After BYU had done all it could to aid the University of Arizona's bid for this year's national title, the Cougars weren't about to badmouth the team that ended their NCAA tournament by a 76-61 decision Saturday in the Huntsman Center.
If the Wildcats don't move on to Seattle with bigger heads, it won't be the Cougars' fault. They sent their conquerors off to the West Regional with high praise. In the interview room, it was all over but the gushing. If you can't beat them, compliment them."They're definitely better than anything in our conference," said BYU Coach Roger Reid. "That's not to say they couldn't be beaten in the WAC, but as far as talent goes, it's not even close."
BYU guard Nathan Call, who led the Cougars with 12 points and seven assists, and who clearly had the toughest time Saturday admitting the Cougars were finally in over their head, said afterward that Arizona is the best team BYU has seen this year. High praise considering BYU played 11 schools this season that were invited to the NCAA or NIT tournaments.
"They have all the tools," said Call, "They're so good at controlling the pace. They're really good at running their offense."
Of Arizona's 6-11 center, Brian Williams, who scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds, BYU center Shawn Bradley said, "He's intense, he's strong, he's physical, he runs the floor well, he rebounds well, he's beautiful . . . plus he's a great guy."
On and on it went. The Cougars were depressed, but they were also impressed. They looked at Arizona like a car lover looks at a red Ferrari.
"That's a Final Four team," said Reid. "They'll play another Final Four team if they play Vegas (in the West Regional). It's a shame the West is so loaded this year."
Of Arizona's main eight players, Reid tried to recruit all eight to BYU. But that was no stroke of recruiting genius. Every school in America also wanted them.
"I got as far as a phone call," said Reid. "With all eight."
They chose Arizona because the Domino Principle of Div. I Recruiting was, and is, in full effect in Tucson. The Domino Principle is that phenomenon that sees blue chip recruits follow each other to the same location - so that they can band together and have a much better chance at fame, fortune, and an NCAA title.
It's why a team like Arizona can have players like Ed Stokes and Wayne Womack sitting the bench. Stokes, a 7-footer, was the best player in California in high school; Womack was recruited by virtually every top program in America.
Both aided Arizona's cause against BYU when they spelled Williams, a first-team high school All-American and a member of the United States gold-medal winning world championship team in 1986, and Chris Mills, yet another California Player of the Year who is the same Chris Mills who inadvertently got Kentucky's program in so much trouble when a package of cash sent by a KU recruiter spilled open in the post office.
As he watched the Wildcats leave the arena Saturday, Reid said, "Can you believe it? Womack, sitting the bench?
"That's the kind of people you need to start thinking about winning a national championship," he said. "That's the direction we need to be going."
The good news for BYU, as Reid admitted, is that there is a potential for the Domino Principle of Recruiting to apply to the Cougar program as well. It has arguably already begun. Bradley was the most widely-recruited player in America last year. Also, freshman forward Ken Roberts was considered a blue-chip recruit, as were Randy Reid, the coaches' son, who is currently serving an LDS mission; and Ryan Cuff, also on a mission.
Since Bradley and Roberts have announced they will leave on missions this summer, it means BYU's best-landed recruits in history won't even be on campus next season. But in 1992-93, when they begin returning, and especially in 1993-94, when Bradley returns, they'll be in place, luring other blue-chip recruits to join them.
In the meantime, there's next season to take care of. Bradley and Roberts will be gone, as well as All-WAC senior forward Steve Schreiner and senior guard Scott Moon. The lone starter back will be Call. The key reserve back will be 6-10 Gary Trost.
"Basically, we'll be starting all over again," said Reid. "But we'll still probably come out like we can win the world."
So, too, will Arizona. As good as the Wildcats are this year, they'll all be back next year with the exception of senior guard Matt Muehlebach.
It will take a full two seasons until Arizona's main eight, with the exception of guard Khalid Reeves, will be graduated. Which may be why Bradley called his nemesis yesterday, Williams, "beautiful." By the time BYU and Shawn Bradley are back in business, Williams won't be.