A HALL OF A START
If you've been watching the weekly polls, you've noticed that Seton Hall has slipped in there among the usual big names. And if you live outside the shadow of the Big East, you may be wondering, what's a Seton Hall? Well, let it be known that "The Hall" is a college of 8,800 enrollment in South Orange, N.J.—and that the Pirates' sparkling 9-0 start is not even close to being the best in the school's history. The 1952-53 team won its first 27 games behind Walter Dukes, a 7-foot center who still holds the NCAA record for rebounds in a season (734 in 33 games).
The current Pirates don't have a big man nearly the equal of Dukes, but they are a well-balanced team that will be competitive in the Big East. Considering the school's more recent history, that's saying something. Because the Seton Hall administration initially didn't commit the resources to basketball that other Big East members did when the conference was formed in 1979, the Pirates quickly became the league doormat. Seton Hall never won more than four Big East games until last season's team climbed all the way to 8-8 in the conference on the way to a 22-13 record.
The turnaround came only after school officials realized they would either have to upgrade the program or get out of the league. Now the Pirates play their conference home games at the 20,149-seat Meadowlands Arena in nearby East Rutherford, a boon to recruiting quality players like John Morton, the 6'3" shooting guard. "Until now John has been overshadowed by Mark Jackson, Charles Smith and the other great guards that have been in our league," says coach P.J. Carlesimo, who is in his seventh season at Seton Hall. Asked if his Pirates are for real, Carlesimo cautions, "The Big East is so strong that we can be a very good team and still not be at the top of the league." He won't have to wait long to find out. In the first week of January, the Pirates play Georgetown at home and Syracuse on the road.
After three opponents cracked the 100-point mark against Indiana, something that had happened only once in coach Bob Knight's first 17 seasons in Bloomington, it was clear that a change was in order. So Knight went to an unorthodox three-guard lineup, with 6'1" sophomore Lyndon Jones moving from the bench to starting point guard, joining 6'2" Joe Hillman and 6'4" Jay Edwards on the perimeter. The Hoosiers have since won four in a row, improving their record to 7-4, and they had Texas-El Paso coach Don Haskins shaking his head in amazement after his Miners, 7-0 entering the game, were blown out by Indiana 81-63 in IU's Assembly Hall. "That's not the same team I saw on TV," said Haskins.
While the Hoosiers' renaissance has been noteworthy, so are the comebacks of two men sitting on the sidelines at the UTEP game. Both teams have top assistants who have returned to the game after their head-coaching careers were sullied when their programs were busted for big-time NCAA violations: IU's Tates Locke, who met his Waterloo at Clemson, and UTEP's Norm Ellenberger, whose transgressions occurred at New Mexico. Said Knight, long a leader in the crusade against cheating, "These are two guys who were really good guys, but just got caught up in the wrong things. It's nice to have them back in basketball." Ho, ho, ho, the Christmas spirit is alive in Indiana.
It was a battle of the unbeatens, but you wouldn't have known it by looking around the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., last Saturday. A crowd of only 12,354, barely half of capacity in that spacious building, showed up to see the 4-0 Volunteers play host to 4-0 South Carolina. Perhaps the no-shows had a premonition: The favored Vols blew a 14-point second-half lead and lost in overtime 83-81. At least one spectator was impressed, however. "It's amazing," said Gamecock coach George Felton. "We haven't beaten a team of Tennessee's caliber on the road in my three years here."
The Gamecocks, who figure to challenge Louisville and Florida State in the Metro, were led by guard Barry Manning, whose 20 points included three free throws in the last 30 seconds of OT. Felton also got solid contributions from Terry Dozier, who played good defense on Tennessee star Dyron Nix, and John Hudson, who had 12 rebounds to go with 19 points.