1 North Carolina
As always, there is somebody else. Bob McAdoo leaves, Bobby Jones steps in. Jones leaves, Walter Davis steps in. Davis leaves, Mike O'Koren steps in. O'Koren leaves, Al Wood steps in. Now Wood has left, and James Worthy is stepping in. Always there is somebody else, another model on the long assembly line of superior forwards that have kept Coach Dean Smith and his Tar Heels nationally prominent and this year make them the choice for No. 1.
Worthy, a junior, will be surrounded by the other members of what Smith privately calls possibly his best starting five ever. (The four veterans are on the cover: Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty, Jimmy Black and Worthy.) Smith says this despite the loss of starters Al Wood and Guard Mike Pepper from last year's 29-8 team that lost 63-50 to Indiana in the NCAA finals.
Smith has a long list of teams that should be No. 1 instead of North Carolina, but even he hasn't tried to dampen the preseason gushing about Worthy, who last year averaged 14.2 points and led North Carolina in rebounding. "James is a great, great player," says Smith.
November 30, 1981
Worthy's strength and quickness around the basket and superior passing ability, among other things, will make Perkins, a sophomore center, even more effective. Perkins was the ACC's 1980-81 rookie of the year after scoring 14.9 points a game on 62.6% shooting. If he improves his rebounding—he averaged a respectable 7.8 last year—he could be the best center North Carolina ever produced.
The third mainstay back, senior Point Guard Black, averaged more than five assists and seven points a game in 1980-81. Add sophomore Swingman Doherty and freshman Michael Jordan, another player who can do it inside or out, and these Tar Heels could be a match for the 1975-76 starting five of future NBA players Davis, Mitch Kupchak, Tommy LaGarde, Phil Ford and John Kuester. Smith is worried, with some reason, about his depth, but Guard Buzz Peterson and Center Forward John Brownlee, both freshmen, should be ready to lend a hand by tournament time.
If anyone knows how treacherous the road to No. 1 is, it's Smith. He has been to the Final Four six times and the final game three times, but he has never finished first. This year he should.
The last time UCLA welcomed a new center with a shock of unruly hair, a pale face and a hearty hi-yo outlet pass, the Bruins went on a rampage through college basketball that included two undefeated national championship seasons. Who was that masked man? Gig Sims? Guess again. Though the Bruins' 7-foot, 235-pound freshman Stuart Gray doesn't resemble Bill Walton in much more than height and potential, opponents won't have a difficult time recognizing him. The Bruins didn't lose a player from their 20-7 crew of last winter and are now two deep at every position. By moving into the middle, Gray sends the platoon of Kenny Fields and Cliff Pruitt over to strong forward, which shifts Mike (Slew) Sanders across to small forward, where he should have been all along.
The 6'6" Sanders, a wondrous thoroughbred—Slew as in Seattle Slew—came a long way from Louisiana to become a star as a sophomore center, showing the Bruins the way to the NCAA finals. Last season, again playing out of position, Sanders led UCLA in minutes (30.1 per game), points per game (15.4), rebounds (6.6) and blocked shots (28 in the season). "If Slew isn't among the top 10 guys in the country, I don't know who is," says Assistant Coach Kevin O'Connor.
Rocket Rod Foster, basketball's fastest human, returns to UCLA's superlative three-pronged backcourt where he takes care of the shooting, Michael Holton the defending and Ralph Jackson the passing. Now there's even a fourth prong, a smooth freshman with the marvelous name of—turn up the flamenco music, please—Nigel Miguel, who gives his elders some healthy job insecurities. Zone defenses bothered UCLA last year because of the impatience of the likes of Foster and Swingman Darren Daye who enjoy racing the ball up and bombing away. But new Coach Larry Farmer has been talking of the rewards that come to those who wait.
Farmer has added some new wrinkles to the UCLA high-post offense to open up a few more scoring opportunities for Gray and to isolate Sanders down low where he's even more damaging than his 55.7% career shooting figure indicates. If the coach's plan to play only seven or eight men causes no jealousy on this hydra-headed monster, the Bruins should cakewalk to the Pacific-10 championship. And after that? The NCAA tournament may turn out to be a Gray area.
Louisville has as much talent, man for man, as any team, yet these Cardinals also present Coach Denny Crum with a special challenge. He will try to hide his chronic lack of a big man (Crum has successfully recruited only one quality player taller than 6'9" in his 10 years at Louisville) by playing with a team that consists of seven power forwards, three shooting guards and only one tested floor leader. That's Jerry Eaves, who as a sophomore made the big plays when Louisville beat UCLA for the 1980 NCAA championship. "I don't care who you are," says Eaves, "any good team needs one guy out there running the show—and that's me."
The show ought to be a fine one. In 6'8" Wiley Brown, down from 250 pounds last season to a serious 220; 6'6" Derek Smith, the Cards' leading scorer with a 15.5 average; and 6'7" Rodney McCray, Louisville has some vicious re-bounders to compensate for its lack of height. It also has, in freshmen Milt Wagner and Manuel Forrest, some talented replacements for Guard Roger Burkman, the sixth man who gave last season's 21-9 team a lift in so many games.
Wagner figures to press sophomore Lancaster Gordon for the guard spot opposite Eaves, and Forrest fires from the baseline well enough to help shooter Poncho Wright gun down the zone defenses that clogged up the Cardinal offense so many times early last season.
