Justus Thigpen Jr. is a 6'2", 195-pound scoring machine from Iowa State. He's the son of a former NBA player, wears a gold necklace that spells JUST ICE (his nickname) and lit up some of the country's best teams last year, including a 32-point scorching of Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. How someone like that could escape attention is beyond us, but for the most part Thigpen has. He and the rest of the sweet-shooting Cyclones, who have all five starters back from a surprise team that won 21 games last year, will be even stronger this season. How far they go may depend on whether coach Johnny Orr can keep Ice out of the refrigerator; Thigpen's effectiveness decreases as his weight increases. Julius Michalik, a 6'11" forward from Czechoslovakia, could use a few of those pounds, but he's a fine shooter.
Nebraska shows signs of becoming a regular member of the band. The Cornhuskers added one of the nation's best recruiting classes to a nucleus of four returning starters, only one of whom, center Derrick Chandler, is a senior. Coach Danny Nee has a long-range bomber in forward Eric (the Polish Rifle) Piatkowski and the Big Eight's best shot blocker in Chandler. The Huskers will be formidable under the boards with the addition of 6'8" Toledo transfer Tom Best, a rebounding specialist.
If you thought the nickname Minutemen referred to how long Massachusetts would be among the country's elite, think again. UMass probably won't roll up another 30-5 record, as it did a year ago, but even with the loss of leading scorer Jim McCoy, there is plenty of talent left, including an impressive front line that features 6'7" senior Harper Williams, the Atlantic 10 player of the year. Hot young coach John Calipari, whose name has been mentioned in connection with every job opening except the one in the White House, apparently is convinced the cupboard isn't bare, because he signed a new four-year contract. The Minutemen are scheduled to move out of intimate Curry Hicks Cage into a new $43 million arena in February, launching the big-time era at UMass. Alas, however, it also means that fans will no longer be able to rage in the Cage.