Louisville fancies itself as the defending national champion, once removed. The titlists in 1986, the Cardinals didn't receive an invitation to last year's NCAAs. Center Pervis Ellison sleepwalked through the first half of Louisville's opening-round game with Oregon State, letting Bill Sherwood, a 6'6" transfer from mighty Oglethorpe University, outscore him 14-5. Said Sherwood afterward, "If I were him and I saw me, I'd be overconfident, too." But the Cards went on to win 70-61 behind Ellison's 18 second-half points. All the Cardinals shone in a 97-76 drubbing of Brigham Young, against whom the Cards committed only six turnovers.
That performance left Ellison wondering what spoils might await a 1988 Final Four MVP. "A pair of matching boots would be nice," he said. Indeed they would be, if the Sooners don't first gouge their heels into Louisville and then into Kentucky, causing both, as they say in horse country, to spit the bit.
When Vanderbilt senior center Will Perdue fouled out with four seconds to play and his team trailing Pitt by a point, Commodores coach CM. Newton met him as he came off the floor. "Your basketball isn't over yet," said Newton.
"He's been coaching a lot longer than I've been playing," Perdue said later, "so I figured he must know something I don't." As Perdue took his seat, Charles Smith made two foul shots to put the Panthers ahead by three points. But in the ensuing four seconds, Vandy guard Barry Goheen negotiated three-quarters of the floor and let loose a three-pointer as two Panthers flew at him. It found nothing but net. Goheen wasn't through. As Perdue watched, he sank five free throws in overtime as Vanderbilt upset Pitt 80-74.
Another coach Newton, Murray State's Steve, came within a shanked 12-footer of the Sweet 16. The Racers, who ambushed North Carolina State 78-75 in Round 1, have a roster studded with hometowns like Cherry Valley, Ark., home to Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Jeff Martin, and Dyers-burg, Tenn., which produced Don Mann, Murray State's 5'8" water bug leader. No one comes from Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky., but, says Newton, "If you find it, you've been right through Murray."
Mann, whose shirttail sticks out of the bottom of his shorts, misfired on the shot that might have provided an abrupt ending to the Kansas career of Danny Manning. And in the final 37 seconds, Manning did everything necessary, including sinking the winning field goal, rebounding Mann's prayer and tossing in two foul shots to ice the 61-58 win.
Kansas State found seven of its players in the fecund Midwest junior college ranks and found its game round about Christmas. Coach Lon Kruger, who has the carriage of a first-term Republican congressman, downshifted from a full-to half-court attack and turned the team over to point guard Steve Henson, the nation's leading free throw shooter. Since the change, the Cats have gone 20-5 and beaten Oklahoma and, on Saturday, DePaul, 66-58. The Blue Demons were bamboozled by seven treys from guard Will Scott and the versatility of Mitch Richmond, who scored with dunks and from downtown.
After a 94-79 walkover against Fairleigh Dickinson, Purdue had an outstanding second half against Memphis State to nail down the Boilermakers' 100-73 win and bury any doubts that may have lingered after their early exits from the last five NCAA tournaments. "It used to get depressing around here at tournament time," said center Steve Scheffler. Used to—just as Purdue coach Gene Keady used to attend K-State. But he doesn't figure to treat his alma mater kindly in the regional semis. Vandy, meanwhile, matches up very well with Kansas, leaving the Boilermakers and the Commodores. Given that confrontation, Will Perdue? No. Purdue will.