If there were any questions about the strength of the Big East,
a glance at Team USA's roster from this summer's World
University Games in Fukuoka, Japan, should answer them. Six of
the 12 team members came from the Big East, and the tournament
was dominated by players from the conference: Kerry Kittles and
Jason Lawson of Villanova (page 58), Ray Allen of Connecticut
(page 66), Allen Iverson and Othella Harrington of Georgetown
(page 86) and Austin Croshere of Providence. And the Big East is
even bigger this year: Notre Dame, West Virginia and Rutgers
join the league.
At Syracuse, power forward John Wallace leads a strong front
line. The 6'8" senior returns to school after he applied for the
NBA draft but then changed his mind. Wallace was a first team
All-Big East selection last season. Sophomore swingman Todd
Burgan should join Wallace in the starting lineup. "He's a
strong, physical player," says Orangeman coach Jim Boeheim.
"He'll be a key factor for us."
Now that former starting point guard Michael Lloyd has dropped
out of school, backup Lazarus Sims will be asked to man the
position. Additional help at the point could come from the
football squad. Redshirt freshman quarterback Donovan McNabb
chose Syracuse over Nebraska partly because the Orangemen agreed
to give him a chance to play both sports.
Challenging for an all-conference spot will be Croshere, the
junior power forward at Providence. In a Big East tournament
game against Syracuse last season, Croshere scored 28 points and
grabbed 14 boards. "I've been coaching college basketball for 21
years, and Austin's the hardest worker I've been around," says
Friar coach Pete Gillen.
Senior guard Michael Brown will return as the team's captain and
move back to shooting guard after a year at the point. The
Friars will pick up the tempo this year, and the man with his
foot on the accelerator will be God Shammgod, described by
Gillen as "the perfect point guard" for a fast-break offense.
Shammgod, a 6-foot freshman from New York City, will have the
Friar faithful genuflecting to him in no time.
Haven't heard of Mark Blount of Pittsburgh? Blount is a 6'11"
Parade All-America with a checkered past whose road to college
basketball has included stops at seven high schools. Panther
coach Ralph Willard had already landed three top-100 recruits
(forwards Michael Gill and Andre Howard and guard Vonteego
Cummings) before signing Blount. He'll join a front line that
includes senior swingman Garrick Thomas and 6'6" forward Chad
Varga, a junior who missed all but 10 games last year after
tearing ligaments in his right wrist. Pitt also has three
talented guards returning: senior Andre Alridge (the team's top
returning scorer, at 13 ppg, and assist man, at 5.6), junior
Jason Maile and third-team All-Big East senior Jerry McCullough,
who missed last year with a knee injury. Freshman Kellii Taylor
could start at 2-guard.
Though it seems as if the highly touted Felipe Lopez has been at
St. John's forever, this will only be his sophomore year. Last
season Lopez was named third team All-Big East and to the
league's all-rookie team after averaging 19.0 points and 5.9
rebounds in league games. Lopez and fellow supersophs Zendon
Hamilton and Tarik Turner hope to get the Red Storm to the
postseason for an NCAA-record 50th time.
It was only a matter of time before Miami turned its program
around. In the spring of '94 coach Leonard Hamilton's team was
publicly criticized by school officials for its lack of success,
and the Hurricanes responded with a 9-9 conference record last
season; Hamilton was named Big East Coach of the Year. Miami's
top returnees are senior guard Steven Edwards, who led the team
in scoring (12.8 ppg), and Kevin Norris, a Big East all-rookie
guard last season.
The West Virginia Mountaineers have made some big changes in
anticipation of their first season in the conference: They have
grown. "Last year we had no size," says coach Gale Catlett,
whose only big man was 6'9" Leon Agnew. Now the Mountaineers
have twin 6'9" towers in Agnew and juco transfer Darnell Davis
as well as 6'11" Gordon Malone, who sat out last season under
Prop 48, and 6'11" Sandro Varejao from the College of Southern
The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers finished seventh in the
Atlantic-10 last season and now must joust with even more
talented teams. Leading Rutgers into the battle will be 6'8"
senior forward Andrew Kolbasovsky and 6'3" senior point guard
Albert Karner. Kolbasovsky is the team's leading returning
scorer (11.1 ppg), while Karner is now healthy after playing
most of last year with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Seton Hall is headed for a dim year, but 6'5" senior swingman
Adrian Griffin should continue to shine this season. "I think
he's starting to realize how good he is, and that's a major
step," says Pirate coach George Blaney. Griffin led Seton Hall
in both scoring (15.3) and rebounding (7.2) last year.
Juniors Danya Abrams, Keenan Jourdon, Bevan Thomas and Brad
Christianson are the only remaining members of the Boston
College team that advanced to the elite eight of the NCAA
tournament two seasons ago. The 6'7", 268-pound Abrams led the
Big East in overall scoring last year with 22.1 points per game
and was named to the All-Big East first team.
"I'm worried about our physical strength," says Notre Dame coach
John MacLeod. "I'm concerned about whether we will be strong
enough, physical enough and aggressive enough to compete." Only
sophomore forward Pat Garrity averaged in double figures in
scoring (13.4) for the Irish last season. "We may take our lumps
at first," says MacLeod, "but hopefully we can handle the
situation." In their inaugural Big East season, they'll be lucky
to win four league games.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Rutgers's Kolbasovsky faces a trying year. [Andrew Kolbasovsky]
COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE L. SCHWARTZMAN Wallace, who considered going pro, returns to strut his stuff at Syracuse. [John Wallace]
1 Villanova (3)*
2 UConn (5)
3 Georgetown (13)
7 St. John's
9 West Virginia
11 Seton Hall
12 Boston College
13 Notre Dame
*Top 25 national ranking in parentheses