YUP, DUKIE V'S RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVILS AGAIN - AND HE'S RARELY WRONG ABOUT THESE THINGS. STILL, THIS SEASON'S ANYTHING BUT POINTLESS. THAT'S WHY WE ASKED THE 1'S IN CHARGE TO BREAK IT DOWN FOR US.
01 DUKE LAST SEASON: 35-4, NATIONAL CHAMPION
A man, A MYTH, a legacy ... Yeah, Shane Battier was all that. But on this absurdly loaded team, he's something else: old news. Granted, his leadership will be missed. But Rutgers transfer Dahntay Jones, a quicker and more athletic wing, has the rest of it covered. The 6'6" junior makes faster rotations and recoveries on D, meaning Duke can contest more perimeter shots and seal more lanes. He's a more dynamic open-court player, too, meaning the Devils can push the tempo harder. (Jason Williams is drooling.) And though his three isn't as accurate as Shane's, Jones is more dangerous slashing to the hoop, meaning he'll get to the foul line more and create more drive-and-kicks. (Chris Duhon and Mike Dunleavy are drooling.) Not buying it? You will in Atlanta.
FRONTCOURT At 6'9", 280, junior C Carlos Boozer (13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a low-post bully. Dunleavy, a 6'9" junior (12.6 ppg, 5.7 apg), has packed on 20 pounds and is a matchup menace. Jones led Rutgers in scoring (16 ppg).
BACKCOURT Expect Williams (21.6 ppg, 6.1 apg as a soph) to be smarter with his passes and shot selection from the point. Look for Duhon (7.2
ppg, 4.5 apg as a frosh) to be more aggressive from the wing.
BENCH Swift junior C Casey Sanders (6'11") is a major factor with his shotblocking and improved post moves. Redshirt soph PF Nick Horvath (6'10") has a nice face-up game. Frosh G Daniel Ewing will play the 1 and 2.
POINT BREAK CHRIS DUHON "We can get into the heart of defenses with our dribble-drives or by getting it to Carlos inside. Teams have to double him or he'll have a field day. But when they do, he's a great passer, and that leads to relocation threes. How do you defend us? Just hope we miss."
02 MARYLAND LAST SEASON: 25-11, FINAL FOUR
Now and then, Byron Mouton gets down on his hands and knees at practice, crawls behind his teammates and bites their legs. Why, exactly? "Just pretending to be a dog," says the 6'6" senior-and frankly, that's all the explanation we care to hear. More to the point is Mouton's new standing in the Terps' attack. After averaging 9.6 ppg, the muscular swingman has doggedly worked on his handle and defense, knowing his role will increase with Terence Morris gone. "Byron's going to be a top option this year," says junior PG Steve Blake. And considering Maryland already has clutch seniors Juan Dixon (18.2 ppg) and Lonny Baxter (15.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg), those are some nice options for a team that did everything but defeat Duke. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, bite 'em.
FRONTCOURT Baxter (6'8", 260) is one of the country's most versatile centers. Junior Tahj Holden (6'10", 247) can hurt you inside and out (48% from the arc). Mouton's energy is contagious, but he needs to stay out of foul trouble.
BACKCOURT Dixon could become the first Terp since John Lucas to be first-team All-ACC three straight years. Blake (6.9 apg) came of age in the Tourney, after cutting back on the turnovers that had dogged him as a frosh.
BENCH Junior Drew Nicolas (42% 3-PT) can play either guard spot. When the Terps need help shutting down a big man, soph Chris Wilcox (6'10", 220) gets the call. Look for juco Ryan Randle (6'9", 245) to work his way into the mix.
POINT BREAK STEVE BLAKE "If we're on a break, I'm looking for Lonny. In the halfcourt, I want to get him the ball with his back to the basket. Juan will be outside coming off curls, and Mouton will slash inside. But it'll surprise people when we give the ball to Holden away from the basket. He can really shoot."
03 ILLINOIS LAST SEASON: 27-8, ELITE EIGHT
IT WAS UGLY watching Cory Bradford (9.9 ppg) gimp up and down the floor, cower on the perimeter and limply toss up threes last season. Sad, too, because Bradford had once been an unstoppable offensive machine (15.3 ppg in '99-00). No need to feel sorry for him anymore, though. The senior SG's bum right knee is fully healed, and he's running the floor, attacking the hoop and getting lift on his J just like old times. That should help the Illini establish a more effective inside-out game with the emerging frontcourt duo of junior PF Brian Cook and senior C Robert Archibald. Junior PG Frank Williams says he'll make a killing kicking it out to Bradford on dribble-drives. And coach Bill Self has his own promise: "Now that Cory has his legs back, he'll have a huge comeback."
FRONTCOURT The 6'10" Cook (11.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg) has added some muscle and is more willing to bang. The 6'11" Archibald (7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) has nice touch near the basket. But who replaces hard-nosed SF Sergio McClain?
BACKCOURT Williams (14.9 ppg, 4.4 apg) is tough and fiery down the stretch, but he needs to be more aggressive directing the team all game. Bradford can light it up fast. Remember those five threes vs. Florida in the 2000 Tourney?
BENCH Frosh Roger Powell or juco Blandon Ferguson could start at SF. Glass-crashing senior PF Damir Krupalija is an underrated shooter. Junior SG Sean Harrington (45.9% 3-PT) sparks big runs. Frosh G Luther Head will get his.
POINT BREAK FRANK WILLIAMS "We have a faster group now, and I have the green light to run whenever I want. We're gonna establish our inside game more this season. We'll work Brian inside-out. And Arch is just a beast. He goes right at you, draws fouls and finishes plays. He'll knock you off your feet."
