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The best teams could benefit most in this season of change

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Coaching a college basketball team these days is a difficult, albeit well-paying, profession.

If it's not some NCAA rules committee deciding that teams needed less time to shoot and more time to dribble, then it's a bunch of academicians making life tougher by recommending stiffer freshman eligibility requirements while further restricting scholarships.

If it's not one of those problems, it's one of your star underclassmen deciding that making $6 million a year to play in the NBA is more fun than getting room, books and tuition. It

didn't used to be that way in the old days. Or, in the case of some of these headaches, even last year.

Welcome to the 1993-94 season.

Welcome to a season of change.

"I wouldn't care if they said we should have rules making us use a peach basket or playing with 9-foot rims or widening the lane, but then they should stick with them," said Georgetown coach John Thompson. "Every year they change the rules. It's almost as if they're trying to justify their jobs."

With the shot clock being pared 10 seconds to 35 seconds per possession, with the five-second violation being made obsolete as long as a player doesn't pick up his dribble, with the clock being shut off after field goals in the final minute of regulation and overtime, there will be a new look to college basketball this winter.

And some coaches don't like what they're expecting to see.

"I think you might see a lot of teams get away from that good, sound passing game," said George Washington coach Mike Jarvis, "and players become more selfish with the basketball. I can't see how that's going to help make the product better."

Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton said: "We didn't even know this was going to happen. It would have been nice if they told us."

Some believe that the elimination of the closely guarded five-second rule will give teams with slick ballhandlers or dominant post players who can handle the ball a decided advantage, especially when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

And it gives teams with superior talent, such as defending national champion North Carolina, even less of a chance to get beaten because smaller opponents will have 10 fewer seconds to force turnovers.

"I don't know if you're eliminating the Cinderella upsets," Southern Cal coach George Raveling said, "but you're certainly reducing that possibility."

But the changes in the rules on the court pale in comparison with the potential for changes in the NCAA's freshman eligibility requirements. The controversy that erupted when Proposition 48 was introduced nearly five years ago -- including a two-game walkout in protest by Thompson -- might be tame when considering what may happen if Proposition 17 is passed in January.

The Black Coaches' Association has hinted at a nationwide boycott of everything from the NCAA convention to the Final Four to repeating Thompson's actions if requirements are raised to the recommended levels. Instead of a 2.0 GPA and a 700 SAT score, incoming freshmen will be required to have either a 2.5 GPA or a 900 SAT on a sliding scale that has yet to be determined.

"If that goes through, you'll be taking away a lot of hope to a group of kids who don't have much to start," said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell, who was part of a BCA delegation to visit Capitol Hill last month.

That's what the college basketball season is usually about: hope. While the Tar Heels are hoping to become the second team in the past two decades to win back-to-back titles -- Duke, in 1991 and 1992, was the first since UCLA to do it -- others are merely hoping that Dean Smith gives them a chance.

Thompson hopes the experts who pick North Carolina this season are the same ones who picked Nevada-Las Vegas in 1990-1991 and Georgetown in 1984-85.

"The teams that are picked to win it usually don't," said Thompson, whose Hoyas will open their season Friday by playing Maryland for the first time in 13 years. "And the teams that say North Carolina can't lose are trying to find ways right now to beat them."

One of the reasons the Tar Heels have been picked is that they have changed so little from last season and some of the other perennial powers have changed so much. Among North Carolina's biggest rivals, Duke lost all-time NCAA assist leader Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill, and Indiana needs to replace Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham.

Among last year's Final Four teams, North Carolina needs Eric Montross to take over George Lynch's leadership role; Michigan's Fab Five is down to four with the departure of Chris Webber to the NBA; Kentucky must find a successor to Jamal Mashburn, and Kansas has to answer its backcourt question mark left by the loss of seniors Rex Walters and Adonis Jordan.

"If you're recruiting a potential first-round pick, you should only plan on him being there for two years and hope you can get him for three with the money the NBA is throwing at these kids," one prominent coach said. "It's now almost a given that a kid will

leave early."

This season of change also has taken place on the sidelines, with 32 new Division I coaches. The most prominent to switch ZIP codes was Eddie Fogler, who went from Vanderbilt to South Carolina after Bobby Cremins reversed his decision and remained at Georgia Tech.

One of the more intriguing coaching moves came when George Mason hired Paul Westhead, who had been unemployed since being fired by the Denver Nuggets more than a year ago. Westhead's teams at Loyola Marymount set NCAA scoring records with a 45-second clock, and the Patriots might do the same.

"We're not going to use the 35-second clock, but the three- and five-second clock," Westhead said.

