Perhaps the No. 1 beneficiary is LSU, which moved into undisputed possession of second place, half a game behind Tennessee, after an 80-76 win over Alabama. With freshman sensation Chris Jackson and senior forward Ricky Blanton providing a 1-2 punch that is averaging more than 50 points a game, the Tigers may yet turn out to be the league's best hope for redemption when tournament time arrives.
The Columbia Missourian, published by the journalism school at Missouri, last week scooped the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on a story involving one of the Post-Dispatch's own reporters. According to the Missourian, chancellor Haskell Monroe is investigating a complaint from Post-Dispatch managing editor David Lipman that coach Norm Stewart threatened Tiger beat man Jim Thomas after Stewart's weekly news conference on Jan. 4.
Thomas, in his fourth year of covering the team, told the Missourian that Stewart took him aside to complain that recent articles were hurting him and his staff. At one point, according to Thomas, Stewart said, "I know some people who can take care of your one-year-old," referring to Thomas's infant son, whom the coach had seen with Thomas's wife earlier in the day.
Thomas reported the incident to his editors, which resulted in Lipman's written complaint to the Missouri chancellor. Yet the Post-Dispatch waited until Sunday to print a story about the incident. "We printed the story when we felt we should print the story," says Lipman.
In the Missourian story, Stewart denied making any remarks to Thomas that could be construed as a threat, admitting only, "I asked him why he wanted to hurt me." In December the newspaper had published three articles by Thomas and Jeff Gordon in which coaches from Detroit-area colleges questioned Missouri assistant Rich Daly's tactics in the recruiting of seven players—five on the current Tiger team and two who have signed letters of intent for next season.
IT'S IN THE CARDS
When asked before the season about his Louisville team's high ranking, coach Denny Crum said. "It's always the same. We open the season ranked high. Then we lose a couple and drop out of sight. Everybody wonders what's wrong with us, but we're just working to be the best we can be by the end of the season."
The Cardinal coach was right on the button. When his team lost its first two games, to Xavier and Vanderbilt, it plunged in the polls. But after Saturday's 92-74 dismantling of UNLV at Freedom Hall, the Cards have a 13-game winning streak and plenty of fans who are talking about going to Seattle for the Final Four.
Not to take anything away from 6'9" senior center Pervis Ellison, who burned the Runnin' Rebels with 28 points, 10 of 11 from the field, seven rebounds, four blocks and three steals, but the Cards' main asset is depth. Crum can choose among 10 players without losing anything from his running, pressing, never-let-up attack. The Cards are getting 24.9 points a game from their bench and have been outscored only twice by opponents' reserves.