04 KENTUCKY LAST SEASON: 24-10, SWEET 16
FOR THE PAST four years, Hating on Saul Smith seemed like a required course on campus. But will the Wildcat faithful soon long for the mistake-free play of Tubby's son? His likely replacement at point, soph Cliff Hawkins, dropped more pennies than dimes last season (59 turnovers, 54 assists). And career backup J.P. Blevins (0.6 apg) isn't much of a creator. Whoever wins out has a simple job: Get the ball to All-America senior F Tayshaun Prince (16.9 ppg) and junior SG Keith Bogans (17 ppg). In fact, come crunchtime, Prince turns into a PG . "If the game's on the line," says the reigning SEC Player of the Year, "I want to be the one bringing it up." A 6'9" point with handle and range? E ven hard-to-please Kentucky fans gotta love that.
FRONTCOURT Some scouts think 6'11" senior Jules Camara - who missed last season after a DUI - is UK's best pro prospect. With PF Jason Parker out (ACL), Prince (6.5 rpg) and juniors Marvin Stone and Marquis Estill must bang harder.
BACKCOURT Tubby likes soph SG Gerald Fitch (6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg) so much, he plays the 6'5" Bogans at the 3 to make room for him. Hawkins' quickness gives him the edge over senior Blevins at the point.
BENCH Frosh SG Rashaad Carruth is already the team's best long-range bomber, while soph swingman Erik Daniels (5.2 ppg in 13 mpg) more than earns his garbageman tag with relentless play.
POINT BREAK CLIFF HAWKINS"I'm not worried about starting. It's who finishes the game that's more important. I know there's a lot of pressure that comes with playing point here, and I'm ready for it. Saul never dwelled on any of it, and I'm gonna be the same way if I hear any criticism."
05 UCLA LAST SEASON: 23-9, SWEET 16
YOU'VE MET THE starters before: Other than frosh PG?Cedric Bozeman, it's the same group as last season-led by sweet-shooting junior Jason Kapono (17.2 ppg). You know what they can do: press you to death, play a little inside-out, smother you with threes, go on 20-2 runs. So allow us to introduce UCLA's second six, an energetic bunch that can supercharge the tempo. The roll call: frosh SF D ijon Thompson, frosh SF Andre Patterson, soph PF T.J. Cummings, senior SG Ray Young, senior SF Rico Hines and frosh C Mike Fey (if he qualifies in December). Together or apart, they'll allow the Bruins to take more chances with their press, be more aggressive on D and run harder and longer. "We'll use our bench to wear you down," Steve Lavin says. Pleased to meet you.
FRONTCOURT C Dan Gadzuric, a 6'11" senior (11.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg), is ready to dominate. The 6'8" Kapono (45.7% 3-PT) can now finish around the basket, while 6'7" senior PF Matt Barnes (11.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) creates trouble away from it.
BACKCOURT Senior SG Billy Knight (7.9 ppg) isn't a creator, but he'll kill you long. Bozeman has the size (6'7") and quicks to front the press. Only question is, does he have the wind to keep it up all season?
BENCH Hines provides grit and leadership. The 6'10" Cummings (6.4 ppg) has added 20 pounds. The seven-foot Fey intimidates. Patterson and Thompson can swing. Streaky Young can ignite in a hurry (20 vs. Kentucky).
POINT BREAK CEDRIC BOZEMAN "We want to go up and down for 40 minutes, so we'll use our press like last year. In the halfcourt, we'll work from the inside out and spread the floor. I don't feel the pressure. We have four veterans in our lineup, so I'll feed off of them."
06 KANSAS LAST SEASON: 26-7, SWEET 16
FOR THIS YEAR'S "Late Night With Roy Williams," KU's version of Midnight Madness, the school shelled out big bucks for a new PA system. And boy, did they get ripped off. "They must have bought that thing at a pawn shop," jokes junior F/C Drew Gooden. "I was talking into the mike and couldn't even understand myself." When it comes to Williams' game plan, though, the Jayhawks read him loud and clear: Gooden or junior PF Nick Collison must touch the ball on every possession. The 6'10" Gooden (15.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) is just a midrange jumper away from NBA-worthiness, and the 6'9" Collison (14 ppg, 6.7 rpg) nailed nearly 60% of his shots last season. Throw in junior PG Kirk Hinrich and senior SG Jeff Boschee, and things should sound pretty sweet in Lawrence.
FRONTCOURT Now that big lug Eric Chenowith has graduated, Gooden and Collison are finally free to run the floor. Double-team the agile duo at your own peril - both guys dish extremely well (about 2 apg each).
BACKCOURT Frosh Aaron Miles, a Jacque Vaughn clone, will likely handle some of the point duties in a 3-guard lineup. That opens up the wing for Hinrich (school-record 50.5% from the arc) and Boschee (36% 3-PT).
BENCH Sturdy frosh PF Wayne Simien (6'9", 250) was a McDonald's All-American, but he'll have to prove he can hoof it. Senior F/C Jeff Carey (6'10", 250) doesn't play a lot, but he always plays smart.
POINT BREAK KIRK HINRICH "I can't wait to run more this year. We can score in so many ways. Drew or Nick can beat their man running on the wing, or Jeff can trail for a three. And I've added about 10 pounds, so when I'm driving and get bumped, my shot won't get thrown off as much."
07 FLORIDA LAST SEASON: 24-7, NCAA SECOND
DON'T EXPECT BILLY Donovan to go to his bench at three-minute intervals ("We're not a hockey team"), but with a squad this deep, this versatile and this athletic, you're definitely going to see a lot of line changes. The Gators return to their run-and-press, with a roster that features the SEC's best banger (senior Udonis Haslem), its best playmaker (junior Brett Nelson) and arguably its best inside-out threat (junior Matt Bonner). Florida took a hit when recruit Kwame Brown went pro and senior SG Teddy Dupay (13.4 ppg) was dismissed for associating with gamblers. But a precocious trio of freshmen - James White, David Lee and Adrian Moss - will dull the sting. The Gators are still a team that'll be shooting the puck uh, ball deep into March.
