THE TALENT MONGERS
Every player selected first in the NBA draft in the 1980s had helped carry a team to the round of 16, and all but two—North Carolina's Brad Daugherty and Navy's David Robinson—had played in the Final Four. That's a good sign for Syracuse, which has forward Derrick Coleman, who's likely to become the No. 1 pick in the '90 draft. The 6'10" Coleman had to play center in '88-89, and he led the Big East in rebounding; now he's back at forward, the position for which his skills are more suited. With the departure of All-America playmaker Sherman Douglas, Stephen Thompson and Billy Owens will share time at point guard—unless freshman Michael Edwards blossoms quickly. The question of who will play the point has inspired so much debate in upstate New York that coach Jim Boeheim hasn't even been reminded of the Orange-men's sour free-throw shooting last season (61.1%)—until now.
Tired of coaches who poor-mouth their teams' chances? Listen to Dale Brown of Louisiana State. "We're setting our goals a little higher than the national championship this season," says Brown. "We want to let people know LSU will be the team of the '90s." Just how loaded are the Tigers? Lyle Mouton, a starting guard in 1988-89, realized that if he wanted to get any playing time, he would have to play baseball instead of basketball. Look for him on the diamond. In explosive sophomore Chris Jackson, LSU has the best guard in the country. Now Jackson has some big-time company: 7'1" Shaquille O'Neal and 7-foot Stanley Roberts, both of whom are newcomers. "All of a sudden—bingo!—I'm blessed with great talent," says Brown. "Now, the next thing to do is coach it." You said it, Dale, not us.
THE BACKCOURT BEASTS
If Kenny Anderson is a healthy fraction of the playmaker he is touted to be—his high school jersey is already displayed in the Basketball Hall of Fame—Georgia Tech may have the best backcourt in the land. Anderson will operate in the Yellowjackets' three-guard offense with senior Brian Oliver, a center of calm amid the sideline storming of Tech coach Bobby Cremins, and junior Dennis Scott, a 6'8" mad bomber who has yet to fulfill the promise that accompanied him to Atlanta two years ago. "If there was a three-on-three tournament, I think those guys would win," says Cremins. "If we had a proven front line, we'd be as good as anybody." Still, Georgia Tech will be plenty good.
Thanks to two last-second free throws by Rumeal Robinson (page 64), Michigan defeated Seton Hall 80-79 to win the NCAA title last spring. Sweet-shooting Sean Higgins, a swingman, will have to score more, now that Glen Rice, who led the Big Ten in scoring last season, is gone. But even without Rice, Michigan is packed with talent and intent on becoming the first school to repeat as national champion since UCLA did so in 1972-73. "We're ready to go down in history," says forward Loy Vaught. "I want to be immortalized."
Every now and then, a team slips into the Sweet 16 by illicit means and later winds up doing time for the NCAA (see Wichita State, UCLA, Memphis State, Cleveland State). Don't be surprised if that happens to Missouri. This fall, prize recruit Daniel Lyton left Missouri, saying that the coaching staff had mistreated him and that he didn't want to attend a school "that's going to be on probation." The Tigers are indeed under NCAA investigation for several alleged infractions, possibly including their recruitment of Lyton. Missouri's status won't be known until February at the earliest. A clean bill of health would do wonders for Norm Stewart, who has returned to coaching after being sidelined for half of last season because of cancer surgery and treatment for a diseased gallbladder. Guard Anthony Peeler, a troubled sophomore, should be the Tigers' biggest scorer. He'll get able contributions from guard Lee Coward and 6'10" center-forward Doug Smith.
In recent years junior college graduates and transfers from four-year institutions have invigorated a variety of teams, from Oklahoma to Indiana. This season, the best juco arrival appears to be UNLV forward Larry Johnson, from Odessa (Texas) College. Johnson, a 6'7" inside scorer who dominated the World University Games for the U.S. team this summer, should be the perfect complement to forward Stacey Augmon, a ferocious defender and last season's Big West Player of the Year. Sophomore Anderson Hunt will try to steady the Runnin' Rebels' usually erratic outside game. In short, if UNLV (page 56) fulfills its potential. Rebel fans might be able to forget that the program is under investigation for alleged recruiting violations, and coach Jerry Tarkanian should finally bag the big one—if the NCAA doesn't bag him first.
THE CONFERENCE CALLS