By Kieran Darcy
Page 2

Seen the ads for "Knight School" yet? Bob Knight, reality TV star. Hasn't he already been one for years?

But there's a Division I coach out there who's done better than star in a reality TV show. He starred in a real TV show. That's right, boys and girls. I'm talkin' 'bout Reggie Theus. And I'm talkin' 'bout "Hang Time."

Those of you who never saw it, too bad. I'm not embarrassed to say I watched it ... on occasion. "Hang Time" was a Saturday morning sitcom that followed in the hallowed footsteps of "Saved By the Bell" and "California Dreams." It revolved around a high school boys basketball team with a female point guard -- and for the first three years of the show, Theus played coach Bill Fuller. (He was replaced by that immortal acting icon, Dick Butkus.)

Reggie Theus
AP
Reggie Theus can coach, on TV and in real life.

Yeah, the show was ultra-cheesy. The team played in a gym the size of a large closet. The rims must have been about six feet tall the way everyone was throwing down dunks. And the issues the show dealt with were straight out of an after-school special.

So what? The blonde point guard was pretty cute. Anthony Anderson played a team member -- he's gone on to play some decent comedy film roles. And the coach was Reggie Theus, former NBA All-Star.

Theus is coaching in reality now, trying to rebuild the program at New Mexico State. The Aggies haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999, and they went 6-24 last season. But in his first season, Theus has the Aggies at a respectable 5-5 in the WAC after a loss to first-place Nevada on Thursday night.

It's the perfect time for a "Hang Time" DVD release, don't you think?

PHYS. ED.

Marcus Slaughter was born on March 18, 1985. That means he was 7 and 8 years old when Michigan's Fab Five went to (and lost) two consecutive national championship games. Slaughter admits he doesn't remember much about watching the Fab Five back then. He does remember the baggy shorts and black socks.

Marcus Slaughter
AP
Marcus Slaughter and the Aztecs are driving towards the Big Dance.

But by the time Slaughter was deciding what college to play for, he knew much more about that team and its coach, Steve Fisher. By then, Fisher happened to be coaching at San Diego State -- a school far enough (1½ hours away) from Slaughter's Riverside, Calif., hometown to give him a true college experience, but close enough that his dad could come see him play.

It was a perfect fit.

Now Slaughter is trying to lead San Diego State to its first NCAA Tournament since 2002. The 6-8, 223-pound junior forward is averaging 17.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. This past week he posted 25 points and 11 boards in an 85-81 win at Colorado State, and 16 points and 15 boards in a 61-51 win over Air Force. The Aztecs (16-6, 9-1) have won eight games in a row, their longest winning streak in 22 years, and lead UNLV by 1½ games in the Mountain West Conference.

"We're on a roll right now, and we want to keep it going," says Slaughter. "We want to ride it till the wheels fall off."

Slaughter, who had a 20-point, 20-rebound game against UNLV earlier this season, is a tough matchup because of his combination of strength and quickness -- he can outmuscle smaller players but drive past bigger ones. Fisher believes his biggest strengths are his rebounding ability -- "He just has a knack for knowing where the ball is, he can smell it off the glass" -- and his free-throw shooting (79.3 percent this season). "If he continues to progress the way he has with us, he'll have an opportunity [at the next level]," Fisher says.

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Slaughter also has a nice supporting cast, particularly guard Brandon Heath (17.8 ppg) and 6-10 forward Mohamed Abukar (13.1 ppg). Abukar, a transfer from Florida, wasn't eligible to play until Dec. 27 -- and Slaughter missed three games in December with a sprained MCL in his left knee. With both of them on the court (which prohibits teams from double-teaming Slaughter), the Aztecs have lost only once (at Air Force, 65-62). That has given them a ton of confidence going into the home stretch of the season -- even if they aren't getting much national recognition.

"I knew coming in [that] San Diego State doesn't have the biggest name," Slaughter says. "But in due time, we'll get everything we deserve. You've got to win to get the accolades."

