For years now, the major-college hounds have been a-bayin'. The NCAA tournament is a mongrelization, the well-bred say, and mutts are getting in with no pedigree except an antiquated automatic bid. Well, over the summer the big dogs finally had their day. The NCAA decided that, if you're from the TAAC or the SWAC or the MEAC or one of five other less prominent conferences, you'll have to work to reach Albuquerk. By expanding its field from 48 teams to 52 and holding steady the number of automatic qualifiers, the NCAA has in effect created four more at-large bids. Winners of eight leagues (the Trans America Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference, East Coast Conference, Ivy League, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, ECAC North, ECAC Metro and Midwestern City Conference), which had received automatic bids, will now play among themselves in an elimination round to determine who'll be the 12th seed in each of the four regions.
"There can be no more jokes about this not being a major-college team," says ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK Coach Ron Kestenbaum. "This is a major-college team." That's true, even though the Trojans will again car-pool a few end-of-the-benchers to away games and will occasionally play in a 2,400-seat gym that even Kestenbaum calls "an eyesore to the state." Arkansas-Little Rock will win the Trans America title and qualify for the elimination round, thanks to seniors Jimmy (Back to You, Keith) Lampley, a 7-foot center who led the Trojans in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (6.6), and Guard Vaughn Williams, a three-year starter at the point. But ALCORN STATE will emerge from the SWAC to beat the Trojans and advance to the field of 52. Over the past five seasons no team has scored more points a game (86.6) or outrebounded opponents as decisively (a 10.5 margin) as the Braves, who welcome back four starters from a team that went 22-8 last season. Erstwhile Center Tom Collie, at 6'8" Alcorn's second-leading scorer in 1981-82, will move to forward; 5'9" Ed Archie, who led the SWAC in steals and placed second in assists, returns to the point.
There's no truth to the rumor that all-state high-schooler Chip Greenberg, a 6'4" passer from Philly's La Salle College High, chose LA SALLE so he wouldn't have to buy a new letter jacket. Greenberg should help the Explorers win the ECC, but La Salle's main man should continue to be Steve Black, whose 20 points a game last season led the nation's freshmen. But PENN will win the Ivy and then meet—and beat—its Big Five rival. "No, Ralph will not be transferring here," said former Virginia Assistant and new Quaker Coach Craig Littlepage when he met his players. Penn will do well enough without Sampson. The Quakers have eight players back who started at least one game last season, when Penn lost nine in a row and then swept 14 straight to win its 10th Ivy title in 13 years. Forward Paul Little, co-Ivy Player of the Year, averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.
North Carolina A&T will emerge from the MEAC, if only because it badly wants a chance to atone for a 30-point loss to West Virginia in last spring's West Regional. "You usually show the videos of good games or wins," says Aggie Coach Don Corbett. "But not here. The kids see that West Virginia film every day. They don't want to forget." Four of last season's starters are around to remember. The best is Forward Joe Binion, who last season averaged 19.1 points and 9.2 rebounds and was conference Player of the Year. Two ECAC North preseason all-stars, Guard Ray Hall and aptly named Lee Stringfellow, a 6'9", 205-pound forward, will lead CANISIUS into the preliminary round. But A&T should show the Golden Griffins the way out.
There's not too much metropolitan about Moon Township, Pa., home to ROBERT MORRIS, which will win the ECAC Metro but lose to EVANSWLLE of the Midwestern City in the "urban" elimination round. After the Purple Aces' first-round loss to Marquette last March, Coach Dick Walters asked his players what they thought they lacked. "Coach, we're not strong enough physically," they told him. Five days later Walters put them on a weight program—and later on he turned down the Wisconsin coaching job so he could reap the benefits. The $25,000 customized purple van the Aces used to pick up recruits at the airport must have been impressive: Four fine freshmen and two juco transfers are on hand; the best of them is Forward Bubby Mukes.
The Wisconsin job that Walters rejected finally went to BALL STATE's Steve Yoder, who has been replaced by his former assistant, Al Brown. Yoder left behind three of the starters who won the Mid-American Conference by two games last season, including 5'9" Ray McCallum, who'll probably become the MAC's alltime leading scorer this year. Over the last three seasons McCallum has averaged 17.5 points on just 13.7 shots a game and shot better than 50% from the field and 80% from the line. Last season he committed only 32 turnovers in 28 games.
