For underdog lovers, Friday night's basketball matchup between Navy and Cleveland State presents a real dilemma. Both schools, after all, are considered long shots in the 64-team NCAA tournament, which is now down to the Sweet 16. Navy has never enjoyed an especially glorious basketball tradition, but currently has that rarity at the service academies, an ``impact player'' in the person of 6 ft. 11 in. center David Robinson. Cleveland State's basketball history has been even more obscure, a fact the Vikings are trying to remedy with a team that has no one star, but plenty of players who thrive on playing a relentless, end-to-end game.
Very possibly at stake in Friday's game is the right to face No. 1 ranked Duke, which would advance to Sunday's East Regional final if it beats DePaul. Looking at their records, it's clear that 29-4 Navy and 29-3 Cleveland State are no weaklings. Yet up until now, these marks didn't command tremendous respect, a fact reflected in the national rankings, where Navy was No. 17 going into the postseason and Cleveland State unranked.
Navy won the Colonial Conference, a second-flight league with schools like Richmond and George Mason, while Cleveland State won the championship of something called the Association of Mid-Continent Universities, or AMCU-8 for short. The abbreviation sounds like a motor oil, coach Kevin Mackey jokes.
Indiana's Bobby Knight wasn't laughing, though, when the Vikings upset the Hoosiers, marking Indiana's first opening-round loss under Knight. Following that surprise, Cleveland State defeated St. Joseph's.
Navy, meanwhile, eliminated Tulsa and then faced the unenviable assignment of playing No. 9 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse's home arena. The Orangemen opened with a 101-52 obliteration of Brown and seemingly had the horses to overpower Navy, too. But as Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim so astutely observed before the game, ``There aren't many upsets these days, only bad predictions.''
What nobody quite predicted was Robinson's total domination against Syracuse, which could not contain the Navy's junior pivotman, who had 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 blocked shots in a textbook performance that prompted comparisons to a young Bill Russell. Only 6-7 when he entered the academy, Robinson has blossomed into a prime pro prospect, but one committed to a five-year Navy stint following graduation.
Cleveland State, incidentally, doesn't have any player over 6-9. Wouldn't it be sitting pretty, though, if Mackey had managed to lure 7-7 Manute Bol into the Vikings' camp. Bol, a rookie with the Washington Bullets, once studied at the Case Western Reserve English Language School in Cleveland. Rinaldi feeling at home on tour
It's hard to imagine, but 18-year-old Kathy Rinaldi is in her fifth year on the women's tennis tour. The native of Stuart, Fla., has had no regrets about turning pro at age 14, making her the youngest to do so, and says, ``I've been really happy about the decision I made.''
She gets more adjusted to life on the circuit all the time and is far more independent than she once was. ``I'm now doing things on my own, traveling on my own, and generally just assuming more responsibility for my life, which I like.''
She has moved to Gainesville, where her coach, Andi Brandi, serves as head coach of the University of Florida's women's team. She likes mixing with the college crowd and has considered taking a few classes. Her ties to campus life will increase soon, too, now that boyfriend Brad Stunkel, a high school football star, has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Miami.
At 14, Kathy emerged as the precocious teen picked to succeed Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, and Andrea Jaeger as tennis's next whiz kid. There was a rush of publicity in 1981, when she became the youngest player to win a Wimbledon match. Later that year she was named the tour's ``Most Impressive Newcomer.''
Since then she has toiled less noticeably, trying to become a Top 10 player while completing correspondence course work at Martin Downs High School in Florida. This year has the makings of Rinaldi's best yet in tennis. She entered this week's Virginia Slims Championships, a 16-player, end-of-season shootout in New York, as the 11th-ranked player on the women's tour. Wrestling dynasty
When Iowa State's wrestling team snapped Iowa's 34-match dual meet winning streak last month, the stranglehold the mighty Hawkeyes have had on their sport appeared to be loosening. Not so, as Iowa's rivals discovered so convincingly at the national championships last weekend, when the Hawks, wrestling on their home mat, racked up their ninth straight title by swamping second place Oklahoma 158 points to 84.75. Oklahoma State was third and Iowa State fourth. The victory gave Iowa a reign equaled in length by only two other college teams, Yale's golfers of 1905-1913 and Southern California's track and field team of 1935-1943.