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The folding of four schools from the Southwest Conference into
the Big Eight, creating a beast called the Big 12, closes two
books. One was a basketball horror story. Hoop in the SWC was
little more than an athletic department stepchild, ill-managed,
underattended and erratically officiated. It produced only a
couple of stories of national note: the Arkansas-Texas rivalry
between coaches Eddie Sutton and Abe Lemons, and later between
Nolan Richardson and Tom Penders (until the Razorbacks got smart
and lit out for the SEC); and the all-too-brief, early-'80s Phi
Slama Jama frat party at Houston. No league sent more teams to
the Final Four (14) with less to show for it (zero NCAA
titles). That old joke about there being only two sports in
Texas--football and spring football--was all too true.

The history of Big Eight basketball, on the other hand, should
be bound in calfskin, edged in gold leaf and FedExed to
Springfield. In fact, many of the league's back pages are
already in the Hall: Its forerunner, the Big Seven, produced
Hank Iba and Bob Kurland, Phog Allen and Wilt Chamberlain. Later
came Kansas's Jo Jo White and Danny Manning, Kansas State's Bob
Boozer and Oklahoma's Alvan Adams and Wayman Tisdale; coaches
such as Missouri's Norm Stewart, K-State's Jack Hartman,
Kansas's Larry Brown and Oklahoma State's Sutton; and such
marvelously monikered characters as Iowa State's Hercle (Poison)
Ivy and Oklahoma State's Bryant (Big Country) Reeves. In '88 the
league lorded over college basketball as few have, providing
both NCAA finalists (national champ Kansas and Oklahoma) plus
five first-round NBA picks, even as the teams still played in
barnlike buildings that bore the words field house in their names.

One figure who bridged those two leagues, the irascible Billy
Tubbs, spent 14 seasons coaching at Oklahoma and the last two at
TCU. Alas, he won't be around the Big 12 to help make
introductions at the get-acquainted socials this season. The
Horned Frogs, one of four SWC teams shut out of the Big 12, have
taken refuge in the WAC.


Perhaps it was because of the ferocity of play in the
Kentucky-UMass Final Four semifinal last spring in the
Meadowlands. Or maybe it stemmed from the dreams of many fans
that there be an all-Armani final between Rick Pitino and John
Calipari. Whatever the reason, after it became clear that the
Wildcats and the Minutemen weren't going to meet in the title
game, much newspaper verbiage and talk-radio hot air was spent
on the wisdom of henceforth "reseeding" the Final Four (pitting
the highest remaining seed against the lowest and the second-
and third-highest against one another) to set up a Monday-night
matchup between the two "best" teams.

Will it happen? As they say in Jersey, fuhgeddabowdit. CBS
doesn't want reseeding; the tournament itself, with superb
finals dating back to the end of the UCLA dynasty, hardly needs
it. Accordingly, when the NCAA Division I men's basketball
committee considered a proposal over the summer to reseed, they
turned it down.

Good call. The only thing in the game that needs reseeding is
Dickie V's scalp.


Six years remain on CBS's deal with the NCAA to broadcast the
men's basketball tournament. But the stars seem to be aligning
in a manner that would bump that most coveted of sports TV
properties to Disney, owner of ABC and ESPN.

Disney has already shown a yen--or, more precisely, a
dollar--for college sports, landing the rights to broadcast
seven national football title games starting in 1999 for $500
million. What's more, Len DeLuca, who engineered the contract
that made CBS the network of choice for the NCAAs in the '90s,
jumped to ESPN in May and still has excellent contacts within
the NCAA hierarchy. But Disney's biggest break may have come in
August, when the guys DeLuca left behind at CBS hired
professional prognosticator Danny Sheridan to do commentary on
college football broadcasts. That move is said to have
profoundly displeased the antigambling lords of the NCAA.

Disney could supplement ABC's primary coverage of March Madness
by letting ESPN do what it did to such popular acclaim back in
the 1980s--pick up secondary games and rerun them on tape delay.

The Final Four by Disney: Who better to tell a Cinderella story?


