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THE TOP 20 WHY IS KANSAS RANKED NO. 1? THAT'S JUST ONE OF THE QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED AS THE '95-96 SEASON GETS UNDER WAY

1. Kansas
2. Kentucky
3. UCLA
4. Mississippi State
5. Villanova
6. Georgetown
7. Iowa
8. Memphis
9. Connecticut
10. Wake Forest
11. Michigan
12. Maryland
13. Virginia Tech
14. Utah
15. Massachusetts
16. Georgia Tech
17. Georgia
18. Missouri
19. California
20. Arkansas

1. KANSAS

Why will Jayhawk coach Roy Williams be spitting in the Hudson
River in April?

Why not? Everybody else does. But any musings about Williams's
expectorations are based on the high expectations his Jayhawks
have this year. The ultrasuperstitious coach began a tradition
in 1982 when, as a North Carolina assistant coach, he spit in
the Mississippi River for good luck before the Tar Heels won the
NCAA championship game in New Orleans. He repeated the tactic
with his Kansas team during the '93 Midwest Regional in St.
Louis and again when the Jayhawks reached the Final Four in New
Orleans a week later. To help win a national title this season,
Williams could make a similar pilgrimage to the Hudson River,
only a few miles from the Meadowlands Arena, site of this year's
Final Four.

Kansas has the talent to go all the way. The brainy backcourt of
Jerod Haase and Jacque Vaughn (their GPAs are 3.60 and 3.68,
respectively) will again set the tone for the team. Haase
averaged 15.0 points per game last season, while Vaughn has a
shot at breaking former Jayhawk Cedric Hunter's Big Eight career
assist record in just his third season in Lawrence. The return
of 5'7" backup point guard Calvin Rayford, who has recovered
from knee surgery, should allow Vaughn to rest more than he did
last season.

Down low the Jayhawks will start 6'11" Raef LaFrentz, the Big
Eight Freshman of the Year in '95, and 6'10" junior Scot
Pollard, both mobile big men who can move outside and shoot.
They will speed up the Jayhawk attack. The key addition to watch
is 6'6" forward Paul Pierce, whom Williams calls "the best
freshman athlete I've ever recruited."

Kansas had a long summer to stew over its upset loss to Virginia
in last season's Midwest Regional semifinals at Kemper Arena in
Kansas City. It didn't speak well for the Big Eight that its
marquee team was outmuscled and pushed around in its own
backyard by an ACC team, and many of the Jayhawks lived in the
weight room in the off-season and have bulked up considerably.

Williams's teams have won four of the last five conference
championships, and now Kansas is salivating over the prospect of
bringing home an NCAA crown. "We should be pretty doggone good,"
Williams says. "Hopefully, by the end of the season we'll look
like a champion."

The spitting image.

2. KENTUCKY

Is the "1 spot" the one spot that could be the Wildcats'
Achilles' heel?

In a word: Yes. The point guard position is being carefully
watched in Bluegrass country.

The Wildcats took a working vacation in Italy this summer, and
during a field trip to Florence, last season's point guard, Jeff
Sheppard, was so mesmerized by Michelangelo's David that he got
separated from the rest of the group. "Three hours later I left
the hotel to get a bite to eat, and there was Shep, all worn
out," says center Mark Pope. "He had been walking around in
circles. Shep just gets lost once in a while."

Not a bad metaphor for the point guard situation in Lexington.
Coach Rick Pitino, who once prided himself on molding floor
generals from the rawest materials (Billy Donovan, Travis Ford,
Sean Woods), may lose another excellent shot at a national title
because the best players in the nation don't yet have a floor
leader. On the baseline Pitino has two versatile 6'10" seniors,
Pope and Walter McCarty, who can both rebound and stick a
three-pointer; 6'8" sophomore Antoine Walker, the MVP of last
season's SEC tournament; and schoolboy player of the year Ron
Mercer. The backcourt has plenty of weapons as well, with
Sheppard, Tony Delk, who scored 16.7 points a game in 1994-95,
and Ohio State transfer Derek Anderson.

