- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
For years now, the major-college hounds have been a-bayin'. The NCAA tournament is a mongrelization, the well-bred say, and mutts are getting in with no pedigree except an antiquated automatic bid. Well, over the summer the big dogs finally had their day. The NCAA decided that, if you're from the TAAC or the SWAC or the MEAC or one of five other less prominent conferences, you'll have to work to reach Albuquerk. By expanding its field from 48 teams to 52 and holding steady the number of automatic qualifiers, the NCAA has in effect created four more at-large bids. Winners of eight leagues (the Trans America Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference, East Coast Conference, Ivy League, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, ECAC North, ECAC Metro and Midwestern City Conference), which had received automatic bids, will now play among themselves in an elimination round to determine who'll be the 12th seed in each of the four regions.
"There can be no more jokes about this not being a major-college team," says ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK Coach Ron Kestenbaum. "This is a major-college team." That's true, even though the Trojans will again car-pool a few end-of-the-benchers to away games and will occasionally play in a 2,400-seat gym that even Kestenbaum calls "an eyesore to the state." Arkansas-Little Rock will win the Trans America title and qualify for the elimination round, thanks to seniors Jimmy (Back to You, Keith) Lampley, a 7-foot center who led the Trojans in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (6.6), and Guard Vaughn Williams, a three-year starter at the point. But ALCORN STATE will emerge from the SWAC to beat the Trojans and advance to the field of 52. Over the past five seasons no team has scored more points a game (86.6) or outrebounded opponents as decisively (a 10.5 margin) as the Braves, who welcome back four starters from a team that went 22-8 last season. Erstwhile Center Tom Collie, at 6'8" Alcorn's second-leading scorer in 1981-82, will move to forward; 5'9" Ed Archie, who led the SWAC in steals and placed second in assists, returns to the point.
There's no truth to the rumor that all-state high-schooler Chip Greenberg, a 6'4" passer from Philly's La Salle College High, chose LA SALLE so he wouldn't have to buy a new letter jacket. Greenberg should help the Explorers win the ECC, but La Salle's main man should continue to be Steve Black, whose 20 points a game last season led the nation's freshmen. But PENN will win the Ivy and then meet—and beat—its Big Five rival. "No, Ralph will not be transferring here," said former Virginia Assistant and new Quaker Coach Craig Littlepage when he met his players. Penn will do well enough without Sampson. The Quakers have eight players back who started at least one game last season, when Penn lost nine in a row and then swept 14 straight to win its 10th Ivy title in 13 years. Forward Paul Little, co-Ivy Player of the Year, averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 rebounds.
North Carolina A&T will emerge from the MEAC, if only because it badly wants a chance to atone for a 30-point loss to West Virginia in last spring's West Regional. "You usually show the videos of good games or wins," says Aggie Coach Don Corbett. "But not here. The kids see that West Virginia film every day. They don't want to forget." Four of last season's starters are around to remember. The best is Forward Joe Binion, who last season averaged 19.1 points and 9.2 rebounds and was conference Player of the Year. Two ECAC North preseason all-stars, Guard Ray Hall and aptly named Lee Stringfellow, a 6'9", 205-pound forward, will lead CANISIUS into the preliminary round. But A&T should show the Golden Griffins the way out.
There's not too much metropolitan about Moon Township, Pa., home to ROBERT MORRIS , which will win the ECAC Metro but lose to EVANSWLLE of the Midwestern City in the "urban" elimination round. After the Purple Aces' first-round loss to Marquette last March, Coach Dick Walters asked his players what they thought they lacked. "Coach, we're not strong enough physically," they told him. Five days later Walters put them on a weight program—and later on he turned down the Wisconsin coaching job so he could reap the benefits. The $25,000 customized purple van the Aces used to pick up recruits at the airport must have been impressive: Four fine freshmen and two juco transfers are on hand; the best of them is Forward Bubby Mukes.
The Wisconsin job that Walters rejected finally went to BALL STATE's Steve Yoder, who has been replaced by his former assistant, Al Brown. Yoder left behind three of the starters who won the Mid-American Conference by two games last season, including 5'9" Ray McCallum, who'll probably become the MAC's alltime leading scorer this year. Over the last three seasons McCallum has averaged 17.5 points on just 13.7 shots a game and shot better than 50% from the field and 80% from the line. Last season he committed only 32 turnovers in 28 games.
BRADLEY figures to play in Peoria at the new 10,400-seat Civic Arena—though without the front line that led the Braves to the NIT title last March after Bradley was unjustly passed over for an NCAA bid. But the backcourt's back: 5'11", 150-pound Willie Scott, the Munchkin of a point guard who set a Braves' single-season assist record, and Barney Mines. Center Pierre Cooper has licked a mysterious blood disorder that kept him out of action last season, and sophomore Forward Voise (as in Boise) Winters had a fine rookie year. Juco All-America Forward Booker Johnson is the best of three transfers.
According to Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds, a cardinal goes whoit whoit whoit. The same question has been asked about the LAMAR Cardinals, despite their 92 wins and three NCAA appearances the last four years. In fact, Lamar could issue A Birds' Guide to the Field. It would include such tournament victims as Detroit, Weber State, Oregon State and Missouri. Because Southwestern Louisiana, which edged Lamar for the SLC bid last season, has gone independent, the Cards ought to make the tournament again. En route they should pad their Division I-leading 56-game home winning streak. Says Coach Pat Foster, "I feel like I'm coaching a whole team of DiMaggios." Maybe so, but Terry Long (14.8 points a game last season) has left and gone away.
SOUTHWESTERN LOUISIANA has six of the top seven players back from a team that opened the season by beating Georgetown, Washington State and Marquette to win the Great Alaska Shootout. Junior forwards Graylin Warner and Dion Brown return, with averages of 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, respectively. The Ragin' Cajuns, whose fans wear T shirts with big red dots on them, will play a spotty schedule in their first season as an independent, so they probably must win at least 22 games to earn their berth.
"Not to belittle those guys," says DePAUL Coach Ray Meyer of recent Blue Demon All-Americas Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings, "but there were always worries about getting them their points. Now if anybody messes up, I can yank 'em." Forward Bernard Randolph averaged 14.7 points per game last season, twice as many as any other returnee. More will be expected from two sophomores, Walter Downing, possible heir to Cummings in the pivot, and Guard Kenny (Fast) Patterson.