With four seconds remaining in the Southeast Regional final in New Orleans last March, Minnesota guard Kevin Lynch took a pass and headed into the frontcourt with the Golden Gophers trailing Georgia Tech 93-91. Lynch dribbled through a crowd and into a corner and heaved a 23-foot plea as the buzzer sounded. The shot arced and...missed...everything. End of season.
Lynch played with four senior starters in 1989-90, yet he still wanted the ball when the season was on the line. No small feat for someone who four years ago scored only a dozen points a game as a high school senior. But the 6'5" Lynch, who was not heavily recruited, has come a long way. He was the last player cut from the U.S. team for the '90 Goodwill Games and is, says Minnesota coach Clem Haskins, "without a doubt a first-round draft choice," even "a long-shot lottery pick."
Lynch played sparingly as a freshman, started as a sophomore and last season emerged as a scoring threat. This season, with most of Haskins's Golden oldies gone, Lynch knows he will also have to lead. "We're so young, I need to get my two cents in," he says. "For us to do well I'm going to have to step forward."
At Illinois, freshman forward Deon Thomas will be stepping out after a red-faced redshirt season. The 6'9" Thomas, one of the most coveted players from the Chicago area in 1989, was at the eye of a storm that settled last week when the Illini were placed on three-year probation for violations committed under coach Lou Henson. The NCAA found no proof of allegations by Iowa assistant coach Bruce Pearl that the Illini had offered Thomas $80,000 and a Chevy Blazer as illegal recruiting inducements. Still, Thomas will undoubtedly play before some merciless crowds jingling car keys—especially in Iowa City on Feb. 23.
Doesn't it seem that whenever the Boilermakers look vulnerable, Purdue coach Gene Keady somehow guides them to a solid finish? He'll have to be at his best this season.
The battle for the point guard spot at Wisconsin pits Billy Douglass, the son of former Chicago Bears quarterback Bobby, against Larry Hisle Jr., the son of the erstwhile Milwaukee Brewers outfielder. In his four years at Iowa, coach Tom Davis's record has gotten progressively worse, sagging to 12-16 last season. With his bench now bare of former coach George Raveling's recruits, Davis is on his own with seven new players and no seniors.
While vacationing in Florida over the summer, Michigan coach Steve Fisher was stung by a stingray. Fisher may endure more prolonged agony this season. Four starters from his 1989-90 team were selected in the NBA draft, and his top four prospects signed elsewhere.
How bad can it get for pitiful Northwestern, last in the conference for six years running? This bad: With three starters from a 9-19 team having transferred, the Wildcats have lost a hefty 87% of their scoring and 76% of their rebounding.
BEST OF THE REST
Thirty-three conference champions are eligible for 30 automatic bids to the NCAA tournament. Here are our picks to win the leagues not covered in the preceding reports.
—EAST TENNESSEE STATE