by Michael Aleles, MBA1 and Derek Izuel, MBA 1
All right, so you didn't get the Duke game as part of your basketball season ticket package (neither did we). Did anybody? But who cares, this is the University of Michigan! The university that brought you: baggy shorts, the Fab Five, and untimely time outs, is back for another exciting season. Will the Wolverines make a return to the Final Four, or will they lose to another Ivy League team at Crisler Arena like last year? Well, they cannot lose to another Ivy team (they don't play one). They do appear to be better armed than last year, when they lost to Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. One of the authors of this article is still particularly bitter at this loss, since it cost him winning $250 on a parlay in Las Vegas.
We'll run through the Big Ten in detail, and then provide a summary of each of the major conferences. If there are any MAC fans reading this, you better go buy a magazine preview, because we had to draw the line somewhere.
The Big Ten took it's share of abuse last year. Once one of the strongest conferences in the nation, they leveraged on that reputation to place six teams in the NCAA tourney. Only Purdue survived the first round, and they lost in the second.
Michigan and Iowa appear to have the potential to put together a sensational season if they can pull it all together. Don't expect anybody from the Big Ten to be a No. 1 seed in any of the tournament brackets though. Overall talent levels are down from past years.
It should be an exciting season however. The competition will be fierce as always. This conference is famous for wearing itself thin over the season. Come February, different teams with different styles will be jockeying for those last few tournament bids.
1. Michigan - Talent, talent, talent. One of the most potentially talented teams in the country. Two years of top recruiting classes have stacked the Wolverines with as many as nine possible pro players. Maurice Taylor has emerged as a force in the frontcourt, and disappointing sophomore Jerod Ward is expected to show why he was the top ranked incoming freshman last year.
Key for 1995: Not enough basketballs!! How will coach Fisher keep all these guys happy? The core of the team is very young, with only one senior and one junior. Also, there are concerns about team shooting (last in the Big 10 last year). Rainmaking freshman Louis Bullock may help address this need.
Notes: Please no more Fab Five comparisons!!! They recruits of the last few years have been excellent, but the Fab Five was a class with a great or solid player for each position, some who came here to play together. The players from the last two recruiting classes have all been recruited individually, and they do not fit together as well as the Fab Five did.
2. Iowa - Tough from top to bottom. They have great backcourt of Andre Woolridge and Chris Kingsbury team up with Jess Settles, possibly the best player in the conference. Russ Millard adds a ferocious inside game.
Key for 1995: Health. Millard has played only one full season in three, and Settles missed seven games last year due to a back injury. Coach Tom Davis is expected to produce this year and could feel the heat if he does not.
Notes: Expect Kingsbury to show off his "locker-room range" by occasionally firing up extra-long distance shots.
3. Purdue - Gene Keady: after losing the best player in the country last year, he calmly proceeded to win the Big 10 for the second year in a row. This year he returns four starters to team with top freshman recruit Luther Clay. Can he win the Big 10 for the third year in a row?
Key for 1995: Who will replace the points that graduated with Cuozo Martin. Porter Roberts, an experienced point guard, must improve his scoring average of 4.9 points per game. Some of the difference may come from center Brad Miller.
Notes: Keady spurned advances from University of San Francisco, a small program with lots of tradition (Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Bill Cartwright, Phil Smith, Quentin Dailey...) citing his desire to keep his family in the simpler country life of Indiana.
4. Indiana - Bobby Knight brought in 3 JC transfers, Lou Moore, Haris Mujezinovic, and Chris Rowles. JC players are very unusual for Knight. The last time he did it was 1987, and they won the national championship. Brian Evans returns as a solid all-around player, and Andrae Patterson has shown a great deal of potential, but has not yet produced.
Key for 1995: This team is probably a year away from serious contention. Evans must step up his game to become the senior leader they need.
Notes: Since Knight has coached there, Indiana has not gone more than three years without at least a share of the Big-10 title. This could be the year.
5. Illinois - This team will be exciting. Graduation has replaced their beefier forwards with more athletic, wider ranging front court players Jerry Gee and Brett Robisch to go with returning shooter Jerry Hester. Kwane Garris is the best guard in the Big-10, and his mate Richard Keene is no slouch.
Key for 1995: The inside game: the trade off with the loss of strength in the middle is weakness in rebounding and interior defense.
Notes: Illinois has not won the Big 10 outright since 1951-52.