For the 15th straight year, overall attendance was up in women's
college basketball last season, and the distaff Final Four has
become so popular that the NCAA will introduce a ticket lottery
for the 1998 edition. But it's still something of a shocker to
find this nugget among the 1995-96 season's spectatorial stats:
On five Division I campuses where both sexes drew at least 1,000
fans per game, the ladies outdrew the gents. One of those
schools was Texas Tech, whose men went 30-2 and advanced to the
Sweet 16 of the NCAAs.

Division I Schools Where Women's Basketball Outdraws Men's
(based on average per-game attendance in 1995-96)

School Women Men Diff.

Maine 3,868 1,305 2,563
Louisiana Tech 3,679 2,000 1,679
Stephen F. Austin 2,697 2,046 651
Oregon State 5,264 4,919 345
Texas Tech 7,932 7,630 302


If high-profile high schoolers need any reminder of the value of
keeping their options open as long as possible during the
recruiting dance, last summer provided several lessons.

First, Jason Hart, a 6'2" point guard from Inglewood (Calif.)
High, signed early with Syracuse, which needed him to step in
for the departing Lazarus Sims. But in the spring Hart asked out
of his letter of intent, claiming a desire to go to school on
the West Coast near his older brother, Jadifi, who suffers from
kidney disease. Syracuse, which suspected that Hart really had
designs on suiting up for UCLA, denied the request on the
grounds that loyalty is a two-way street: After getting Hart's
commitment, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had stopped pursuing
other point guards. So Hart is stuck in Syracuse unless he wants
to sit out two years.

Then came the strange case of 6'9" center Ajmal Basit. The
anchor of Jersey City's St. Anthony's unbeaten high school
national champs last season, Basit signed with UMass in April.
But when Minutemen coach John Calipari bolted after the Final
Four for the lavish millions of the New Jersey Nets, things got
muddy. Basit's high school coach, Bob Hurley Sr., said Basit did
not want to go to UMass, and a fax--signed by Basit--arrived at
the school formally requesting a release. But word out of
Amherst was that Basit was telling Calipari's successor, James
(Bruiser) Flint, that he still wanted to muster with the
Minutemen, and UMass athletic director Bob Marcum refused to
grant any release. The upshot: Basit will be playing many of
Marcus Camby's minutes at UMass this season. In this case, as
Basit ate Calipari's dust, loyalty evidently wasn't a two-way

Luckier is Ryan Miller, a 5'11" guard who's about to begin his
senior season at Black Hawk High in Beaver Falls, Pa. Miller had
verbally committed to Pitt, where his older brother Sean had
been a star before becoming an assistant coach. But when Sean
joined the staff of new N.C. State coach Herb Sendek, Ryan
wanted to follow his big brother to Raleigh. Because high
schoolers can't sign before November of their senior year, he'll
be free to do so.


This season may be the last to end with a single all-class,
all-comers postseason high school basketball tournament in
Indiana, the state that produced tiny Milan High's 1954
champions and inspired Hoosiers, the celluloid celebration of
that improbable championship. The Indiana High School Athletic
Association and the state's secondary-school principals have
voted to experiment with four tournaments, one for each
enrollment classification, for at least two years, beginning
with the 1997-98 season. Alas, the decision comes just as
Dugger's Union High, a consolidated high school with 138
students that sits 40 miles southeast of Terre Haute, is looking
more Milanese than breaded veal.

Joining 6'6", Central Michigan-bound signee Jared Chambers at
Union are two of the top five players in the state's freshman
class, 5'10" Brody Boyd and 6-foot Clark Golish. With prospects
for the Bulldogs so good this season, you'd think coach Joe Hart
would be a booster of the old format. But Hart is ambivalent
about the impending change. He agrees with the rationale behind
it, which is to recognize that no tiny school other than
fictional Hickory High has been able to win a state title in 42
years. "If your team goes one and out, it leaves a bad taste in
your mouth," says Hart. But he also acknowledges the mystique of
Hoosier Hysteria, and he endorses the principle of a hybrid
tournament--class basketball to determine sectional and regional
champions, followed by a second tier of playoffs in which the
respective champs, regardless of school size, would play each
other for the state title.

