WITH THE JAZZ, the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs all sitting atop the NBA's Midwest Division standings now with 47 wins apiece (the Spurs do have one less loss, however), it would appear the title is up for grabs with two weeks remaining until the end of the regular season. But whoever programmed the NBA computer for the league's 1990-91 schedule had a down-the-stretch weakness for teams wearing Mardi Gras colors, even if they have relocated far from the Mississippi. Color the Jazz heavily favored. They're the ones with the Club Med schedule.
The combined current record of the 10 opponents the Jazz are yet to face is 345-380. By contrast, Houston plays teams with a cumulative 360-360 record and San Antonio - with 11 games left - plays teams with a cumulative mark of 415-377. The Jazz play four teams with winning records, the Rockets five and the Spurs six. And the Jazz play six games at home versus four on the road, while the Rockets have four at home and six on the road and the Spurs have four at home and seven on the road.Then again, that's the good news. If the Jazz do win the Midwest, they'll open the playoffs as the Western Conference's No. 2 seed, which means in the first round they'll face the No. 7 seed, which is almost assuredly going to be the Golden State Warriors - the same franchise that eliminated the Jazz from the first round in 1987 and 1989.
SUPPORT SLIPPING: Steve Carp, UNLV beat writer for the Las Vegas Sun, says it's his feeling that UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian has coached his last game for the Runnin' Rebels.
"I don't think he'll be back," said Carp after UNLV's semifinal loss to Duke in the Final Four last weekend. "He's lost too much support at the university. It's one thing to fight the NCAA - he'd do that for 20 more years. But when your own school isn't coming down on your side, that's different."
Rumors that UNLV President Robert Maxson and athletic director Dennis Finfrock are anxious to clean up the basketball program's image by sliding Tarkanian out the door have plenty of substance, says Carp - even if Maxson isn't publicly affirming them. He thinks the leading candidate to replace Tarkanian in the Thomas & Mack Center is Bobby Cremins, currently the coach at Georgia Tech.
"Cremins was the basketball coach at Appalachian State several years ago, when Robert Maxson was the dean of students," said Carp. "They had a good relationship there and they've had one ever since.
"If Kenny Anderson leaves early," said Carp, referring to Georgia Tech's All-America guard who may forego his senior year in college and enter the NBA draft, "there's no reason Cremins doesn't come to Vegas."
DOWN TO TWO: Mike Moran, the director of publicity for the U.S. Olympic Committee, was at the Final Four in Indianapolis. Moran said Salt Lake City's chances at gaining the bid for the 1998 Winter Olympic Games are getting better all the time.
"I really think it's shaping up into a two-city race, between Salt Lake and Nagano, Japan," said Moran. "Salt Lake is getting very positive reports. I wouldn't be surprised (if it happens). Atlanta thought it was a longshot too (for the '96 Summer Games) and was pleasantly surprised."
MAKING THE ROUNDS: University of Utah Coach Rick Majerus, fresh from winning UPI Coach of the Year honors, was a busy man at the coaches convention held in conjunction with the Final Four. Majerus moved to Utah from Indiana (Ball State), just two years ago. While in Indianapolis he made a continuous round of talk shows and TV appearances - and banquets.
"I came in here wearing a single-X," he said, "referring to his sweatshirt size. "Now I'm wearing a double-x, and if I don't leave soon I'll be wearing a triple-x."
Upon seeing Quinn Buckner, the former Indiana star, at a banquet, Majerus invited him to come to Salt Lake.
"We'll eat all the food groups," said the coach, "one for each of my bypasses."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Johnny Miller, on the change of courses at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from Cypress Point to Poppy Hills: "That's like replacing Bo Derek with Roseanne Barr."