6. Penn State - Where's the beef? In Happy Valley. The Lions lose John Amaechi, but suffer little as they fill the inside with Jeremy Metzger (6-10, 250), Matt Gaudio, (6-8, 240), and Phil `Big House' Williams (6-8, 265). Freshman Calvin booth is 6-11, but only 205. Guard Dan Earl is one of the most unheralded players in the conference. He controls the team and contributes steady consistent play.
Key for 1995: These guys need to spend less time in the cafeteria and more time in the gym working on their shooting. Offense on the big front line is a concern.
Notes: This program is on the rise. In January, the Nittany Lions move from cozy Rec Hall (6,846) to the new Bryan Jordan Center which seats 15,000.
7. Minnesota - Newcomers dominate here in Minneapolis, the other U of M has a class of recruits second only to Michigan's Sophomore Sam Jacobsen is the only returning starter, and he is a good one. A new backcourt must be found to replace overrated Voshon Lenard and Townsend Orr, who disappointed last year before graduating.
Key for 1995: So much uncertainty with so much turnover. Can Haskins bring it all together? This team should not expect to move up too quick, just hope they do not plummet to ninth.
Notes: Two of the Gophers recruits are twins, Jason and Jermaine Stanford. Perhaps they can arrange a game of 2-on-2 with the Haley twins, Sammie and Simeon of Missouri.
8. Michigan State - The emphasis in Lansing shifts from the backcourt to the frontcourt. Quinton Brooks, Jamie Fieck, and Jon Garavaglia all return. Tom Izzo takes over after Jud Heathcote's long tenure. If he can duplicate last year's second place finish, they will be saying "Jud who?"
Key for 1995: Who will replace Shawn Respert (25.6 points per game) and Eric Snow (7.8 assist per game, mostly feeding Respert), arguably the best backcourt in the nation last year?
Notes: Junior guard Ray Weathers got rave reviews from coaches last year during a Big-10 tour of Japan. Perhaps he can fill the gap.
9. Wisconsin - Dick Bennett travels down the road from Wisconsin-Green Bay where he used his patient and deliberate style to devise a victory over the University of California Bears in the NCAAs two years ago. He inherits a team who disappointed many last year. He does get hotshot freshman Sam Okey to build his team around, but not much else.
Key for 1995: In an era where players seem to hold power over coaches, can Bennett get these guys to play in his system? If so, expect some interesting games, and some upsets, especially against undisciplined teams.
Notes: Last year was a nightmare for Badger hoop fans. The year began with much promise. Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith looked to lead Wisconsin to the tourney or further, especially after their performance in the 1994 NCAAs. But the team never came together. Now Finley has graduated, Griffith left prematurely to try the NBA, and as a result, first-year coach Stan Van Gundy got the axe.
10. Ohio State - Randy Ayers has seen both of the extremes. Four years ago, he guided the Buckeye's to back-to-back Big 10 championships. Then his program was racked by scandal, probation and mass defections. At one point he had only seven players. Now he attempts to bring the OSU program back with a solid recruiting class and Rick Yudt.
Key for 1995: Who is Rick Yudt? Exactly the point - the team is rebuilding, but the worst is behind them, and Ayers does have history of success in the past.
Notes: Ohio State has nine freshmen this year. It's anyone's guess how many sophomores they will have next year.
11. Northwestern - When football season is over, Mildcat basketball will remind us of the historical legacy of the Northwestern athletic program. These guys went 5-22, and this year's team has more questions than last year's. They do have Geno Carlisle, a decent perimeter player, and about four projects in the middle, any one of which may pan out. It would take a lot for this team to repeat the 1994 NIT appearance.
Key for 1995: Same keys as 1994, and 1993, etc. - A. How do we get some decent players to come here to play? and B. Will our coach end up in the stands again soon?
The rest of the conferences:
Perennially, the top conference in the nation, the ACC lost most of its top talent last with the early defection of Stackhouse, Wallace, Alexander, and Smith, but this is still the ACC. Virginia will ride its two gunners Curtis Staples and Harold Deane as far as they can go, which was to the Great Eight last year. They just have to replace the inside game that left with Junior Burrough. Maryland will replace Joe Smith's big shoes with Rodney Elliott and Mario Lucas, a pair of bangers. Otherwise, they return the other four remaining starters, all who averaged over ten points per game. Wake Forest centers around Tim Duncan, who would have been the first pick in the NBA draft had he come out last year. UNC has not finished lower than third in thirty-one years. Is this the year? The Dean has never lost so much talent at once. Can he rally the likes of Serge Zwikker, Dante Calabria, Jeff McInnis, and company? Duke finally gets Coach K back after a long season without him. Rebuilding is the theme here again, although rebuilding in a misnomer in the ACC. Stephon Marbury, top recruit in the country, leads Georgia Tech. He almost defected to Fresno State when Jerry Tarkanian took over, but Bobby Cremins whined to his NCAA cronies about tampering and Marbury stayed. Cremins haircut is good enough for a few wins, but not enough for a tournament bid. ACC teams will extract revenge on FSU's football blowouts in basketball. NC State and Clemson offer weeks off.
