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Though Villanova (page 80), the defending Big East tournament
champion, is the class of the league this season, and Providence
(page 91) and Boston College (page 96) are on the ascent, let's
not forget that it was another team from the Big East that
played in the NCAA championship game last April.

As the clock wound down on the Orangemen's 76-67 loss to
Kentucky in the title game, Syracuse said goodbye not only to a
storybook season but also to the two players most responsible
for writing that story: power forward John Wallace and point
guard Lazarus Sims. But coach Jim Boeheim has two of the best
freshmen in the nation: forward Winfred Walton and point guard
Jason Hart. Walton will probably start up front next to senior
center Otis Hill and junior Todd Burgan, and Hart will be handed
the ball on the first day of practice.

New St. John's coach Fran Fraschilla could hardly have inherited
a better situation. Though the Red Storm was just 5-13 in the
league last year, this team has the talent to do significantly
better. Junior forward Zendon Hamilton, who will be out until
December due to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, was the
league's leading rebounder, with a 10.3 average to go along with
his 20.8 points per game. But the Red Storm's fate will depend
on whether junior swingman Felipe Lopez finally has his breakout

Elsewhere, Damian Owens, a junior forward at West Virginia, has
been one of the most underrated players in the conference, but
this could be the year the outside world takes notice. Boasting
an experienced point guard in senior Seldon Jefferson and three
quality juco transfers, the Mountaineers should improve on last
season's 7-11 league mark.

Pittsburgh is low on inside muscle, but if the backcourt of
Vonteego Cummings, Jason Maille and redshirt freshman Kellii
Taylor plays to its potential, the Panthers should have more
than the five league wins they mustered in 1995-96.

The same can't be said of Connecticut and Georgetown, which lost
Ray Allen and Allen Iverson, respectively--as well as two other
players apiece--to the NBA draft. The only player on UConn's
roster who has ever started a college game is senior forward
Kirk King. Sophomore Rashamel Jones, who averaged 5.6 points in
14 minutes per game, has the tough task of replacing Allen.
Georgetown will be led by guard Victor Page, the MVP of last
season's Big East tournament. Jahidi White, a 6'9", 270-pound
sophomore, will carry on the Hoyas' tradition at center.

Seton Hall won the hotly contested race for the services of
freshman point guard Shaheen Holloway from Hillside, N.J., but
the Pirates will be hard-pressed to replace Adrian Griffin's
19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Guard Levelle Sander is
the Hall's top returnee.

Miami appeared ready to move into the top half of the league,
but those hopes were dashed when senior guard Steve Frazier tore
the ACL in his left knee during a preseason pickup game; he is
probably lost for the year.

For Rutgers and Notre Dame, the season appears to be a loss
before it even begins. Coaches Bob Wenzel and John MacLeod could
each be out of a job by next spring. --S.D.

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON COVER [Varies by region] Big East Battle Otis Hill leads Syracuse into the conference wars

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN COVER [Varies by region] Hometown Hoya D.C.'s Victor Page takes charge at Georgetown

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO COVER [Varies by region] High-Flying Husky Rashamel Jones gives UConn a lift

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN SPURLOCK INSET [Varies by region] St. John's It's Time for Felipe Lopez to Step Up

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Hill's Orangemen face a tough climb. [Otis Hill]


1 Providence (14) 18-12
2 Syracuse 29-9
3 Pittsburgh 10-17
4 Georgetown 29-8
5 Seton Hall 12-16
6 Miami 15-13
7 Rutgers 9-18

1 Villanova (9) 26-7
2 Boston College (17) 19-11
3 St. John's 11-16
4 West Virginia 12-15
5 Connecticut 32-3
6 Notre Dame 9-18