Tuesday, February 23, 1999

C-USA NOTEBOOK


Spoonhour's rumor: Retirement

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A last game in Birmingham, Ala., then an appearance in the Conference USA tournament as a “dangerous opponent.” Not a serious contender? This does not seem to be the way Charlie Spoonhour would want to end his career as Saint Louis coach.

        There are reports Spoonhour is considering retirement, but he says it's nothing different than he does at this point every year. Spoonhour does not want this to be a big deal, because if he does continue, he does not want his status to be an issue in recruiting.

        “It's something I think about every year. There's nothing profound going on with me,” Spoonhour said. “If you're going to coach, you have to be 100 percent committed. It's a demanding job, and you owe it to the kids.”

        The Billikens, 14-14 entering their final regular-season game Saturday at UAB, are finishing a year that began badly when All-American Larry Hughes entered the NBA draft after his freshman year and grew worse when shooting guard Justin Love injured his back in preseason practice. They defeated Kansas, Cincinnati, Louisville and UNC Charlotte and still may not play in the NIT.

        One reason this rumor is hot is that if Spoonhour were to leave, Saint Louis would be a coveted job. There is talent in place — Love, center Matt Baniak and point guard recruit Marque Perry provide a solid nucleus — and outstanding support from the city's basketball fans.

        However, the fact the Billikens might be able to move forward next season could be the factor that keeps Spoonhour from departing.

        AU REVOIR: Tulane is scheduled to say goodbye to its unusual, cramped pit of a gym — the Fogelman Arena — following Wednesday's game against Memphis.

        The rest of C-USA will say good riddance.

        “I anticipate us moving,” coach Perry Clark said. “They're still negotiating contracts. If you know anything about Louisiana politics, it's not done 'til it's done.”

        Next season, Tulane is planning to play in a 20,000-seat downtown arena. It will be a challenge to draw crowds given the depressed state of the program, but some may be motivated by the chance to enjoy big-time college basketball in a big-time setting.

        With room for 3,600 fans and almost no parking, Fogelman was a poor excuse for an arena, perhaps the worst of all high-major homecourts. Whereas it exuded some degree of charm when those seats were filled, its deficiencies became more obvious as crowds dwindled the past two seasons.

        Tulane beat a Top 25 team each of Clark's first eight years — a streak broken last year — and most came in Fogelman.

        “Since they remodeled it a few years ago, it's a lot nicer,” said Louisville coach Denny Crum. “They even have a locker room for the visitors.”

        ON GUARD? It may be difficult for UC guard Melvin Levett not to look past Thursday's South Florida game to Saturday's Memphis matchup.

        Sunday, Marquette's John Cliff scorched the Tigers for 37 points. It was the second consecutive game in which an opposing shooting guard went for 30 — Saint Louis' Love had 33. Four opposing guards have scored 30 or more against the Tigers, and 15 have topped 20 points.

        THE PETER PRINCIPLE: UC forward Pete Mickeal became the third Bearcat named C-USA player of the week. He averaged 25.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and .670 shooting from the field in victories over UNC Charlotte and Louisville.

        AROUND THE LEAGUE: UAB has a 5-0 road record in the National Division, but lost three games to division teams at home (South Florida, Memphis, Tulane). Those defeats won't help an NCAA bid.

        • UNC Charlotte guard Galen Young scored nine points in a win over South Florida. He had scored in double figures in each of his previous 25 games, the only C-USA player to do that.

        • Seven of DePaul's nine losses have been against teams that were ranked at one point this season. The Blue Demons can make it eight out of 10 when they play No.1 Duke at the United Center on Wednesday. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. A sell-out crowd of 21,000-plus would be the largest ever for a DePaul home game.

        • If you think Louisville center Alex Sanders' 5-of-19 effort Sunday and 14-of-54 shooting in the past five games against UC had something to do with his fear of the Bearcats, consider he was 26-of-35 from the field in the four games before visiting the Shoemaker Center.

        • Conference USA has five teams in the RPI top 52 and no team lower than 148. Last season at this point, three of its members were ranked 195 or higher.

        • UC was the only league school with a signed recruit who made the McDonald's All-America team, in 6-foot-2 guard Kenny Satterfield of New York City. DerMarr Johnson, a 6-9 forward from Maine Central Institute who is considering UC and UNCC, also made the squad.

       



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