FRONTCOURT Good luck matching up with this group: 6'9" C Haslem (16.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) has refined his outside shot, while 6'10" F Bonner (38.1% 3-PT) is now cozier near the basket. The 6'9" Lee has a lethal swing game.
BACKCOURT With dogged on-the-ball defender Justin Hamilton (6.6 ppg as a soph) taking over at the point, shot-happy Nelson (15.3 ppg, 45.3% 3-PT) is now free to create for himself on the wing. Look out below!
BENCH D-e-e-p. Thin soph PF Bonell Colas (6'9", 205) can bang, rugged PF Moss (6'9", 220) can shoot, and the 6'6" White can sky. But junior SF LaDarius Halton (28.3% 3-PT) and soph PG Orien Greene (25%) need better aim.
POINTBREAK JUSTIN HAMILTON"We've got a lot of options, a lot of big lineups, and that gives us more ability to be creative on offense. We like to run it all game and wear out our opponents. But if a team can stick with us, or slow it down, they might be able to cause problems for us at the end."
08 MEMPHIS LAST SEASON: 21-15, NIT FINAL FOUR
NO MORE SKIPPING study hall. No more dragging butt late to practice. No more sister-kissin' NIT. John Calipari has hung a 5'x4' "contract" in the Memphis locker room laying down the law. Break a rule, everyone runs. "They're gonna struggle," Coach Cal says. "I know that." But these Tigers will ultimately succeed. Freshman freak Dajuan Wagner (page 66) can play both guard spots, and bruising PF Chris Massie, a juco All-America, will help him heat up the break. They'll feed off of rebounds from doubledouble machine Kelly Wise (15.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg), but they need juco PG Antonio Burks to reel in his shot and think pass first. And just to make sure Calipari can depend on all his players, he had everyone sign that agreement. Then he sent a copy to their mamas. -Ryan Hockensmith
FRONTCOURT Wise, a 6'10" senior, and Massie (6'9", 253) can play the 3, 4 or 5. But Wise might struggle against quicker swings on D. Seven-foot junior C Earl Barron has added 30 pounds (248) and a meaner streak down low.
BACKCOURT The 6'3" Wagner drained 21 points in the Tigers' 20-minute Midnight Madness scrimmage. Burks, a six-foot soph, isn't a prototype PG, but Calipari loves his D. (He averaged 3.9 spg at Hiwassee College.)
BENCH Soph Scooter McFadgon and frosh Anthony Rice are solid subs for Burks and Wagner. Soph C Modibo Diarra (6'10", 240) and 6'9" frosh Duane Erwin (15 blocks in a high school game) give Calipari more muscle.
POINT BREAK ANTONIO BURKS "Coach told me I can't star for this team if I want to be a scorer. It's on my shoulders to make everybody happy. Dajuan cannot be stopped-the world will find that out. Kelly's gonna get his double every night. Chris can dribble and shoot the three. All our big men can shoot from the outside."
09 STANFORD LAST SEASON: 31-3, ELITE EIGHT
BROWN BLONDE half-blonde highlighted blonde: Casey Jacobsen tried 'em all last season. But whatever hue the 6'6" junior decides to dye his hair this season, it's going to clash with the color of the rest of the team - bright green. Junior C Curtis Borchardt and soph F Justin Davis, who replace the Collins twins, combined for just 10.3 ppg. Three freshmen will see action early: PG Chris Hernandez, who might push senior Tony Giovacchini into a backup role; C Rob Little, whose bulk (6'10", 265) helps on the boards; and G/F Josh Childress, the Cardinal's most athletic player. The first look on offense is Jacobsen (18.1 ppg), who spent the summer polishing crossover and dropback moves to create space for his three (47.2% last season). We're saying that's red, as in red-hot.
FRONTCOURT All Mike Montgomery needs from Little is rebounding, defense and presence in the paint. Sevenfoot Borchardt can block shots and hit from outside. Soph Teyo Johnson (6'7") adds muscle when football season is done.
BACKCOURT Jacobsen is the country's top shooting guard. Giovacchini spent the summer working on his shot after averaging just 2 ppg. Childress (6'8", 190) has already become one of the team's best defenders.
BENCH Lots of PGs: Hernandez's PT should rise steadily; junior Julius Barnes will see time at both guard slots; and soph Matt Lottich has the range (40.7% 3-PT) to form a double-barreled deep threat with Jacobsen.
POINT BREAK TONY GIOVACCHINI "Obviously, I look for Casey first. We have different high-low sets where the defense dictates whether I give it to him or look for Curtis or Justin. Also, I need to be a better scoring threat. We have some fastbreak sets designed to get me the ball to score."
10 MISSOURI LAST SEASON: 20-13, NCAA SECOND ROUND
LAST SEASON, QUIN Snyder had a quote from the late celestial hoops guru Carl Sagan stenciled on a wall near the Hearnes Center floor. The astronomer described basketball as "a coordination of intellect and athleticism, of harmony of mind and body." Which sounds about right when you see the road Snyder's Tigers have taken minus a dominant low-post threat. Mizzou's up-tempo style, led by shooting stars Kareem Rush (21.1 ppg) and Clarence Gilbert (16.5 ppg), may throw off more sparks with 6'9" juco Uche Okafor, a Nigerian still awaiting NCAA clearance. If not, look for rising soph Rickey Paulding and massive frosh Najeeb Echols. The squad that gave Duke all it could handle is a scary matchup for any defense. A Final Four run is no pie in the sky.