Still, no team since Indiana in '86-87 has gone all the way
without a true point guard. Former walk-on Anthony Epps may be
the only real point on the roster, but Pitino believes he is too
slow for the Kentucky derby. Sheppard struggled at times last
season, and both Anderson and freshman Wayne Turner are
considered scorers rather than creators. All this could leave
the job to Delk, who flunked out at the point as a freshman.
Perhaps Pitino was sending Delk a message during Kentucky's
Midnight Madness practice on Oct. 15, when he had McCarty and
Delk drop from the ceiling of Memorial Coliseum dressed as
Batman and Robin, respectively, on Cat Fan Forever theme night.
If Delk isn't the Boy Wonder at this point, Pitino may end up as
the Joker.

3. UCLA

It's Midnight Madness,Coach Harrick, do you know where your
children are?

Toby Bailey, the star of last season's NCAA championship game as
a freshman, has been spotted around the 'hood with rapper Snoop
Doggy Dogg, a big Bruins' fan. Bailey's Bruin teammate Kris
Johnson has been seen hangin' with Queen Latifah. And UCLA
practices have featured so much trash-talking they sometimes
look like Yo! MTV Raps. Coach Wooden, please avert your eyes,
sir.

"We're not the clean-cut team America thinks we are," says
junior forward Charles O'Bannon, the Bruins' new elder
statesman. "We've got a lot of guys who like to talk and dunk
and get crazy out there."

O.K., but is Charles in charge? "We don't have a leader, a
disciplinarian to keep guys in line," says sophomore forward
J.R. Henderson. "If you say something, guys don't respect it.
They take it as a joke."

The Bruins have plenty of young dudes with 'tudes, and coach Jim
Harrick will miss departed seniors Ed O'Bannon, Tyus Edney and
George Zidek, who steered the team to the national championship
last season--and not just because all of them were good enough to
make the NBA. O'Bannon was the unchallenged drill sergeant of
that unit, and without a significant senior left on the roster,
a child shall have to lead the Bruins. Which is fine with them.
"The only fun thing about last year was the winning," Bailey
says. "It was like getting scolded, like getting yelled at. This
year we're looser. It's more fun."

The talent is ample. Sophomores Bailey and Henderson will be
unleashed to become stars, and junior Cameron Dollar replaces
Edney at the point. The center spot will be manned by either
junior Ike Nwankwo, sophomore omm'A Givens or highly recruited
freshman Jelani McCoy, who averaged more than eight blocks and
shot 87.5% from the field as a senior in high school.

Look for the almighty Dollar to become the team's babysitter and
direct the baby Bruins back to the Final Four in the
Meadowlands, the same gym where Ed O'Bannon is now playing with
the New Jersey Nets. Hmmm, maybe these Bruins are still
following Ed after all.

4. MISSISSIPPI STATE

The Bulldogs could do something this year that only six teams in
the last 15 years have accomplished. What is it?

Believe it or not, they can reach the Final Four for the first
time--a feat few schools accomplish these days. Since 1980, only
Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Seton Hall
have become first-time participants in the Final Four. The
Bulldogs could well join the club.

That would be quite a leap for a school that has lost 10 of its
last 11 SEC tournament games, claims the immortal Bailey Howell
as the best player in school history and before last year had
won only one NCAA tournament game ever--in 1963--in a
consolation round. But good tournament teams often feature a
solid inside-outside combination, and the Bulldogs have
perhaps the best in the nation in Erick Dampier and Darryl
Wilson. Dampier, a 6'1" junior center, was a first-team All-SEC
selection last season, scoring 13.1 points per game while
finishing fourth in the nation in shooting percentage (.640).
Wilson, a 6'1" senior shooting guard, scored 17.8 points a game
in 1994-95, making 94 of 227 shots from three-point range, even
though he was playing with stress fractures in both shins.
Together they led a team that finished 22-8, with wins over
Kentucky and Arkansas, and reached the Sweet 16 before losing to
eventual champion UCLA.

The new ingredient that will make the difference for the
Bulldogs is forward Dontae' Jones, widely considered the best
junior college player in the nation last season. Jones dropped
out of his Nashville high school as a senior in the fall of
1992, worked in a fast-food restaurant and played in a midnight
basketball league before passing a high school equivalency exam
and being offered a chance to play at Northeast Mississippi
Community College. Says Jones, "I've had some tough times, and I
was kind of an unsung hero at home, if you know what I mean."

