Shaky defense would hurt most teams, but don't evaluate Texas by normal standards. "People have too many checklists," says Lemons, who cares only about shooting when he scouts potential recruits. Check this: the Longhorns were last in their conference in rebounding and tied for first in the standings. It could happen only in Texas basketball.
Every day of preseason practice was a revelation to Dale D. Brown, the motor-mouthed coach of Louisiana State. "There were times when I walked out of the gym after workouts," says Brown, "and almost said out loud, is this really me? Is this really LSU?' " The source of his wonderment was the sight of so many big, talented players. The Tigers have had great performers in the past—Bob Pettit and Pete Maravich, to name a couple—but never have they had as much ability and depth as they do now. Says Brown, "If the players will totally dedicate themselves to all the old tired statements about unselfishness, if we can all work to not irritate each other, and if I do my job, then we can be as good as anybody in the country." Pause. "My friends tell me I shouldn't say things like that, that I should act like Bear Bryant and low key it. But I can't help it. That's what I really feel in my heart."
Last season, when Brown was not spouting off, he coached a pretty decent basketball team. The Tigers were 18-9 and third in the SEC. While winning nine of its last 11, LSU became one of only two teams to beat eventual NCAA-champion Kentucky. Other than Guard Kenny Higgs, all the top players are back, including all-conference Forward Durand Macklin, a 6'7" leaper who ranked among the SEC leaders in both scoring (19 points a game) and rebounding (10.6). Macklin and DeWayne Scales will start again at forward, with 6'9" Lionel Green at center. The guards will be Ethan Martin, a walk-on, and deadeye Jordy Hultberg.
That lineup would be good enough to end Kentucky's reign in the SEC, but there is more. Back after a season of scholastic ineligibility is 6'9" Greg Cook, who averaged 11.5 points and 9.2 rebounds as a freshman starter two seasons ago. He will share a forward spot with Scales. Willie Sims of New York is a 6'3" swingman, and Al Green, a transfer from North Carolina State, lends three-man depth at guard. Oh, yes, there are also a couple of 7-footers, Rick Mattick and Andy Campbell, to spell Lionel Green.
"I'm expecting great things," says Brown. "For the next three years, we should be a threat to win the NCAAs, because 12 of our 15 players are underclassmen. I won't be content until we're picked No. 1 and finish No. 1. That's the philosophy they had at Iwo Jima, or they wouldn't have gotten off the beaches."
Of course, talent alone does not mean the Tigers will scale basketball's equivalent of Mount Suribachi. Brown's main challenge will be to find enough playing time, shots and glory to keep everyone happy. To help ward off such problems, he will use a shuffle offense designed to "get the ball into everybody's hands." He also plans to exploit his depth by fast-breaking at every opportunity and playing full-court, man-to-man defense.
Under Brown's spell, LSU basketball fans are coming out of the woodwork, or wherever they have been hiding since Maravich left eight years ago. By the end of October, almost 5,000 season tickets had been sold, a school record. Obviously, Louisianans are expecting the Tigers to be hotter than a pistol.
8 NO. CAROLINA ST.
Norm Sloan thinks he knows the secret of how to defeat Duke. Even though this may sound like a betrayal of a confidence, it's not. Information of this sort is bound to get out, especially because the schools involved are only 25 miles apart and the Wolfpack, coached by Sloan, has been picked to finish right behind the Blue Devils in the ACC. Well, perhaps not right behind, since Duke is favored to win the NCAAs. But Sloan is not indulging entirely in whimsy when he talks of beating the Blue Devils.