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The Beast Lives
The conference tournaments provided their usual share of upsets, but in the end the back-of-the-pack teams that tried to sneak into the NCAA tournament—in particular, Louisville (see below), ninth-seeded Tennessee (which fell 88-69 to Alabama in the SEC finale) and seventh-seeded Fresno State (which, after taking a 16-6 lead, lost 98-74 to UNLV in the Big West title game)—each came up one game short. Still, a look across the tournament landscape shows that a great deal worth noting took place.
As usual, the Big East had one of the most competitive tournaments. Syracuse lost its chance to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament by falling 70-68 to Villanova in the quarterfinals. Georgetown proved itself worthy of an NCAA bid by going all the way to the championship game. The Hoyas beat Connecticut 68-49 in the quarters behind 13 points and a Big East-record 27 rebounds from center Dikembe Mutombo. Georgetown then knocked off Providence 71-55 before losing 74-62 to Seton Hall.
The Pirates wouldn't have reached the final had it not been for the clutch play of guard Oliver Taylor, the tournament MVP. A 6-foot senior, Taylor scored the game-winner on a layup at the buzzer in a 70-69 victory over Pitt in the quarters and sank a 15-foot jumper with a second to go in a 74-72 semifinal defeat of Villanova. "He carried us through some tough times," said Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo. "His game against Villanova was almost perfect. The team could feel his confidence."
The tournament must have helped the Hoyas' confidence as well. Before the tournament some observers said Georgetown, which was seeded sixth, didn't deserve an NCAA bid. Afterward, many believed the Hoyas could pose a formidable challenge to UNLV if the teams meet, as expected, in the second round of the West Regional.
It's Cryin' Time Again
Everyone at the Big Eight tournament in Kansas City, Mo., seemed to be angry at something or someone. Nebraska's point guard Jose Ramos was upset at his coach, Danny Nee, and left the team in a huff. Iowa State coach Johnny Orr was irked that Missouri, which is on NCAA probation, was even allowed in the tournament. Tiger coach Norm Stewart was upset with Orr. And just about everybody was mad at the game officials. In the end, Missouri beat Nebraska 90-82 in Sunday's final behind a brilliant performance by senior forward Doug Smith, who set a Big Eight tournament record with 92 points in three games and was named MVP.
The strangest development of the weekend was the departure of Ramos, who had transferred to Nebraska from Central Florida Community College, which is where he ended up after clashing with the University of Florida coaching staff in January 1989. At a team breakfast on Friday morning, Nee criticized Ramos for having ordered two filet mignon dinners at a restaurant the night before, and Ramos got up and left angrily. He didn't return for any of the Cornhuskers' three tournament games, and at week's end his status for the NCAA tournament was in doubt.
"I told the team I felt bad," said Nee. "I felt unsuccessful with Jose in that the things I said caused him to be so upset. He's got a temper. So do I."
So do Orr and Stewart, who verbally sparred before the tournament. Said Orr: "It would be an embarrassing thing to the league if Missouri wins." ( Orr must have been doubly upset when the Tigers beat his Cyclones 97-81 in the first round.)