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COLLEGE BASKETBALL | 2003-04

Small Sacrifices

Division III Redlands dreams of upset as it plays host to problem-plagued Villanova

November 20, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

It wouldn't quite be Chaminade beating Virginia.

It would be like David beating Goliath, only Goliath has a stress fracture in his left heel and has been in NCAA trouble over improper use of a telephone access code.

Villanova, a one-time NCAA champion, is playing the University of Redlands on Saturday morning in the Bulldogs' 930-seat Currier Gym.

Throw in a madcap schedule -- Villanova will open its season against Temple in Philadelphia at 12:01 a.m. Friday, play Redlands at 10 a.m. Saturday, then fly to Hawaii to play Chaminade in the Maui Invitational at 2 p.m. Monday -- and maybe, just maybe, Redlands has a chance to win.

"I guess I would have to admit I have dreamt of that," said Redlands Coach Gary Smith, who is in his 33rd season at the school. "It would be incredible, almost unbelievable."

It wouldn't match Chaminade over Virginia in 1982, when a Virginia team led by Ralph Sampson was ranked No. 1 in the nation when it was upset by Chaminade, then an 800-student NAIA school.

But anyone who would like to see the game better already have a ticket. It is sold out, with a top ticket price of $10 because Redlands decided not to gouge its loyal fans. It's not unheard of for a Division I team to play a Division III team, but not at the Division III team's gym.

Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy, for one, would like to be there.

His son Baker is a redshirt freshman for Villanova who will be making his college debut, but the Clippers are playing in Minnesota on Saturday.

"I was hoping that the schedule would permit it, but it doesn't," Dunleavy said.

The game came about because Villanova -- still facing suspensions after 12 players were penalized for misuse of a university telephone access code last season -- scheduled games against two Division III schools, Claremont-Mudd and Redlands, on the way to Hawaii, hoping to knock off a couple of games of player penalties.

But Villanova and Temple, struggling to find a date and time to play their traditional rivalry game, ended up settling on Nov. 21, the first day the NCAA allows regular-season games other than certain tournaments.

Villanova responded by canceling its Nov. 21 game with Claremont-Mudd but keeping the Redlands game.

After arriving in California on Friday, the Villanova players will at least be able to get a good night's sleep before the Saturday morning game.

"I think both games will be pretty hard," Baker Dunleavy said. "I think Coach [Jay Wright] has really emphasized how tough a game this is, telling us even though they're Division III, don't buy into the hype we should crush them or are that much superior. We're treating them like any other opponent, scouting them, treating them like a Big East team."

His father won't be there, but Dunleavy's mother, Emily, and younger brother James will be.

"It's going to be fun because the crowd is right on top of you and you can really feel the energy, as opposed to a 15,000-seat arena where the whole upper deck is empty," Dunleavy said.

He can only hope there won't be the kind of energy that fuels an upset. Villanova, winner of the 1985 NCAA championship and picked seventh in the Big East this year, will be without four players because of the phone scandal, and center Jason Fraser is expected to miss the game because of a stress fracture in his left heel.

With only two players over 6 feet 6, Redlands would figure to be at a height disadvantage.

"You would think height would be a factor, but I think a bigger factor than height will be speed -- how fast they run and how high they jump," said Smith, whose team is led by Billy Shivers, Kai Lyles and Andrew Alhadeff. Redlands averaged 102 points a game last season but went 10-15.

"It's going to be a real challenge for us," Smith said.

*

Times staff writer Jerry Crowe contributed to this report.

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