If ever a team was a reflection of its coach, it's Bradley. The very assuming and immodest Dick Versace says this Bradley team was built "from the three C's—conflict, controversy and competition." This is also a pretty good description of how Versace got where he is. "I say what I think and then you can sit back and watch me succeed or fall on my butt," he says.
Versace, who made his name coaching in Chicago high schools, plays a city-style game, with an almost nonstop free-lance attack. The style works at Bradley because of talented city-bred players like guards David Thirdkill (St. Louis) and Hasan Houston (born in New York) and junior Forward Mitchell Anderson (Chicago), anderson scored 20.6 points per game last season and became the first Bradley sophomore to score 1,000 career points.
Slightly built at 6'8" and about 195 pounds, Anderson was also the Braves' leading rebounder. Donald Reese is a quite capable center at 6'9", but there's no adequate backup. In case of foul trouble, look for Versace to move the 6'7" Third-kill, an excellent defensive player, or Anderson into the post and insert explosive sixth man Houston into the lineup. In a 55-53 NCAA tournament loss to Southwest Conference champion Texas A&M, Houston scored 17 points in 28 minutes.
The Braves began to move last season after Houston was shifted from the starting lineup to the super-sub role, going 18-5 after the switch was made and completing a 16-game sweep at home. Bradley's home—Robertson Memorial Field House—deserves special mention because it was fashioned 31 years ago from two gigantic airplane hangars. But the Braves can be tough on the road, too. The high point of their season came at Wichita State when Bradley shocked the Shockers by holding them to 11 second-half points en route to a 57-51 win. That performance prompted one Bradley player to remark, "I don't care how much talent any team has, they'll never beat us."
To compensate for its lack of size and bulk, Bradley relies on quickness and jumping ability and plays a very physical, pressing game. However there's a difference between physical and Kamikaze, and offensive motion and helter-skelter action. If the Braves can handle that difference, who knows what next year's cover photo might depict?
18 St. John's
For a detailed analysis of why St. John's won't go down the tube this season despite the loss of three-year starting guards Reggie Carter and Bernard Rencher, we take you to the Redmen locker room and Curtis Redding: "They're writing off St. John's because we lost Reggie and Bernard. But don't nobody want to finish last around here. As far as I can see all the baaad guys have left college basketball. We got all the king-dong-bing-bongs right here."
Actually, Redding, the Redmen's 6'4" senior swingman and resident frankfurter, is mistaken in his assessment of the state of college basketball. Most, if not all, of the baddies are still skulking around out there. But assuming king-dong-bing-bong is Reddingism for a talented player, then at least his assessment of his teammates is correct.
Another thing in St. John's favor is Coach Lou Carnesecca, who, like every good New Yorker, is a survivor. Last season the Redmen were 24-5, their best showing since 1952, and tied Syracuse and Georgetown for the regular-season championship of the Big East Conference.
The Redmen's front line, which is composed of seniors Wayne McKoy, Frank Gilroy and Ron Plair and sophomore David Russell in varying combinations, is all too familiar to their opponents. The 6'8" McKoy, St. John's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder last season, will again be a power forward playing out of position at center. His mobility and outside shooting touch are ideal when the Redmen go to the high post offense or run their transition game. But in his three seasons of tangling with the aircraft carriers of the college game, foul trouble has been his constant companion. "Wayne has got to battle all the heavyweights," Carnesecca says. "I've learned to live with it like people learn to live with arthritis." McKoy is getting special instruction from former New York Knick Willis Reed, who signed on this year as a volunteer assistant. "I can bring a guy only so far," Carnesecca says. "I'm like the general practitioner. Now I bring in the specialist."