1. Dean Smith's record
Though El Deano says it might take him at least two more seasons at North Carolina to win the 26 games needed to chase down Adolph Rupp's record of 876, the Tar Heels could get it for their coach sometime in March. What might be more impressive than the number of victories is Smith's longevity - this is his 36th season in Chapel Hill - and that he shows no signs of slowing up.
2. The WAC Attack
A conference known for its high-scoring, late-night football games could become a haven for hoop insomniacs this winter. With the addition of Fresno State, otherwise known as UNLV Revisited under Jerry Tarkanian, and Tulsa, an NCAA Cinderella team the past few years with a shooter named Shea Seals as its main attraction, Utah will finally have some competition. The Utes, led by senior forward Keith Van Horn, are still the favorites.
3. Tim Duncan's dominance
In four years, he's gone from complete unknown to complete package: a 6-foot-10 center who can rebound, score, block shots and even pass. He has led Wake Forest to two straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships and to a couple of NCAA tournament Elite Eight appearances. If Duncan is as good as most NBA general managers say - Jerry West of the Lakers called him the best player in the country two years ago - he must get the Demon Deacons to the Final Four this season.
4. The decline of the Big Ten
What was being written about the Big East a couple of years ago is now being said about the Big Ten. The coaches are getting too old. The talent levels of the marquee teams, in particular Indiana, have dropped. The games are as entertaining as C-Span. Heck, when was the last time Bob Knight threw anything but a cold, hard stare at anyone? Even Penn State can compete now, given the rapid decline of programs such as Ohio State and Michigan State.
5. Lefty's last stand
Lefty Driesell was one of college basketball's most colorful characters during his often-tumulutous tenure in College Park. He thought he could turn James Madison into a big-time program, as he did at Maryland once before, but it has proved a struggle just to win the Colonial Athletic Association. Now, after his worst season as a Division I coach - the Dukes didn't put up theirs last year, finishing a dismal 10-20 - Driesell silenced his critics with his best recruiting class in the eight years since he came to Harrisonburg. But will it be enough to keep them away?
6. Little Rickys
With the departure of John Calipari from Massachusetts - the question is whether his current team, the New Jersey Nets, will be as good as his team last season? - the competition for the Rick Pitino coach-a-like contest could be staged by two of Division I's youngest head coaches, Billy Donovan at Florida and Herb Sendek at North Carolina State. Donovan played for Pitino at Providence and with the New York Knicks and later worked for him and with Sendek at Kentucky. Both will have their hands full, in particular Donovan in the suddenly dominant Southeastern Conference.
7. Cincinnati's run to the title
Bob Huggins finally has a team to match his on-court persona. In other words, a team to take on all comers, a team that's going to get in your face. This is a team that has size, depth, strength and a nasty streak. Not to mention All-American Danny Fortson and a few All-American trash talkers.
8. Parker's second chance
Three years ago, Richie Parker was considered among the country's top high school players. But his conviction for sexual assault as a junior turned off the college recruiters and turned the 6-5 forward into damaged goods. A number of Division I schools offered, then pulled their scholarships because of public pressure, most notably Seton Hall, Utah and George Washington. After spending a year attending a junior college in Arizona and apologizing publicly to his victim, Parker is being given a new lease on his basketball life at Long Island University in Brooklyn.
9. See you later
That's what the UCLA administration said to longtime coach Jim Harrick, the most successful of any of the Bruins coaches in the past 20 years to follow in the large Wooden shoes. Now, it's up to former restricted earnings coach Steve Lavin to keep the tradition going, if only on an interim basis, in Westwood. The Bruins should have seen if they could get the Wizard himself to come out of his 21-year retirement.
10. Jerry's kids
What Lefty hasn't been able to do at James Madison, The Tark might just be able to pull off at Fresno State. That's if the program doesn't follow the same path that UNLV and Long Beach State took - the one that leads to NCAA probation and sanctions. Tarkanian had to put out a number of brush fires in his first season back from exile - or at least from San Antonio, or have you forgotten that disaster? - while the Bulldogs were finishing 22-11. The addition of four players - three redshirts and BC transfer Chris Herren - could make Fresno State the best team west of Tucson.