Fans in Starkville, who for years never had much to cheer about
during basketball season, know exactly what he means.

5. VILLANOVA

Why is it so surprising that Kerry Kittles is still a Wildcat?

It's common knowledge that Kittles, last year's Big East Player
of the Year as a junior, nearly left early for the NBA this
spring. Not as well known is the fact that Kittles nearly
abandoned the Wildcats twice before that.

After being recruited by former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino
in '92, only to see Rollie take the money and run to UNLV,
Kittles wanted to go elsewhere. But new coach Steve Lappas
talked him into staying for at least his freshman season at
Villanova. Then, after a freshman year that included
first-degree homesickness, the death of his grandmother and only
eight Wildcat wins, Kittles once again wanted to transfer, and
Lappas again had to talk him into staying. "I've used up my
quota on him," says Lappas. "There's no doubt about it."

So why did Kittles come back this season? Because Villanova has
yet to win an NCAA tournament game during his time there. That
is certain to change this year. Junior center Jason Lawson
returns after averaging 12.9 points and 6.7 rebounds last
season, and he'll be rejoined in the frontcourt by bruising
forward Chuck Kornegay. Eric Eberz, a 6'7" senior forward, has
developed into one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the
country, and junior Alvin Williams takes over full time at the
point.

Last year Villanova won its first Big East tournament
championship, and that may have been the worst thing that ever
happened to the Cats, because they then folded in a first-round
loss to Old Dominion in the NCAA tournament. "Coming off the Big
East win, I think people on our team, including myself, were
still concentrating on that game, and we didn't focus on Old
Dominion," says Lawson. "I think we've learned from that
experience."

This year the Wildcats should advance deep into the NCAA
tournament. They'd better not squander the opportunity again,
because even Lappas can't bring Kittles back for another season.

6. GEORGETOWN

Can John Thompson coach the Runnin' Hoyas?

For more than a year now, we've been waiting for the Georgetown
coach to peel off his John Thompson mask and reveal the face of
offensive maniac Paul Westhead. Thompson, who for two decades
preached the Three D's (Discipline, Defense and
Dump-it-down-to-the-post), watched his Hoyas run-and-gun to a
106-57 season-opening win against Colgate last week, and he
seemed to relish every minute of it.

It's no secret that when lightning-quick Allen Iverson arrived
last year, the Hoyas became a team in transition ... literally
and figuratively. Iverson updated Thompson's prehistoric attack,
and the coach didn't yank on the reins even once. The mercurial
point guard led the Hoyas in scoring (20.4 points a game),
assists (134), steals (89) and turnovers (133), and took twice
as many shots as anybody else on the roster. He also made only
39.0% of those shots.

Thompson responded by recruiting freshman guard Victor Page, the
first Hoya with an outside shooting touch since Reggie Williams
last toiled on the Hilltop in 1987. Page was the player everyone
was talking about in the Jabbo Kenner League in Washington,
D.C., this summer, and he delivered in his Hoya debut, scoring
18 points against Colgate in his first college game. Page's
ability to hit the outside shot should also help free up senior
center Othella Harrington to roam the middle without an
entourage of defenders. Harrington led the Hoyas with 21 points
in their opener.

One worry for Georgetown is that Iverson still hasn't read the
point guard manual; he had six assists against Colgate, but he
also turned the ball over four times. And there are now
occasional signs that the coach might be reaching for the reins
again. "Allen will learn someday that he's the actor and I'm the
director," Thompson groused recently. "I write the script."
Sounds like the real John Thompson after all.

7. IOWA

The Hawkeyes are this season's sleeper, but can anybody name any
of their players?

A fry cook at McDonald's in Iowa City nearly came up with a
correct response recently when he spotted a large guy with large
fries and screamed, "Oh, my god, it's Jess Settles." Alas, he
was staring at Settles's Hawkeye teammate, Chris Kingsbury.

It's tough to get noticed when you haven't won a Big Ten crown
in 17 years and aren't as popular on campus as the wrestling
team. It doesn't help that Iowa is one of five teams in the SI
Top 20 that didn't qualify for the NCAA tournament last season.
But something is sprouting in the heartland. Kingsbury is a 6'5"
guard who may be the best long-range shooter in the nation. He
twice made nine three-pointers in a game last season. He already
owns the school career record for treys with 161, and he can
connect from anywhere on the floor inside the half-court line.
Kingsbury, junior forward Settles and junior point guard Andre
Woolridge are three of the Big Ten's top-five returning scorers.
The Hawkeyes also recruited guard Trey Bullet, a fitting
addition for a team that last year set conference records for
three-pointers converted (158) and attempted (413).

