All of which should make for the most unpredictable season since 1980, when a guard, Darrell Griffith, led Louisville through a pivot-poor NCAA tournament field to the national title. Overall, look for more platter, less chatter and:
•More games. On the East Coast, the NIT, figuring that its tournament is so nice they'll play it twice, adds a 16-team preseason Big Apple tournament to its postseason romp. Out West, the Hawaiian Islands threaten to sink into the drink from the weight of eight classics to be held there before the end of 1985.
•More teams. The Tulane payola scandal forced that school to drop basketball, but the universities of San Francisco and Miami are reinstating it. Even Maryland's Coppin State is up from obscurity, now playing under a big-time label. That brings the number of Division I colleges to 282, an alltime high.
•More imports. The trade deficit grows.
The Dominican Republic, West Germany, Greece, the Sudan, Yugoslavia, Italy, Israel, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, England, Guadeloupe, Colombia, Holland, Iceland, Senegal, Denmark, Kenya and Nigeria will each contribute at least one player 6'8" or taller to U.S. rosters. Houston Baptist will have two players from the Central African Republic and a third from the Ivory Coast. Our typesetters persuaded us not to list their names. Says Huskies sports information director Billy Siems, "We're the only school that could put its P.A. man on the disabled list."
•More variety. After six seasons under the rigid influence of Ewing, Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, a consensus exists that this is the Year of Something Else. But there's little agreement on Exactly What. "The point guards will dominate this season," says Notre Dame's Digger Phelps, who has a pretty fair specimen in David Rivers. "Most of the best players are forward-oriented," counters Miami of Ohio coach Jerry Peirson. "Now the game could go to the swift," says Mike Jarvis, Ewing's former high school coach, who takes over at Boston University. No, says Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "The veteran team will have the advantage." Indiana State coach Ron Greene figures that, sooner or later, some center will rise up and assert himself. "There may be some well-kept secrets," he says. "Though they won't surface at Indiana State."
Even more anxiety surrounds the 45-second clock and its likely impact. The clock was used in 20 of the 30 Division I conferences last season, then disconnected at tournament time—much to the chagrin of the TV networks, which have lobbied for a clock since the 47-45 travesty between North Carolina and Virginia in the 1982 ACC championship game. This season the clock will tick in every game all the way through the Final Four in Dallas, thus guaranteeing that the NCAA championship game on March 31 will be quite unlike Villanova's palpitating 66-64 title win over Georgetown last spring—a classic example of how size and superior talent can be neutralized by tempo control.
For every coach who's delighted to see the clock, there's another who fears it will encourage some things that the NCAA elders want no part of. Like even more cheating to load teams with talented scorers. "The clock puts coaching in the hands of recruiters," says Montana coach Mike Montgomery. "The more possessions you get, the more opportunities you have for talent to pay off." Adds Purdue's Gene Keady, "If you don't have good talent, what do you do? Your principles might be lowered as you recruit to survive under a shot clock."
Zones will certainly proliferate, too. Without the clock, a team with a lead could usually hold the ball and force a defense out of a zone. Now, defenses can simply sit back until the clock runs down. "There are going to be more zones than ever, especially when you're playing a team with superior quickness," VMI coach Marty Fletcher says. Bill Foster, who takes over Miami's reinstated program, agrees. "In three years max, maybe two, you'll see the three-point shot come in with the clock. Otherwise, there's no way to penalize a team that zones all the time." In 1982-83, nine conferences experimented with three-point shots of varying distances. This season, the Big Sky Conference and the PCAA will be the only leagues to use a three-pointer.
The story of the year, however, will unfold in closer quarters, in the seams of all those zones. At least four of the first 12 teams in SI's Top 40 (page 48) will employ non-centers at center at least part of the time in hopes of solving the riddle of the middle. Georgia Tech's John Salley and Michigan's Roy Tarpley are both converted cornermen, with a forward's instincts and skills. Danny Manning of Kansas will move into the post when Dreiling leaves the lineup. And Kenny Walker, though nominally not a center, had the statistical profile of one last season for Kentucky. All four—Manning is a sophomore, the others are seniors—are versatile talents with the potential to take over a game.