Throughout the 1980s the Atlantic 10 has had little balance, scant television exposure and almost no chance of attracting the region's top talent—in short, all the headaches that the Big East dealt with long ago. Temple and West Virginia have ruled the conference, while everyone else has seemed headed in the opposite direction. But the other schools are finally learning to cope. Their coaches, though still conceding the top recruits to the Big (East) Boys, have been unearthing so many sleepers, jucos and transfers that as many as five Atlantic 10 schools could qualify for this season's NCAA tournament.
Temple, with 7-footers Duane Causwell and Donald Hodge joining 6'5" junior scorer Mark Macon, should take its accustomed place atop the standings. However, the Owls are suddenly wary of an unlikely challenger. Two seasons ago, RUTGERS was so wretched that Mr. Magoo, one of the Scarlet Knights' most famous alumni, must have wished he were completely blind rather than merely myopic. Now, for the first time, the eyes that really count—TV cameras—will be on hand for three Atlantic 10 games, two of which will involve the Scarlet Knights.
Last season, underdog Rutgers won the conference tournament and made the NCAAs, thanks largely to 20-points-pergame scorer Tom Savage. He and three other 1988-89 starters return to the Scarlet Knights, who turn a shade Orange this season with the addition of Syracuse transfers Keith Hughes and Earl Duncan. They will have a chance to air any lingering ill feelings at the Carrier Dome on Nov. 27.
West Virginia has two redshirts and two hefty juco transfers to help 5'11" point guard Steve Berger, a sort of Major Harris in Cons. RHODE ISLAND is counting on guard Frenchy Tomlin, a refugee from Cleveland State, to get the ball to 6'8" power forward Kenny Green. PENN STATE usually fields a team that plays as if it were made up of Joe Paterno's late cuts trying to keep in shape. But last season, coach Bruce Parkhill opted for a fast backcourt of freshmen Monroe Brown and Freddie Barnes, and the kiddie corps duo helped increase the Nittany Lions' scoring by 15 points a game.
Hopes for reaching the postseason fade for those teams in the lower half of the standings. Former recruiters for Big East programs—John Calipari and John Carroll, from Pitt and Seton Hall, respectively—are now beating the bushes for MASSACHUSETTS and DUQUESNE. The Dukes boast the league's most talented newcomer, forward Mark Stevenson, a transfer from Notre Dame. The coaches will have to try harder.
Center Matt Guokas Jr., a 6'8" sophomore, is a direct link to a happier past at ST. JOSEPH'S, where his father. Matt Sr., once starred. The new ST. BONAVENTURE coach, Tom Chapman, is just happy to be coaching at the Division II level after five seasons at Division II Gannon College.
At GEORGE WASHINGTON, 1-27 last year, all the starters are back. We could tell you that the Colonials are ready to challenge the top tier. But in deference to the school's namesake, who couldn't tell a lie, we won't.