This weekend, while basketball fans shriek and cry for the Wildcats of Kentucky, the Warriors of Marquette and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, some of us will be espousing the cause of the pussycats of Weber State.
That's Weber State, as in Dick Motta. Give me a "W." Give me an "E". Give me a "B", and so one, through 10 letters, until the purple-and-white gang coached by Neil McCarthy receives the proper attention.
Weber State plays Arkansas Saturday in Eugene, Ore., in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Arkansas is 28-3 and one of the most balleyhooed teams in the round of 32.McCarthy's Wildcats from Ogden, Utah, are 19 and 9. They are a 12-point underdog in the Las Vegas line.
Take the points.
I suggest this because last year at this time a fellow tout whom I thought to be a little tetched in the head strongly recommended that I partake of Idaho State against UCLA.You may remember what happened. The team from the Big Sky Conference fell in on the boys from Star City.
Now, this same fellow is wild about Weber State; not to beat Arkansas but to stay close and to cover the dandy dozen points being offered.
Still, I had to call John Peterson before going through with the gamble. i wanted the school's sports information director to confirm (1) There is a Weber State; (2) There is an Ogden, Utah, and (3), most important, that Bruce Collins is as talented as my friends insist he is.
Peterson picked up the phone.
"Bruce is a 6-5 sophomore from that area known so widely for the wealth of good basketball players it has produced," he began. "He is from Rock Springs, Wyo., where they probably play on gravel outdoors. We have another player, Richard Smith, our seven-foot center, who is also from the big time. He is out of Green River, Wyo."
The geography sounded a little strange, but I sure like the size of the players being mentioned.
"Don't go overboard," Peterson cautioned. "We probably match up well with Arkansas on the front line. They are 6-11, 6-8 and 6-7. We're just about as big. Our trouble probably is in the back court. We're 6-2, and 6-foot while they're 6-4 and can jump like crazy.
"Frankly, if we were to win, it would be the greatest upset since David slew you-know-who. We have only a 10-man roster. Eight play. The starting team is four sophomores and one junior. We thought we were a year away from all this and it looked like that when we finished third in our eight-team league this season.
"But we kept getting better. Then we went up to Montana for the playoffs. We beat Idaho State; then we beat Montana, which had beaten us twice. We were behind them by eight points, tied them in overtime and won by seven, 62-55."
Sic 'em, you Weber Wildcats, Arkansas, for all its hogging of national publicity, has played rather commonly at times.
Weber State is another example of the fact that excellent high school talent is produced in every section of the country. SO much so that the 40 most famous fast-break factories cannot keep the situation under control. A medium-sized school now has a chance to attain national prominence with the players Phelps doesn't dig and the crumbs Crum can't collect.
I will also string along this weekend with Louisville, San Francisco and Furman. Louisville is a five-point favorite over overrated St. John's, while San Francisco is a four-point underdog to a tired North Carolina, and Furman is rated 5 1/2 points inferior to Indiana's late rush.
Other games find Duke 10 over Rhode island, Penn 2 1/2 over St. Bonaventure, Villanova 2 1/2 over La Salle, Utah five over Missouri, Notre Dame two over Houston, De Paul six over Creighton, Michigan State five over Providence, Syracuse 8 1/2 over Western kentucky, Marquette 10 over Miami of Ohio, Kentucky five over Florida State, UCLA seven over Kansas and New Mexico 12 over Fullerton State.
The Vegas future book lists Kentucky 2 to 1 to the championship followed by UCLA at 3 to 1, Marquette 4 to 1, Duke 5 to 1, North Carolina and New Mexico both 6 to 1, Notre Dame, De Paul, Michigan State and Louisville all 8 to 1 and Florida State and Indiana both 10 to 1.
I asked for a price on Weber State. The linemaker laughed. So I took New Mexico and DePaul, for reasons to be explained next week. That's taking for granted, of course, that New Mexico and DePaul, for reasons to be explained next week. That's taking for granted, of course, that New Mexico and DePaul will still be in the Tournament.