Thursday, December 09, 1999

Great Eight may be on last legs


The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This could be the last time the UC Bearcats play in the Great Eight. Because this may be the last Great Eight.

        ESPN and Raycom run the event as partners, with the operational assistance of the United Center and Chicago Bulls staff. With the event not owning an exemption for the 2000-01 season — meaning games played here don't count against a school's 27-game limit — officials are wondering whether they'll be able to keep it going.

        The Great Eight had to hustle to get its exemption for this year's event.

        Although UC probably would welcome any invitation to return because of its difficulty in scheduling games against elite opponents, it would have to sacrifice guaranteed revenue from a home game.

        Some major schools without the Bearcats' scheduling problems might not be inclined to participate in the Great Eight.

        The Great Eight was conceived by ESPN before the 1994-95 season with the idea to bring together the teams that made the regional finals in the previous season's NCAA Tournament. It began without an exemption but became a more popular destination for elite teams when it received exempt status. But having an exemption means teams from the same conference cannot compete, and thus St.John's could not join Connecticut in this year's field. Four of last year's regional finalists were in this year's Great Eight.

        There also was concern about Tuesday's attendance for the Michigan State-Kansas and Arizona-UConn doubleheader. Only 14,000 attended in a building that seats 21,000.

        “We've pulled this thing out of the fire before,” ESPN programming manager Dave Brown said. “Maybe we can do it again.”

Stat stuff
        For a team that averaged 73.9 points a year ago, the Bearcats are suddenly an offensive machine.

        Entering Wednesday's game against North Carolina, they ranked 18th in the NCAA in scoring (84.6 points), 12th in scoring margin (21.0), fourth in 3-point percentage (.444) and 11th in field-goal percentage (.511). They do not rank highly in scoring defense, field-goal defense or rebound margin, typically the areas in which coach Bob Huggins' teams have excelled.

        Individually, center Kenyon Martin ranks 12th in blocks (3.6, tied with Maryland's Terence Morris and Texas' Chris Mihm), and point guard Steve Logan is 10th in 3-point percentage (.636, 14-of-22).

        North Carolina arrived in Chicago just before midnight Tuesday, after beating Buffalo in a non-conference game scheduled as a favor to assistant coach Rock Eisenberg. He previously coached Tar Heels point guard Ed Cota at Tilden High in Brooklyn, before Cota attended prep school at St.Thomas More in Connecticut. UNC trailed for 25 minutes before pulling ahead for a comfortable 91-67 victory.

        Wednesday night's game was the last of five in eight days for the Tar Heels. The string began with last Wednesday's game against Michigan State, then continued with two games over the weekend in the Food Lion MVP Classic in Charlotte.


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