Trouble is, if Kingsbury's missiles misfire, will any Hawkeye be
there to rebound? Russ Millard, a 6'8" senior, has played only
one full year because of academic and health problems, and if he
doesn't produce, the season could rest on the underdeveloped
shoulders of sophomore Ryan Bowen and freshmen J.R. Koch. Iowa's
goal should be to earn a Big Ten title and then look forward to
1996-97, when this team full of stellar juniors might really
make a name for itself.

8. MEMPHIS

Why will the Tigers be better without their best player?

When junior forward David Vaughn declared himself eligible for
the NBA draft this spring, he ranked second in school history in
blocks, fourth in rebounding and 12th in scoring. He was
selected in the first round by the Orlando Magic. So how is it
that Memphis has all five starters back? Because when Vaughn
missed five games in February after suffering a foot injury, he
effectively lost his job to 6'5" forward Michael Wilson. "It was
time for David to move on," says Memphis coach Larry Finch, who
happens to be Vaughn's uncle. "He'd done everything he could in
college, and he'd all but lost his desire. I think he'll be a
better pro."

That Wilson jumped right over Vaughn isn't hard to believe when
you consider that Wilson has an astounding 51 1/2-inch vertical
leap. At Midnight Madness last month, Wilson attempted to break
the Guinness world record for "vertical height dunk." Five times
he tried unsuccessfully to dunk on an 11' 7 7/8" basket (the
record, set by Joey Johnson in 1990, is seven-eighths of an inch
lower), though several of the attempts barely rimmed out.
(Wilson says he had thrown down a few at that height in practice
the day before.)

Wilson is the showstopper on the most athletic team in the
nation, a bunch that set a school record with 177 dunks last
season. The star of the show is 6'11" center Lorenzen Wright,
one of the country's top freshmen in 1994-95, who will dominate
now that Vaughn is gone. Senior guard Mingo Johnson established
himself as the leading outside threat last season, converting 72
three-pointers, including five treys in his 32-point game
against Arkansas in the NCAA tournament, a bitter five-point
loss in overtime.

Memphis was especially tough at home last season, going 17-0 at
the Pyramid. The joint should be jumping again this year.

9. CONNECTICUT

Are the Huskies in danger of being overshadowed by the women's
team?

There is a subtle rivalry between UConn men's coach Jim Calhoun
and women's coach Geno Auriemma that school president Harry
Hartley recently described as "dynamic tension." Both coaches
are strong-willed leaders who arrived in Storrs nine months
apart in the mid-'80s and built their programs from scratch.
Last season Auriemma produced an undefeated team and a national
title. Meanwhile, Calhoun is the head of a program that has gone
to the NCAA tournament 18 times without a trip to the Final
Four, an NCAA record UConn shares with BYU. That will only make
the tension more dynamic.

Calhoun, however, dismisses the notion that he resents the
success of the women's program. "Since I came here, my teams
have filled a lot of shelf space in the trophy case and danced
in a lot of big dances," he says. "Now we have a partner." But
the question remains: Can Calhoun take the Huskies to the big
dance?

The men's Final Four drought could end this season, thanks to
the return of player of the year candidate Ray Allen, one of the
few '95 super sophs who did not flee to the NBA. Allen, a 6'5"
guard-forward, is coming off a productive summer in which he
dominated the World University Games in Japan, scoring 15.6
points a game. Senior point guard Doron Sheffer is also back to
feed Allen, but the Huskies could be soft on the boards, where
they hope a Knight (Travis) and a King (Kirk) can keep opponents
in check. Another banner recruiting class, led by 6'5"
Connecticut player of the year Rashamel Jones, will provide depth.

As always, there will be sellout crowds at Gampel Pavilion
lustily cheering on the Huskies, and Calhoun believes that there
is plenty of Huskymania for both the men and the women. "I know
who my enemy is," says Calhoun. "It is John Thompson. It is
Jimmy Boeheim. It is not Geno Auriemma."