Some things never change.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

With the college basketball season under way, here are a few things to look for, according to staff writer Don Markus:

Five teams with a chance to dethrone North Carolina

1. California: The Bears were one of the pleasant surprises in college basketball last season -- after Lou Campanelli's controversial midseason firing -- and could improve on last year's Sweet 16 finish. In sophomore point guard Jason Kidd, Cal has one of the best players in the country, and in junior forward Lamond Murray, one the most underrated. The question is, will reality set in for 30-year-old coach Todd Bozeman?

2. Kentucky: Rick Pitino has been to the Final Four twice, with Providence in 1987 and last year. Although the Wildcats lost forward Jamal Mashburn a year early to the NBA, they are still loaded with talent. Sophomore forward Jared Prickett emerged at the end of last season, but Pitino needs former high school phenom Rodrick Rhodes to be more consistent. The question is, can Travis Ford still hit all those three-pointers without Mashburn inside?

3. Michigan: The Fab Five is down to four, but the Wolverines still have enough to make it to their third straight Final Four. With Chris Webber gone, former role players Jimmy King, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson will have to play more prominently. Michigan also will miss the depth it had in last year's overlooked seniors, especially Eric Riley. The question is, will Steve Fisher pull the reins in a little more on point guard Jalen Rose?

4. Louisville: Denny Crum was recently nominated for the Hall of Fame, but he would rather have his third national championship. The Cardinals made it farther last season than most predicted, losing to Indiana in the Sweet 16. They have one of the country's top power forwards in Clifford Rozier, who started his college career at North Carolina. The question is, can the Cardinals win with freshman DeJuan Wheat at the point?

5. Duke: The Blue Devils will have a large hole to fill, trying to replace Bobby Hurley, the NCAA's all-time assist leader and the team's unquestioned floor leader last season. But they have a healthy Grant Hill, who could become the most dominant player in the ACC, and the size up front to stay with the unbelievably tall Tar Heels. Hill might wind up playing more point guard than he wants, unless freshman Jeff Capel or sophomore Chris Collins can make the change from shooting guard. The question is, can they find someone with Hurley's heart?

Five freshmen who'll make a difference

1. Jerry Stackhouse, 6-foot-6 forward, North Carolina: While coach Dean Smith won't quickly forget George Lynch, Tar Heels fans started acting like Dookies after Stackhouse's first breakaway dunk Wednesday night against Western Kentucky. Just his presence in preseason made senior Pat Sullivan decide to redshirt.

2. Marcus Camby, 6-11 center, Massachusetts: Though he didn't receive the attention last season of Rasheed Wallace (now at North Carolina) or Rashard Griffith (now at Wisconsin), Camby might be the best young post player in the country. Camby was Most Valuable Player at this summer's U.S. Sports Festival in San Antonio and, along with fellow freshman Donta Bright of Baltimore, could make the Minutemen a dark horse come tournament time.

3. Dontonio Wingfield, 6-8 forward, Cincinnati: There was a question about Wingfield's academic performance coming out of high school, but not about his on-court talents. He is a perfect player for the Bearcats' system but will be counted on heavily by coach Bob Huggins to balance the loss of five starters. Wingfield had the best debut in Bearcats history with a 30-point, 12-rebound performance in a season-opening win over Butler.

4. Jacque Vaughn, 6-0 guard, Kansas: A clone of former Jayhawks point guard Adonis Jordan, Vaughn might be thrust into the starting point guard spot unless Roy Williams decides to stay with the more experienced, but small (5-6) Calvin Rayford. But after playing against Cal's Kidd Friday night, it all gets easier.

5. Joe Smith, 6-9 center, Maryland: While much of the notice last spring went to the signing of Dunbar's Keith Booth, much of the excitement during the preseason centers around Smith, who might wind up playing power forward. His ability to block shots and rebound could make the Terps more competitive than nearly everyone is predicting.

Five coaches who need to make the NCAA tournament

1. Cliff Ellis, Clemson: He was rumored to be gone after last season, but that was before he struck a deal with school officials to give him one more year instead of paying him off for two. He should have one of the strongest frontcourts in the ACC, but the recent incident involving center Sharone Wright and forward Devin Gray of Baltimore -- the players were arrested in connection with an Oct. 22 brawl off-campus -- is the kind of stuff that put Ellis in hot water before.

2. Paul Evans, Pittsburgh: Another repeat offender from last year's list, but this time there's even more reason for it. The Panthers were put on NCAA probation last week, and Evans, who has never been very popular with media or fans, could be in trouble if his team doesn't do well in the watered-down Big East.