SCIENCE

Georgetown coach John Thompson III deserves a lot of credit for the Hoyas' 61-58 comeback victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The Hoyas struggled in the first half, falling behind by 15. Pittsburgh center Aaron Gray was the primary culprit -- he scored 15 points in the first half. So in the second half Thompson switched to a matchup zone on defense; on offense, he used 6-9 forward Jeff Green up top at the point, to draw Gray away from the basket. The moves worked -- Gray went scoreless in the second half, and Georgetown stormed back and scored a big victory.

MATH

I know Notre Dame finally notched a victory on Wednesday, 90-63 over Rutgers. But still, ND's run prior to that game is worth noting.

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Check out ESPN.com's College Hoops index for everything you'd want to know about the game.

Before their win against Rutgers, Notre Dame (11-10, 2-8) had lost its previous five games ... by a total of 11 points: By 2 at Marquette; by 3 vs. Georgetown; by 2 vs. Villanova; by 1 at West Virginia; and by 3 at Louisville. And that's not all -- check out the margins by which ND lost in its other five losses: by 3 at Pittsburgh; by 4 vs. Michigan; by 6 vs. Syracuse; by 6 at DePaul; and by 13 vs. NC State.

Can't help but feel sorry for the Fighting Irish, after they've lost so many close games. Hard to believe a team with that kind of talent could miss its conference tournament, but the Irish will have to finish strong over their last six games to crack the top 12 in the Big East.

LANGUAGE

Darius Washington Jr.
AP
Darius Washington wants the ball in his hands at crunch time.

After Memphis' 84-79 win over Rice on Saturday -- a game in which Darius Washington Jr. hit two critical free throws with 25.4 seconds left, despite fans taunting him by waving tissues and chanting "Cry baby" -- Washington said (according to the Associated Press):

"You make those shots and the fans have no say-so. And if there comes a point where I can do it, I'll do it. I still want to take those."

Washington's failure at the free-throw line in last season's Conference USA championship game has been well-documented. Nevertheless, it's nice to see him knock down those shots and display such confidence.

Don't you want to see Washington step up to the foul line with an NCAA Tournament game on the line next month? I do. Bet he knocks 'em down, too.

RECESS
Other thoughts from games I watched this past week:

• Sooners-Jayhawks did turn out to be better than Steelers-Seahawks. And boy is Kansas coming on strong. Six wins in a row, 13 out of 15. Can't wait for Kansas at Texas, Feb. 25.

• Speaking of the Fab Five, I went to my first Knicks game of the season Tuesday night and got to watch former Wolverine Jalen Rose fail to get the ball inbounds with 2.2 seconds left and the Knicks down by 1. He even pulled a Webber -- he motioned for a timeout even though the Knicks had none remaining, but the ref whistled him for a five-second call instead. It's so much fun being a Knicks fan.

• Never thought I'd see Kevin Pittsnogle get shut out this season -- but he shot 0-of-12 against Pittsburgh on Thursday night, including 0-of-6 from 3-point range. Speaks volumes about Pitt's defense. But the fact that the Mountaineers lost by only four is actually a good sign for West Virginia.

HISTORY

No one pays much attention to the teams in the West Coast Conference -- besides Gonzaga, of course. But if you take a look at the standings, the second-place team in the WCC right now is Loyola Marymount, at 7-2. Yes, the Lions are 10-13 overall, and they don't pose much of a threat to Adam Morrison and company. But it's still nice to see LMU having some success again.

In fact, the 7-2 WCC record is LMU's best conference start since the fateful 1989-90 season, when LMU set the Division I team scoring record by averaging 122.4 points per game and ran all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual national champion UNLV, 131-101. But that season will forever be remembered for what happened during the WCC tournament.

LMU, the No. 1 seed, beat Gonzaga in the quarterfinals 121-84. In its semifinal game against Portland, with the Lions leading 23-13, Hank Gathers -- the nation's leading scorer and rebounder the previous season -- went in for a dunk. On his way back down the court, Gathers collapsed and died of a heart condition. He was just 23 years old.

