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Texas A&M faces a long climb in the SWC. "It's an old story," says first-year coach Tony Barone. "We may be short, but we're also slow and very young."
A great deal has changed in the Metro Conference, but there should be at least one reminder of the old days: Louisville will be atop the league standings. Last season's 14-16 record gave the Cardinals their first losing season in 49 years. On top of that, coach Denny Crum, a former UCLA assistant under John Wooden, drew criticism for the poor graduation rate of his teams.
"Coach Wooden always told me that you learn and prosper through adversity," Crum says. "Well, after that season, we should be rich."
The Cards' riches include swingman Everick Sullivan (15.6 points a game), forward Cornelius Holden (12.5) and four good-looking newcomers—center Brian Hopgood, forwards Greg Minor and Dwayne Morton, and guard Keith LeGree. Louisville looks like its old self.
Southern Mississippi will remain a contender, if only because of the presence of 6'7", 240-pound forward Clarence Weatherspoon, who is likely to pick up his third straight conference Player of the Year Award. The Golden Eagles lost three starters, but coach M.K. Turk has called freshman Glen Whisby, a 6'8" forward, the best player he ever recruited, including Weatherspoon.
Tulane coach Perry Clark could give a seminar on how to rebuild a program. In its third season back in competition after a point-shaving scandal in the 1984-85 season, the Green Wave is a contender for the conference title, thanks largely to center Anthony Reed (16.0 points, 7.9 rebounds a game last season).
North Carolina Charlotte would probably be better if it could play in two-on-two games. Guard Henry Williams (21.6 points a game) and forward Jarvis Lang (19.6 points, 10.6 rebounds) are the best inside-outside tandem in the league. South Florida has underrated 6'7" guard Radenko Dobras, but the Bulls are undersized up front. Virginia Commonwealth is the opposite—strong up front with 6'8" forward Kendrick Warren, but suspect in the backcourt.
The focus at Virginia Tech is on new coach Bill Foster, the former Clemson and Miami coach who came out of retirement at age 55 to rebuild the Hokies. He has some talent to work with, including forward John Rivers, who doubles as a tight end on the football team. But Foster's task will take more than one year.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]