10. WAKE FOREST

Can the pesky Demon Deacons really be considered the kings of
Tobacco Road?

Wake Forest coach Dave Odom has a slogan tacked up in his
office: YOU CANNOT DISCOVER NEW OCEANS UNLESS YOU HAVE THE
COURAGE TO LOSE SIGHT OF THE SHORE. No question the Deacons are
traveling in uncharted waters lately. Last season Wake won more
games (26) than ever before, equaled its highest ranking ever
(No. 3) and for the first time earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA
tournament. This year the Deacs have a good shot to become the
first team in 21 years to repeat as both the ACC regular-season
and tournament champion.

Do not adjust your television sets. The onetime bottom feeders
of the conference, who before last season had not won an ACC
tournament since Billy Packer was a Deacon in 1962, have a rare
chance to once again torment the perennial conference bullies.
Interestingly, if Wake pulls it off, the Deacons will do so with
players from distant shores. The centerpiece is Player of the
Year favorite Tim Duncan, a junior from the U.S. Virgin Islands,
but perhaps the most pivotal player is Ricky Peral, a 6'10"
junior from Spain. Peral's nifty package of passing, shooting
and ball handling skills have fans wondering if he will someday
be the next Toni Kukoc. He must contribute if the Deacons hope
to replace guard Randolph Childress, the team's ticker, who was
picked 19th in the NBA draft.

Look for the Deacons to repeat as champs and claim their
unfamiliar place as the league's best--for now. Unfortunately,
after the season Duncan is likely to follow Childress to the
pros, and Odom will again be navigating Wake's ship through
stormy oceans without the help of any stars.

11. MICHIGAN

The Wolverines are the team of the '90s, but where are their rings?

In maize block letters above the ramp that leads to the Michigan
locker room in Crisler Arena, a sign reads 1989 NCAA CHAMPIONS.
Between the NCAA and CHAMPIONS is a clock that marks the passing
of every year that Michigan misses another opportunity for a
ring. For all their panache, the Fab Five never won a national
title, or even a Big Ten championship. Now the torch has been
passed to the Fresh Five, last season's vaunted five recruits,
and the Triple Threat, this year's three freshman studs, who
will try to win the Wolverines' first conference title since
'86, when Antoine (the Judge) Joubert passed for fab in Ann Arbor.

Michigan's talent may be second only to Kentucky's, but the best
eight players are either sophomores or freshmen. Three players
who would have been juniors this season--Bobby Crawford, Makhtar
Ndiaye and Olivier Saint-Jean--all transferred out.

Maurice Taylor, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season, is
one piece in the puzzle. Jerod Ward, who was one of the nation's
top recruits last year but suffered a miserable freshman season,
has improved. Dugan Fife, the team's senior captain, may not end
up seeing much playing time because of freshman Louis Bullock,
who won the three-point contest at the McDonald's All-America
game. The key player, however, is 6'8" freshman Robert Traylor,
who actually lost 30 pounds to reach his current 300. Traylor
developed his remarkably agile feet and supple hands as a kid
going one-on-one against his Aunt Lydia, who played pro ball
with the St. Louis Streak, a Women's Basketball League team, in
1981 and for a decade overseas. Traylor, a behemoth who brings
new meaning to the term "McDonald's All-America," must prove
that he is more Charles Barkley than he is (Dinner Bell) Mel
Turpin.

The clock is ticking....

12. MARYLAND

Is there life after Joe Smith?

Ask Keith Booth. After all, he was supposed to be Joe Smith.
Booth and Smith arrived in College Park as freshmen in the fall
of 1993. Booth, a 6'6" forward, was one of the top 10 recruits
in the country. Smith was just another guy named Joe Smith. Now
Smith, the first pick in last spring's NBA draft, is starting
for the Golden State Warriors. Booth spent his summer in
sweltering Cole Field House, shooting 400 jump shots a day. Says
Booth, "It's time for me and the rest of the team to prove we
were more than just Joe Smith last year."

Maryland has three other returning first-stringers, all double-
figure scorers a year ago, and if experience counts for
anything, the Terps will be a force. Forward Exree Hipp has
started all 91 games since he arrived at Maryland, and fellow
seniors Duane Simpkins and Johnny Rhodes are also around from
the '92-93 team that finished a character-building 2-14 in the
ACC.

