5 TO WATCH
Since SPORTS ILLUSTRATED instituted its Five to Watch category in 1972, the selectees have done nothing if not make fans do double takes. For example, Colorado, a choice in 1973, went on to a 9-17 season. Duke, one of the picks in 1977, won 27 games and met Kentucky for the NCAA title. The point is that Five to Watch selections are not intended to be Nos. 21-25 in our rankings. Rather they are talented teams that for one reason or another—youthfulness, injuries, previous failures to live up to their potential, etc.—could go bang or go bust. With that in mind...
Take Weber State, and this season few teams will. Since joining the NCAA's Division I in 1962, the Wildcats have played in eight NCAA tournaments. Last season Weber went 25-9 and won its second straight Big Sky title. Back now, and presumably savvier, are four starters and two top reserves who in 1978-79 accounted for 80% of the Wildcats' points and most of the rebounds, a category in which Weber placed among the national leaders. Among them are all-conference seniors Richard Smith, David Johnson and Bruce Collins, a swingman whose 1,488 points leave him just 75 shy of passing Willie Sojourner's school career scoring record. One good omen for Wildcat fans is that Guard Mark Mattos, a three-year starter, is being challenged by junior college transfer Eric Watson. Another is that the first round of the NCAA regionals is scheduled for Dee Event Center right there on the Weber campus.
Oregon State, another traditional big winner, is also optimistic. In 78 seasons the Beavers have won more games than any school except Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and St. John's. Trouble is, since 1966 UCLA's talent has been far too much for Oregon State. Now things may change; the Beavers have all five starters back from last year's 18-10 team. Guards Ray Blume and Mark Radford are both double-figure scorers, which takes pressure off Center Steve Johnson, who pumped in 18.5 points a game and shot 66.1% from the floor last season. State's major problem was inconsistency, a flaw Coach Ralph Miller thinks he has remedied. Indeed, in an exhibition against Yugoslavia's national team, the Beavers were remarkably consistent, bombing the World Cup champs 94-73.
After facing UCLA in the NCAA final in 1970, Jacksonville hit the skids. Then last season in came new Coach Tates Locke, who said it was time to "pick up the pieces." He took a team that had suffered three consecutive non-winning seasons and turned it into a 19-game winner that became known throughout Florida as—better brace yourself—Locke's Net Monsters. Two starters are back from that squad, but the key to continued success for the Dolphins lies with their biggest and littlest players. The big one is Center James Ray, a two-time field-goal-percentage leader in the Sun Belt Conference. The little one is 5'8" freshman Guard Maurice Roulhac, who is counted on to give Jacksonville more quickness. Locke, a noted stickler for defense, isn't troubled a bit by Roulhac's lack of height. "The question isn't who is Maurice going to guard," he says, "but, who can guard Maurice."
Last year Missouri lost nine of its first 13 games and then won nine of its last 15, including upsets of Big Eight powers Kansas, Oklahoma and Kansas State. The Tigers were awfully young then, but now they have four experienced starters back, including the high-powered guard combination of Larry Drew and Steve Wallace. Coach Norm Stewart can also use Forward Ricky Frazier, a transfer from St. Louis U. who in 1978 was the Metro Seven Freshman of the Year. On top of that, Stewart has recruited a budding superstar in Steve Stipanovich, a 6'11" center who shot 62% and scored 24.8 points a game in leading St. Louis' DeSmet High School to a 32-0 record and back-to-back state championships.
Furman Center Jonathan Moore is unique. What else can you say of a guy who has trained his pet fish to jump out of an aquarium and eat worms that Moore dangles over the surface? Well, you could also say that Moore is a whale of a player. He has been All-Southern Conference three straight seasons and in 1978-79 was the league MVP as well. This year Moore leads a veteran team that put together a 20-9 record last season. Of equal significance is the fact that second-year Coach Eddie Holbrook now feels much more at home. He came to Furman following 14 seasons at Gardner Webb, where he won 344 of 411 games. He says last season was frustrating because he tried to blend his pressure style of play with the more deliberate approach of his predecessor, Joe Williams. "This year we'll play baseline to baseline," says Holbrook.
Brigham Young may be king of the mountains in the WAC, but Utah and New Mexico are not far down the slopes. The Lobos retain three starters from a rebuilding season and are bolstered by newcomer Kenny Page, a guard who transferred from Ohio State. Nonetheless Norm Ellenberger, like most coaches, is pessimistic. "We're so bad, I can't stand it," he says. Utah should pose the most serious threat to BYU. The Utes have the league's other dandy Danny in Danny Vranes, their leading rebounder and field-goal shooter last year, plus two other ' holdover starters.
San Diego, 19-7 last season in Division II, has stepped up to play with the big boys of the WCAC. "No one knows what we have," says Coach Jim Brovelli, "and I like that." It may not matter, though, because San Francisco should retain its title despite the loss of All-America Center Bill Cartwright. The Dons will be overpowering because 7-foot Wallace Bryant fills the void in the middle nicely, and there are two promising freshman guards, Raymond McCoy and Quintin Dailey, to bolster a strong backcourt. San Francisco's toughest challenge should now come from Portland and Seattle. The Chieftains' 7-foot center, Jawann Oldham, will be joined by several newcomers, including Oliver Manuel, who is capable of jumping 40 inches straight up. Portland is depending on improved depth and Center Bryan Beard, a redshirt last season.