Bradley figures to play in Peoria at the new 10,400-seat Civic Arena—though without the front line that led the Braves to the NIT title last March after Bradley was unjustly passed over for an NCAA bid. But the backcourt's back: 5'11", 150-pound Willie Scott, the Munchkin of a point guard who set a Braves' single-season assist record, and Barney Mines. Center Pierre Cooper has licked a mysterious blood disorder that kept him out of action last season, and sophomore Forward Voise (as in Boise) Winters had a fine rookie year. Juco All-America Forward Booker Johnson is the best of three transfers.
According to Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds, a cardinal goes whoit whoit whoit. The same question has been asked about the LAMAR Cardinals, despite their 92 wins and three NCAA appearances the last four years. In fact, Lamar could issue A Birds' Guide to the Field. It would include such tournament victims as Detroit, Weber State, Oregon State and Missouri. Because Southwestern Louisiana, which edged Lamar for the SLC bid last season, has gone independent, the Cards ought to make the tournament again. En route they should pad their Division I-leading 56-game home winning streak. Says Coach Pat Foster, "I feel like I'm coaching a whole team of DiMaggios." Maybe so, but Terry Long (14.8 points a game last season) has left and gone away.
Southwestern Louisiana has six of the top seven players back from a team that opened the season by beating Georgetown, Washington State and Marquette to win the Great Alaska Shootout. Junior forwards Graylin Warner and Dion Brown return, with averages of 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, respectively. The Ragin' Cajuns, whose fans wear T shirts with big red dots on them, will play a spotty schedule in their first season as an independent, so they probably must win at least 22 games to earn their berth.
"Not to belittle those guys," says DePAUL Coach Ray Meyer of recent Blue Demon All-Americas Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings, "but there were always worries about getting them their points. Now if anybody messes up, I can yank 'em." Forward Bernard Randolph averaged 14.7 points per game last season, twice as many as any other returnee. More will be expected from two sophomores, Walter Downing, possible heir to Cummings in the pivot, and Guard Kenny (Fast) Patterson.
"Brian [Winters] told me when I had a jump shot to take it, and Quinn [Buckner] helped me with my defense," says MAROUETTE Guard Glenn (Doc) Rivers of his off-season self-improvement sessions with present and former Milwaukee Bucks. The 6'4" junior was MVP of the U.S. team at the World Championship in Cali, Colombia and opened fall practice trimmed and burning. "I've never seen him in such good shape," says Warrior Coach Hank Raymonds, who's beginning his sixth and last season. "He isn't turning it on and off anymore." Forward Marc Marotta is Marquette's other top returning scorer, while Swingman Kerry Trotter is the class of the freshmen.
"I don't have any catchy sayings or mottoes this year," says NOTRE DAME Coach Digger Phelps, who called last season's Fighting Irish The Rat Pack and said they'd "steal 20 victories." As things turned out, all 10 victories were well paid for. The Irish wouldn't have won that many without Guard John Paxson, who shot 53.5% and averaged 16.4 points. "We've had some spectacular play from the freshmen in practice," says Phelps of his excellent five-man class. "That worries me—I don't know if they're that good, or if the rest of the team isn't as good as it should be." Last year's results should answer that question.
A tougher schedule should earn independent DAYTON the at-large berth it barely missed last season. The Flyers are led by Guard Roosevelt Chapman, the team MVP who averaged 18.1 points a year ago. Chapman will join returning guards Kevin Conrad and Larry Schellenberg on the perimeter.
How can a team lose four starters to the NBA draft, its umpteenth recruit from its own backyard to the state school down the pike, welcome back just one starter—whose name sounds like a debutante's—and still be the conference favorite? In spite of it all, ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM will win the Sun Belt and dance in March, thanks to returning Guard Luellen Foster, transfer Forward Cliff Pruitt, a malcontent at UCLA who becomes eligible in December, and Center Lex Drum, who bolted Missouri two years ago but didn't get much playing time last season. Another new transfer is Forward Eugene Jones, from the Blazers' recruiting nemesis, Alabama. "If we have good luck injury-wise," says Coach Gene Bartow, "we could be better than last year [25-6] by the end of the season." That's when the Sun Belt holds its tournament to pick an NCAA rep. In Birmingham.
Tennessee-Chattanooga choo-chooed through its schedule last season, going 15-1 in the Southern Conference and 27-4 overall, counting three straight wins in the league tournament. Though the Mocs lost Forward Russ Schoene and Guard Nick Morken, they still have junior Guard Willie White, who was conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. Transferring in from junior college is Gerald Wilkins, the 6'6" kid brother of the Atlanta Hawks' Dominique, the Human Highlight Film. Wilkins began developing a reputation as the Human Highlight Trailer at the National Sports Festival, where he set a four-game scoring record while playing for the North team. The Mocs will play in a new 11,200-seat arena they'll call The Roundhouse—love those train metaphors.