Crum's biggest headache may be what to do with Rodney's older brother Scooter McCray. He's tall enough at 6'9" to play center, agile enough to play forward and a good enough passer and ball handler to play guard. Obviously, Crum would like to find a place for him, but where?
But what might be a nightmare for some coaches is a dream for Crum. As good a bench coach as there is, he's excellent at such things as conserving time-outs, substituting intelligently and reacting to other teams' game plans. That kind of coaching and this kind of talent should take Louisville all the way to New Orleans.
It must be as confusing to country music fans as it is to college basketball fans. A fellow named Hall is the featured singer on an album released a week or so back. But it's not Tom T Hall, one of Nashville's finest, it's Joe B. Hall, the Kentucky basketball coach. Joe B. even recruited that noted good ol' boy Al McGuire to join him in renditions of The Gambler and Elvira.
Had Hall been thinking ahead, he might have included City of New Orleans in the album. That, after all, is where he wants to be in March. Or he might have sung the blues because his 7'1" center, Sam Bowie, is still recovering from an incomplete fracture of his left tibia. Bowie won't be back in action until late December at the earliest.
It's a measure of Kentucky's potential that Wildcat fans were somewhat disappointed with last year's 22-6 record. Hall answers that even talented players need experience to function properly in Kentucky's disciplined system. He vowed at last spring's basketball banquet that the doubters had better "get on the bandwagon" while there was still time.
This season Hall plans a couple of significant lineup changes that, coupled with the Wildcats' additional experience, ought to turn them into the national contenders they were supposed to be last season. Replacing Bowie with 6'11" sophomore Melvin Turpin isn't one of them, but when Bowie returns, he and Turpin will often be in the lineup at the same time. Turpin's presence near the basket should free Bowie, who had 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game last season, to play the roaming game he prefers. It also will enable Hall to use Derrick Hord, an erstwhile guard, where Hord figures to be more effective—quick forward.
"We've got to get Bowie and Turpin playing together more," says playmaker Dirk Minnie-field. "We'll get a lot more rebounds, and I can put a lot more fast breaks on the other team." The off guard figures to be sharpshooter Jim Master.
If U.K. goes to the top of the charts—make that, ratings—it wouldn't be surprising.
Like his older brother, Gregory, who's a full-time bodyguard for Sugar Ray Leonard, Georgetown senior Ed Spriggs has lately been involved in taking care of a celebrity. Ed's charge, an 18-year-old 7-footer named Patrick Ewing, has yet to make a 7-Up commercial, but he's a legend even before he wins his first collegiate tip-off.
"Coach has kind of paired us up because there's a few things I can give Pat pointers about," says Spriggs, who became a backup center the moment Ewing signed on the dotted line last February. "Of course, there's a lot of things I don't have to tell him because he knows them already."
Ewing is the standard-bearer of the most celebrated band of newcomers to hit Washington since JFK brought in the Great Society people two decades ago: Ewing, 6'6" Forward Anthony Jones, 6'7" Forward Bill Martin. Everyone's top recruiting class. Even Georgetown Coach John Thompson admits, "By all the given criteria, we have to be rated a Top 10 team. The coach in me would have to downplay it, but the realist in me has to acknowledge it."
The realist in Thompson also recognizes that he has a lot of talent besides his famous freshmen. "We don't have all celebrities around here," Thompson says. "We have some pretty good common folk, too." And the common folk, as much as the notable newcomers, are a good bet to improve upon their 20-12 record of last season, finish first in the Big East Conference and participate in their fourth straight NCAA tournament.
Eric Floyd began his career as common folk, but now he's a consensus preseason All-America, who last year averaged 19 points per game.
Another uncommon sort is Fred Brown, the Big East's rookie of the year in 1980-81 as a forward. Thompson sees the 6'5" Brown at point guard this year, an indication that Jones will be counted on immediately at forward. Jones will be joined there by senior Eric Smith, who generally draws the toughest defensive assignment, or by Martin, who is "the ideal complement to everybody else," says Thompson.
The Hoyas, obviously, have much more than just Ewing, but Thompson says, "Pat has to be a key, key factor for us, even this year." Spriggs, who was recruited out of a post office basketball league, has never been in charge of a more important package.
On a recent October afternoon, some 8,000 fans jammed into the Iowa Field) House—not to see a Hawkeye game or even a practice, but because word got out that several Iowa players were participating in a pickup scrimmage. That's one indication of how big the Hawkeyes have become in Iowa, where a five-channel TV network beams their games across the state, attracting an audience that includes as much as a 72% share of Iowa's viewers. "Right now, we're the biggest thing in Iowa," says Coach Lute Olson.
The object of such frenzied adoration is a brawny, talented young team that last season gave Iowa a second-place finish in the Big Ten and a third consecutive NCAA tournament bid. While leading the conference in no statistical categories except rebound margin—and, presumably, nosebleeds and brush burns—Iowa whipped NCAA champ Indiana twice and won 21 of its first 25 games before ending the regular season with three heartbreaking defeats on the road.
This year the Iowa faithful expect better things still, and Olson isn't saying a word to cool the fervor, mainly because he seems to have caught it himself. "Playing at our peak potential, there isn't a better team in the country," he says.
