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Scouting Reports CONFERENCE CALL Assaying the Big East, the Big Sky and a bevy of not-so-bigs as well

THE CLASS OF '92 MAY OR may not be the greatest crop of freshmen
ever (page 6), but it certainly has yielded the best haul yet for the
BIG EAST, which shapes up as this season's strongest conference.
Freshman talents like Alonzo Mourning, Billy Owens and Malik Sealy
are tenderfoots next to Seton Hall's best newcomer, 23-year-old
Andrew Gaze, a 6 ft. 6 in. three-point shooter from Australia who
outscored everyone in the Olympics except Brazil's Oscar Schmidt.
Gaze will make the Pirates' loss of three starters easier to take.
Boston College, which specializes in vest-pocket-sized lead guards,
has another one to team with senior shooting guard Dana Barros. He's
freshman Bryan Edwards, a 6 ft. 1 in., 35-points-per-game scorer from
the Hub.
Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote whupped BIG TEN and cross-state
rival Bill Frieder of Michigan on the recruiting trail, signing six
in-state freshmen. ''They got two that we really wanted,'' says
Frieder, who can't promise recruits a chance to start the way
Heathcote can. Center Mike Peplowski, who has been hampered by a knee
injury, and forward Matt Steigenga will anchor the Spartans' front
line of the future. Steigenga, an honor student from South Christian
High School in Grand Rapids, Mich., will play right away. Purdue,
says Ohio State coach Gary Williams, has ''exactly the kind of team
that surprises people,'' though Boilermaker coach Gene Keady doesn't
see how he's going to do it without last season's mainstays, Troy
Lewis, Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens.
In the ATLANTIC COAST, Clemson has put together a fine front line
in Dale Davis, Jerry Pryor and center Elden Campbell. The performance
of three junior college transfers, notably guard Marion Cash, will
determine the fate of the Tigers' backcourt. Until now, three were as
many juco imports as the entire ACC brought in for a season, but this
once supercilious conference has loosened up. Wake Forest, which has
only one senior, guard Cal Boyd, and a junior star in forward Sam
Ivy, is a year away. Maryland seemed to have turned things around in
the wake of the Len Bias tragedy, but the Terps have pulled yet
another 180, with six players lost through transfers, academic
problems and a variety of personal circumstances.
Five of the METRO's seven members have taken roost in the Top 40,
and the conference has acknowledged the parity in its ranks by
deciding to rotate its postseason tournament among sites other than
Louisville and Memphis. As for the bottom two, Southern Mississippi
loses four seniors from its swarming teams of recent seasons, and at
Cincinnati, the word is out: If coach Tony Yates doesn't win 18, he's
THE SOUTHEASTERN, WHICH HAS seemed impossible to overrate during
much of this decade, is suddenly down. Just don't tell Georgia coach
Hugh Durham. ''Some days Linda Evans looks better than others, but
she always looks good,'' he says. ''That's kind of like our
conference.'' Nonetheless, the decline has generated hope in the
Southeastern's more downtrodden precincts. Vanderbilt's 7-foot Will
Perdue scored 26% of the Commodores' two-point baskets in 1987-88 and
his presence inside made their three-point-oriented offense
effective. His departure to the Chicago Bulls will hurt. Auburn faces
a mediocre season, which prompts a question: Is the departure in 1986
to Georgia of assistant coach and super-recruiter Tevester Anderson
beginning to catch up with Sonny Smith's team? With no more
Yugoslavs, Dominicans or Argentines on his roster and with Stanley
Roberts a Bylaw 5-1-(j) casualty, LSU coach Dale Brown treated
himself to a Dutchman, 6 ft. 11 in. Geert Hammink. The Tigers' hopes,
however, will rest with senior forward Ricky Blanton and freshman
point guard Chris Jackson.