For all of you East Coast fans who constantly slam the Pac 10, remember where the championship trophy sits. That would be Westwood, home of the NCAA champion UCLA Bruins. UCLA will admirably defend its title, and should probably win the conference again. Lead by forward Charles O'Bannon, the hopping, taunting Toby Bailey, and guard Cameron Dollar, this team will be among the very best in the nation. Add to the mix the highly touted Jelani McCoy (6-10), and they should make it at least to the Sweet Sixteen. As usual, UCLA does not hide from anybody, with games versus Louisville, Duke, Kansas, Maryland, and the Maui Invitational. Cal is loaded with talent, as they have been every year for the past five. Big time recruit Shareef Abdur Rahim (6-10) joins a somewhat deep team led by guard Jelani Gardner and guard Randy Duck. Forward Tremaine Fowlkes (Pac 10 All Freshman Team) has been suspended for receiving a car from an agent (he thought no one would notice). But hey, a little NCAA scandal might be good for this proud academic institution. For once, Cal actually plays a decent nonconference schedule, with games against Cincinnati, Illinois, and Minnesota. Arizona reminds us of this old joke: A patron walks into Lute Olson's bar in Tucson, and orders a beer. When he finishes, he orders another beer, to which the bartender replies, "Sorry pal, you only get one round at Olson's." But they do have talent in center Joe Blair and forward Ben Davis, and they will make another brief appearance in the NCAA's. Stanford will actually be a force this year. The backcourt of Brevin Knight and Dion Cross leads what might be the strongest Cardinal team ever. They should win their fair share of games, especially with the "cupcake" schedule that includes Harvard, Stetson, Navy, and American University. Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon will battle it out for the PAC 10's fifth NCAA spot. Oregon State, Washington, and USC will provide scheduled scrimmages for the Pac 10 powers.
The Big East - the glory conference of the 80's. that brought us Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Derrick Coleman, Dikembe Mutombo, Rony Seikaly, Sherman Douglas, and Chris Mullin. The Big East no longer needs to live in the past glories of these former stars, as the conference is back with a vengeance. Georgetown will take their place atop the conference standings, with yet another star center, Othella Harrington. However, this Hoya team's best player is not the center, but rather sophomore guard Allen Iverson. With more raw talent than anyone in the nation, it will be coach John Thompson's challenge to see whether he can teach a point guard the way he can teach a big man. The Hoyas' nonconference schedule is a "day at the beach", with games versus Canisius, Morgan State, Florida Atlantic, and that west coast powerhouse, Cal State Sacramento. Up in Storrs, UConn will rely on junior forward/guard Ray Allen, one of the best players in the country. Oh, by the way, the Huskies also have a seven footer who can score, Travis Knight. UConn plays up in Anchorage in the Great Alaska Shootout, but the rest of their schedule is not too tough. Guard Kerry Kittles and center Jason Lawson anchor one of the strongest Villanova teams in years. The Wildcats, still steaming from their first round loss to Old Dominion, should put up another strong season. Villanova travels to sunny Hawaii to kick off their season in the always competitive Maui Invitational. Syracuse suffered the loss of their all time leading scorer, Lawrence Moten. But coach Jim Boeheim always has a new crop in upstate New York, and this year is no exception. Senior forward John Wallace will pick up the slack with his 16.8 PPG average from a year ago. St. John's has one of the most exciting players in college basketball, off guard Felipe Lopez. Lopez will singlehandedly put this team in the tournament. Providence, Seton Hall and Miami (yes, that Miami) will also be in the hunt this year. Notre Dame has no chance. We think the Irish will finish 1-29. Send them back to South Bend - who invited them to join the Big East? West Virginia and Rutgers will wish that they had stayed in the Atlantic. 10. Pitt is still living in the glory days of Jerome Lane.