Although Iowa may not have a superstar, it does have the deepest corps of experienced quality guards and forwards in the Big Ten, if not in all of college ball. Among the seniors, Forward Kevin Boyle is a 50.5% career shooter who last season averaged 9.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game and—nota bene—is a four-year starter. Guard Kenny Arnold was Iowa's No. 2 scorer in 1980-81, with an 11.4 average. Juniors Bob Hansen, a guard who can shoot, and Mark Gannon, a 6'7", 230-pound forward who mainly sees to it that the hot-handed Hawkeye opponents do not, are two more veteran starters. Sophomore Steve Carfino's emergence as a playmaker in preseason practice should free Arnold to increase his scoring. Boyle figures to be more productive, too, after a summer in which he started on the U.S. gold medal-winning team at the World University Games in Bucharest.
Olson's one question mark is at center, but he does have two high school All-America recruits in Greg Stokes of Hamilton, Ohio and Michael Payne of Quincy, Ill. Olson can also call on Jerry Dennard, last season's California J.C. player of the year.
7 Wichita state
In a modest piece of press agentry, Wichita State has named its star juniors Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr the Bookend Forwards. Indeed, Levingston's and Carr's 1980-81 stats—18.5 and 15.8 points and 11.4 and 7.3 rebounds a game, respectively—speak volumes about their talents. But the team's 26-7 record and its progression to the finals of the Midwest Regional last season weren't strictly the work of this twosome. "We've got good books, too," says Levingston, explaining why season tickets sold out for the first time since 1963-64.
Last season's Missouri Valley champions have lost only Guard Randy Smithson and Center Ozell Jones and have replaced both with talented local players. Guard Aubrey Sherrod, the MVP in the 1981 McDonald's Capital Classic, was called the best all-around player in Wichita Heights High history by his coach there, and that's saying something, because that school's alumni include Carr and the Portland Trail Blazers' Darnell Valentine. Sherrod, a smooth but aggressive lefty, finished his high school career as the No. 2 scorer in the city's history. The No. 1 alltime scorer: 7'1", 240-pound Center Greg Dreiling, who also signed with the Shockers. If he's fast enough to keep up with the offense, the Shockers could be absolutely stunning.
Dreiling will be flanked by the 6'9" Carr and the 6'8" Levingston, buddies who combine power, quickness and tremendous jumping ability. Carr has more natural talent, but Levingston works harder. "People say we even look alike, but I think Cliff's uglier," says Carr. "He's just as much of me as I am of him," says Levingston, who's known as Good News because he's always smiling and because he...is. Although nothing is more useless than a third bookend, Coach Gene Smithson also recruited 6'7" Xavier McDaniel of Columbia, S.C., who, Smithson says, "is in Cliffs and Antoine's class as a freshman."
Two other returning starters, both seniors, are Point Guard Tony Martin, the team leader in steals and assists, and Jay Jackson, who played forward next to Carr late last season when Jones lost his eligibility and Levingston switched over to the pivot. "When we need someone's water cut off, we bring in Jay," says Smithson. When one of the Shockers needs water, Smithson brings in junior James Gibbs, a speedy 5'9" guard, or one of his two swingmen: Mike Jones and Cedric Phillips. Except for important games against Tulsa, Louisiana State and Alabama-Birmingham, the Shockers have generally clear sailing. It should turn out to be a storybook season.
8 San Francisco
Even though San Francisco's Dons (spent the 1980-81 season on NCAA probation, they won their fifth consecutive WCAC title—beating Pepperdine 96-82 in a one-game playoff for the championship—and gained their fourth NCAA tournament berth in five years. Last year's successes were pulled off largely because of the efforts of two young miracle workers, USF's semisecret weapon, junior Guard Quintin Dailey, and his 33-year-old coach, Peter Barry. Now, they are ready to accomplish more miracles.
The Dons were put on probation before the 1979-80 season and in May 1980 USF Coach Dan Belluomini was forced to resign. Barry, his successor, inherited a team perilously close to collapse; four highly regarded players had headed for greener pastures. Barry nonetheless guided the Dons to a 24-7 record, including their third straight home-court victory over Notre Dame. This season the only thing likely to fall apart is the opposition when it faces USF's rapid-fire attack. Six of last year's top seven players, including four starters, return from a team that finished third in the nation in scoring (83.2 points per game).
The backcourt is superb. Last season the 6'3" Dailey scored a team-high 22.4 points a game, shot 57.0% from the field, had an average of 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, and orchestrated the Dons' fast break. "Whatever we need—a key steal, a great pass, a slam dunk—Quintin can get it for us," says Barry, who has also used Dailey at forward when the Dons want to press.
Dailey's running mate at guard, 6'5", 210-pound Ken McAlister, is the Dons' defensive stopper. He's USF's best athlete, too; he was accomplished enough as a high school football player to have been wooed by Southern Cal. A key to an improved record for the Dons is 7-foot senior Center Wallace Bryant. He had respectable stats last season—16.6 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds a game—but he has a history of shying away from the pounding under the boards. Freshman John Martens, an All-California Interscholastic Federation selection and a certified banger inside, is expected to fill the power-forward position. Martens' presence should help to take some rebounding pressure off Bryant and senior John Hegwood, San Francisco's second-leading re-bounder and third-leading scorer in 1980-81.