FRONTCOURT Many consider Rush, a 6'6" junior with a silky-smooth jumper, the nation's best small forward. If Okafor can't go, the 6'7", 235-pound Echols may spend time at the 4, with 6'9" soph Arthur Johnson at center.
BACKCOURT Snyder thinks hair-flyin' soph PG Wesley Stokes has Wojo-like moxie, but he needs to stay in control. Gilbert, a 6'2" senior with 214 career threes, may also see time at the 1-but he needs to be more selective.
BENCH Snyder thinks hair-flyin' soph PG Wesley Stokes has Wojo-like moxie, but he needs to stay in control. Gilbert, a 6'2" senior with 214 career threes, may also see time at the 1-but he needs to be more selective.
POINT BREAK WESLEY STOKES "AJ and Travon have been keeping their seals on the block, ducking in, making it easier to deliver the ball inside. I don't think teams can stop us-we have too many weapons. You have to stay right up on us. Not many people can do that for 40 minutes."
11 IOWA LAST SEASON: 23-12, NCAA SECOND ROUND
DON'T YOU WORRY about Luke Recker. Yes, he's returning from a cracked kneecap that shelved his junior season 17 games early. But the star-crossed guard swears there's no soreness, no sluggishness, no rust. "Nothing," he says. "I am 100% back." Actually, the one-time Hoosier is more than 100% back. After leading the Hawkeyes in scoring (18.1 ppg) and three-point shooting (43.1%), Recker hit the weight room hard, packing 10 pounds of muscle onto his 6'6" frame. That should allow him to pick up some minutes at the 3 and play tougher D. And a healthy Recker makes it harder for defenders to gang up on low-post terror Reggie Evans, while easing the Hawkeyes' transition to a new point guard, soph Brody Boyd. "Luke is ready to go," coach Steve Alford promises. "No doubt."
FRONTCOURT Evans, a 6'8", 240-pound senior, is double trouble (15.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg). Senior Duez Henderson and soph Glen Worley (both 6'7") share the 3. Soph C Jared Reiner (6'11") improved his footwork at Big Man Camp.
BACKCOURT Boyd (5.8 ppg) gets first crack at replacing PG Dean Oliver, but he has to ditch his scorer's mentality. If he can't, Iowa will turn to speedy six-foot juco Chauncey Leslie and let the 5'11" Boyd spell Recker.
BENCH Options galore. Leslie, frosh SG Pierre Pierce and senior SG Ryan Hogan (7.2 ppg) all could start. Soph F Cortney Scott (6'6"), soph C Sean Sonderleiter (6'9", 235) and emotional senior PF Rod Thompson (6'6") all bang.
POINT BREAK BRODY BOYD "To stop us, go man-to-man and deny Luke and Reggie the ball. But that's pretty hard to do when you have a loaded team like this. We'd love to play with two or three balls, but guys have to be ready for their shots and minutes to go
down this season."
12 VIRGINIA LAST SEASON: 20-9, NCAA FIRST ROUND
WANT TO TRY your hand at the point? Enroll at Virginia. With Majestic Mapp missing a second straight season because of knee problems, Cavs coach Pete Gillen will slide Roger Mason Jr. (15.7 ppg as a soph) to the 1, where the 6'5" scorer can manhandle the league's smaller PGs. But once freshmen Keith Jenifer and Jermaine Harper get their feet wet, look for Mason to move back to the wing. Gillen still has talented F's Chris Williams (14.5 ppg) and Travis Watson (12.3), and new depth down low. The Cavs beat Carolina, Duke and Tennessee last season, making their first-round Tourney loss to Gonzaga even harder to stomach. If they can find the right horseman to ride point - and Gillen's confident he will-don't expect that to happen again.
FRONTCOUT Gillen's system calls for two PFs. Travis Watson, a 6'8", 255-pound bruiser (9.1 rpg as a soph), fills one slot. Frosh Elton Brown (6'9", 265) and Jason Clark (6'8", 225) split the other. Williams, a smooth 6'7" senior, is better at the 3.
BACKCOURT Mason, Jenifer and Harper, plus underrated senior Adam Hall, form a super-fast perimeter. "We're very aggressive, even chaotic at times," assistant Tom Herrion says. "We recruit quick guys who like to play that way."
BENCH Deep, fast and very athletic. The four frosh-Jenifer, Harper, Brown and Clark-guarantee they'll stay that way for a while. Soph 4-man J. C. Mathis played well at the end of last season and will make an impact off the pine.
POINT BREAK ROGER MASON JR. "Moving to the point will be an adjustment. Shooting guards can create plays for themselves, but the point guard has to create for others. My role may not be to score 30 points every night. It may be to score 15 and get 9 or 10 assists. It's a different frame of mind for me to get others involved."
13 ST. JOSEPH'S LAST SEASON: 26-7, NCAA SECOND ROUND
QUESTION NO. 1: How do you stop Marvin O'Connor (22.1 ppg) when he gets in one of his sick zones? You're kidding, right? "When his shot is on," says soph PG Jameer Nelson, "you can just forget about it." Witness O'Connor's 18 points in 57.5 seconds against LaSalle last March. Or his 37 points against Stanford in the NCAAT ourney. Forget his play at the USA Team Trials in June, when tendinitis in his left knee made him an easy cut. The 6'4" senior guard shut it down the next six weeks; now he's as explosive as ever. O'Connor, Nelson, SF Na'im Crenshaw and PF Bill Phillips all can jack the three and attack the hoop. And the Hawks play nasty D. This team is no longer a sleeper. They'll knock you down and stomp on you. No kidding. Question No. 2: How do you stop St. Joe's?