The Terps know that, had Smith returned, they would be strong
contenders for this season's NCAA crown, but they are still
talking tough, an attitude embodied by Booth, who was elected
co-captain despite being the only junior starter. As evidence of
his confidence, when the votes for captain were tallied, Booth
had voted for himself.

13. VIRGINIA TECH

Does winning the postseason NIT mean a damn thing the next
season?

Well, 7,000 Hokie fans showed up for an intrasquad scrimmage in
Blacksburg on Oct. 28 to get their first look at this year's
team. Just three years ago that would have been the largest home
crowd of the season. "When we didn't make the NCAAs, we had a
lot of sad guys tripping over their lips," Hokie coach Bill
Foster says. "But it's hard to believe we could have gained more
confidence than we did by winning the NIT."

Foster's rallying cry since he took over at Virginia Tech four
years ago is The road to success is always under construction.
This seems appropriate for a team that has been rebuilding ever
since its last NCAA tournament appearance, in '86, has no
coveted recruits and no player taller than 6'9". But as the
Hokies prepare for their first season in the Atlantic 10, they
bring back every player who scored a point from a team that won
a school-record 25 games.

The main man is junior forward Ace Custis, a player who didn't
even start on his AAU team four years ago, but averaged 15.8 and
10.5 rebounds last season. Foster compares Custis to a couple of
his former pupils at Clemson, Larry Nance and Horace Grant.

Recent history reveals that over the last six seasons, every NIT
champion has reached the NCAA tourney in the following season,
but none has advanced beyond the third round. The Hokies are
dangerous, but the Road to their Final Four might still have a
few too many potholes.

14. UTAH

Why will Brigham Young plague Ute coach Rick Majerus even when
the Utes aren't playing the Cougars?

Back in the mid-19th century, Brigham Young, the Mormon leader
for whom Utah's archrival school would later be named, urged his
followers to go on missions to help recruit followers to the
church. These days that means Majerus, who recruits many
Mormons, is one of the few coaches in the nation who hates to
hear one of his players say that he's "on a mission." Those
dread words were uttered again last spring when 6'9" Ute forward
Alex Jensen, who led the team in field goal percentage and was
second in rebounding, informed his coach that he would perform
his Mormon mission over the next two seasons. Said Majerus, "I
was sadder to see that kid walk out of my life than anybody I've
ever dated."

Cheer up, Coach, you've still got the two finest players in the
WAC. Keith Van Horn was the conference Player of the Year as a
sophomore last season, averaging 21 points and 8.5 rebounds a
game. Senior guard Brandon Jessie, whose father, Ron, played in
the NFL for 10 seasons, scored 16.1 points per game.

Utah will dominate the WAC this season and could be an NCAA
tournament sleeper. For Majerus, that would mean one thing:
Mission accomplished.

15. MASSACHUSETTS

What happened in Puerto Rico on May 9, 1975, that will make
this season in Amherst?

A backcourt was born. UMass starting point guard Edgar Padilla
and shooting guard Carmelo Travieso arrived in this world just a
few minutes and a few miles apart on the north shore of Puerto
Rico. Travieso's family moved to Boston when he was 11 years
old, while Padilla came to Springfield, Mass., as a teenager.
The two first met at a basketball tournament during high school.
Both decided to go to UMass, and while rooming together as
freshmen, they discovered the unlikely coincidence of their
births. "I told Carmelo my birthday, and he told me his was the
same day, so naturally I thought he was joking," Padilla
recalls. "I made him show me his driver's license."

The key in Amherst is, of course, junior Marcus Camby, the
center who blocked 103 shots last season, more than five
Atlantic 10 teams did. But it falls to Padilla to fill a gaping
hole in the UMass attack, replacing point guard Derek Kellogg, a
three-year starter who had a remarkable assist-to-turnover ratio
of 128-54 last season. And Travieso, who launched a
three-pointer every four minutes in limited time last season,
should help restore the scoring punch lost when forward Lou Roe
left for the NBA.

Padilla and Travieso have one factor in their favor: They speak
their own language, a combination of Spanish and English, on the
court. Says Travieso, "It's an advantage because it keeps our
opponents wondering what we're talking about."