USF should dominate the undistinguished competition in the WCAC, so the real test of the Dons' mettle might not come until NCAA tournament time. Rest assured that the Dons will be there.
University of Tulsa Coach Nolan Richardson demands fitness. A former NFL defensive back and ABA guard, Richardson runs his players constantly in practice and even turns a large fan on them to create wind resistance. They do a full-court, three-man weave while passing a 15-pound medicine ball back and forth. Then they run the same drill with a basketball filled with 17 pounds of water. "You get in a game," says senior Guard Paul Pressey, "and the man wants five, six minutes of all you've got. When you've given it, you can be replaced for a while."
Richardson, who came to Tulsa last season after winning the 1980 national J.C. title at Western Texas College, used his exhausting shuttle system—and four of his former juco players—to propel the Golden Hurricane to a 26-7 record and the NIT championship. Ten players saw action in 28 or more games, and five of them averaged at least 10 points. For 1981-82 virtually all of that Top 10 is back Joined by two prime recruits. "If someone opens the door, we're coming in," says Richardson.
Pressey, Center-Forward Greg Stewart, Forward David Brown and Guard Phil Spradling are the four returning senior starters. They played for Richardson at Western Texas and love his running, pressing style of play.
The 6'5" Pressey scored a mere 10.3 points a game last season, but only because he didn't shoot very often. His 172 assists, 26 blocked shots and 96 steals led the Golden Hurricane. In one stretch against Wichita State he snatched the ball away four times in six possessions. Stewart, Tulsa's leading scorer (15.5) last season, is one of five forwards who, in various combinations, man the frontcourt. Although the Golden Hurricane has no true center, it does have inside strength: Stewart, 6'9" and 220, was Tulsa's co-leader in rebounds (6.9) along with the 6'8", 205-pound Brown. Joining Pressey in the guard corps are Spradley, a 6'4" scrapper with a good outside shot, and 6' 4" freshman Steve Harris.
Tulsa will be tested early against North Carolina, but Richardson worries most about its difficult Missouri Valley Conference schedule. "I think the Valley's the Valley of Death," he says. For once the home court crowds may actually be large enough to make Tulsa a killer of a place to visit: Season-ticket sales have jumped from 2,000 last season to about 6,800.
"We don't have the big aircraft carrier, the [Ralph] Sampson or the [Sam] Bowie," Richardson says, "but we've got plenty of guys who'll be putting in their two pennies' worth." In this particular case, that ain't small change.
Ralph Sampson can be shut out. Because he procrastinated this summer no apartments were available in Charlottesville, Va. by the time he did some serious looking. He wound up in Virginia Coach Terry Holland's finished—not to mention high-ceilinged—basement. "I always wait till the last minute to do things, and they didn't have anything left," says Sampson with a shrug. "But I'm very happy down there."
The Cavaliers are very happy Sampson's down there, too. He could've been flying around the country with the Dallas Mavericks or the Detroit Pistons, both of whom sought to have him turn pro after a sometimes sensational sophomore season. He didn't, and consequently the Cavs rate a spot in the Top 10 despite the loss of 3,740 career points in the persons of Jeff Lamp and Lee Raker. "Ordinarily, with our losses we couldn't be considered a Top 20 team," says Holland, "but I guess Ralph makes a difference, doesn't he?"
He sure does. He led Virginia to the NIT title as a freshman and was national Player of the Year as a sophomore. "It's hard to imagine Ralph on another level with the way he can dominate a game now," says senior Guard Jeff Jones. "But his next level is to dominate all games." Even if Sampson improves his statistics of last year, which included 17.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, 55.7% field-goal shooting and 103 blocks, the Cavs will be hard-pressed to equal theirs. With a 23-game winning streak, a 29-4 record and a third-place finish in the NCAA tournament, it was the best Virginia basketball season ever.
With Lamp and Raker gone and Sampson sure to be closely guarded inside, much of the shooting pressure this season switches to Jones, the ACC's assist leader in 1978-79 and 1979-80. Jones is a career 51.3% shooter, meaning he can put the ball in the hole—if he can work himself open. "One thing about having Ralph is that we can get good shots from all spots because of them collapsing," says Holland. "That should help J.J."
Sophomore Guard Othell Wilson, who is extremely quick and daring defensively, should also help take some of the pressure off Jones, and so should freshman Tim Mullen, a swingman with a good jumper.
Some of Lamp's and Raker's point production will have to be picked up by junior Craig Robinson, who has yet to live up to his considerable potential. The other starting forward might be Jim Miller, West Virginia's scholastic player of the year in 1980-81, though only after he recovers from a bout of mononucleosis.
11 Kansas State
The Wildcats of Kansas State have an image problem. They have four starters returning from a 24-9 team that defeated second-ranked Oregon State in last year's NCAA tournament, and most people are ignoring them. "Maybe this is the price we pay for being out here in the flatlands," says Coach Jack Hartman, "but we deserve to be ranked."
