In addition to the surprising play of the Hoosiers in Bloomington (page 42) the state of Indiana has two other Division I teams that have won regular-season conference titles and are looking forward to getting some recognition in the NCAAs. Ball State has the nation's best winning percentage, .926 (25-2), and quite likely the biggest coach, Rick Majerus, who weighs more than 300 pounds. Earlier this season, in discussing his 7'1" reserve center, junior Roman Muller, Majerus said, "When I recruited him in high school, he was 6'10" and about 170 pounds. He weighed about as much as my thigh. Any self-respecting cannibal would have rejected him."
But Majerus wouldn't, and by bringing in Muller, Shawn Parrish and Billy Butts from the juco ranks along with transfers Curtis Kidd and Paris McCurdy (both from Arkansas-Little Rock), he has turned a team that went 14-14 last season into the Mid-American Conference champion. The Cardinals have no single offensive star—nobody averages more than 14 points—but they're tough on defense, having held 12 opponents to less than 40% shooting.
Evansville, which is 23-4 and champion of the much improved Midwestern Collegiate Conference, also relies on a slick transfer and sticky defense. The D is no surprise considering that coach Jim Crews spent 12 years as a player and assistant under Bob Knight. The Purple Aces' trump card is guard Scott Haffner, a transfer from Illinois whose 24.2 average led the conference in regular-season scoring and who earned national recognition for his 65-point outburst against Dayton on Feb. 18. "Until this season he was basically a three-point shooter," says Crews. "But now he drives more, cuts more to get the open 15-footer and shoots more free throws."
Officials in both the Mid-American and the Midwestern Collegiate conferences probably wouldn't be too angry if their regular-season champs were upset in this week's conference tournaments. That way each league might squeeze a second team into the NCAA field—and pick up another share of tournament money. With their strong records, Ball State and Evansville seem to be shooins, even if they fail to get the automatic bid that comes with winning their conference tournaments. "We're looking forward to the NCAAs," says Crews, no doubt speaking for Majerus as well, "and we're expecting to compete, not just to get in it."
RELIEF, AT LAST
The end couldn't come soon enough for George Washington coach John Kuester and his players. With a 74-63 loss to Duquesne in Saturday's opening round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Colonials finished 1-27 and tied the NCAA record for most losses in a season. However, only one of the other three teams that share the record—U.S. International in 1984-85—ended up 1-27. Washington State was 6-27 in 1952-53, and Pacific went 3-27 in 1983-84.
"I'm happy that it's finally over," said senior forward Max Blank. "It's been like a nightmare from the beginning. I wouldn't wish what's happened to us on my worst enemy."
The Colonials' troubles began in their third game, when forward Brian Royal was sidelined with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury. Eleven days later guard Ellis McKennie, the team's leading scorer last season, went down for the year with a stress fracture in his right foot. Blank, who was plagued throughout his career by knee troubles, was limited all season by a hamstring injury. To top things off, Kuester suspended McKennie and guards Frank Williams and Ricardos Smith on Feb. 10 for allegedly using meal coupons in the school cafeteria after they had accepted meal money from the athletic department. Their futures at the school are in doubt.
The injuries and suspensions left Kuester with only seven healthy scholarship players, forcing him to add two walk-ons to the roster. Somehow Kuester has kept his sense of humor. "One story sums the season up," he said. "Up at Temple we were having a terrible time with their press. I sent two kids to the scorers' table to check in. Just as they got there, one of our kids made a spin move to get away from a trap. He turned, saw Clint Holtz standing at the table and threw him the ball."