FRONTCOURT C Damian Reid, a 6'9" senior (9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), has improved his handle and go-to baby hook. The 6'9" Phillips (11.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg as a junior) has nifty wing skills. The 6'5" Crenshaw (11.4 ppg as a junior) is tough on D.
BACKCOURT Coach Phil Martelli would like O'Connor to crash the boards harder (3.7 rpg). For all his ball skills and open-court flash, the six-foot Nelson (12.5 ppg, 6.5 apg) can also beat you on the glass (4 rpg).
BENCH C Alexandre Sazonov, a 7'1" junior, lives to swat (2 bpg). Frosh Jamal Nichols (6'8"), John Bryant (6'7") and Dwayne Jones (6'11") won't be wowed by any foe. Soph PG Tyrone Barley is a tough on-the-ball defender.
POINT BREAK JAMEER NELSON "We're like Duke. We've got four guys who can shoot or dribble-drive. It's great for me. If my teammates are on, there's no reason for me to think about my shot. I score off penetration. Big men are so used to me driving and dishing, I can just lay the ball up or draw contact. It's easy."
14 INDIANA LAST SEASON: 21-13, NCAA FIRST ROUND
LAST FALL, little-known soph Tom Coverdale beat out hotshot recruit Andre Owens for the PG job. History may not repeat itself this fall. Though Owens bolted to Houston in May, another touted rook, Donald Perry, is now hawking Coverdale's job. Perry's quicker and a more dynamic playmaker; IU can make better use of Coverdale's catch-and-shoot ability at the 2; and TC's solid numbers (10.7 ppg, 4.8 apg) might not be enough to cover his occasionally sluggish play. Mike Davis demands intensity, especially on D, where the Hoosiers held Big Ten foes to a league-record 38.2% FG and grabbed a league-best 26.6 defensive boards per game. And yet "There will be no more second or third opportunities for opponents," Davis vows. "That's a thing of the past."
FRONTCOURT Jared Jeffries (13.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.4 apg) is the undisputed go-to guy. But minus NBA defector Kirk Haston, the 6'9" soph needs more help from 6'9" junior PF Jeffrey Newton (6.1 ppg) and 6'11" soph C George Leach.
BACKCOURT If the speedy Perry does take the reins, Coverdale will share time at the 2 with junior gunner Kyle Hornsby (6.9 ppg, 42.6% 3-PT) and senior defensive hawk Dane Fife (5.1 ppg, 3.2 apg).
BENCH Soph PF Mike Roberts (6'9") has Davis looking twice. Frosh PF Sean Kline (6'8") plays tough and owns a decent face-up game. Soph 2-guard A.J. Moye dropped 12 on Kent State in IU's Tourney loss.
POINT BREAK TOM COVERDALE"We won a lot of games last year because of our D. But the key to this season is how well we replace Kirk on offense. Jared is going to get double- or triple-teamed, so we've got to hit from the perimeter and open things up. It's all
about how well we react when Jared's under pressure."
15 TEMPLE LAST SEASON: 24-13, ELITE
LYNN GREER complains that Kevin Lyde leaves clothes lying around, but if the 6'10", 260-pound Lyde had bailed early for the NBA, Temple would've been a real mess. Instead, the senior roomies comprise one of the country's top scoring duos. Greer (18.2 ppg, 5.5 apg) thrived in his first full year as a 1, while Lyde (12.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg) led the nation with 130 offensive boards. Of course, their coaches cite that 18-12 regular season, lest anybody get a big head. "As great as the finish was," says assistant Dan Leibovitz, "last year was, as a whole, a bad season." But despite a typically treacherous schedule, the Owls figure to soar with the usual John Chaney formula: matchup zones, 5 a.m. practices and a four-guard offense. Temple's future - unlike Lyde's room - looks sparkling.
FRONTCOURT Lyde says his double-wide mate, 6'10", 290-pound senior Ron Rollerson, worked hard over the summer. But unless big Ron's mobility has advanced beyond tree stage, look for Kev to play with a smaller group.
BACKCOURT With soph David Hawkins (10.4 ppg) academically ineligible for the first semester, 6'6" senior Alex Wesby (10.1 ppg) needs to play big and take newcomers Nile Murry and Hawley Smith under his wing.
BENCH Junior F Greg Jefferson (6'5") is Chaney's hustle guy. Frosh F Glen Elliott (6'9") looks good running the baseline in the zone. Soph G Brian Polk (6'4") adds a three-point threat after sitting out last season (academics).
POINT BREAK LYNN GREER"We play five different zones, and I'm the first person you see in all of them. That means I can't allow penetration. Early on in my career, my defense may have cost me some playing time. If you take a bad shot, Coach won't take you out. But if you let a guy get past you "
16 OKLAHOMA LAST SEASON: 26-7, NCAA FIRST ROUND
OKLAHOMA IS BACK to being a football school - and we're not talking about Bob Stoops' squad. Last season, Kelvin Sampson's O-challenged Sooners rode their smashmouth D (Big 12-best 64.3 ppg) and rock protection (Big 12-best plus-4.4 turnover margin) to the Tourney. This season, OU unleashes another rugged bunch, with a frontcourt that can outmuscle anyone. But the playbook won't exactly look the same. With smooth junior combo G Hollis Price back and his onetime prep teammate, Quannas White, coming in from the juco ranks, Sampson's actually thinking he can get an up-tempo game working. "We're not as good a three-point shooting team as last year," the coach says. "But we have more scorers." Now if they could only find a field goal kicker.
FRONTCOURT You want bodies? Aaron McGhee, a 6'8", 250-pound senior (12.9 ppg), mans the 3. Junior PF Jozsef Szendrei (6'9", 240) returns from a torn ACL. Jabahri Brown, a 6'10" transfer (Florida International), is a legit rejector.