As Hartman readily concedes, his team-oriented approach to the game is a factor in K-State's relative anonymity. He's an expert at getting the most out of little-known players. His best current no-name, senior Forward Ed Nealy, is a case in point. As a senior at Bonner Springs (Kans.) High he averaged 28 points and 14.6 rebounds for his father, Ed Sr. Nealy was avidly recruited only by K-State and Yale because he was just what college prospects aren't supposed to be: immobile and lead-footed (26" vertical leap). "I thought I saw a good player even if nobody else did," Hartman says. Nealy justified Hartman's confidence by twice leading the Big Eight in rebounds, a category in which he will soon become K-State's career leader.
Now, his next project should be to improve his 11-points-per-game scoring average because three-time All-Big Eight Guard Rolando Blackman is gone. Last year Blackman led the Wildcats in scoring (15 points per game) and was second in rebounds, assists, steals and shooting percentage. But Hartman says, "With all due respect to the greatness of Blackman, I think we can replace him."
Among the other returning starters, Randy Reed, who had a 12.1 scoring average last winter, is beginning his first full season at forward, Tyrone Adams (11.5) is switching from forward to guard, and Guard Tim Jankovich is probably best known for having dated the coach's daughter (he also has an excellent outside shot). The center position will be manned by Les Craft and Greg Prudhoe. Two well-regarded freshmen come in from Chicago: Guard Kenny Williams and Forward Lafayette Watkins.
Hartman says his bench has ability but lacks experience. No matter. Last season the Wildcats had the finest shooting percentage (49.9) in school history and the country's 11th best defense (59.4 ppg). They should have similar or better stats in 1981-82. They also should be Big Eight champions for the fourth time under Hartman and receive an NCAA berth for the sixth time. And, more than likely, they'll still have an image problem.
The players and coaches at DePaul keep saying that this season's squad will be better than the 27-2 team of a year ago that ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country. But, fellows, what about the losses of top career scorer (24.7 points per game) Mark Aguirre and classy assist leader (604) Clyde Bradshaw?
Perhaps the best explanation for the Blue Demons' optimism comes from Guard Skip Dillard. "Now things will be more fun," he says. "Before, there wasn't a college atmosphere here. Mark was thinking about the pros. Clyde was thinking about the pros. I even started thinking about 'em."
Dillard is the only senior, and he would like to show what he can do without Aguirre, to whom he has played second fiddle since they were in high school together. Also stepping out of Aguirre's shadow will be Terry Cummings, a 6'9" center-forward who averaged 13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. "This will be a happier team than the last couple of years," says 67-year-old Coach Ray Meyer, whose screaming should be in expectation, not exasperation. "We won't have the peaks and valleys of before because everybody's together."
Meyer plans on regularly playing as many as nine members of his 11-man squad, about three more than in recent seasons. Joining Dillard and Cummings are returnees Teddy Grubbs, Bernard Randolph and Jerry McMillan and freshmen Kenny Patterson, Walter Downing and Tyrone Corbin. The 6'9" Downing, Illinois high schools' Mr. Basketball for 1980-81, should step into a starting spot at either center or forward if he can play defense in college as well as he did in high school; last season he blocked six shots per game. Patterson will add depth in the backcourt, where Dillard will be joined by Raymond McCoy, a transfer from the University of San Francisco.
Meyer feels that Corbin, a freshman forward, will be the sleeper. "When it comes to get-up-and-go, there's a world of difference between Corbin, and Grubbs and Randolph," Meyer says. "He is always hustling and being aggressive." Meyer foresees Corbin moving into the starting lineup by the first of the year. "When we put him in with Cummings and Downing," he says, "I don't care who we're playing, we'll dominate."
The Blue Demons should dominate most of their regular-season opponents, but that wouldn't be anything new. A few victories in the NCAA tournament would.
The basketball court in Minnesota's Williams Arena is situated on a platform raised three feet off the ground. The floor is dead under the baskets, unpredictable everywhere else and perhaps the oddest playing surface in all of college ball. But if you think that's strange, take a look at the Minnesota team that performs on this court.
In finishing 19-11 last season, the Gophers lost more games at Williams Arena (six) than they did on the road. They fell from being the Big Ten's top foul-shooting team in 1979-80 to being the worst in the conference last season. Minnesota's towering front line of 7'3" Randy Breuer, 6'10" Gary Holmes and, at times, 6'9" John Wiley out-rebounded opponents by an average of only 1.7 a game. Too often the Gophers dropped back into their 2-3 zone and didn't take full advantage of their humongous size. But this season, watch out!
For starters, unaggressive as the Gophers were, they did whip such formidable opposition as Iowa, Louisville and North Carolina. They also had four overtime defeats, and a win in any one of them probably would have sent them into the NCAA tournament.
Three years ago Coach Jim Dutcher recruited four players—Holmes, Trent Tucker, Darryl Mitchell and Mark Hall—whom experts rated at the time among the most promising groups of freshmen in the country. And now they're seniors. "We've won 40 games in the past two seasons and still feel like we haven't accomplished a thing," Dutcher says. "We're tired of being an 'almost' team."
Tucker, who can play either guard or forward, pumped in a notable 51.7% of his field-goal attempts last year. But this paled in comparison to the shooting of Hall, a long-distance bomber who shot 61.7%, a Gopher record. Sadly, Hall is academically ineligible at least until Jan. 3. Gladly, the Big Ten schedule begins after that. In Hall's absence, Gopher fans will see plenty of Mitchell.
