to fight the fire and had to be hospitalized.
Then Smith's daughter, Sherri, 23, was hospitalized in Auburn because of a severe bronchial infection. While she was in the hospital, her father-in-law died. Smith himself broke his right hand when he slammed it against a blackboard—after a victory, no less.
Finally, when Virginia was hit by a bitter cold spell in December, Smith found himself walking around Richmond in a coat with no lining. The weather had never gotten that cold in Auburn, you see. "I think I brought this weather with me," said Smith.
"I think he's right," said Commonwealth assistant Lawrence Johnson.
"Don't stand too close to me," said Smith. "Bad things might start happening to you."