How about confusion USA? A conference established for the benefit of football ends up with some serious basketball talent from the former Great Midwest and Metro conference. There are three divisions, and eleven teams. The Red division is led by Tulane and Perry Clark, who has been stockpiling players for a few years. Jerald Honeycutt and Rayshard Allen surf the Green Wave right down Bourbon Street. In case they falter, Clark can always bring in the `Posse', using his unique five-at-a-time substitution pattern. They should have little problem beating up on UAB, Southern Miss and South Florida. Louisville will battle Memphis in the White division. The Cardinals have lots of improving players like Samaki Walker, DeJuan Wheat, and Jason Osborne. The Tigers are build around Lorenzen Wright, last year's best freshman, and a backcourt of Chris Garner and Mingo Johnson. UNC Charlotte will provide practice time for these two. And of course we have the Blue division, which show a little more parity. Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, and Saint Louis (see below about Saint teams) Cincinnati has the best player here, forward Danny Fortson, and probably the best chance. U of M sees DePaul in the first round of the pre-season NIT.
If Florida beats Florida State, and then Auburn beats Florida in the SEC championship game, and Michigan beats Ohio State, then Michigan could play for the national championship. . .oh wait, that's football. But don't forget, the SEC does play some decent basketball, led by the team who many are picking to win it all, Rick Pitino's Kentucky Wildcats. Rodrick Rhodes may be gone, but this team is loaded, with center Mark Pope, forward Antoine Walker, and guard Tony Delk. The `Cats are so deep that Pitino may redshirt a senior, Jared Prickett, who started for their 1993 Final Four team. Anything less than a Final Four appearance for this team will be a major disappointment. Kentucky plays everybody, including Maryland, UMass, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Louisville, and St. John's. Arkansas' "forty minutes of hell" learned last April what it is like to play against a West Coast team that knows how to score (UCLA), but they will rebound from their loss in the finals to have another strong season. Nolan Richardson accumulated what many think is the best recruiting class in the nation. He will need immediate impact from these kids, as Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman are gone. Mississippi State has a future NBA lottery pick on their team in center Erik Dampier. They could be a sleeper team this year in the Top 25. Also expect strong seasons from South Carolina, LSU, and Georgia. At Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and Vanderbilt, they will be waiting for the 1996 football season by the end of January.
For one last year, this is still the Big Eight, as next year, they become the Big 12. If anyone besides Kansas wins the conference, then the games are fixed. Roy Williams' team is loaded, with a backcourt of Jacque Vaughn and Jerod Haase. 6-11 sophomore Raef LaFrenz will also help to lead this team into a guaranteed Sweet Sixteen appearance, at the very least. Missouri is still wondering how Tyus Edney of UCLA drove the length of the court to beat them in the tournament last March. They return four starters, including the frontcourt tandem of Julian Winfield and Derek Grimm (Reaper). Ryan Minor's 23 PPG average will lead the Oklahoma Sooners to another tournament spot. Eddie Sutton's Oklahoma State lost Bryant `Big Country' Reeves to the NBA. As a result, the OSU athletic department has cut the meal budget for the team by over 35%. With only one returning starter, things could be lean in Stillwater. At least Colorado and Nebraska can gloat about the strength of their football programs, because hoops is not the game of choice in Boulder or Lincoln. K-State and Iowa State will provide some large point spreads for underdog bettors this season.
Why don't they just rename this conference the UMass/Temple Conference? No one else has much chance of winning this league. Rutgers and West Virginia have gone to the Big East; they are replaced with Virginia Tech, La Salle, Fordham, Xavier, and Dayton. The biggest excitement for the year will be if John Calipari and John Chaney get into any more fisticuffs. Coach Calipari will send out a UMass team led by 6-11 Marcus Camby. They will need the veteran leadership of Camby along with forwards Donta Bright and Dana Dingle to survive a nonconference schedule which includes Georgia Tech, Maryland, Louisville, Memphis, Wake Forest, N. C. State, and Kentucky. Temple, led by coach John Chaney, will once again overachieve with the players they have on the court, because Chaney yearly gets the more out of his players than any coach in America. This year, the Owls will rely on their frontcourt of 6-11 William Cunningham and forwards Jason Ivey and Derrick Battie. They'll need big games out of these players in games against Kansas, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, and Villanova. The Hokies of Virginia Tech, coming off an impressive NIT championship, also warrant consideration as a possible NCAA team. The rest of this conference is dominated by scrubs.