This adds up to a solid supporting cast for Breuer, a soft-shooting but non-intimidating junior. He often scores biggest against his toughest rivals, as evidenced by his 29 points against Purdue's Russell Cross last season and his 26 versus Ohio State's Herb Williams. Mainly his points have come on short jumpers and little jump hooks. Don't bet against him. Or against that senior class. Minnesota might just Gopher it all.
On any evening in the dorm housing the Arkansas basketball players, 6'10" Center Scott Hastings may be crouched in a doorway with a plastic pistol in his holster, waiting to ambush Guard John Snively. At the right moment, Hastings draws his weapon and does his Clint Eastwood imitation: menacing squint, clenched teeth and a grimace. "Ask yourself a question," he tells Snively, who's halfway to his own holster. " 'Do I feel lucky?' " One of the two—usually Hastings—then eats a little imaginary lead, and the dorm is again safe, at least until the next duel.
As long as Hastings, twice an All Southwest Conference selection and the Hogs' only true big man, isn't really struck down, Razorback Coach Eddie Sutton will be the one feeling lucky. Every starter except Guard U.S. Reed has returned from a team that was 24-8, finished first in the conference and reached the NCAA semis, where it lost to LSU. In all, nine lettermen are back, supplemented by junior college transfer Alvin Robertson and Snively, a redshirt last season, who is said to be as accurate an outside shooter as he is an inside (the dorm) shooter.
This isn't to say that Arkansas has no weaknesses. The Hogs lack size and lost, by Sutton's estimate, "75 to 80 percent of our outside shooting" when Reed, now with the Kansas City Kings, and Mike Young, departed. Small matter, really. As always, Sutton's Razorbacks will live off defense—the word is sewn into the seats of the players' practice shorts—patient offense and high-percentage shots.
Junior Darrell Walker, a 6'4" point guard, is the Hogs' best, if least disciplined, individual talent. While Hastings led Arkansas in scoring (16.3 points per game) and rebounding (5.4) last season, Walker, an 11.3 scorer, was first in assists, steals and—why else would they call him Sky Walker?—blocked shots. In taking over for Reed as point guard, Walker promises to use fewer unnecessary flourishes in his spectacular passing. Starting alongside him will probably be Robertson, who averaged 18 points at Crowder (Mo.) Junior College last year.
Over the last five seasons, Arkansas has won more games (128) than any other major college and finished lower than first in its conference only once. Now Sutton takes his most experienced squad, one that is obsessed with correcting its primary deficiency—shooting—into a relatively mild schedule. Yeah, he feels real lucky.
Early in Oliver Robinson's freshman season at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Coach Gene Bartow inserted him in a game at guard. "Man, the ball felt this big!" says Robinson, drawing a huge circle in the air. "I didn't know what to do with it. I knew then I wasn't a guard." Robinson's rise as a player parallels the Blazers' development into a major basketball power. Just as Robinson, who's now a senior, is very much a guard, so is UAB a Top 20 team in only its fourth year. "When I came here to start publicizing basketball," says Sports Information Director Pete Derzis, "we literally didn't own a ball." Now the Blazers own one that says UAB 69, KENTUCKY 62, a souvenir from a first-round NCAA victory last year With four starters returning, things should only get better.
Robinson was Bartow's first recruit. Back then he was a 6'4" forward who could leap out of the gym but couldn't hit the basket with a bazooka. Bartow told Robinson he'd have to work on his backcourt skills if he wanted to be a big-time player. So Robinson went to as many as three basketball camps a summer and practiced alone for hours in the Blazers' Bell Gymnasium. "That's the best way," says Robinson, "because you can talk to yourself." Now Robinson has opponents talking to themselves. He averaged 15.9 points, four rebounds and three assists per game last year.
Robinson is one of six Blazers from Birmingham. Another is Forward Chris Giles, who left Southern Illinois when he learned his hometown had a team. Giles wasn't heavily recruited in high school, but he grew four inches in college, to 6'8", and his 11.6 scoring average and 7.8 rebounds per game make him almost as important as Robinson.
The prize catch out of Birmingham four years ago was 6'10", 225-pound Center Norman Anchrum, who went to the University of Alabama. He departed three months later for Tennessee-Chattanooga and the next year came home to UAB. Now he's part of a pivot platoon with another senior, Donnie Speer, who's 6'8".
The fourth returning starter is senior Forward Craig Lane, a 52% shooter who averaged nine points and four rebounds per game last year. He may be pushed by a transfer from Missouri with the publicity man's dream name of Lex Drum. At point guard Bartow plans to replace Glenn Marcus, who graduated, with either sophomore Luellen Foster or senior Jonath Nicholas.
Bartow considers 6'6" Swingman Marvin Ray Johnson from Birmingham to be his top recruit. "He has greatness written all over him," says the coach. UAB has that potential, too.
In its 50th year of SEC competition, Georgia finally seems capable of reaching some goals that it should have taken care of a long time ago—its first 20-win season, its first NCAA tournament bid and its first conference championship.
