SI Vault
 
The Mighty Have Fallen
Alexander Wolff
December 06, 1993
Top-ranked North Carolina stumbled in the NIT, paving the way for a Kansas victory
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 06, 1993

The Mighty Have Fallen

Top-ranked North Carolina stumbled in the NIT, paving the way for a Kansas victory

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

If the 6-foot Vaughn is an anomaly because he's such a mature freshman, 7-foot Jayhawk junior Greg Ostertag is the reverse—an upperclassman who's reluctant to grow up. With his buzz-cut coif and the double zero on his uniform, he looks at first glance like a mad scientist's sloppy cloning of Montross. "The worst thing about Greg is, he causes problems for both teams," says Williams, alluding to Ostertag's suspect stamina and his habit of having freshly plucked rebounds stolen away. But Ostertag blocked 17 shots in four games in the NIT, and while he's not yet Bill Walton at the offensive end—a hopeful Williams had shown him a video of the UCLA great knocking in 21 of 22 shots against Memphis State in the 1973 NCAA title game—he is coming along.

Circumstances have helped the maturing process. Ostertag and Heidi Beale, the academic-support employee assigned to make sure he attended class, didn't overlook the extracurriculars, which led to their June wedding and a son, Cody, who turned 14 weeks last Saturday. Despite foul trouble limiting him to 14 minutes against UMass, Ostertag had 12 rebounds, two blocks and 13 points, including two on a game-clinching, fast-break dunk off a nifty feed from Vaughn.

The heroics of Vaughn and Ostertag only help to illustrate Williams's achievements since he arrived in Lawrence five years ago. He has won more games in his first five seasons than any coach other than North Carolina State legend Everett Case. But unlike Williams, Case didn't have the handicap of taking over a team with scholarship restrictions because it was on NCAA probation.

Williams is able to rebuild his teams in a hurry because his subs get a lot of experience. He believes a team develops depth not by recruiting it, but by playing its players—a philosophy he shares with Smith. "The depth we've talked so much about was tested with our foul trouble tonight," said Smith after the upset by UMass. "Thank god this is November and not March or April."

North Carolina can further console itself with the knowledge that of the previous eight winners of the Preseason NIT, none went on to win an NCAA crown. So maybe this year's tournament wasn't one the Heels should have won but one they couldn't win and still fulfill their destiny.

1 2