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Where Life Begins At 41
Ed Burns
November 19, 1986
Lurking below the Top 40 are the giant-killers that always strike at tournament time
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November 19, 1986

Where Life Begins At 41

Lurking below the Top 40 are the giant-killers that always strike at tournament time

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The SOUTHLAND is falling apart, with Texas- Arlington having gone independent, Louisiana Tech quitting next June, and Lamar and Arkansas State also making noises about leaving. For now, Tech rates as the favorite, coming off its NIT final four performance. Lamar should mount a challenge, with new coach Tom Abatemarco, formerly Jim Valvano's ace recruiter at N.C. State and Iona, at the helm, and with the Southland's answer to the Fridge, 6'8", 257-pound James Gulley, under the basket. Northeast Louisiana plays at the Ewing Coliseum, but there aren't any Patricks around. There aren't even any J.R.s or Bobbys.

The TRANS AMERICA must have something going for it: Mike Newell turned down Marquette to stay at Arkansas-Little Rock. But the pick here is Houston Baptist, whose four returning starters include 5'10" Fred Goporo and 6'8" Bruno Kongawoin, both double-figure scorers from the Central African Republic. What's more, Goporo averaged 7.2 assists per game last season, tops in the conference, and Kongawoin yanked 9.4 rebounds an outing. Djibril Kamara of the Ivory Coast comes off the bench. Centenary guard Gene Vandenlangenberg was the league's newcomer of the year in '85-86, setting conference surname records for letters (16) and consonants (11).

The SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC Conference was among the hardest hit by Bylaw 5-1-(j); every school has lost at least one player. Alcorn State is the favorite: Coach Davey L. Whitney, a former pro baseball player with the Kansas City Monarchs, hasn't had a losing season in 17 years as head coach at Alcorn. The GULF STAR, another new conference that doesn't get an NCAA bid, is so bad that last season its two Division II members, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin, finished first and second, respectively.

The PAC-10 may not be ready for last rites quite yet, but the once-mighty league has hardly acquitted itself with distinction the past two seasons, as its 0-6 NCAA record shows. It should be a little better in '86-87. Stanford has a shot at a first-division finish, thanks to guard Todd Lichti, who last season became the first freshman to make first-team all-conference since Cliff Robinson in 1977-78. At USC, new coach George Raveling cleaned house and will have a rough time until Anthony Pendleton, an academically disabled freshman, and BYU transfers Alan and Carl Pollard are eligible next season. Oregon State added Brian Brundage, a 6'8", 26-year-old Brooklynite who served three years in prison for an armed robbery committed when he was 19. Upon his release he made a new start at an L.A. juco. His major at Oregon State is sociology, with emphasis on criminal justice.

Eight of the 10 PCAA teams lost their top scorers, so the runaway winner here is Nevada-Las Vegas. The best of the rest is San Jose State, which features Ricky Berry, an 18.6-point-per-game scorer and son of coach Bill. At Hawaii in the WAC (4-24 last season), coach Frank Arnold says he often hears recruits say they would rather stay closer to home. So Arnold picked up forward Moritz Kleine-Bockhoff from West Germany. "Kids from there can't go home on the weekends no matter where they play," Arnold says. " Hawaii is the same as anywhere else. It's a long swim home."

The WEST COAST ATHLETIC Conference, along with the Pac-10, has joined the crowd and will hold a postseason tournament, leaving the Big Ten and the Ivy as the only leagues that still award regular-season champs their automatic NCAA tournament bids. Pepperdine, with forward Eric White, should win its sixth title in seven seasons, but not without a challenge from San Diego, which is led by 7-foot Scott Thompson. But the WCAC's best players might be those sitting out this winter. Six Pac-10 transfers have checked in, including three at Loyola Marymount: Eric Gathers and Greg Kimble from USC, and Corey Gaines from UCLA.

Montana State will reign in the BIG SKY, thanks to the sharpshooting Ferch brothers, Kral and Shann. The 6'4" Kral tossed in 16.1 points per game last season and led the Bobcats into the NCAAs despite a 14-17 record. Kral combined with the younger Shann to hit exactly 50% from the Big Sky's 19'9" three-point range (the rest of the NCAA moves to that standard this season). Of the brothers' unusual names, Kral says their dad and high school coach, Tom, "didn't want us to be another Tom, Dick or Harry. If you think our names are bad, you should hear what he named the dog." Sit, Zando. Good dog. New Idaho coach Tim Floyd also had a problem with a nameā€”his own. A magazine inexplicably identified him as Joe Risnag. "If we have the kind of year those preseason magazines are predicting," Floyd says, "it's O.K. if people think Joe Risnag is coaching Idaho."

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