Atlantic 10, riding on high, may need a road map soon

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

December 10, 1993|By MILTON KENT

These ought to be great times for Atlantic 10 commissioner Ron Bertovich. His conference has never had more television exposure, and two of his teams, fifth-ranked Temple and eighth-ranked Massachusetts, appear poised to make a lot of noise in the NCAA tournament.

But there is much upheaval in Bertovich's world, as the map of PTC college basketball threatens to change as much as a map of Europe.

"I don't think this is going to end for another couple of years. Thiis going to go on for quite some time," Bertovich said. Consider the following:

* The Big Eight and Southwest conferences are reportedldiscussing forming a new league that would give the Big Eight entry to the Dallas and Houston television markets, while bolstering the SWC's flagging football reputation.

* Just yesterday, the Midwestern Collegiate Conference -- with Evansville, Xavier (Ohio), La Salle, Butler, Loyola (Illinois), Detroit-Mercy and Notre Dame for everything except football and men's basketball -- gained five schools that had belonged to the Mid-Continent Conference: Northern Illinois, Wright State, Cleveland State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wisconsin-Milwaukee,

* The A-10, which was hurt by the defection of Penn State to the Big Ten three years ago, reportedly is talking to Xavier and La Salle of the MCC to replace Temple and West Virginia, who are members of the Big East for football, but are interested in joining the league for all sports.

Confused? Well, the picture becomes clearer when the reason for all the moves, college football and all its millions, is considered.

"The I-A [big-time] football schools want to be associated with I-A schools," Bertovich said. "Our I-A schools have made it clear that they would, given the chance, want to be in an all-sports conference with similar schools. We understand that. You concern yourself with things you can control. I can't deliver an all-sports conference."

Indeed, with members such as George Washington, whicdoesn't offer football, and Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which have I-AA football (a decidedly smaller-scale game), Bertovich, in the long run, can't keep all current A-10 partners happy.

But the answer isn't simple for the Big East. St. John's and Seton Hall, charter members of the conference, are resisting the football move, out of fears that they may eventually find themselves on the outside looking in, because they don't play football.

"We'll give it our best shot, regardless of what happens," Bertovich said.

Better in Texas

Life sure has changed for Texas Tech women's basketball coach Marsha Sharp since the Red Raiders beat Ohio State last April for the national championship.

For one thing, Sharp is getting noticed in a big way around Lubbock, the West Texas home of Tech.

"I went to the supermarket a while back to get some food for my poor dog, and folks started to recognize me and I had to sign autographs," Sharp said. "An hour and a half later, I left the dog-food aisle."

No one, perhaps Sharp included, expected the Red Raiders to strike a championship pose this year, what with Sheryl Swoopes, the best female player since Cheryl Miller, gone to a brief professional career in Italy and two other 1992-93 starters also graduated. But, with nine returnees and the addition of a number of junior college players, including Connie Robinson, billed as the next Swoopes, Texas Tech has risen from a preseason ranking of No. 20 to its current No. 3.

The Red Raiders have impressive victories over No. 11 Stanford and then-No. 2 Vanderbilt, when they overcame a six-point deficit in the last 1:30 to win a game that Sharp called one of the most significant in the program's history.

"Maybe that says that they were much better players than they were billed," Sharp said. "Sheryl, with all her talent, just overshadowed them, and their skills were lost in the shuffle. That [the Vanderbilt] game was really special for them."

Daddy dearest

Oh, to be a fly on the wall around the Bob Knight household come Christmas Day, when visions of flying turkey and dressing tossed in a manic rage must abound.

In case you missed it, Knight, Indiana's coach, was at the top of his game for the Hoosiers' home date with Notre Dame Tuesday. ESPN microphones caught him bellowing at a group of fans at Assembly Hall before the game, ordering them to take down a sign he found offensive.

Then, in the second half of Indiana's 101-82 win, Knight's son, Pat, had the gall to make a bad pass, whereupon the ever-gentle Poppa Knight excoriated his son in full view of the crowd and the ESPN audience during a timeout. Some unconfirmed reports said Knight actually kicked his son, but neither the coach nor his players are talking. The shocked crowd sitting around the Indiana bench booed the people-pleasin' Knight for his behavior, but that only spurred the coach to yell back.

Upset pick of the week

Go ahead. Say it. The guy with the mug adorning this column doesn't look as though he could pick a winner between the Christians and the lions. That may be true, but in 1990, that guy picked three of four teams in the Final Four, missing a fourth on a last-second shot by Christian Laettner.

With that out of the way, look for Tulane to knock off California tomorrow night in the final of the Otis Spunkmeyer Classic in Oakland, Calif. And how many correct predictions did Otis Spunkmeyer make?

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