Five programs on the upswing
1. Clemson: Dark horse to win the ACC
2. Rhode Island: Rams could give UMass a run in A-10
3. Iowa State: Guess Tim Floyd is getting used to ice fishing
4. Washington: Huskies had first winning record in decade under Bob Bender
5. South Carolina: Eddie Fogler's taken a while, but this could be a breakthrough year
Programs on the way down
1. Florida State: Seminoles trying to avoid third straight losing year
L 2. Seton Hall: Shaheen Hollaway is George Blaney's last hope
3. Memphis: Picked for last in Conference USA's White Division
4. Rutgers: Where have you gone, Roy Hinson?
5. Arizona State: Was last season bad luck or just a sign of things to come?
1. Herb Sendek, N.C. State: Worked magic at Miami of Ohio, tougher job in Raleigh
2. Ben Braun, California: Will make the Bears competitive in Pac-10
3. Bruiser Flint, UMass: Replacing Calipari with this year's schedule won't be easy
4. Bill Herrion, Drexel: Could repeat last year's 17-1 league finish
5. Rob Chavez, Portland: Won at UMES, can win anywhere
Coaches on the hot seat
1. Pat Kennedy, Florida State: Luster has worn off in this marriage
2. John McLeod, Notre Dame: This was a bad choice from the start
3. Bob Wenzel, Rutgers: Holding on by a thread
4. Randy Ayers, Ohio State: Proves that nice guys can finish last
5. Joey Meyer, DePaul: Only a top 20 recruiting class can save Ray's boy
Best players you'll never see
1. Adonal Foyle, Colgate: He could be No. 1 pick in NBA draft
2. Peter Aluma, Liberty: Lots of ACC teams would love this kid
3. Tunji Awojobi, Boston U: Rough around edges
4. Bubba Wells, Austin Peay: Second coming of Fly Williams, minus the chant
L 5. Terquin Mott, Coppin State: Made smart choice coming back
Most overexposed players
1. Felipe Lopez, St. John's: Heir Jordan he's not
2. Jerod Ward, Michigan: Not tough enough for Big Ten game
3. Jerod Haase, Kansas: Brick city, bay-bee!
4. Corey Louis, Florida State: Coming off disappointing sophomore year
5. Jeff Capel, Duke: Hasn't built on freshman year
Best players under 6 feet
1. Earl Boykins, 5-7, Eastern Michigan: Spud II.
2. Shawnta Rogers, 5-3, George Washington: Muggsy II
3. Tyson Wheeler, 5-10, Rhode Island: Has made Rams 'f competitive in A-10
4. Aaron Hutchins, 5-10, Marquette: Needs to shoot better
5. Brevin Knight, 5-10, Stanford: Two-time All-Pac-10, some think he's best point guard in country
Best arenas to watch
1. The Pit, New Mexico: Best Final Four site ever
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke: Dickie V's favorite place
3. Allen Field House, Kansas: Ghosts of Dr. Naismith are flying around
4. Pauley Pavilion, UCLA: A purist's delight
1. University of Wyoming Arena-Auditorium: Rowdy cowboys in stands
2. West Virginia University Coliseum: Mascot shoots musket off many times a night
3. Fogelman Arena, Tulane: The Big Easy it ain't
4. Kresse Arena, College of Charleston: Big-time teams won't go there
Games you must see
1. Cincinnati-Kansas, Dec. 4, Chicago: Final Four preview in the Great 8 Tournament
2. Massachusetts at Connecticut, Dec. 27: After years of discussion, New England's best teams finallyu meet
3. Wake Forest at Utah, Dec. 31: Ring in the new year in Huntsman
4. Syracuse-Kentucky, Nov. 28, Anchorage: Rematch of title game opens Great Alaska Shootout
5. North Carolina at Duke, Jan. 29, Talent might not be the same as in past, but the intensity never drops
Games to miss
1. Winthrop at Syracuse, Nov. 22: Big road payoff for little S.C. school
L 2. Wright State at Kentucky, Dec. 9, Wrong place, wrong time
L 3. Army-Duke, Dec. 22, Coach K's first employer, next victim
4. Morgan State at UCLA, Dec. 28, Bears can visit Disneyland for some fantasy
5.Brown-Kansas, Jan. 2, Talk about an Ivy League education
Rowdiest student sections
1. Duke: Not quite as creative as in the past, but still ahead of the competition
2. Missouri: The Antlers - founded by future sports writers - often dress in drag
3. Connecticut: Right on top of the floor at both ends of court
1. Tim Thomas, Villanova: Some thought he should have gone right to NBA
2. Lester Earl, LSU: Should have gone to Duke (The Earl of Duke?)
3. Shaheen Hollaway, Seton Hall: Best high school point guard last year
4. Mike Bibby, Arizona: Son of former UCLA star Henry
5. Charles Hathaway, Tennessee: The 6-10, 250-pounder is Vols' building block
1. Roshown McLeod, Duke: Two years at St. John's, now at St. Mike's
2. Maktar Ndiaye, North Carolina: First transfer in Chapel Hill since McAdoo
3. Paul Grant, Wisconsin: Badgers need his big body badly
4. Ruben Patterson, Cincinnati: Junior college player of the year will be key piece to Bearcats' championship puzzle
5. Rodrick Rhodes, USC: Last chance for former high school phenom who fell short of expectations at Kentucky
Pub Date: 11/15/96