College Basketball Season Heats Up
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It was an exciting week for college basketball fans. There were a number of big games, including this heart-stopping finish.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
DICK VITALE: (unintelligible) Oh. Oh. Unbelievable.
CORNISH: That was the one and only Dick Vitale with Mike Patrick of ESPN, after Duke freshman Austin Rivers made a three-point shot at the buzzer to beat archrival North Carolina on Wednesday. Both teams are ranked in the top 10, as usual.
Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now to talk college basketball. Hey there, Stefan.
STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Audie.
CORNISH: So buzzer-beating finish, uh?
FATSIS: Fantastic. Duke trailing by 10 points, two and a half minutes to go, they're down by two when the inbound the ball to Austin Rivers. He makes his long three-pointer, Duke wins 85-84. And Rivers' father is Doc Rivers, the coach of the Boston Celtics. And he was in the stands watching his son as the ESPN camera cut from the dog pile on the court, to the Rivers family going nuts in the stands. Whether you love Duke or hate Duke, this was a fantastic sports story.
CORNISH: Aww, a sweet story. Until last night, there was one undefeated team left in men's college basketball. And it wasn't a big name like Duke or UNC.
FATSIS: No, it was Murray State from Murray, Kentucky. The Racers are a regular mid-major power. But after 23-straight wins they lost a close one last night to Tennessee State. Also, until last night, there were two unbeaten women's teams: the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, though, lost and that leaves top-ranked Baylor. They've got perhaps the best player in the country in six-foot-eight junior, Brittney Griner. They've been winning games by 30 points. They've only played one close one so far against the perennial women's power, Connecticut.
CORNISH: And Connecticut, got to talk about them because they're the defending men's champion and they're having a huge off the court problems with the NCAA.
FATSIS: Yeah, UConn could be barred from next year's NCAA tournament because of subpar academic performance. The school has requested a waiver and said it would take some steps to, in effect, punish itself by playing fewer regular-season games next year. The fear for UConn is that its best players will transfer or leave for the NBA early if they can't play in the NCAA's.
CORNISH: One team that is not too worried about its players' academics is Harvard, which for the first time in history has been ranked in the top 25.
FATSIS: Yep, 25th this week in the AP poll. They've got a 20-and-two record. The last and only time Harvard made the NCAA tournament was 1946. But they've overhaul the program. They've got a big game tonight in Philadelphia against my alma mater, Penn. Harvard is unbeaten in the Ivy League. The Quakers have one loss.
CORNISH: Okay, can't talk about Harvard and not talk about their big alum, Harvard grad Jeremy Lin on the New York Knicks. Everyone is going bonkers over it - not bonkers. I should say they're going Linsane...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
CORNISH: ...which the nickname I've been seeing online.
FATSIS: Oh, you mean on the Linternet?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
FATSIS: So the Knicks are - they've got a lot of injured players. They're losing. The coach looks down the bench and he puts in 6-foot-three point guard Jeremy Lin. Lin scores 25, 28, and 23 points in consecutive games and boom, Linsanity. This is a natural media and social media story. You've got the Knicks. You've got Harvard. You've got Jeremy Lin's roots. He's the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.
His parents emigrated from Taiwan in the 1970s. He was undrafted, cut by a couple of NBA teams, and he's been sleeping on his brother's couch on the Lower East Side while a member of the New York Knicks. Now, three games, Audie, is a very small sample size. Jeremy Lin might not become a huge star in the NBA. But for now, he'll take it and the Knicks will take it, and so will the NBA.
They're going to show the Knicks game against Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers on ESPN tonight. And that game is also going to be shown on Cina(ph) Television in China.
CORNISH: Stefan Fatsis, he joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Thanks so much, Stefan.
FATSIS: Thank you, Audie.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.