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Freshman Forward David Russell is so gifted he will eventually replace one of last season's starters, Ron Plair or Frank Gilroy, who is nursing two painful knees and a broken nose. A devastating offensive rebounder, Russell must improve his outside shooting and his defense. "David is a challenging player because, even though he's young and inexperienced, he'll get by on his talent," says Center Wayne McKoy, who like Russell was an All-America while attending high school on Long Island. McKoy, said the college scouts, was a player who could single-handedly turn a team around. But after he didn't live up to his advance notices during his freshman year (1977-78) at St. John's and then was outplayed by rival pivotmen Roosevelt Bouie of Syracuse and Jeff Ruland of Iona in two showdowns late last season, the big question became whether he can turn himself around. "I'm going to have to be stronger on the boards and draw a lot more fouls instead of committing them," McKoy says. "I'm more aware of my game this year. There were things I did last year that I didn't realize were that important." The most damaging was getting himself into foul trouble too often. Although McKoy was second to Carter in scoring with a 14.9 average and was the leading rebounder (7.7), he averaged nearly four personals a game and fouled out seven times. His freshman replacements, Donald Jones and Trevor Jackson, will receive their baptism early. "The kids will have to give us 10, 12 minutes a game," says Carnesecca. "They'll be thrown to the wolves."
A rugged December schedule that includes Oral Roberts, Michigan State, Tennessee and Rutgers will test the young Redmen's poise, but the irrepressible Carnesecca refuses to worry. "I'm not concerned about a damn thing," he says. "We're going to play every game as if we're 0-25. We're not going to put pressure on the kids; we'll put it on the coaches. We're not going to pull a Duke here." That's because Looie wants St. John's to be first.
By the standards of other schools, last season was a banner one for Syracuse. It had a 26-4 record, third best in the nation, and equaled its highest victor total ever. The Orangemen became the 14th major college team to get 1,000 wins and had a 19-game victory streak, their third longest ever. They stretched their unbeaten string at Manley Field House, a/k/a The Pit, to 45, the longest in the nation. They were ranked in the Top Ten by the NCAA in more statistical categories—six—than any other school. On the average they defeated their opponents by a wider margin, 17.2 points, than any team in the nation, and they earned their seventh consecutive NCAA tournament invitation, a record surpassed only by UCLA (13) and Marquette (nine). But despite these imposing achievements, the folks in Syracuse were disappointed; there's no NCAA championship banner hanging from the rafters at Manley. There's not even an ECAC Upstate-Southern pennant. Syracuse was defeated for that championship by Georgetown and then fell to Penn in the NCAA East Regional semifinals.
The Orange has pledged not to repeat last year's el foldo, and the chances are excellent because graduation claimed only one regular; Forward Dale Shackleford. With the rest of the starters returning, along with four other lettermen and three heralded freshmen, Syracuse is formidable once again.
Back for its fourth and final engagement is the Louie and Bouie Show, starring 6'8" Forward Louis Orr and 6'11" Center Roosevelt Bouie. Starters since their freshman season, they lead the Orange at both ends of the floor. Orr, up to a slender 200 pounds after having arrived at Syracuse at an emaciated-looking 160, was the Orangemen's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder. "He's our best outside shooter, best passer and best rebounding forward," says Coach Jim Boeheim. "When he has had a poor game, it's because he's been muscled, but that's not going to happen much anymore." Bouie, another former string bean, added 15 pounds and now weighs an imposing 240. He was Syracuse's leading scorer—with 15.2 points a game—last season, but he's expected to be even sharper offensively this time around. "He's at least 200% better on offense than he was last season because he's looking for his shot," Boeheim says. On defense Bouie is the key for Syracuse. He has blocked 256 shots in three seasons and was the team's top rebounder last season. "Very few guys have had a good game at center against us since Roosevelt came," says Boeheim.
Replacing Shackleford, a superior defensive player and Syracuse's second-best scorer three years in a row, won't be easy. The backcourt, however, is in good shape, because point guards Hal Cohen and Eddie Moss, who between them had 14.7 points and nearly seven assists per game, and outside bomber Marty Headd are back. Freshman Tony (Red) Bruin, who has a terrifying baseline repertoire, could be a starter at guard before the season is very old. "Physically, Red is the best player we've had here since Dave Bing," says Boeheim, who was Bing's backcourt partner at Syracuse.
With a much tougher schedule, the challenge of competing in the new Big East Conference and fewer home games, Syracuse doesn't figure to match last season's victory total, but Boeheim doesn't care. "We just want to be playing well at the end of the season," he says. That would make it tough to squeeze the Orange out of the Final Four.
11 VIRGINIA TECH
Virginia Tech, or VPI, or Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University never quite knows what to call itself. To remedy this identity crisis, the school paper recently decided on a new name for the school. The envelope, please. The winner: the Eastern Institute for Enlightened and Intellectual Outgrowth, or EIEIO, a little play on the school's country bumpkin reputation ("Old MacDonald had a farm..."). Even the sports teams in Blacksburg have two nicknames, the Gobblers and the Hokies. But whatever you call it, one thing is certain about this season's basketball team: it's no turkey.