The big eight is like the little boy at the state fair who learns, to his dismay, that the blue-ribbon hog will soon be bacon. Missouri should emerge as league champion, but the men in the aprons—in this case, the NCAA Committee on Infractions—are already sharpening their knives for Tiger meat. If the pressure of the NCAA inquiry gets to Missouri, either of the Oklahoma schools could become the conference power.
Oklahoma State appears ready to reward coach Leonard Hamilton, who has been rebuilding the program since he arrived in Stillwater in 1987. All-Big Eight forward Richard Dumas, a junior, can shoot, rebound and play defense (he was second in the conference in steals last season with 69). Three sophomores—Byron Houston, Corey Williams and Darwyn Alexander—had outstanding freshman seasons, especially Houston, who averaged 13 points and 8.4 rebounds. But skeptics will note that in a game now dominated by guards, the Cowboys' two best players are forwards.
Without Mookie Blaylock, Tyrone Jones and the unstoppable Stacey King, OKLAHOMA won't be nearly as formidable as it was in 1988-89. Coach Billy Tubbs shopped everywhere for a center to replace King, but all his prospects fell through. So William (Cheese) Davis, a 6'6" senior who averaged 8.7 points as a forward in 1988-89, will play what Tubbs has termed "small center." Says Tubbs, "We'll call it point guard if he wants to. It doesn't matter what you call it; it's what you do there."
The only other "name" player that Oklahoma has back is guard Terrence Mullins, but Tubbs recruited guard Smokey McCovery, a juco All-America reminiscent of former Sooner Ricky Grace. No doubt we'll still see a lot of shooting by the Sooners, who pout if they don't get their 100 points a game.
Kansas could be the conference sleeper, particularly if forward Rick Calloway, a former starter at Indiana, doesn't suffer from Post-Bobby Knight Stress Syndrome. Knight-mares, if you will. Mark Randall, Kevin Pritchard, Jeff Gueldner, Mike Maddox and Freeman West are proven players, and with freshman point guard Adonis Jordan expected to make an immediate contribution, coach Roy Williams will have everything but a true center.
Kansas State, without the muscle of pivotman Fred McCoy, may find all-conference guard Steve Henson smothered by defenders, but Lon Kruger, 37, is one of the nation's brightest young coaches. He'll keep the Wildcats competitive. Johnny Orr's IOWA STATE Cyclones will rely heavily on 265-pound center Victor Alexander, but except for 5'9" Terry Woods, a dish-off artist, the guard position looks thin.
Nebraska is thin almost everywhere, especially now that forward Beau Reid, the Cornhuskers' top scorer last season, may miss this season after suffering a knee injury in a summer pickup game. Woeful COLORADO will have to figure out what went right in its final two games of 1988-89, a one-point loss to Missouri and a double-overtime loss to Oklahoma. Colorado will again reside in the Big Eight cellar, but at least the Buffaloes won't be bacon.