The importance of experienced backcourt play cannot be underestimated come tournament time (see Providence, 1987), so Boston College must be considered for the quantity as well as the quality of its guards. The Eagles run a three-guard attack with juniors Howard Eisley, Gerrod Abram and Malcolm Huckaby, who combined to shoot 42.9% from three-point distance last season. That firepower complements the inside game of forward Billy Curley, who averaged 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore. Texas has a brilliant young tandem in junior playmaker B.J. Tyler, the Longhorns' first single-season 600-point, 200-assist man, and sophomore Terrence Rencher.
There is no shortage of backcourt power at Tennessee; they have an extra scholarship to go around now that coach Wade Houston is paying the tuition for his son, Allan, a shooting guard who averaged 21.1 points, 5.3 boards and 3.2 assists a game last year. But Mississippi State has the SEC's finest point guard in 5'11" Chuck Evans, who will be passing to the tallest player in school history, 6'11" redshirt freshman Bubba Wilson. Three other schools have miniature masterminds who could lead their teams on a bold run: New Mexico State, with 5'8" Sam Crawford, the nation's returning assist leader; UTEP, driven by 5'8" Eddie Rivera; and Marquette, where 6-foot Tony Miller set the school single-season assist record as a freshman.
If Cincinnati makes a return appearance, it will be thanks to 6'1" smoothie Nick Van Excl and backcourt mate LaZelle Durden. Voshon Lenard, a 6'4" sophomore, could have turned Michigan into the Fab Six—he was a classmate of Jalen Rose's at Detroit Southwestern—but instead he has made an outside threat of Minnesota.
Addition by subtraction also somehow works in the universe of UFOs. In 1989 Seton Hall reached the finals after most people had counted them out because forward Mark Bryant had moved on to the NBA. This season UCLA is missing a pair of first-rounders, Tracy Murray and Don MacLean, but could play a more aggressive D without them. The O may well be supplied by forward Ed O'Bannon, who is rounding back into shape after sitting out 1990-91 with a knee injury. He led UCLA in scoring on a nine-game tour of Italy in September. "I showed myself that I can play at the level I want to be at," O'Bannon says.
Jon Barry may have been drafted by the Celtics, but Georgia Tech has one Barry more: Drew. His perimeter shooting will be needed to spread the floor for post players Malcolm Mackey and James Forrest. "Someone is going to have to step up to the plate like Jon did last year," says Tech coach Bobby Cremins. At UNLV, Rollie Massimino is in charge now that Jerry Tarkanian is coaching the San Antonio Spurs. Fortunately, Tark left one of his high rollers, swingman J.R. Rider (20.7 points), behind.
In the final analysis, though, the one common element among UFOs is that they come only from top conferences. Given that, we're taking our preseason flier from the potent ACC: Welcome to a brave new world, Wake Forest.