Iowa State coach Johnny Orr doesn't need a calculator. ''The only
difference between the BIG EIGHT and the Big Ten is two teams,'' says
Orr, who used to coach Michigan. ''And, boy, do I miss Northwestern
and Wisconsin.'' The chesty Big Eight turned last spring's NCAA
tournament into an intraconference scrimmage by landing five bids,
placing three teams in the NCAA's final eight and two in the
championship game, all of which produced a tidy $3.6 million for the
conference. Defending national champion Kansas will fall a few
notches, with Danny Manning drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers and
Larry Brown signed as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Brown's
replacement, Roy Williams, formerly an assistant at North Carolina,
is a coat-and-tie man who unbuttoned his collar enough to let his
team sing Don't Worry, Be Happy at its opening practice. Call it
wishful singing: Since Brown's departure in June, three players have
transferred, two more have been lost to grades, and allegations of
NCAA rules violations have become rife. Two Bylaw 5-1-(j) sophomores
-- 6 ft. 10 in. Thomas Jordan and 7-foot, 265-pound Johnny Pittman --
give Oklahoma State a beefy front line. They join Richard Dumas,
whose 17.4 points per game last season led all freshmen save Temple's
Mark Macon.
If it weren't for Final Four participant Arizona, a 1987-88 PAC-10
highlight film might be called To Die and Die in L.A. After running
preseason ads that hyped ''Excitement Guaranteed,'' Southern Cal
suffered through a dissension- riddled 7-21 season. No sooner had
UCLA concluded a seemingly endless search for a coach last spring by
hiring Jim Harrick from Pepperdine than sophomore guard Gerald
Madkins was sidelined for this coming season by a pelvic fracture
suffered in a traffic accident. Harrick needs help from freshmen
Darrick Martin and Don MacLean. Pushing Arizona and Stanford for the
Pac-10 title will be Oregon State, whose guard, Gary Payton, is a
defensive demon; Washington, which has four starters back; and
California, where redshirt forward Leonard Taylor, the key to the
Bears' offense three years ago, is healthy again after a season and a
half on the sidelines with various injuries.
The WAC suddenly has a Romper Room look, with an unusually large
number of newcomers replacing a load of departed seniors. Wyoming,
UTEP, Colorado State and Hawaii all have more new faces than
returnees. The result of the shakeout is that the gap between the
conference's haves and have-nots has narrowed. Wyoming and Texas-El
Paso will change their playing styles -- the Cowboys from a plodding
half-court team to a pressure bunch and the Miners from a coast-to-
coast crew to a club mindful of the bulk of center-forward Antonio
Davis and 7-foot, 230-pound UCLA transfer Greg Foster, who will be
eligible for the second semester. The best team in Utah won't be
BYU, where apart from Michael Smith the cupboard is so bare that
coach Ladell Andersen is soliciting walk- ons. Utah seniors Boo
Singletary and Mitch Smith are two key reasons Wyoming coach Benny
Dees calls the Utes ''loaded.''
In the MISSOURI VALLEY, everyone but Bradley is celebrating the
departure of national scoring leader Hersey Hawkins. Braves coach
Stan Albeck must do substantial retooling around point guard Anthony
Manuel, who had more assists (373) than any other junior in NCAA
history last season, and center Luke Jackson. Illinois State was one
of only three MVC schools to finish with a winning record last
season. The Redbirds should be winners again.

THE ATLANTIC 10 IS still giddy about getting two teams in last
spring's Sweet 16. Now there is even talk of success at some of the
conference's perennially weak schools, including Penn State, which
keeps 10 letter men from last season's 13-14 team and has signed a
raft of fine freshmen. Rhode Island has three returning
first-stringers but doesn't have the three people it could least
afford to lose: guards Carlton (Silk) Owens and Tom Garrick and coach
Tom Penders, who's now at Texas.
Since the glorious reign of Phi Slamma Jamma, the SOUTHWEST has
been getting smaller and faster. Houston coach Pat Foster is
recruiting players who can run now that some of the bruisers he
inherited have left. Forwards Craig Upchurch and Richard Hollis
typify the Cougs' new uptempo approach. Nowhere is the urge to run
more evident than at Texas, where the Longhorns bucked under the
tight rein and laconic manner of ousted coach Bob Weltlich. His
successor, Penders, vows to turn loose essentially the same
personnel. Success would be drawing as many fans as the Texas women.

