- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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As Oklahoma, college basketball's answer to Air Coryell, barged by North Carolina A & T and Illinois State, Sooner coach Billy Tubbs kept defending his defense, but not very convincingly. "I don't know if we play D or not, but I'd like to hear what those other 30 teams we beat were playin'," Tubbs said. More to the point: "We want to be the worst defensive team ever to win the NCAA. Nobody can hold the ball against us."
Even Tisdale, whose picturesque turn-around shots and chest-thumping slams earned him 29 points on 14-of-16 shooting against ISU, joined in the party fun line. "We have ways to get teams out of slowdowns," said the Sooner junior. "We let them score so we can get the ball back." Against the dark horse (accent on the horse) from Louisiana Tech, however, Oklahoma will get all the competition it wants. And both teams know it, having gotten acquainted in Oklahoma's 84-72 victory on Dec. 30, a game in which Tisdale shot a career-worst three for 16. If he repeats that display in Dallas, Wayman can sign his early pro contract immediately; the Sooners will be finished.
Louisiana Tech, out of the Southland Conference and featuring Karl (Mailman) Malone, no longer has to play second banana to the school's Lady Techsters. Not after crushing Pittsburgh and Ohio State. The Dunkin' Dogs' frenzied supporters, one of whom was decked out in full letter-carrier regalia, chanted "Big East, Big Deal; Big Ten, Big Deal." In fact, when the bangathon between the 6'9", 250-pound Malone and the 6'7½" 250-pound Tisdale is over, Louisiana Tech should emerge the winner. Of course, center Willie Simmons, he of the Kareem-like hook and goggles, has to help check Tisdale so guard Wayne Smith can probe the fissures in the Oklahoma zone trap that gave the Sooners a huge early lead in the teams' first meeting. Smith, 6'4", is rangy enough to contain the Sooners' explosive Anthony Bowie as well. When the Okies can't break and Tisdale is bottled up, Wayman and the boys are just another squad of jumpshooters. Those are hefty suppositions but coach Andy Russo, out of New Trier High in Winnetka, Ill., where Charlton Heston matriculated, is a master planner. Tisdale-Malone will be a chariot race, and Ben-Hur won most of those.
The Oklahoma-Louisiana Tech winner in Dallas is more likely to face Memphis State than upstart Boston College. (Eagle alumni: You should have paid those Cotton Bowl parking tickets.) But wait a minute. While BC coach Gary Williams stalked the sideline like a candidate for a straitjacket, his preposterous band of overachieving no-star prep "teammates"—Dominic Pressley was a high school teammate of Duke's Johnny Dawkins, Roger McCready played with St. John's Chris Mullin—narrowly nailed both Texas Tech and Duke with their brand of uglyball. "That's just the way we play," said Williams. "If the ball's on the floor it's our game." McCready scored 20 points against what he called Duke's "soft" front line, and Adams followed up his game winner against Tech by stroking the Blue Devils for 19. Oh yes, senior Mark Schmidt, who is an unknown even on the Eagles, put together a career stat line—zero points, three steals, three rebounds and one fall, the one across David Henderson's ankle which put the Duke sixth man out for all but two minutes of the second half. While Blue Devils Dawkins and Tommy Amaker brick-laid themselves into Hades, BC made every big play down the stretch of the 74-73 upset.
Can the mean-street Eagles do it to Memphis State? "Pinocchio, you're a real boy now," cracked a doubting Charles Pierce of The Boston Herald. But wait another minute. Williams must have recognized from the Tigers' sloppy-lucky, 67-66 overtime victory over Alabama-Birmingham that the weak defense and overall laziness of Memphis State's Keith Lee (28 points despite fouling out) can be exploited. The Tigers don't like to play too hard for too long, and BC's scrappy dead-enders are just UAB all over again, only smarter and smaller, without Jerome (Grace Jones, we hardly knew ye) Mincy. Skateboarder Adams would never have dribbled into a tie-up violation the way the Blazers' Steve Mitchell did against Memphis at the end of regulation; he might have thrown the ball into the scoreboard, but he would have gotten a shot off.
Nonetheless, Memphis's Andre Turner, whose jumper in OT saved the Tigers, is Adams's sprinting equal, and Memphis should wake up in time to win once more. But it is staggering into Dallas. Somebody else will stagger out. By special delivery, Louisiana Tech.
The last four winners of the West regional have been imports from the East, and don't be surprised if the results from Denver make it a nifty 5 for 5, or stunned if the winner is coached by a wisecracker of Italian heritage who sounds suspiciously as if he might be from Noo Yawk.
Jim Valvano of North Carolina State arrived in Albuquerque last week and abruptly kneeled and kissed the ground where his team won the 1983 national championship. "It was unrehearsed," he insisted. "I cut my lip."