The folks of Whitewater, Wis., are worried that their serene existence may be endangered. The quiet town of 11,520 inhabitants, situated about halfway between Madison and Milwaukee, never expected the WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER basketball team to attract much attention. "The team was so hot last year that our place burned down," says Randy Cruse, owner of Randy's Supper Club, lightheartedly referring to a fire that gutted his postgame watering hole. "But we're rebuilding with more space, keeping this season in mind."
Since 1981, when the Warhawks moved from the NAIA to Division III, they have reached the Final Four three times and won two national titles. Whitewater should win No. 3, thanks largely to forward Elbert Gordon, a dunker extraordinaire who once cleared 6'11¼" as a juco high jumper.
Scranton, with five players who stand at least 6'8", could be executing some aerial antics, too. Two years ago, OTTERBEIN set a Division III record for losses in a season by going 1-26. Last season, the Cardinals finished 20-10 after coach Dick Reynolds went to a 10-man rotation. They will be deep again this season.
More success should come to HAMILTON as well, which is seeking its 11th 20-win season under coach Tom Murphy. All-America forward Michael Nelson grew up in Cooperstown, N.Y., but spurned baseball for basketball, track and soccer in high school. Last spring, SOUTHERN MAINE became the first men's basketball team from the state to appear in a Final Four. The current squad could be the second.