Sophomore Randy Breuer, freshman Jim Peterson and junior-college transfer John Wiley overshadow—and at 7'2", 6'10" and 6'7", respectively, their shadows are long indeed—the loss of Minnesota's star Center Kevin McHale. If Coach Jim Dutcher finds comparable strength in his backcourt, the 1980-81 Gophers could surpass last season's team, which went 21-11 and finished second in the NIT. Purdue is without last season's star, Joe Barry Carroll, but new Coach Gene Keady has added the best high school big man in Chicago, 6'10" Russell Cross.
In the Southeastern Conference only Georgia figures to threaten Kentucky and LSU. The Bulldogs, who start two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior and lack a good center, are just puppies, really. But if they get the expected performances from Forward Dominique Wilkins and Guard Eric (Sky Dog) Marbury, they'll have plenty of bite. Alabama also seems destined for a winning conference record, with four starters back and a new coach, Wimp Sanderson, who doesn't deserve all the jokes about his name.
Lee Rose, who took Sun Belt Conference member UNC Charlotte and then Purdue to the NCAA final four, returns to the Sun Belt, at South Florida. Rose, a big winner elsewhere, should be a big loser this season, but a reported five-year, $90,000-per-annum contract and the opening of the school's Sun Dome will ease the suffering.
Loyola of Chicago will improve its 19-10 record and win the title in the Midwestern City Conference behind Guard Darius Clemons, the best all-round player in the league. But the Ramblers will get competition aplenty from Evansville's Purple Aces, whose trump card is a well-scouted freshman, 7'1" Emir Turan of Istanbul. "We didn't take him cold turkey," says Coach Dick Walters.
Toledo should surrender the Mid-American crown to either Bowling Green or Northern Illinois. Heading the best Bowling Green team in 18 seasons is Forward Colin Irish, the team's most valuable player as a freshman. Northern Illinois has a wondrous center in MAC Player of the Year Allen Rayhorn.
Murray State took a great leap forward last year from 4-22 to 23-8. In his third season, Coach Ron Greene might do even better, because he has Lamont Sleets, a 5'10" court magician who dunks with the best. Only Western Kentucky, under new Coach Clem Haskins, can bring Sleets—and Murray State—back to earth.
Hank Raymonds overcame a poor recruiting year and injuries to two starters to coach Marquette to an NCAA bid and 18 wins. Now that Forward Oliver Lee and Center Dean Marquardt are healthy and the squad is so deep that blue-chip freshman Guard Glenn Rivers will have to come off the bench, 20 victories should be a cinch. Led by Guard Frank Edwards, a 25.5-point scorer last year, Cleveland State is expecting its first 20-win season.
North Carolina is counting on two freshmen, three screws and a rod. No one would be able to nurture yearlings Sam Perkins and Matt Doherty better than Coach Dean Smith will, but UNC's fortunes may hinge on the hardware holding together Forward James Worthy's right ankle. Worthy was playing very well when he broke it last season; this preseason he'd practice for two days and then join the other infirm Tar Heels—Center Pete Budko and Guard Jimmy Black—on the sidelines for the third. Call them the Achilles' Heels.
For fans used to simple names like (Norm) Sloan and (Bill) Foster, the new coaches in Raleigh and Durham sound downright newfangled. Jim Valvano (that's val-VANN-o) comes to North Carolina State from Iona, Mike Krzyzewski (kruh-SHEF-skee) to Duke via Army, and both are outgoing, big-city types. The Wolfpack will have some depth but no stars, the Blue Devils a star in Forward Gene Banks but little depth. Wake Forest could outstrip both of these perennial powers. A Deacon frontcourt worth almost 37 points a game is back, and a welcome addition is the cool-headedness of Guard Frank Johnson, whose injured left foot kept him out of action all last season when Wake lost five conference games by a total of 19 points.