This season the LSU faithful expect another SEC title—and that's just for starters. They're also talking about a national championship, and Coach Dale Brown is not about to put the damper on that kind of G-E-A-U-X Tigers fervor, because he happens to share it.
A fast-break talker with no talent for poor-mouthing. Brown says,"I guess I should tell everyone why we shouldn't be ranked so high, how we lost three seniors or how Kentucky has had its best recruiting year in history, but I don't look at it that way. I think it's reasonable for us to be considered a real threat for the national championship. We could have won it last year, and I think we have an excellent chance to win it now. I don't shirk from that. It doesn't seem like pressure to me."
Brown has won himself a host of critics who call his opinions outlandish, his coaching suspect and his offense Basic Playground. However, the skeptics include none of the Tigers, who fast-break, crash the boards, dunk and run the quick-hitting "shuffle cut" offense and the full-court press with all the delicacy of tag-team wrestlers. LSU may be incapable of doing precision patterns, but its remarkable quickness makes its fast break deadlier than most, and whatever the offense, the Tigers work together unselfishly.
Brown also may have the best pair of forwards in college ball in Durand Macklin and DeWayne Scales, two juniors who can jump, shoot, rebound and play defense. Each should be better despite personal disappointments last season. Macklin, who scored 46 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in LSU's first two games, sat out the rest of the season with a broken foot. Scales, who scored 19.4 points a game and shot 56.6% on his way to earning All-SEC honors, was suspended from the team in February for talking to a self-styled NBA agent. It is to Brown's credit that Scales returned.
Greg Cook will start at center, and he has an imposing backup in Andy Campbell, a 7'2" Australian who can touch the rim without jumping. The chief playmaker is Ethan Martin, a walk-on point guard who has led the team in assists for two straight seasons. It is he who'll make the Tigers G-E-A-U-X, perhaps all the way.
8 TEXAS A&M
It is somewhat ironic that Texas A&M, a team that succeeds on its height, is singularly cursed by a lack of depth. Or so it seems to Head Coach Shelby Metcalf, who never had enough players at preseason practices to stage a full-scale, first-team-vs.-second-team scrimmage. "A lot this season is going to depend on us staying happy and healthy," Metcalf says. "We're not going to go anywhere if we get one of our key people hurt."
But if the A&M roster is short on bodies, the Aggies themselves aren't worried. Their ambition remains as tall as their re-bounders, one of whom recently told a visitor departing College Station, "If we miss you during the regular season, we'll see you in Indianapolis. Count on us being there."
A&M's achievements probably will fall somewhere between Metcalf's vision of disaster and his players' lofty expectations. Barring a bunch of injuries, the Aggies at the very least should win the Southwest Conference title.
A&M's talent is impressive. The Aggies set a school record with 24 victories last season, beating San Francisco and Kentucky on the road, knocking off Indiana and New Mexico and winning at least one game from every conference opponent except Texas. They finished third in their conference and advanced to the third round of the NIT.