Thanks mainly to Louisville coach Denny Crum's annoying habit of recruiting and developing standout players, the league's hierarchy looks much as it has for the past four years. The Cardinals are still the team to beat, and MEMPHIS STATE remains their most dogged pursuer. The Tigers will get their ninth straight 20-win season, largely because of guard Elliot Perry, a dervish who penetrates the paint, hoists the trey, harasses on defense and makes everyone wonder why he doesn't get more recognition.
Florida State has lost George McCloud and Tony Dawson, its dynamic one-two punch last season, but the Seminoles still have solid scorers in Tharon Mayes at shooting guard and center Irving Thomas, a transfer from Kentucky. Coach Pat Kennedy is determined to build another Louisville in Tallahassee. He has far to go.
South Carolina suffered an unexpected blow when guard Brent Price, brother of the Cleveland Cavaliers' Mark, transferred to Oklahoma. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI has two aces in 6'7" Clarence Weather-spoon and off-guard Darrin Chancellor. VIRGINIA TECH is led by former Olympian Bimbo Coles.
The league's sleeper is CINCINNATI, which has a new coach, Bob Huggins, a new 13,500-seat on-campus arena and 6'6" Louis Banks. That leaves TULANE, which is playing basketball again after dropping the sport in 1985 following a point-shaving scandal. New coach Perry Clark will have an experienced backcourt in Michael Christian and Greg Gary, a talented pair of juco transfers. They won't be enough.