3. Lefty Driesell, James Madison: Another who has survived longer than expected without fulfilling his promise of taking the Dukes to The Big Dance, but JMU is seemingly slipping a bit. Driesell is again relying on transfers, something that didn't work well in his team's chemistry a couple of years ago. There was a rumor last season that he could be headed to Clemson if Ellis gets the boot.

4. Dave Odom, Wake Forest: The outcome of an NCAA investigation could determine Odom's fate. While having NCAA heavyweight Thomas Hearn as the school's president could help the Demon Deacons get a light sentence if found guilty, it could spell doom for Odom. So could the Deacons finishing behind Maryland in the ACC, which some have predicted.

5. Joey Meyer, DePaul: Having a famous and beloved father can carry you only so far, and Ray Meyer's son might have reached the end of the line. The Blue Demons didn't get any postseason bids last year for the first time in 16 years and despite six 20-win seasons, they haven't made it past the first round of the NCAA tournament in five years. Not reaching expectations won't be a problem, since DePaul has been picked toward the bottom of the Great Midwest.

Five underclassmen who'll be playing for big bucks next year

1. Glenn Robinson, 6-9 junior forward, Purdue: He is projected to be the No. 1 player in the NBA draft next year if he decides to come out. Considering the money thrown at former Big Ten rival Chris Webber, it's a lock. Robinson makes the Boilermakers a marginal Top 25 team, so he won't stick around to win a title.

2. Jason Kidd, 6-4 sophomore guard, California: There's something magical about him, as he showed with last-second heroics against both LSU and Duke in last year's NCAA Tournament. Even when he was in high school, there was talk that Kidd wouldn't stick around the college scene for more than a couple of years. But Kidd has been known to go against conventional thinking, which is how he wound up in Berkley.

3. Jalen Rose, 6-9 junior guard, Michigan: There was speculation last spring that Rose and Webber would turn pro at the same time, as they had promised out of high school. But last year's NCAA tournament, especially the championship game against North Carolina, proved that Rose wasn't ready to make the jump. Rose could use this season to show that he can play without Webber, in which case he'll be joining his former teammate in the NBA.

4. Bryant Reeves, 7-0 junior center, Oklahoma State: Reeves has said that he wants to complete his career, and degree, in Stillwater, but his emerging game has pro scouts salivating. Some rate him ahead of North Carolina's Eric Montross. While he's not as sound fundamentally, he's getting there. Don't be fooled by his small-town roots. This guy can play.

5. Sharone Wright, 6-11 junior center, Clemson: While he hasn't gained the respect outside the league as Montross, he certainly has it within the ACC. Great shot-blocker with a soft shooting touch, Wright's only liability is that he gets in foul trouble. Ellis rates him right along side former Tigers centers Elden Campbell and Horace Grant, and if Ellis goes after this year, so might Wright.

Five players who don't get the hype

1. Cory Alexander, junior point guard, Virginia: He has been overshadowed by players like Hurley, but he has the whole package. A good outside shooter who can dunk on players a half-foot taller, Alexander could put the Cavaliers in the Top 10 by the end of the year.

2. Juwan Howard, junior center, Michigan: While most of the notice has gone to Webber and Rose, the 6-9 Howard has played superbly in the shadows. While he has made some unfortunate remarks -- "I pity Duke," before last year's meeting with the Blue Devils comes to mind -- he has matured into a tough inside player. There will be more opposing defenses gearing to stopping him with Webber gone.

3. Aaron McKie, senior guard, Temple: Is starting to get the kind of attention he deserves, mostly based on last year's performance in the NCAA tournament. Some rate him the top shooting guard in the country, on a list filled with future pros. The Big East's missing McKie is one reason the Atlantic 10 has surpassed its closest rival.

4. Lamond Murray, junior forward, Cal: Like others in this position, Murray plays in the shadow of a great player (Kidd). Murray is as good a shooter as his cousin, former UCLA star Tracy Murray, but a much more ferocious inside player. He was as responsible for the upset of Duke last year as anyone.

5. Clifford Rozier, junior forward, Louisville: He came in as one of the pre-Fab Five at North Carolina, but departed quickly when he wasn't getting the playing time (or hype) that he wanted. Like Billy McCaffrey, who left Duke for Vanderbilt, Rozier has found happiness, but not hype, under Crum. Wouldn't it be interesting if he met up with his old teammates in the NCAA tournament?

KEY NEW RULES

Shot clock: Reduced to 35 seconds from 45.

Five-second count: A player closely guarded in the front court no longer has to pass the ball or penetrate within five seconds.

Game clock: Will now stop after each field goal in the final minute of regulation and overtime.

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