Before all you Brawny midwesterners work yourselves into a lather about which conference is the orneriest in the land, consider the prospect of Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning, Syracuse's Derrick Coleman and Villanova's Tom Greis—with an extra personal foul. That's what they'll get when the Big East becomes one of four conferences—the Trans America, Southeastern and the Colonial Athletic Association are the others—to experiment with a six-foul rule. The result—in the Big East, anyway—will be more hard-hat play under the iron.
While the conference boasts some of the beefiest front lines in this year's Sweet 16 (page 72), the big-time banging won't be limited to Georgetown, Syracuse and Villanova. The rest of the conference should also revive renditions of Olivia Newton-John's early 1980s hit, Physical.
St. John's has lost just one starter—barrel-chested forward Matt Brust—from last season's NIT championship team and has set its sights on an NCAA bid for this season. The Redmen should achieve that goal, thanks to sophomore sharpshooter Chuck Sproling and one of the most versatile front lines in the conference. It's manned by 6'10" Jayson Williams, who averaged almost 20 points a game in 1988-89, superquick Malik Sealy and second-year center Robert Werdann, who has felt at home from Day 1 at Alumni Hall on the St. John's campus. No wonder—his grandfather helped lay the floor in 1961.
Villanova has one of the nation's top freshman classes, and with only two first-stringers from last season still around, several newcomers, especially swingman Calvin Byrd and forward Arron Bain, could see significant action. One position that coach Rollie Massimino won't have to fret over is center; that spot is filled by Greis, a 7'3" bruiser. Massimino likens the progress of Greis, a senior, to climbing a skyscraper: "Tom is almost halfway up a 77-story building."
The best backcourt in the Big East belongs to PROVIDENCE, where Friars Eric Murdock and Carlton Screen, nicknamed the Men of Steal, finished one-two in the league last season in that category. But off the court, coach Rick Barnes makes sure that his players give rather than take. The squad spends alternate Sundays participating in a community program in which they visit children's hospitals and nursing homes.
Coach Jim Calhoun of CONNECTICUT must be living right, because freshman forward Scott Burrell spurned a reported $100,000 signing bonus from the Seattle Mariners to play for the Huskies. Burrell, Connecticut's Mr. Baseball and Mr. Basketball last year, should contribute heavily in both sports, making him the nation's premier pitch-'n'-dish man. Connecticut still lacks strength in the paint, though, and could get bullied around.
Expectations are high at SETON HALL following last season's near national championship. However, the skill level isn't. 'We have some experience, but it's untested," says coach P.J. Carlesimo, who must do without the team's five most prolific scorers from 1988-89. The top returning point producer is Frantz Volcy, who averaged only 5.2 points a game during the Pirates' fairy-tale season. "One of the teams picked for the bottom of the league always ends up closer to the top," says Carlesimo. "I just hope it's us." It's not likely.
One thing can be said for the departure from BOSTON COLLEGE of Dana Barros and his 23.9-point average: It will certainly make the Eagles a more balanced team. Barros's heir apparent is sophomore guard Bryan Edwards, who came on strong near the end of last season.
Billy Owens gives the Orangemen strength at forward and relief at point guard.