The College Basketball Real-Life Top 25

6. Cincinnati (28-3) A broken left fibula ended probable Player of the Year Kenyon Martin's college career last week, and most likely dashed UC's national title hopes. But coach Bob Huggins didn't go down without a fight. After Martin's injury and the resulting loss to St. Louis in the Conference USA tourney dropped the Bearcats from No. 1 to No. 6 (and to a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs), Huggins asked reporters, "Why are we always the ones to make history?", implying his squad routinely gets screwed in its placement in the postseason. Perhaps the NCAA actually takes UC's stance on off-court issues into account. The Bearcats program hasn't graduated a single black recruit in 10 years, and Huggins has been routinely soft on disciplinary matters as well. It made news when he actually suspended a player this year—forward Eugene Land—after he was arrested for shoplifting $256 worth of socks, underwear, and polo shirts. (Graduation rate, all students: 47%; basketball players: 13%; black players: 0%. Athletes make up 20% of all black male undergrads.)

7. Iowa State (29-4) Over the summer, coach Larry Eustachy dismissed Ga. Tech transfer Travis Spivey before the guard ever suited up for the Cyclones. Spivey was charged with statutory rape and later sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty and admitting he had consensual sex with a 17-year-old runaway he met at a convenience store. (Graduation rate, all students: 61%; basketball players: 50%; black players: 50%)

8. Ohio State (22-6) It's OSU's basketball administrators who are the problem here. Gerry Emig, athletics communications director, was forced to resign earlier this season after the school referred to comedian/alum Richard Lewis as a drunk in basketball media guides produced under his supervision. Meanwhile, the school's director of basketball operations, Randall R. Shrout, was charged with two counts of domestic violence last fall for allegedly grabbing a female friend by the throat and threatening her (charges were later dropped). (Graduation rate, all students: 57%; basketball players: 21%; black players: 10%)

illustration: Tom Nick Cocotos

9. Louisiana State (26-5) Tigers coach John Brady, a bargain at $100,000 a year, has turned around a program left in disarray by Dale Brown. The team is still dealing with NCAA penalties stemming from the '96 recruitment of Lester Earl. (Graduation rate, all students: 47%; basketball players: 8%; black players: 0%)

10. Tennessee (24-6) Question: Which head basketball coach at Tennessee has 700 career wins and four national titles—men's coach Jerry Green or Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt? Easy, right? The answer, of course, is Summitt. Now, who's the higher paid? Green. The men's coach was given a one-year contract extension last May, bumping his annual salary to $540,000 through 2004. Summitt's contract was also extended through 2004 in May, but for only $500,000 per year. (Graduation rate, all students: 55%; basketball players: 31%; black players: 22%)

11. Florida (24-7) After one winning season in Gainesville, UF signed coach Billy Donovan to a new five-year contract worth $3.5 million, making him the third-highest paid SEC coach. Even though he led the Gators to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season, Donovan is still most famous for kicking Sacramento Kings star Jason Williams off his team two years ago for smoking marijuana. (Graduation rate, all students: 64%; basketball players: 62%; black players: 43%)

12. St. John's (24-7) SJU is home to the NCAA's most investigated player, point guard Erick Barkley. Currently, Barkley is under the microscope because of doubt over his SAT scores (or maybe the NCAA just doesn't like him and his school—we can't be sure). This latest inquiry marks the third time Barkley is under investigation this season. First, he was suspended for two games in early February for "receiving an improper benefit" after he traded his 1996 Jeep Cherokee for use of a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban leased by the brother of his former Rucker League coach. Then he was suspended for one game later in the season for receiving $3150 from Riverside Church (where he played AAU ball) toward his $21,500 tuition at Maine Central Institute, a prep school he attended before enrolling at St. John's. The NCAA has not been happy with how SJU has handled the various probes, and the feeling is mutual. Future suspensions are not out of the question. (Graduation rate, all students: 65%; basketball players: 92%; black players: 83%)

13. Oklahoma (26-6) The university looked into the high school finances of two of its stars last week—Eduardo Najera and Victor Avila—after a newspaper reporter suggested improprieties. Najera and Avila, both seniors, attended Cornerstone Christian School in San Antonio. An official with the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools apparently told a journalist the two players had their tuition subsidized by the Mexican National Basketball Federation (both players are from Mexico). Oklahoma's in-house investigation concluded that nothing occurred that would affect either players' eligibility. (Graduation rate, all students: 44%; basketball players: 0%)

14. Syracuse (24-5) 'Cuse's penchant for minimizing obstacles—particularly early in the season (the school's 19-0 start is due, in part, to opening with 10 straight home games against the likes of Colgate, Albany, and Hartford)—apparently extends to academics as well. A report released last summer cited the hoops team as having the lowest graduation rate (17%) in the Big East. (Graduation rate, all students: 70%; basketball players: 17%; black players: 0%)

15. Oklahoma State (24-6) Freshman forward Andre Williams was suspended for five games by the NCAA after an investigation revealed that a Kansas City businessman paid his tuition to Maine Central Institute (the same prep school involved in the Erick Barkley mess at St. John's). Also, as part of his punishment, Williams must donate $5000 to charity. (Graduation rate, all students: 50%; basketball players: 50%; black players: 100%)

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