Louisville coach Denny Crum loves the ponies. He's part owner of 14 thoroughbreds, so he no doubt realizes that intrastate rival Kentucky has moved several furlongs out in front of his program. Cardinal fans certainly do. It should help that 6'9" forward Cliff Rozier, a transfer from North Carolina, gives the Cards the kind of inside strength they lacked last season, when they were downright tiny. Rozier didn't get a chance to show the full range of his talents with the Tar Heels, and he could blossom now that he'll get more minutes. Point guard Keith LeGree, who is a promising shortstop in the Minnesota Twins' farm system, will help if he can improve his jumper enough so that his shooting percentage doesn't resemble his batting average.
The Up-Tempo Crowd
These are the teams that like to pick up the beat and run, run, run. At the moment the only thing Charlie Ward of Florida State is running is the Seminoles' football offense. Ward, the Florida State quarterback, is also the basketball Seminoles' point guard and chief stabilizing influence, which is why coach Pat Kennedy is praying that Ward doesn't get folded, spindled or mutilated before he trades his helmet for hoops in January.
Everything else is set for Florida State, which has a guard rotation that, in addition to Ward, includes leading scorer Sam Cassell and ACC Rookie of the Year Bob Sura. The front line features 6'9" Douglas Edwards, who is already a star, and 6'9" Rodney Dobard, who may become one. Assuming that Ward does return with all his limbs intact, his absence during the first part of the season may turn out to have been a good thing for the Seminoles, who are certainly the quickest team in the ACC and might be the quickest in the country. "Great teams build during the season," says Kennedy, "so by the time they reach the tournament, they're at their best."
Arizona has rarely been at its best in the NCAA tournament, including last spring when East Tennessee State raced past the slower Wildcats in the first round. Arizona will have no choice but to pick up the pace this year, because the days of the multiple 7-footers are over for the Wildcats. Fortunately for coach Lute Olson, fleet guards Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire are on hand to up the tempo. But Arizona's fortunes rest largely on the shoulders of two seniors, 7-foot center Ed Stokes and 6'6" forward Chris Mills. They once showed promise of being future All-Americas. They have one last chance to deliver.
A piece of fan mail from Archbishop Desmond Tutu hangs on Tulane coach Perry Clark's office wall. Tutu obviously was unaware of how often the Green Wave breaks the Seventh Commandment. Tulane stole the ball more than 12 times a game last season and forced opponents into an average of 22.1 turnovers in the process, making most of its opponents play at a faster pace than they wanted to. Don't expect the Green Wave to reform its thieving ways this year. Starters Anthony Reed, a 6'9" forward, and Kim Lewis, a 6'4" guard, will take care of the bulk of the scoring, and Clark will again turn loose the Posse, his band of sticky-fingered subs, to run down opposing ball handlers.
What's this? Oklahoma getting stodgy? The Sooners averaged only 94.8 points per game last year, which was tops in the Big Eight, as was their average of 74.8 shots per game. That might sound like runnin' and gunnin' to you, but it's all coach Billy Tubbs can do to stifle a yawn. "I think there's been a drift toward us being conservative," he says. "We've got to get back into the hundreds on a regular basis. I have never won a game when our defense was better than our offense."
The rise of so many talented teams in the Big Eight in the last few years has seen Oklahoma struggling to keep up. Tubbs would feel better about his chances this year if coveted junior college forward Anthony Cade hadn't decided to turn pro instead of joining the Sooners.
A few chairs are always reserved for teams that are only occasional visitors to the Top 20 band. Sitting in is what Florida coach Lon Kruger does when one of his players has an operation; so far in his career Kruger has scrubbed for surgery four times. That's grisly duty for Kruger, but it must engender a sense of togetherness, because the Gator whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. Senior forward Stacey Poole, who has come back from operations on both of his Achilles tendons and on his left knee, is still the only Florida player you would take if you were choosing up sides for a pickup game. But the Gators somehow won 19 games last season and reached the semis of the NIT, despite being at or near the bottom of the SEC in just about every offensive category. With all five starters back—some will be pushed for their jobs by a strong group of freshmen—and with competition in the SEC weakened, the Gators should be even better this season.