Washington State will be like a doughnut—centerless—when it plays Coach George Raveling's open post offense, but the Cougars will have height, depth and a three-senior forecourt. One of them is Guy Williams, who was the MVP in a 1979 NCAA first-round game as a freshman at San Francisco. Says Raveling, who expects more from Williams than the 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds he averaged last season, "He thinks shooting a basketball is like a diving contest—that they award points for degree of difficulty."
Southern Cal Coach Stan Morrison, making good on a promise, did a cannonball into a swimming pool when the Trojans made last spring's tournament. Morrison promises that if USC makes it to the Final Four, he'll "do a cannonball off the Redondo Beach pier." Jacque Hill, who rarely turns the ball over despite handling it 80% of the time in the Trojan offense, returns to the point, and two sophomores who made the Pac-10 all-rookie team—Wayne Carlander (8.6 points per game, 6.3 rebounds) and Ken Johnson (9.5, 7.9)—will anchor the forecourt. Freshman Gerry (Sir Jamalot) Wright, a 6'8" forward with an 11-inch handspan, can execute a 720-degree dunk.
Guards Alvin Robertson and Darrell Walker, two Hogs who can get high—38 inches each, to be exact—are two reasons why ARKANSAS will win the Southwest Conference. Another reason: Coach Eddie Sutton, who says, "Alvin and Darrell could play with three sorority mothers and still be winners." The Razorback center will be 6'11" Joe Kleine, a transfer from Notre Dame whose playing style is more fraternity brother. That's in stark contrast to last season's center, mobile, soft-shooting Scott Hastings. Sutton is counting on 12 points and eight rebounds a game from Kleine, but doesn't expect the Hogs to shoot as well as they did the last five seasons, when Arkansas was second in the nation in field-goal percentage. "If the NCAAs were a game of H-O-R-S-E," says Sutton, "we'd finish last."
Since coming to HOUSTON from Nigeria in 1980, Akeem Abdul (Jelly) Olajuwon has added 55 pounds to his 7-foot frame, and the 245-pound Jelly hasn't even got a roll. Three other front-liners, instrumental in the Cougars' surprising rush to last spring's Final Four, return: Larry (Mr. Mean) Micheaux, an excellent inside shooter who sports a tattoo of an anchor on his right arm; Clyde (the Glide) Drexler, a fine offensive rebounder; and shooter Michael Young. The Cougs are wondering how they will replace departed backcourt starters Rob Williams and Lynden Rose.
San Diego State hopes that where there's smoke, there's fire. "Eddie's got to get more consistent," says Coach Dave (Smokey) Gaines of senior Eddie Morris. "He can burn them out one night, and the next he can't even light the fire." Maybe Morris won't mix 3-for-16 games with 20-for-25 outings in 1982-83. Keith Smith, the Aztecs' leading scorer (12.8 points) of 1981-82, will be in the backcourt with Swingman Morris or freshman Guard Anthony Watson. Michael Cage, a high school teammate of Keith Lee, is the best player in the WAC's finest front line that also includes Center Leonard Allen and Forward Eddie Gordon.
Murray State lost 5'10" cruise-control Guard Lamont Sleets to a stress fracture three games into last season, so the Racers redshirted him and went 20-8 anyway. Now he and four other onetime starters—including two more former All-Ohio Valley Conference first-team choices, Glen Green (14.9 points per game in 1981-82) and Ricky Hood (13.5 with 8.9 rebounds)—are back.
Randy Breuer, a 7'3" center, is MINNESOTA's only returning starter, but he led the Golden Gophers in scoring (16.6) and rebounding (7.2). Junior Jim Petersen and senior Zebedee Howell will get a lot of time at forward, vacated by Trent Tucker and Darryl Mitchell. And Coach Jim Dutcher brought in three excellent recruits: 6'7" Roland Brooks, the MVP of the California State J.C. Tournament, and guards Marc Wilson and Alonzo Skanes, both high school All-Americas.
"We're more physical than we were a year ago," insists OHIO STATE Coach Eldon Miller, even though rugged Clark Kellogg made an early exit to the NBA. Three recruits will account for that: 6'9" Alan Kortokrax, Ohio's Class A Player of the Year, and the Smith (Clinton) and Wesson (Keith) boys, who go 6'5" and 6'9", respectively. A fourth freshman, Matt Lucas, is the adopted son of former Buckeye great Jerry Lucas.