The two years of the experiment will take Boyd and Golish
through their junior years. It's possible that the old format
could eventually be reinstated--Bobby Plump, the hero of Milan's
'54 title, joined John Wooden, George McGinnis, Steve Alford and
others in a lobbying effort against the new format. But even so,
the next Milan wouldn't happen until the brink of the millennium.

Unless, of course, Union can do it this year.


In an effort to catch a little bit of that old glory, 10 of the
45 Division I schools making coaching changes during the
off-season hired someone who had once laced up the hightops for
the school. Among the ex-stars who have gone home again: Melvin
Watkins, who in 1977 helped lead UNC Charlotte to its only Final
Four appearance; John Leonard, Manhattan's seventh alltime
leading scorer; and erstwhile Miami (Ohio) and Marshall stars
Charlie Coles and Greg White. As for Murry Bartow and Randy
Smithson, they not only used to play at UAB and Wichita State,
respectively, but both did so for dads named Gene.

USC, by contrast, did everyone one better: It brought in the man
who helped its archrival to three national championships in the
early '70s. Or is former UCLA star Henry Bibby a--ahem--Trojan


Among the elite recruits college coaches will be courting this
season are a 6'9" senior at Virginia's Oak Hill Academy and a
6'8" junior at East High in Wichita. Their names are Attila
Cosby and Korleone Young.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Reggie Freeman's SWC is short on hoops history; Wilt and the Big Eight created legends. [Reggie Freeman]

B/W PHOTO: RICH CLARKSON [See caption above--Wilt Chamberlain]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Visions of a Kentucky-UMass final made people silly over reseeding. [University of Massachusetts players and University of Kentucky players in game]

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE WACKSMAN [Drawing of basketball player with arm in the shape of a chicken wing]

COLOR PHOTO: SHARON STEINMAN At Texas Tech, Sandy Parker and the Lady Raiders are tops at the turnstiles.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION [Calendar of college basketball season with highlighted dates]

COLOR PHOTO: BO RADER/WICHITA EAGLE For Smithson, who has come full circle back to Wichita, coaching is in the genes. [Randy Smithson]



Nov. 20: Tulsa at UCLA
The marquee game of the opening round of the Chase NIT. When
last they met, the Golden Hurricane knocked the Bruins out of
the first round of the 1994 NCAA tournament. This night's other
big matchup is Princeton vs. Indiana, Bill Carmody's debut as
Tigers coach.

Nov. 28: Kentucky vs. Syracuse
A national championship rematch at the Great Alaska Shootout.
The revamped and unranked Orangemen feature two new starters and
a host of fresh faces on the bench. The Wildcats lost three NBA
first-round draft picks yet are still among the favorites to win
it all again.


Dec. 3-4: The Great Eight
Good teams pack this event's schedule as an octet of last year's
top finishers meet at the United Center in Chicago. The greatest
of the four matchups is Cincinnati vs. Kansas. On the undercard
are Wake Forest-Mississippi State, Purdue-Kentucky and

Dec. 11: George Washington at Kansas
The point guard that everyone will be talking about will not be
the Jayhawks' injured Jacque Vaughn. It will be Shawnta Rogers,
the mercurial mite who runs the Colonials' offense.

Dec. 31: Wake Forest at Utah
Wake Forest's dominating senior center, Tim Duncan, will most
likely be the first pick in June's NBA draft. His Demon Deacons
square off for the second consecutive year against Utah and its
All-America, Keith Van Horn, who will be drafted closely behind


Jan. 16: Temple vs. Cincinnati; Tulane vs. Xavier
Danny Fortson, Damon Flint & Co. take on John Chaney's Owls in
the nightcap of the Conference USA-Atlantic 10 Challenge in
Cincinnati. In the opening game, Jerald Honeycutt and the Green
Wave face the hometown Musketeers.


Feb. 1: Boston College at Providence
The two northeasternmost members of the Big East aren't used to
being at the top of the standings. The Friars have never won a
conference regular-season championship. The last time the Eagles
won one was 1983, when they shared the crown with Villanova and
St. John's.