Not that Georgia was a pushover last season. The Dogs beat every team in the league except Kentucky, upset third-ranked LSU in the SEC postseason tournament and frittered away several other apparent victories with last-minute ball-handling errors. And yet when one looked beyond the conference's leading scorer (at 23.6 points per game) and most exciting player, Forward Dominique Wilkins (page 44), the 19-12 Bulldogs weren't really deep enough to go the distance. Only five players saw action in Georgia's season-ending 73-72 loss to South Alabama in the second round of the NIT, and it may have been fatigue that caused a five-point lead to disappear late in the game.
Things should be different this season. For one thing, Wilkins didn't turn pro. For another, Coach Hugh Durham has so much depth he could send in a second unit to give his starters a rest and be hardly the worse for it.
In the frontcourt, Terry Fair, a muscular 6'7" center, takes pride in chopping taller opponents down to size. While Wilkins looks for dunks, Georgia's other forward, James Banks, can drill it from the foul line and will crash both backboards. Lamar Heard, a lefty, is the third forward, and 6'8" freshman Richard Corhen will spell Fair on the rare occasions when he gets in foul trouble.
The guard corps is led by 6'5" sophomore Vern Fleming, a big scorer in high school who has become a playmaker. Eric Marbury is one of the Dogs' few seniors though he sometimes plays like a freshman. Marbury had best not stray too far from Durham's team concept this season because 6'3" junior Derrick Floyd and 6'3" freshman Gerald Crosby are both capable of taking his place. Crosby can poke the ball away from an unwary dribbler, feed Fleming in full stride for a layup and somehow look blasè about it.
But what will Durham do when the Dogs take one of those tissue-paper leads into the final minute? Easy. He'll go to Darryl (Pee Wee) Le-nard, a 5'6" freshman who should add another dimension to the team's offense. When Lenard was in high school in St. Louis, he was listed at 5'8". "He shrank during shipping," says Durham. Lenard was born to run a delay game, and when opponents can find him to foul him, he makes 90% of his free throws. The Dogs aren't dogs anymore.
Once again Indiana will be in the hunt for the national championship, and that, more than anything, is a measure of Bobby Knight's singular ability as a coach. At 41, and with two NCAA titles to his credit, Knight has discovered that a challenge still turns him on. So, instead of taking the money CBS offered him to retire on top and become a TV sportscaster, Knight decided to stay in Bloomington and try to solve the puzzle of defending the title without Ray Tolbert, who graduated; Isiah Thomas, who gave up his last two years of eligibility to turn pro; and Landon Turner, who may never walk again because of injuries suffered last summer in an automobile accident.
The Hoosiers are young—there isn't a senior on the team and they almost certainly will start a freshman center—but they are talented. And when Knight says, "I get enthused coaching these kids and watching a team develop," that ought to be enough warning for anybody. The starting center figures to be 6'9", 215-pound John Flowers, one of the best athletes ever recruited by Knight. Besides scoring 24 points a game last year for Fort Wayne's South Side High, Flowers placed second in the long jump at the state track meet and was a finalist in the 200-meter.
Backing up Flowers should be Uwe Blab (pronounced u-e blop). At 7'2", Uwe is not only the tallest Hoosier player ever, but he's also the first Indiana player born in West Germany. Having lived in the U.S. only a couple of years, he's still a little naive about basketball here. For instance, when he first met Knight, he had never heard of him.
"The other coaches all came to visit me in the summer," said Blab, when Knight first called on him last winter, "and then came back to visit me again."
"Well, you haven't been to see me, either," said Knight, "and I've done a helluva lot more for college basketball than you have."
In the end, Blab may do wonders for Indiana. "He's better at this stage than Kent Benson was," says Knight.
The forwards figure to be a couple of 6'8" juniors, Ted Kitchel, a returning starter, and 225-pound Steve Bouchie. The backcourt will be anchored by 6'6" junior Randy Wittman, a real zone-buster. Guard Jim Thomas, the big-play man of the NCAA tournament, will be asked to be the Thomas this season instead of the other Thomas, as he was in 1980-81.
By season's end, a lot of folks may be wishing that CBS had been a little more persuasive about that job offer.
Though Winfrey (Wimp) Sanderson has been a part of two NCAA tournament and five NIT teams in his 22 years as an assistant and head coach at Alabama, he still finds all the hoopla over this season's Crimson Tide mighty hard to believe. There's no question that Alabama will be a good, experienced team. It has four starters back from last year, when it went 18-11, led the SEC in rebounding and advanced to the second round of the NIT. The Tide also had the finest recruiting year in its history. Suddenly there's Final Four talk around Tuscaloosa, and that has Sanderson shaking his head. "I thought nothing could top the pressure I felt last season, my first as a head coach," he says. "Now everybody has us packing for the Final Four New Orleans."
Sanderson lured four highly regarded in-state recruits to Tuscaloosa, two of whom, 6'9" Power Forward Bobby Lee Hurt and Guard Ennis Whatley, were ranked among the top 10 high school prospects in the nation last season. Hurt figures to start at the forward opposite senior Eddie Phillips, 'Bama's best player. An All-SEC selection since his sophomore season, he was the Tide's leading scorer (17.0 points per game) and rebounder (9.8) last season. The center is 6'9" senior Phillip Lockett, a solid defender who chipped in with 8.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a game last year. Backing him up is 6'11" freshman Mark Farmer, a promising talent despite having missed virtually his entire senior season in high school with a broken ankle. Mike Davis, a 10.2-points-per-game scorer as a sophomore, will start at one guard. The other guard could be Eddie Adams, sidelined until at least early December with a bone chip in his right knee; Whatley, a fine passer and floor leader; or Eric Richardson.