BACKCOURT Price (11.8 ppg, 4.7 apg) is solid, but he's coming off three operations to repair his triceps (shooting arm). White, who'll mostly play point, has quickness to spare. Juco Ebi Ere is a 6'5" slasher who can light it up.
BENCH Senior SF Daryan Selvy (6.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is a 6'6" post-up specialist who always stays active. Juco Jason Detrick, a slick 6'5" swing, and frosh Blake Johnston, a 6'1" gunner, provide backcourt punch.
POINT BREAK HOLLIS PRICE"I could run the point or Quannas could-it really doesn't matter. In our offense, the guys who play the 1, 2 and 3 are basically interchangeable. We know we don't have the talent of a Duke or a North Carolina, but you know we're gonna be tough and hard-nosed."
17 GEORGETOWN LAST SEASON: 25-8, SWEET 16
IT TOOK TWO years and more than a few run-ins with Craig Esherick, but senior PG Kevin Braswell finally has his priorities in order. "I used to think I?had to score a lot for us to win," Braswell says. "Now I know I need to get my teammates involved." Last season, the converted 2-guard dished out a career-high 6.1 apg - while scoring a career-low 11.5 ppg - in willing the Hoyas to the Sweet 16. This season, expect Braswell to involve emerging soph Mike Sweetney (12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) above all. The 6'8", 260-pound power forward is a serious contender for Big East Player of the Year after adding a midrange jumper and tons of confidence. "We call him Trouble," Braswell says. And you can guess what that spells for opponents.
FRONTCOURT After Sweetney, then what? Lanky 6'11" junior C Wesley Wilson (5.5 ppg) has nice touch but needs to get tougher, while 6'8" junior Victor Samnick (3.4 rpg) and 6'9" soph Courtland Freeman must prove they do windows.
BACKCOURT Demetrius Hunter took his game to UNLV, so 6'6" soph SF G erald Riley (6.7 ppg) will see plenty of minutes at the 2. Braswell will also check in on the wing if frosh Drew Hall proves he can handle the 1.
BENCH Not as deep as usual, which could curb G-Town's run-and-press. But if springy 6'8" frosh Harvey Thomas receives the NCAA's academic blessing, he'll provide instant offense and energy off the bench.
POINT BREAK KEVIN BRASWELL "I watch tapes of John Stockton and Jason Kidd to see how they control games without scoring a lot. I love to find my big men running the break for dunks. That can really get the crowd into it. Or when Riley is on the right side, I find him. He can hit from there all day."
18 MICHIGAN STATE LAST SEASON: 28-5, FINAL FOUR
FOR SUCH A young crew, they seem like old friends. Once a week, all summer long, the Spartans hit movies, the bowling lane, hip-hop shows in The D. They know one another now, even if no one knows them: five freshmen - including top-prize SG Kelvin Torbert - and a green returning cast that combined for just 16. 5 ppg last season. "There are a lot of unknowns," coach Tom Izzo says. "But the talent is there." Soph PG Marcus Taylor (7.4 ppg, 3.6 apg) has great handle to go with a deadly outside shot, and junior bruiser Al Anagonye can knock'em down in the paint (62.4% FG). As for that staple Spartan D? Okay, so it's still a work in progress-State did lose seven players. But knowing this group, expect the screws to be tight real soon.
FRONTCOURT The 6'8", 250-pound Anagonye (4.7 ppg in 18.5 mpg) got himself in killer shape to take on starter's minutes. But a lot depends on the improvement of 6'9" junior Adam Ballinger (1.9 ppg) and 6'9" soph Adam Wolfe (1.7).
BACKCOURT Though Taylor has all the skills, he needs to become more assertive. At 6'4", Torbert can shoot, rebound and play hard-nosed defense. Frosh slasher Alan Anderson (6'6") adds much-needed muscle.
BENCH Frosh combo G Chris Hill, an ex-QB, is the team's best pure shooter. Lone senior Mat Ishbia may sneak in at the point. Can 6'10" soph C Jason Andreas eat glass like Spartans past?
POINT BREAK MARCUS TAYLOR"We'll be a quick, fast-break team with better shooters. Our defense might be the question mark because we're so young, but we plan on pulling the freshmen along real quick. This is a close-knit group. We have each other's backs on and off the court."
19 NORTH CAROLINA LAST SEASON: 26-7, NCAA ROUND
GONE: JOE FORTE, Brendan Haywood, Max Owens and Julius Peppers. Missing: a bona fide post man. Wide open: point guard. Trouble? Not really. Nobody on this team was born when the Heels last missed the Tourney (1974) - and it won't happen this season. To offset the lack of an inside presence, Matt Doherty will turn up the tempo and extend his D, hoping to create points off turnovers. Seniors Jason Capel (11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Kris Lang (11.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) move to the 4 and 5, giving UNC much better ballhandling down low. But the point's an open question. Will it be sophs Adam Boone or Brian Morrison? Junior Jonathan Holmes or frosh Melvin Scott? And what about junior PG/QB Ronald Curry? Will he hoop again? Who knows? We know this: The Heels will be dancin' in the end.
FRONTCOURT With the 6'11" Lang and 6'8" Capel shifting up front, frosh bucket-burner Jawad Williams (6'8") could step in at the 3. Or Carolina might try to find a spot for 6'10" senior Brian Bersticker to help with the tough rebounds.
BACKCOURT Curry (4.3 apg) was the best of the PG lot last season. If he doesn't play, don't be shocked if Scott eventually takes over. Morrison could move to the 2, where he'd share time with frosh Jackie Manuel, a pure shooter.
