About three miles south of the spotlight, two teams languished in newly acquired obscurity today.
While Duke and Louisville displayed precious smiles and entertained questions in news conferences, Louisiana State and Kansas were across town preparing to watch someone else play for the NCAA tournament championship at Reunion Arena. Their arduous and sometimes improbable progress to the Final Four halted there Saturday, LSU losing to Louisville, 88-77, and Kansas falling to top-ranked Duke, 71-67.
Both the Jayhawks (35-4) and the Bayou Bengals (26-12) remained in Dallas for the title game, but they had little to do on Easter Sunday. In the wake of their losses they were torn between disappointment in the ending of the season, and taking a measure of satisfaction in making the Final Four at all.
Kansas Coach Larry Brown looked somewhat out of place sitting in a grandstand. He collected some of his players and took them to Moody Coliseum for the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-America game, which showcased some prominent players who did not make the Final Four.
"We're taking the loss personally," Brown said. "Great players and great teams do that. Without it, we wouldn't have been here and had the opportunity to lose in the first place. We'd be home watching it on TV."
The loss was not made easier by the fact that some aspects of it were probably out of the Tigers' control. They were without their leading rebounder in center Greg Dreiling and leading scorer in sophomore forward Danny Manning, who fouled out with 5:41 and 2:47 left, respectively. They also lost sixth-man Archie Marshall to a knee injury. Manning and Dreiling combined for just 10 points.
But the Jayhawks took some consolation in the way in which they lost. Despite the foul and injury trouble, the Jayhawks had led Duke, 67-65, with 2:04 to go. They still were tied with 22 seconds left before Danny Ferry's rebound layup and Tommy Amaker's two free throws gave the Blue Devils the victory.
"I was frustrated during the game, after the game, and again this morning," Brown said. "I don't know if that will ever change. But I'm so proud of the way the kids hung in there, with Arch injured and without Danny and Dreiling. We were playing funny lineups and we still had a chance there at the end."
The Jayhawks' day-after blues were not made better by the severe injury to junior forward Marshall. Brown confirmed he had suffered a torn ligament in his left knee, and may need reconstructive surgery.
LSU's loss was no less painful; Coach Dale Brown wasn't taking calls on his hotel telephone. But the Tigers did take some solace that, unlike Kansas, they were never supposed to be here in the first place.
"I couldn't be happier," senior guard Derrick Taylor said. "Of course we wanted to win the championship, but we did a lot of things we weren't expected to."
The Tigers were seeded 11th in the Southeast regional, the lowest seed ever to make a Final Four. Their berth in the semifinals indeed was fairly remarkable: they did it with upsets of Purdue, Memphis State, Georgia Tech and Kentucky.
"We beat Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in succession," Dale Brown said. "Today we got Rocky."
The Tigers actually led at halftime, 44-36. But they tired at the end, unable to handle Louisville's running offense and full-court press. They were a team wracked by bizarre problems all year. They lost four players to injury or academic ineligibility, and suffered a chicken pox epidemic.
"It was a great achievement to go through all the adversity that we did," said forward Don Redden. "To get in the Final Four was a great way to end it after everything we went through."