Here's the scoop, folks. They're talking about Los
Quatro Ultimos. The Final Four.

16. GEORGIA TECH

Kenny Anderson guided the Jackets to the Final Four as a
freshman. Can Stephon Marbury top that?

In his first game for Georgia Tech last week against Manhattan,
Marbury proved that the only way to slow him down is to hope
that he contracts tonsillitis. Talk about your gimmick defenses.
Yes, history will record that Marbury's first college shot was
not a dunk, not a three-pointer, but an injection of antibiotics
in his behind. Yet even with a sore throat and a high fever,
Marbury collected 16 points, five assists and the season's first
highlight, a soaring alley-oop jam that trumpeted the passing of
a different torch in the Olympic City.

Marbury is a fitting heir to Kenny Anderson, who also grew up in
New York City and preceded him at Georgia Tech. "I thought I'd
never see another point guard better than Kenny Anderson," Tech
coach Bobby Cremins says. "But the first time I saw Stephon, he
blew my mind."

Marbury would love to duplicate or even trump Anderson's rookie
run to the Final Four, but remember that Anderson had Dennis
Scott and Brian Oliver as his supporting cast. Marbury's
sidekicks are senior guard Drew Barry, the ACC's top assist man
for the past two years, and sophomore forward Matt Harpring, an
underappreciated talent who scored 24 points in last week's
87-67 win over the Jaspers. Tech's glaring weakness is, well,
weakness. Starting center Eddie Elisma is 6'9" but weighs only
210 pounds.

Marbury must mature in a hurry, which could be easy for a
freshman who is already the father of an eight-month-old
daughter, Stephanie. "Daddy was sick tonight," Marbury told
Stephanie after his first college game. "But we'll show them
something great before the season is over." Marbury may not
match Anderson's results, but his opponents will soon be finding
him very tough to swallow.

17. GEORGIA

Can Tubby Smith win with Hugh Durham's players?

The new Georgia coach is one of 17 children who had to compete
for the affection of his parents. Now Smith is the 17th coach in
Georgia basketball history, competing for the affection of the
Bulldog players and fans, many of whom had grown accustomed to
fired coach Hugh Durham, the winningest coach in school history.
As someone who's accustomed to making do with what he has on
hand, Smith thinks he can win with his current roster. "It's not
so much that they're Hugh's players--they're players," Smith
says. "Carlos Strong can play in any style, Shandon Anderson can
play in any style."

Smith takes over an underachieving team with eight returning
players, including the Super Six from an outstanding '91
recruiting class. Those guys have never produced more than 18
wins in a season and have zero wins in the postseason. They're
looking forward to playing for their new coach, whose Tulsa
teams were upset specialists in the NCAA tournament. "Coach
Durham spoke his mind a lot, whether it was good or bad," says
Anderson. "Some players can deal with that and others can't, and
that's what divided our team up. Coach Smith is more honest with
you but not as harsh."

Strong, a 6'8" senior forward who finished in the top 10 in the
SEC in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage last
season, is the best of what's left of Durham's regime. Smith
brings to Athens a new up-tempo style--pressing, running and
shooting the three. There's also a new logo. New uniforms. New
locker rooms. New attitude. But can he teach these old Dawgs any
new tricks?

18. MISSOURI

How long will it take the Tigers to get over a fateful 4.8
seconds?

That's how long it took UCLA's Tyus Edney to dash the length of
the floor and score, drop-kicking Mizzou out of the NCAA
tournament last season. Says coach Norm Stewart of that memory,
"We beat a team and they won the game."

On the first day of school this fall, strength coach Bob Jones
handed each Tiger a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the numeral
4.8 on the back. Said Jones, "I wanted them to remember how they
felt after that game."

Maybe the team officially came back from the dead on Oct. 31,
Haunted House of Hoops Night, when a group of costumed Tigers
rolled a coffin out to center court at Hearnes Center, and as a
player emerged, the public address announcer screamed,
"Returning from the basketball underworld ... Kelly Thames!"

