Nebraska's man-to-man defense, eighth best in the country last season, is coached by Hank Iba's son Moe. "Everybody in the conference is scared of our defense," says Cipriano, "and they have a right to be. Of course, we have to outfinesse them because we're so small. We lost the best defensive player in the conference in Novak, but I think we'll improve on offense." The Cornhuskers had better, because their deliberate attack has frequently been a weakness. Although Cipriano expects to rely on his usual give-and-go offense that works for shots after two or three passes, in his wilder moments he envisions speedy Bob Moore scoring at the end of an occasional fast break.
"We did wear down last season," says Cipriano. "We had to play with such intensity. This year we won't because our players will get more rest." Which means that fans in Kansas and Nebraska will not get a moment's relaxation.
Not long ago, Syracuse Center Roosevelt Bouie spent a long peaceful day fishing on Lake Oneida in upstate New York. Bouie is 6'11" and weighs 235 pounds, so it takes a good-sized fish to impress him. He caught five muskie that day, all of them, by his estimation, whoppers. Bouie considered the fishing as time well spent, because he viewed it as a precedent setter for the season ahead, during which he intends to help the Orange hook some big fish.
Syracuse was 22-5 last season before losing in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs, but Bouie was criticized for averaging only about 10 points a game, fourth best on the team. This year he is anxious to change things. "I always knew I could score," he says, "but last year it wasn't always necessary for me to shoot. This year I want to be part of the show."
Indeed, Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim is mystified by the heat his center took. With Marty Byrnes, an eventual first-round NBA draft choice, Dale Shackleford and Louis Orr on hand, Boeheim never expected Bouie to contribute much offensively.
Now Syracuse must count on Bouie's scoring, and Boeheim was encouraged by his junior center's 22-point average during the Orangemen's seven-game tour of Italy last summer. And more scoring does not mean less rebounding and defense. "My 'D' is very important to me," says Bouie, who blocked 84 shots last season.
Shackleford, a 6'6" ex-swingman, will be a regular at forward this year, and Orr, a 6'8" toothpick—at 185 pounds, he's 25 pounds heavier than last season—will man the other frontcourt spot. Shackleford, Syracuse's best all-round player, will direct the offense most of the time. Despite a poor outside shot, he hit enough shots in 1977-78 to average 14.1 points per game. If the versatile Orr doesn't splinter, he should add about 18 a game.
Syracuse saw 17 zone defenses in 26 regular-season games last year, and though Boeheim says this squad will shoot better overall, he is somewhat troubled by his backcourt. Sophomore Eddie Moss will probably be the starting point guard, and junior Hal Cohen will fill the other spot. Cohen averaged only 6.6 points a game last season, but he is expected to be the zone buster. "The kid's already in the Hall of Fame," says Boeheim. Indeed, Cohen once hit 598 consecutive free throws during a high school practice session, and the ball he used is now on display.
Syracuse will be deep, with Marty Headd and Rick Harmon helping out in the backcourt and 6'11" Dan Schayes able to play anywhere in the front line. But the best things Syracuse may have going for it are its schedule—which is weak—and a decided home-court edge. The Orangemen play 16 games in Manley Field House, where they have lost only five games in this decade.