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NCAA COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT | J.A. ADANDE

It's Time to Wave Goodbye to Bobby

No. 11-seeded team provides the biggest upset of the first round, and does so in convincing fashion.

March 18, 2000|J.A. ADANDE

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Pepperdine just forced us to ponder an important question:

Can a school that didn't even bring a band to the NCAA tournament have a bandwagon?

Can you tune in to a team that isn't on the radio?

Get ready to hop on the bus. In a tournament that had plenty of exciting games but few upsets, No. 11-seeded Pepperdine became the lowest-seeded team to advance to the second round by trouncing No. 6-seeded Indiana, 77-57, Friday night.

You want a team to get behind, a reason to like the Waves?

They bounced big, bad Bobby Knight out of the tournament.

Ooooh, it feels good just writing that.

Everyone knows the best way to stop the bully is to bully him yourself.

The Waves didn't just beat the Hoosiers, they beat them down. The Indiana players probably haven't been abused this badly since, oh, last week's practice.

The Waves were the more aggressive team, the faster team, the tougher team. Not to crash a good story or put an early halt to all the Cinderella and David metaphors, but Pepperdine was something else: the better team.

The Waves had more athletic players than Indiana. Under Coach Jan van Breda Kolff, they play smart. That's a tough combination.

By late in the second half they were toying with Indiana.

Tommie Prince was palming the ball, waving it out around out of the reach of Indiana's Kyle Hornsby before passing off, cutting to the hoop and taking the feed for the backdoor layup.

"They play a lot better than an 11 seed," said Indiana guard Michael Lewis. "They took it to us. They beat us soundly. There wasn't any time we were in the game except right before tip-off."

At the pre-tournament news conference, after Lewis finished calling former teammate Richard Mandeville an undisciplined slacker, he sniffed that "You see all these 'experts' picking Pepperdine to beat us in the first round."

He said it smugly, as if everyone who doubted the Hoosiers would get what's coming to them.

If anyone was exposed Friday, it was Indiana.

Indiana does not have more talent than Pepperdine if you take away A.J. Guyton--and that's exactly what the Waves did in the first half.

Guyton, a first-team All-American, Big Ten co-Player of the Year and Indiana's fourth all-time leading scorer, did not get off an official field-goal attempt until 1:50 remained. He didn't even get an open look at the basket. His three points came when he was fouled attempting a three-pointer and another trip to the free-throw line when Pepperdine was out of fouls. When he finally did take a shot it was a long three-pointer that clanked. His only other shot of the game was another errant three-pointer in the second half.

Guyton showed why Indiana players so rarely do well in the NBA. Like Florida quarterbacks under Steve Spurrier, their numbers are a product of the system.

With Pepperdine jumping out on the screens, sending an extra player Guyton's way when necessary, and generally just staying between him and the basket, Guyton could not create his own shots. At least not good shots.

Meanwhile, Pepperdine's Brandon Armstrong was the best player on the court. The Hoosiers couldn't cover him. He beat them inside and he beat them from long range. He had 18 points by halftime and finished with 22 points and six steals.

The Hoosiers didn't look prepared. Knight said in this television age it's easy to get plenty of tapes on anybody. (Good thing he didn't try to hear a radio broadcast; most Wave games can be heard only on the Internet). But the Waves appeared to catch the Hoosiers off guard with their defensive effort.

They had the Hoosiers looking around the corner and looking over the shoulders to see where the next Wave was coming from. The Hoosiers were so disjointed they shot 29% in the first half.

Pepperdine's defensive recovery was so quick that the Hoosiers would catch the ball in the lane or under the basket and come away with nothing but a turnover to show for it.

"I think we really shocked them," Armstrong said. "We were just out there with intensity and playing our game and they didn't know what to expect. I saw their faces just going down and I knew that was our time to attack them."

The Hoosiers didn't choke (which is a pretty sensitive word around Bloomington these days). They went one step worse: They rolled over. They made a good run to get back within 11 points midway through the second half, but then the Waves rolled off 10 in a row and Indiana went paws-up.

The Hoosier contingent tried to deny it, but there's no question the controversy about allegations that Knight grabbed a former player by the throat and committed other inappropriate and/or lewd acts had an effect. They discussed how they would handle it, they spent news conferences addressing it, so it had to have been on their minds.

Pepperdine crept in practically unnoticed.

Van Breda Kolff could barely draw anyone to his introductory news conference on Thursday. He had the misfortune of following Knight's self-love-in, and after Knight finished the reporters abandoned the room as if it were John McCain's campaign headquarters.

"I'm just wondering where all the people went," van Breda Kolff said when he sat down at the dais.

Don't worry. They'll be coming soon.

How long will they stick around?

Van Breda Kolff sounded pretty realistic. The Waves aren't talking Final Four just yet. They face a tough Oklahoma State team on Sunday, a much tougher matchup than this Indiana squad.

"We said our goal was to get to Syracuse," van Breda Kolff said, referring to the sight of the East Regional. "We have one more game to do that."

You can bet they will have a lot more people watching.

J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address of J.A.Adande@LATimes.com

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