Thames, a 6'8" forward and the Big Eight Freshman of the Year in
'93-94, missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he now
appears to be healthy. He joins a front line featuring senior
forward Julian Winfield, the best all-around player in the Big
Eight, and 7-footers Simeon and Sammie Haley. But the pivotal
newcomer in Columbia might be Danny Allouche, a 21-year-old
freshman hardened by three years in the Israeli military.
Allouche is a long-range scorer who led all of his teammates in
the Halloween scrimmage with 17 points.

But has Mizzou put the UCLA debacle behind it? During the team's
summer tour through Australia, Stewart was so cranky that he was
twice thrown out of exhibition games. The Tigers can't let that
4.8 seconds haunt them for this entire season.

19. CALIFORNIA

How did Cal's Islamic Studies department help the Bears' ranking?

Houston Rockets' center Hakeem Olajuwon met Cal freshman Shareef
Abdur-Rahim a while back and started talking to him about the
Islamic Studies program at Cal. Not long after, Denver Nugget
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, another fan of Cal's Islamic Studies
department, helped pay for Abdur-Rahim's plane fare to visit
Berkeley. Hashim Alauddeen, a grad student at Cal, even visited
Abdur-Rahim's home in Marietta, Ga., for a week that fall. When
Cal coach Todd Bozeman made his visit to the home of
Abdur-Rahim, who was Mr. Basketball in Georgia last season, he
brought along brochures to illustrate the Muslim experience at
the school.

That was enough to land Abdur-Rahim, who averaged 31 points and
12 rebounds in high school last season. He joins a talented
young lineup that includes only one senior, center Alfred
Grigsby, who has missed 42 of the Bears' last 57 games with a
variety of injuries. But the NCAA dealt a severe blow to the
Bears' title hopes last week when it ruled that forward Tremaine
Fowlkes, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season, will be
ineligible to play for the entire '95-96 season because he
accepted $1,800 from a former sports agent, James Casey. Fowlkes
and Cal are appealing the penalty.

Bozeman hopes that by season's end he can change the growing
perception that he recruits marquee talent only to watch it
underachieve. Anybody got the number of the chemistry department?

20. ARKANSAS

Coach, are we disrespecting the Hogs by ranking your team so low?

Coach Nolan Richardson simply wants Arkansas to be considered
among the traditional hoops powers, and the Hogs' two straight
appearances in the national title game argue for ranking the
Hogs higher. "People who write about us are all human, which
means they don't understand anything anyway," Richardson says.
"Writers pick the same five teams high every year because
they're creatures of habit. So once we become a habit, then when
they open their mouths, Arkansas may come out."

Alas, with all the success the coach has had recently, it means
he has also begun to lose players to the pros--players like
Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman, who both left school
after their junior years. In fact, Richardson lost 10
players--including Razorback mainstays Corey Beck, Clint
McDaniel and Dwight Stewart--which adds up to one of the
heaviest single-season talent drains in memory. The good news is
that he has one of the top incoming classes in the nation, with
eight new players (nine if you include Kareem Reid, who sat out
last season for academic reasons and is now eligible). Reid, a
5'11" point guard who was a McDonald's All-America two years
ago, will be the most exciting to watch.

Plenty of potential here, but not enough to earn Arkansas any
preseason buzz as a Final Four contender.

21. THE BIG QUESTION

What's wrong with this picture? No Duke? No Indiana? No
Louisville? No North Carolina?

No kidding. If this Fab Four falters as expected, it will be the
first time that none of them has finished in the Top 20 since
1970. So what happened?

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who missed most of last season because of
a bad back, is one of the few big names returning for Duke, and
unfortunately for his team, he doesn't play in the frontcourt,
where the Blue Devils will be leaning on untested freshmen.
Indiana coach Bob Knight is so desperate to fill the gaps under
the Hoosier hoop that he recruited three junior- college
players. Louisville has been plagued by off-the-court woes,
including academic trouble that will force two first-stringers
to begin the season on the bench. Finally, at North Carolina,
Dean Smith needs to replace sophomores Jerry Stackhouse and
Rasheed Wallace, who went third and fourth, respectively, in
this year's NBA draft. Deano might have to rely on two freshmen,
Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison, from the plebe class that
normally only carries luggage in Chapel Hill.

At least one of these four nouveau pauvre programs has reached the
Final Four since '86. Without them, this season's Road to the
Final Four at the Meadowlands will be less congested. So who
will emerge victorious?