March 2: Duke at North Carolina
The traditional tilt on Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils almost
pulled off a major upset last year, falling one point short,
73-72. The Tar Heels should be one of the top two seeds heading
to the ACC tournament as coach Dean Smith tries for his 13th ACC


March 13-16: NCAA tournament, Rounds 1 and 2
The round of 64 begins in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Pittsburgh
(East); Memphis and Charlotte (Southeast); Auburn Hills, Mich.,
and Kansas City (Midwest); and Salt Lake City and Tucson (West).

March 20-23: NCAA tournament, regional semifinals and finals
The Sweet 16 square off in Syracuse, Birmingham, San Antonio and
San Jose.

March 29-31: NCAA tournament, national semifinals and final
The men's Final Four is at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis; the
women's is in Cincinnati.


As that rare college hoops analyst who actually played the game
since over-the-calf tube socks went out of fashion, ESPN analyst
Clark Kellogg feels a particular obligation to, as he puts it,
"provide a player's perspective with players' language." Here's
a compendium of favorite phrases from the former All-Big Ten
forward at Ohio State.

Term Explanation

Rack-to-rack End-line-to-end-line

Stat-sheet stuffer All-around player

Chicken wing A player's off-hand, used to ward
off defenders

Punch Dunk

Spurtability The ability to rip off a string of
unanswered points

Squeeze the orange Take care of the ball

A premium-cable player Someone with the complete package


Cincinnati has earned a place in college basketball's upper
echelon in the past decade and has landed the No. 1 spot in our
preseason Top 25 this year; but in so doing, Bearcats players
have apparently become much more familiar with backboards than
with mortarboards. According to the NCAA's latest report on
graduation rates, not a single Cincinnati player who entered the
university between 1986-87 and 1989-90 (excluding transfers)
earned a degree. Below is a breakdown of the graduation rates
over that same period for each team in our preseason Top 25
(unless otherwise noted, a school had from 11 to 15 men's
basketball players enter as freshmen in those four years).

Graduation Percentages for Freshmen Entering From 1986-87 to
1989-90 (excludes transfers)

All All Men's
students athletes basketball

Cincinnati 47 53 0
Kentucky 50 50 33
Kansas 56 55 30*
UCLA 76 60 31
Wake Forest 86 71 69
Utah 40 53 50*
North Carolina 84 73 85
Michigan 85 77 50
Villanova 86 80 79
Marquette 75 72 42
Stanford 93 84 86
Illinois 79 71 36
Fresno State 47 39 21
Providence 91 94 91
George Washington 70 70 64
Iowa State 63 62 29
Boston College 88 88 50
Penn State 78 79 86
Tulsa 49 57 33
Duke 94 91 58
New Mexico 35 50 38
South Carolina 61 62 64
Clemson 71 55 50
Texas 63 53 38**
Arizona 50 51 23

*6-10 players entered **16-20 players entered
Source: 1996 NCAA Division I Graduation-Rates Report


These marks are within reach in 1996-97:

--With a 25-win season, North Carolina coach Dean Smith will
reach the alltime college record for victories, in his 36th
season. The current mark of 876 was set by Kentucky's Adolph
Rupp, who coached for 41 years. Besides prolific coaching
careers, the two legends share another bond: Both graduated from
the University of Kansas (Rupp in 1923, Smith in 1953).

--Wake Forest's Tim Duncan has a good chance to become the
NCAA's alltime leading shot blocker. Duncan has 379 career
blocks and needs just 75 to eclipse ex-Georgetown star Alonzo
Mourning's total of 453. Duncan also has a shot to break the ACC
record of 462 blocks set by Virginia's Ralph Sampson from
1979-80 to '82-83 (a mark not recognized by the NCAA, which only
made blocked shots an official stat in 1986).

--If Jacque Vaughn of Kansas can come back from his wrist injury
and turn in a third consecutive 200-assist season, he will be
among the top 20 alltime in that category. Vaughn currently has
642 career assists (Duke's Bobby Hurley holds the record, with

--With four more victories, the Kansas Jayhawks will become the
third NCAA team to reach the 1,600-win mark. The only two
schools to have cracked that plateau are Kentucky (1,650) and
North Carolina (1,647).