The Tide was a mediocre (46.7%) shooting team last year, so Sanderson has revved up the offense, partly to take advantage of Hurt's prodigious rebounding talents and Whatley's ball-handling skills, and partly to produce more high-percentage shots. As good as Alabama looks, Sanderson isn't about to get rid of the scowl that has won him the nickname Happy. "I'm a worrier," he says. "People who don't know me think I'm the meanest guy in the world. People who do know me accept me for what I am. I'm just trying to help the world keep turning. If everyone drove a blue car, the world would be sick of blue cars." Crimson, of course, is a car of a different color. Even Happy should like this year's model.
John Pinone likes bears. He admires their power, strength and agility, qualities he ascribes to himself. "Oh, he's really into them," says his girl friend, Courtney Vanderslice, a member of Villanova's women's basketball team. "We watch Wild Kingdom and go to the zoo a lot."
The 6'8", 228-pound Pinone's opponents think of him more as a bull, which best describes his way of "establishing position" around the basket. But even detractors who think Pinone ought to be playing football can't ignore his china-shop touch, which last year produced 15.8 points per game on 55.4% accuracy. And this season they may have to admit that overall Pinone is more bear than bull because Coach Rollie Massimino plans to play him a lot at the high post.
The Wildcats used to depend on homegrown talent drawn to Villanova by a desire to play in Philly's Big Five series. Not anymore. There isn't a Philadelphian on Villanova's roster, and most of this year's recruits were lured by the Big East competition. Massimino, however, remains in the best tradition of the tie-tugging, arm-waving, ref-baiting Big Five coaches of the past, though he professes to have toned down his act last year. "Dave Gavitt [commissioner of the Big East] is going to turn me into a mannequin," says Massimino. "Every time I stand up and start to say something, I hear him shout, 'Your health! Your health!' "
Forward Alex Bradley, now with the Knicks, will be tough to replace, but the Wildcats won six of 11 games he missed last year with an injury. Forward Aaron Howard was a major reason for those victories. Howard is the ideal "role" player, a tough defender and rebounder who shoots well enough (55.0%) to take some pressure off Pinone.
Two recruits will help, too. Guard Dwayne McClain is a deadly shooter, while Forward Ed Pinckney was a high school All-America and is an interviewer's delight. Asked what it was like growing up as he did with six sisters, Pinckney said, "No bathroom time. I mean none at all."
Villanova lost a long-range bomber in Tom Sienkiewicz, but Frank Dobbs can be a worthy replacement. Coming back to the other guard is Stewart Granger, who averaged 12.9 points a game.
Granger, who is originally from Montreal, was a member of the Canadian national team that handed the eventual champion U.S. its only defeat at the World University Games this summer. The Americans' center was Pinone. "We just stayed away from each other," says Granger. Many of Pinone's opponents will take a similar tack this season.
The guy who's doing most of the cussing and screaming these days at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball practices isn't Runnin' Rebel Coach Jerry Tarkanian. Of course, he has a right to scream. Last season the Rebels tumbled to 16-12, marking the first time in 19 college seasons that a Tarkanian-coached team failed to win 20 games.
But, still, Tarkanian isn't screaming. That's being done by former Army, Clemson, Buffalo Braves and Jacksonville Coach Tates Locke, who got a reported $50,000 settlement after the Dolphins dismissed him last April. Locke's specialty is defense, but in a broader sense, he's at UNLV as a part-time assistant to help kick the sometimes apathetic Rebels in the rump. "People with talent are the most dangerous people on earth," says Locke, "because they can take you so far and then let you down. They did that to Jerry."
One of the Rebels' shortcomings last season was the absence of a floor leader. Tarkanian reckoned that he could make Greg Goorjian, a good shooting guard, into a play-maker, but Goorjian didn't do anything very well when he played on the point. Michael Burns, at 6'7" more a penetrator than a point man, was tried. He, too, fizzled.
Injuries to Burns, who sprained his left ankle, and to 6'9" Forward Sidney Green, who hyperextended his left knee, didn't help. "I thought we'd be great," says Tarkanian, "but when we found out Greg couldn't play the point we should have replaced him. Then Mike and Sid went down, and we were really in trouble." Tark has recruited a stable full of high school and junior-college players, including his son, Danny, a 6'2" playmaking guard with the ability to get the Rebels off and running again. UNLV has all of the shooting guards it needs. Leading scorer Larry Anderson (15.5 points per game) and Goorjian are two of the best gunners around. The top freshman recruit, Swingman Dwayne Polee, the 1980-81 Los Angeles 4-A high school player of the year, was slowed early in preseason workouts by injuries sustained in an auto accident, but he has recovered.
Up front, last season's three starters—Green, Forward Richard Box and Center Michael Johnson—all return, but Johnson could be relegated to spot duty by Richie Adams, a transfer from Massachusetts Bay Community College.
Then, there's Locke, who despite his practice vocabulary has been embraced by the players. "We have players who need discipline," says Box. "Coach Tarkanian will get you motivated and get you to play hard, but he has always needed an axman."