History tells us that the host school often wins the SUN BELT
tournament and hence the conference's automatic NCAA bid. That's good
news for North Carolina-Charlotte, which is the conference favorite.
The question is, can a second school slip into the NCAAs via the
at-large route? Candidates include Western Kentucky, whose soul is
guard Brett McNeal; Old Dominion, which went from 6-22 in 1986-87 to
18-12 last season and has four double-figure scorers back; and
Alabama-Birmingham, which is counting on two transfers, one Jack
(Kramer, from Michigan) and one Kennedy (Andy, from N.C. State).
What drove the former Pacific Coast Athletic Association even to
consider | calling itself the Wild West as it did last summer before
settling on the BIG WEST? Frustration, no doubt, at how few people
realize that three conference teams, not just Nevada-Las Vegas, went
to the NCAAs last season. The other two were UC-Santa Barbara and
Utah State, which has four returning starters and should make the
NCAAs again.
The NBA did not draft the MIDWESTERN COLLEGIATE's dominant player
of late, Xavier guard Byron Larkin, but that's no reflection of his
impact on the conference. ''It's like losing a main artery,'' says
Pete Gillen, the Musketeers' coach. Questions plague Loyola of
Chicago: Will Kenny Miller (box, page 84) stay in school until
January, when he becomes academically eligible, or will he transfer
as he has threatened to do? And will Spyros Sakellariou and Omer
Buyukaycan, from Greece and Turkey, respectively, get along?
INDEPENDENTS Notre Dame and DePaul will undergo a changing of the
guards. The Irish have lost David Rivers, and the Blue Demons must do
without Rod Strickland and Kevin Edwards. Both schools now have a
frontcourt focus, Notre Dame's on freshman LaPhonso Ellis, DePaul's
on senior Stanley Brundy.
The two-year-old AMERICAN SOUTH, still without an automatic bid,
hopes one of its six members can catch the eye of the NCAA tournament
committee. The conference has few rinky-dinks, so its power ratings
stay high. Jeff Sagarin's USA Today computer placed the American
South 13th among 32 conferences in Division I last season. Most
likely to break through is Arkansas State, which has five starters
back, including bullish forward John Tate.
St. Mary's coach Lynn Nance refused to shake the hand of Loyola
Marymount's Paul Westhead after suffering a 17-point loss in WEST
COAST ATHLETIC play last season. Nance thought the Lions had fouled
gratuitously in an effort to break 100. The Gaels, led by the same
starters, style themselves as an immovable object to the Lions'
irresistible force: St. Mary's allowed only 58 points a game in
'87-88. Against Marymount, however, the Gaels gave up 98 and 96. They
will have to do better this season.
The OHIO VALLEY's five late-night telecasts on ESPN drew sluggish
ratings, but the aura of national TV coverage helped make three of
the games sellouts. If defending champ Murray State is the
conference's Carson, Middle Tennessee is its Letterman, young and
brash and encouraged by the fact that OVC teams rarely win
back-to-back titles.
In the SOUTHERN, East Tennessee State should leapfrog past last
season's powers, Marshall and Tennessee-Chattanooga. The Buccaneers
will be led by 6 ft. 11 in. Greg Dennis, the conference's Freshman of
the Year in 1987-88.

DAN MAJERLE OF CENtral Michigan and Grant Long of Eastern
Michigan, the two players who finished ahead of Ohio's Paul (Snoopy)
Graham in last season's MID-AMERICAN Player of the Year balloting,
were among the NBA's first 33 picks. Will Graham, a once
undisciplined guard who has reined in his talents, be the next MAC
the same way that Southwest Missouri State University is. That's why
the conference goes by AMCU, and why SMSU (or should it be SWMSU?)
coach Charlie Spoonhour lobbied hard to change the school's name to
Missouri State. The state legislature balked, but Spoonhour, whose
Bears have won the last two conference titles, is giving the school a
reputation as more than just another compass point. ''We used to be
able to sneak up on people,'' he says. ''But I think we've lost our
sneaking license.''