BENCH Doherty says he'll play nine, but who? Can redshirt frosh C Neil Fingleton (7'5") run the floor and D-up? And do junior Jonathan Holmes and senior Orlando Melendez (79 minutes combined) deserve PT over the young 'uns?
POINT BREAK ADAM BOONE "If I'm an opposing coach, I make somebody other than Jason Capel or Kris Lang beat me. But that's what we want-other teams focusing on those guys so the rest of us can prove we're better than people give us credit for. We're a hungry team."
20 USC LAST SEASON: 24-10, ELITE EIGHT
SKYWALKING GUARD Jeff Trepagnier now D's-up for the Cavs. Versatile postman Brian Scalabrine waits his turn with the Nets. "We lost two guys to the NBA," says Henry Bibby. "So if we're better, I'm doing a great job." While it's a bit early to clear the mantel for a Coach of the Year award, the Trojans do return the nation's top forward duo: senior shotblocker Sam Clancy (17.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg) and inside-out threat David Bluthenthal (13.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg as a junior). There's also senior PG Brandon Granville (12.4 ppg, 6.1 apg), who proved in the Tourney that he knows how to run a team. More good news: The NCAA cut Kostas Charissis' 15-game suspension (for playing with pros in Greece) to three, so the 6'11" center could ball as early as Nov. 23. Go to it, Coach.
FRONTCOURT Bibby loves to exploit the mismatches Clancy and Bluthenthal create with NBA-style isos. Clancy (6'7", 240) now has range to 17 feet, and DB (6'7", 220) has better handle. Frosh C Rory O'Neil (6'11", 220) has range too.
BACKCOURT Granville is the Pac-10's two-time assist champ, but he needs to become a consistent shooter and score more off penetration. Fiery SG Desmon Farmer started 16 games as a frosh, but he needs to cut down on the fouls.
BENCH Frosh combo G Errick Craven provides firepower. His less flashy twin bro, Derrick, will see time at the point. Juco F Jerry Dupree (6'7") brings Trepagnier-style energy. O'Neil and 6'8" frosh F Nick Curtis must grow up fast.
POINT BREAK BRANDON GRANVILLE "We need to get the guys focused earlier this season. Getting Kostas back ahead of schedule helps, and O'Neil may be that missing piece. He can shoot out to the three-point line, and he understands the game-when he needs to pass, when he needs to step out. We need more of that."
21 WAKE FOREST LAST SEASON: 19-11, NCAA
DURING?HIS SEVEN seasons at Xavier, Skip Prosser coached an exciting trap-and-push style of ball, recruiting overachieving athletes whose in-yo'-face D initiated their offense. "We're not Duke," Prosser told his squad. "We've got to remember who we are." Wake Forest won't be confused with Duke either. But the Demon Deacons return five seniors and are more talented, albeit less athletic, than Prosser's XU teams. Three returning regulars - senior PF Darius Songaila, junior SF Josh Howard and senior SG Craig Dawson - averaged at least 12 ppg. If Prosser can get his new, highfalutin ACC players to think scrap-and-score for the full 40, and to hit the boards harder (Wake was eighth in the league with 36.8 rpg), this team could give fits to league foes. Even Duke.
FRONTCOURT All forwards: The 6'9" Songaila (13.2 ppg, 6 rpg) is the only proven low-post scorer. Prosser calls the 6'6" Howard (13.6 ppg) a Xavier-type athlete who must hone his fundamentals. Can 6'8" senior Antwan Scott deliver more O?
BACKCOURT Dawson (12.5 ppg, 37.9% 3-PT) is quickly outgrowing his "Stackhouse's nephew" tag. Senior PG Broderick Hicks (6.9 ppg) is a perfect setup man and can hit the open jumper. Both must help crash the boards.
BENCH A glut of guards: Frosh Taron Downey's a gunner, Northwestern transfer Steve Lepore can crank the three, senior Ervin Murray is oh-sosteady. A dearth of size: Frosh PFs Jamal Levy and Vytas Danelius better be ready.
POINT BREAK BRODERICK HICKS"We're not big, so our style of play fits us-especially the shooters. When we get out on the break and have numbers, we can spot up for threes. It gives us a lot more open looks. The hardest thing is, the post men must adapt to guarding and trapping full-court."
22 UCONN LAST SEASON: 20-12, NIT SECOND ROUND
STORRS, CONN., ISN'T exactly a sushi kind of town. So when 6'7" dynamo Caron Butler (15.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) visited Japan this summer for the World Basketball Championship for Young Men, the soph small forward struggled to find good eats. ("The burgers at McDonald's didn't have any beef.") But Butler, full of confidence after a solid trip - including 15 points in the gold-clincher - brought back the missing ingredient the Huskies need. "Caron's not deferring to anyone," says coach Jim Calhoun. "He's clearly our leader." UConn wilted to a 6-9 regular-season finish, playing passionless ball. This time around, expect Butler and soph PG Taliek Brown to reenergize the team with an uptempo style. Brown's city game brings some sizzle to Storrs. Butler provides the beef.
FRONTCOURT Calhoun calls 6'9" frosh Emeka Okafor his best shotblocker since Donyell Marshall. Surprisingly, he also labels raw Johnnie Selvie (10.9 ppg) his best scorer, but the coach says the 6'7" senior needs to curb his emotions.
BACKCOURT Junior SG Tony Robertson (7.2 ppg) is primed for a breakout. Frosh Ben Gordon will slash from the wing and give Brown (8.1ppg, 4.9 apg), who lacked a backup last season, some needed rest at the point.
BENCH After a medical redshirt, McDonald's All-American PF Scott Hazelton (6'8") gives UConn some flexibility up front. Robert Swain, a 6'4" soph wing, is a designated shooter. Juco Mike Hayes (6'8", 215) adds frontline muscle.