Though nine of ILLINOIS' top 11 players are underclassmen, two of them—Forward Efrem Winters and Guard Bruce Douglas—were the best high school prospects in the state, and perhaps the entire Midwest. Among the three other all-state players, Guard Doug Altenberger is the third likely freshman starter. Veteran Guard Derek Harper led the Big Ten in assists (5.6) and steals (2.1) last season.
St. John's beat North Carolina 78-74 last week and has its top eight back from a 21-9 team that came within a point of the East Region semifinals. But five of those nine losses were to Big East rivals Georgetown and Villanova, and that bodes ill. Chris Mullin did everything asked of him as a freshman guard, and senior Forward David Russell was often spectacular while amassing his 17.4 scoring average.
Syracuse doesn't lose a starter from the 16-13 team that beat Georgetown in the regular season. When Leo Rautins injured his knee last year and missed seven games, the Orange fast break became a lemon. But Rautins, a 6'8" Canadian who led his country's national team to a win over the U.S. at the Knoxville World's Fair in August, is healthy again and says, "We'll be running more than ever." Guards Gene Waldron and Erich Santifer, Forward Tony (Red) Bruin, and centers Andre Hawkins and Sean Kerins will be joined by four freshmen, including two more Canadians. At 6'8", 245 pounds, Hawkins is as solid as a curling stone, but must avoid foul trouble.
Last season was a rocky one for MARYLAND, whose Sylvester Stallone offense consisted of yelling, "Yo, Adrian," and dumping the ball in to freshman Forward Adrian Branch. His one-on-one moves led the Terps in scoring with 15.2 points a game. Maryland has seven players 6'8" or taller, but it was 6'6" Herman Veal who was third behind Virginia's Ralph Sampson and North Carolina's Sam Perkins in conference rebounding last year.
Pepperdine isn't particularly big or deep, but, says Coach Jim Harrick, "We resemble Louisville. We like to run and play good defense. And we've got good size that can jump." Even if the Waves can't come at you in waves, three starters return from the team that went undefeated in the WCAC last season. The best is Orlando Phillips (15.6 points per game, 8.7 rebounds).
He had a mission and chose to accept it. But now 6'7" Devin Durrant is back at BRIGHAM YOUNG, where he averaged 13.3 points a game in 1979-80 as a sophomore before going to Spain to spread the word. Thus the Cougars really have three starters returning, with senior Center Greg Kite and soph Guard Scott Sinek also back. Among five newcomers are two 29-point-a-gamers out of Utah. BYU won't win the WAC, but a stout schedule will help earn it a bid.
Iona was furious when it didn't make the tournament last March despite going 24-9 with a top eight of mostly freshmen and sophomores. So the Gaels slunk off to Australia for a summer tour, vowing new motivation. Steve Burtt, a 6'2" kangaroo who averaged 22.1 points a game in 1981-82, returns at one guard spot. Gary Springer, a 15.6 scorer, will get help up front from junior-college transfer Arnie Russell.
Kodak Coach of the Year Don Monson of IDAHO has three double-figure scorers back from last season's Sweet 16 qualifiers who should fight off a challenge from Montana in the Big Sky. Guard Brian Kellerman is a two-time all-league choice, Phil Hopson shot 63.2% last season; and 6'6" Kelvin Smith led the conference in blocked shots. Two junior-college products, 5'11" Joe Sweeney, who didn't play high school ball, and 6-foot Stan Arnold, are battling to start at point guard.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas begins its first season in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association with intense pressure on Coach Jerry Tarkanian to qualify for the tournament. Sharpshooting Larry Anderson (page 49), Center Sidney Green and Tarkanian's son Danny are good players who have fallen short before, but the addition of freshman Eldridge Hudson, considered by some to be the top small-forward prospect in the class of '86, will help.
Charles Barkley of AUBURN is a War Eagle who looks like Big Bird. Last season, as a 6'6", 260-pound freshman, he arrived in Kentucky to catcalls of "Hey, Fatty!" and unloaded 25 points and 17 rebounds. Then, in the National Sports Festival, he reported at 285 pounds, but led the South to the championship with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the title game. "Never in my life have I seen so much quickness and agility in a man so big," says Tulsa Coach Nolan Richardson, Barkley's mentor at the Sports Festival. Barkley, who led the SEC in rebounding as a freshman, is back down to 260. He'll join four seniors who started last season. Among the freshmen, Forward Chuck Person is somebody.