The BIG SKY is Division I's bus terminal. Every year a bevy of
coaches and transfers, juco and otherwise, check in and out. With so
little continuity, you're sometimes left to play one potato, two
potato to settle on a favorite. Is it Idaho, with four returning
starters but a callow coach in 28-year-old Kermit Davis? Or is it
Boise State, where Bobby Dye has installed a successful half-court
system but must make do with only two returnees? It may be neither:
Montana has four starters back and the same coach.
By the end of the season La Salle should be, as it was last
season, atop the METRO ATLANTIC, even though the Explorers must find
shooters to keep defenses from collapsing on forward Lionel Simmons.
With his 23.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, Simmons was the
reason La Salle went unbeaten in conference play last season.
One-time ACC fixture Lefty Driesell has resurfaced in the COLONIAL
to take over at James Madison. Driesell rightly claims he has no
talent, but as Ed Tapscott, coach of conference favorite American
University, says, ''Lefty's a very good wolf-crier.'' Unlike James
Madison, which is likely to finish at the conference bottom, American
has seven players with starting experience, plus 6 ft. 8 in. juco
transfer Ron Draper.
For two years running, Arkansas-Little Rock has been the dominant
regular- season team in the TRANS AMERICA ATHLETIC, only to flop in
the second round of ) the conference tournament and miss out on an
NCAA bid. With four starters back, the Trojans should make the NCAAs
this season.
He wears Bill Bradley's pro number, sinks his shots and even has
his decidedly nonathletic carriage. Forward Jim Barton has always
looked up to IVY demigod Bradley, only Barton turned down Princeton,
Bradley's alma mater, to attend Dartmouth. Now a senior, Barton
should celebrate his first Ivy title this season.
Once again the NORTHEAST will shrewdly keep Marist out of its
post-season tournament. The Red Foxes are serving the latter half of
a two-year probation, so if they were to win the tournament, the
conference would lose its automatic NCAA bid. Look for Monmouth to go
to the show instead.
Siena reached the cusp of national respectability last season,
breezing through the ECAC NORTH ATLANTIC with a 16-2 record only to
lose to horrendous New Hampshire (page 90) in the quarterfinals of
the conference tournament and miss out on the NCAAs. Of the four
starters back to atone for that flameout, Marc Brown, a 5 ft. 11 in.
assist-minded sophomore, is the best.
The SOUTHLAND is going through a sluggish period, much like the
oil bidness of Louisiana and East Texas, where several of the
conference's eight members are located. North Texas State will once
again be the best, thanks to an experienced backcourt, center Doug
Schindler and forward Ronnie Morgan.
The much-traveled Butch van Breda Kolff is still in the EAST
COAST, but now the Dutchman is a Dutchman once again, having left
defending regular-season champion Lafayette to take over at
last-place Hofstra, where he coached from 1955 to '62. Unfortunately
for V.B.K., the conference title is certain to go to Bucknell. The
Bisons' first eight players are back, and they're as sure- shooting
an octet as you'll find. Name the shooting skill -- free throws,
field goals, three-pointers -- and Bucknell finished in the nation's
top 15.
SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC favorite Texas Southern may even be up for
its nonconference schedule, which features half a dozen big-time
Division I schools, including Auburn and Wyoming. Five of the Tigers'
top six are back, and a Tiger of a different stripe, versatile
swingman Charles Price, a transfer from Grambling State, becomes
The BIG SOUTH, whose name would never pass a truth-in-advertising
test, is in the habit of serving itself up to ACC neighbors looking
for beatable quarry, so the conference may have to wait until 1992,
when it will begin receiving an automatic bid, to finally show its
face in the NCAA tournament. Radford's first-year coach, Oliver
Purnell, a former Maryland assistant, inherits a team that should be
the conference's strongest.
The MID-EASTERN has never won an NCAA tournament game, which is
almost the same as saying that North Carolina A & T hasn't won one,
what with the Aggies winning the last seven conference titles. This
season someone else will be the champ -- either Florida A & M or
South Carolina State.