POINT BREAK TALIEK BROWN "Entering my second season, I know how to do the little things, like getting the ball to Selvie on the left block because he's lefthanded. Spending the summer in Houston with Kenny Smith-we're both from the same neighborhood in Queens-really helped my confidence."
23 ARIZONA LAST SEASON: 28-8, NCAA FINALS
TEAMMATES CALL Rick Anderson "Big Stick," owing to his long, lean frame and the simple fact that "Rick the Stick" has a nice ring to it. But after the 6'9" junior layed in the game-winner in Zona's upset of Florida at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the handle had new meaning. Anderson, who redshirted on last season's loaded squad, will need plenty more clutch shots for the Wildcats to stay afloat. Loren Woods, Richard Jefferson, Michael Wright and Gilbert Arenas all answered the NBA bell, leaving Anderson, junior PG Jason Gardner - back from flirting with the pros (see page 102) - and junior PF Luke Walton to carry along a precocious quintet of freshmen. But don't say anything about a drop-off to big Rick. He already showed the critics where to stick it.
FRONTCOURT Check the roster: Is 6'9", 265-pound C Isaiah Fox really a frosh? He can bang with the best. Walton (6'8", 240) sees the floor better than most guards (3.2 apg in 20.4 mpg). Anderson is a loose-ball warrior.
BACKCOURT Gardner heartily embraces his new role as The Man. Imagine last season's numbers (10.9 ppg, 4.1 apg) on steroids. Fearless freshmen Salim Stoudamire (Damon's cuz) and Will Bynum rotate at the 2.
BENCH Surprise-all rooks here, too. C Channing Frye (6'10", 222) has great agility and can lose his man for easy alley-oops, but he can be pushed around, too. PF Dennis Latimore (6'8", 254) is a lot harder to budge.
POINT BREAK JASON GARDNER"It's never really been in my nature to speak out, but I've got to do more of that this year. If there's a problem, I'm gonna pull the young guys off to the side and get in their faces. Of course, I mess with 'em, too. I like to make last season sound even harder than it was, just to see their expressions."
24 ALABAMA LAST SEASON: 25-11, NIT FINALS
TWO THINGS KILLED the Tide's Tourney hopes last winter: a four-game skid to close the regular season and an RPI-deflating nonconference schedule. Not much Mark Gottfried can do about the first one, but you can bet he's all over the second. Scratch Wofford and Troy State. Add UCLA, Notre Dame, Temple and Utah to a brutal SEC slate. That way, come March, nobody can say Bama didn't run with the big boys. And run they will. With a junior nucleus of SF Rod Grizzard (17 ppg, 6.1 rpg), PF Erwin Dudley and SG Terrance Meade - all starters as freshmen - the Tide should turn it around after going 1-15 on the road in league play the past two seasons. "Last year hurt us a lot," Grizzard says. "There won't be any questions this year." -A.L.
FRONTCOURT Dudley (6'8", 240) led the SEC with 10 rpg, nearly half of which came on offense. Grizzard (6'8", 205) is a streaky gunner (39.8% FG). Junior 6'9" F/C Kenny Walker (6.7 ppg) does just enough to keep teams honest.
BACKCOURT Keep an eye on frosh PG Maurice Williams. If the lights-out prep scorer learns to distribute, the O will be scary. Meade (10.8 ppg) can spot up anywhere, but he needs to knock down more threes (34.5%).
BENCH Junior combo G Travis Stinnett (6.8 ppg) will mentor Williams and provide long-range goals (44.2% 3-PT). Soph SF Reggie Rambo has looked sharp this fall and could assume Gerald Wallace's firestarter role.
POINT BREAK MAURICE WILLIAMS"Every day I find out something new about my teammates. Like I know I can get Erwin the ball either deep on the block or at the top of the key. And Rod? Shoot, I can give him the ball anywhere and he'll score. That's the easy part of my job."
25 XAVIER LAST SEASON: 21-8 NCAA FIRST ROUND
ALL SUMMER LONG, new coach Thad Matta insisted he wasn't holding a midnight practice. "But we knew he had something up his sleeve," says junior PG Lionel Chalmers. After all, the former Butler head man hadn't rested since taking over for Skip Prosser (gone to Wake Forest). And sure enough, Matta made an 11th-hour decision to hold practice-no fans, just him and the fellas. You certainly can't blame him for wanting a sneak peek: With A-10 Player of the Year David West (17.8 ppg, 10.9 rpg) down low, electric play on the wing and Matta's structured halfcourt offense, the Musketeers should make it six straight 20-win seasons. Besides, Matta knew his players wouldn't mind the late notice. "They're college kids," he says. "They were gonna be up anyway."
FRONTCOURT West, a 6'9" junior F/C, is one of the nation's baddest paint presences. Tough senior PF Kevin Frey (6'8") needs to convert more (43.2% FG). Frosh Keith Jackson (6'5") will push junior Dave Young (6'5") at the 3.
BACKCOURT Soph SG Romain Sato (10.7 ppg) has an ideal build (6'5", 195) and the moves to match. Chalmers (8.9 ppg) must hone his shot (36.5%) to fill the scoring void left by Maurice McAfee and Lloyd Price.
BENCH With space-eating frosh Will Caudle ineligible, West might sit only during timeouts. Quick frosh PF Anthony Coleman (6'10") will get minutes. If Jackson can get to the hole like Sato-and the buzz is he can-whoa, Nelly!
POINT BREAK LIONEL CHALMERS"Our guards spent the off-season shooting like crazy, because we know opponents are going to doubleteam Dave. And if we don't prove we can knock down the open jumper, he'll be hesitant to kick it out to us. The way we support Dave is everything this year."
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