The rest of the WCC tournament was canceled. LMU was awarded the league's automatic bid. And the Lions went on that great NCAA run in honor of their fallen teammate, with Bo Kimble shooting his first free throw of every game left-handed in tribute (Gathers struggled at the free-throw line so much that he shot his foul shots left-handed for a time). Kimble sank all four.

Alex Rodriguez
AP
(Expletive deleted.)

ART

I'm a Yankees fan. And I'm not a Duke hater -- I'm not a Duke fan, but I don't harbor the extreme disdain for the Blue Devils that so many college hoops fans seem to.

And yet, this picture from Saturday makes me sick to my stomach for some reason. So think how people who hate the Yankees and the Blue Devils must feel. 'Nuff said.

ENGLISH

All the reminiscing about Loyola Marymount has made me want to find a copy of "For You Hank", Bo Kimble's 1992 book about his friendship with Hank Gathers. For those who don't know, Kimble and Gathers didn't play together only at Loyola Marymount. They played high school ball together in Philadelphia and went to USC together before transferring to LMU.

For a bonus selection, I'll recommend "Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story", if you can get your hands on a copy. Yes, it's a TV movie, and it's a tad cheesy -- but I bet you can't turn it off.

CLASS PARTICIPATION

Got a lot of e-mail regarding last week's column. Incidentally, you voted for the Campbell Fighting Camels as your favorite animal team nickname, followed by the St. Louis Billikens and the UC Irvine Anteaters. A couple quick things:

• Camels, apparently, do fight. Several readers informed me that camel fights are staged both in Ephesus (Turkey) and Douz (Tunisia), and perhaps in other places as well. (Note to editor: How 'bout sending me to one of these?)

• I'm well aware of the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, all you "Pulp Fiction" fans. They would've made my list -- except my list was limited to Division I basketball teams.

• Memphis fans stuffed my in-box complaining about my "slamming" of Rodney Carney. People, I did no such thing. First of all, I was criticizing his coach's comments, not Carney. Second of all, I actually enjoy watching Carney play. Always have. I've seen him several times in person, including earlier this season against Duke. And I think he could be a very good NBA player.

But again, John Calipari said of Carney, compared to Redick and Morrison, "He shoots the ball the same as they do. His numbers are the same for his career." As the numbers I presented last week show, that's simply not true.

Let's move on to this week's poll question. Who is your favorite TV show basketball coach? Please vote in the poll at the top right of this page.

And remember, please send me questions for next week's column, or nominations for the different subject categories. You can e-mail me here.

Now, here are a couple of the questions I received in the past week:

Chris Lofton
AP
Chris Lofton and Tennessee have far exceeded expectations up to this point.

Tennessee is the most surprising team in D-I this season. What are their chances of making a run at the Elite Eight or further?
-- Travis, Knoxville

You could make a case for the Vols being the biggest surprise in D-I. Bruce Pearl has turned things around very quickly in Knoxville. They've got a chance to get there, Travis, but I don't see them going quite so far. I think their lack of NCAA Tournament experience (the Vols haven't been there since 2001) could hurt them. Tell you what, though -- even a spot in the Sweet Sixteen would be quite an accomplishment.

Kieran, I need a roommate, and you're the only guy that watches as much college hoops as me. I live in downtown Indy, within walking distance of NCAA headquarters, the Big Ten Tourney and the Final Four. What do you say?
-- Kurt, Indianapolis

I say you're scaring me, Kurt. Never thought the Report Card would make this necessary, but I might need to obtain a restraining order.

Unless you have tickets to the Final Four...

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
UCLA at Washington (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC -- but check local listings): Suddenly, the Huskies (6-5 in the Pac-10) desperately need a quality win.

West Virginia at Georgetown (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court): Who would have thought this game would be so pivotal in the Big East regular-season race?

UConn at Villanova (Monday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN): The first of two clashes between these two titans this month -- can't wait.

Michigan State at Iowa (Tuesday, 9:05 p.m. ET, ESPN): The winner gets a big leg up in the Big Ten race.

Kieran Darcy is an editor at ESPN.com and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him at kieran.d.darcy@espn3.com.




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