If only WAC basketball were as exciting as WAC football, where a 52-51 game is considered a defensive battle. The conference that spans from Hawaii to Texas is not exactly a basketball powerhouse. As usual, Utah is expected to dominate this fairly weak conference. Led by potential All American Keith Van Horn, the Runnin' Utes will be dancin' come March. Outside Utah, the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas has been transplanted to the almond farms of Fresno, California. Jerry Tarkanian, formerly of UNLV, has been hired as the new head coach at Fresno State. True to his form, he is already being investigated for recruiting violations, and they haven't even played a game yet. The "Tark" didn't come here to graduate players or finish at .500. He landed what is probably Fresno's first big time recruit, Terrance Roberson from Michigan. Add to the mix a few JC transfers, and the Bulldogs will make their fans proud by making an NCAA appearance this spring. If Shawn Bradley had stuck around for four years, he would be a senior this season at BYU. The Mormon faithful must be glad that this overrated player left, because now they have a chance to win. Senior guard Randy Reid leads the Cougars, who always seem to deliver a 20-win season to the fans in Provo. San Diego State will be awful as usual this year. When the best basketball player ever produced by the program is six time National League batting champ Tony Gwynn. New Mexico, Colorado State, UTEP, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Air Force provide easy wins and interesting road trips for the WAC players.
The Betting Line
(Odds are NOT the official Las Vegas Line. Bet at your own risk.)
Following is the likelihood of these events occurring:
Michigan will deploy a slow it down, Princeton-type offense 99-1
Michigan will play defense 25-1
Bobby Knight will verbally chastise a reporter even
Notre Dame wins 4 Big East games 45-1
Dick Vitale gets extremely excited during a broadcast 1-5
A Pac 10 team will win another NCAA Championship 3-1
Skeptics will call for Jim Harrick's firing 3-2
Northwestern will follow the lead of the football team and win never
Arizona makes it past the first round yea right
Someone will call Othella Harrington "The next Patrick Ewing" 3-1
Someone will call Othella Harrington "The next J. R. Ewing" 2-1
Fresno State players seen with Richard "The Fixer" Perry 1-20
Stephon Marbury will stay four years at Georgia Tech 165-1
Cal wins at Pauley Pavilion (again) 2-5
Stay Out of My Kitchen!!! These monoliths will be filling the middle with their middle:
Robert "Tractor" Traylor Michigan 6'8" 310
Phil "Big House" Williams Penn State 6'8" 265
Dametrius Hill Florida 6'7" 275
Dwight Stewart Arkansas 6'9" 275
Lorenzo Coleman Tennessee Tech 7'1" 303
Raise the Rafters:
Michael Wilson, starting forward for the Memphis Tigers, reportedly has a 51" vertical leap.
What's in a Name?
We did NOT make these up:
Exree Hipp Maryland
Scientific Mapp Florida A&M
God Shammgod Providence
Duany Duany Wisconsin
Squirt Hicks Weber State
Schools you know nothing about except that they make the tournament every few years:
Mc. Neese State
Stephen F. Austin
The Saint Rule:
While noticing that St. Francis is on Michigan's schedule this year, we can't help but recall the "Saint Rule" of NCAA competition. Simply stated, this rule says that "no school with saint in its name ever fields a good team in basketball or football." Think of all the saint schools--none of them are any good. St. Leo. St. Bonaventure. St. Mary's. St. Peter's. St. John's is a notable exception to this rule, but that is it. (Sorry, St. Bonnie fans). What is St. Francis doing on the schedule? For that matter, where is St. Francis? The only St. Francis we can think of is a big old hotel at Union Square in San Francisco.
What's Wrong With This Picture:
The BCA (Black Coaches Association) Classic is being held in Memphis on November 24-26. The original contestants were Memphis, Arkansas, Cal, and Georgetown, four teams with African-American coaches. For some unknown reason, the teams were switched around. Only Memphis remains. The other teams were replaced with Kansas, Utah, and Purdue, all who have white coaches. Hmmm....
Our survey of MBA's and BBA's asked "Who do you think will win it all?" The results:
Wake Forest 4%
No. Carolina 3%
Georgia Tech 3%
Mc. Neese St. 1%
The authors (Cal classes of 1991 and 1992) have to go with the California Golden Bears to win it all. Go Bears!
© The Monroe Street Journal 1995, All Rights Reserved.
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