Powerful Georgia Tech part of college basketball's new look
Patrick Ewing and a pack of super players are gone; repentant Indiana Coach Bobby Knight has put his chair-throwing performance behind him; Tulane's point-shaving scandal has receded from memory; and Villanova's fairytale upset of Georgetown for the NCAA championship is history. So what can we expect of the 1985-86 college basketball season? Will it be tame by comparison, an order of vanilla ice cream in a cup?
Maybe, but not likely. Lots of energy pulses through the game these days, and that shouldn't change, especially not with the adoption a 45-second shooting clock.
The 64-team NCAA tournament and the 32-team National Invitation Tournament provide lots of people with an opportunity at post-season glory, and that helps keep the competitive fires burning white hot.
Even losing with some regularity isn't that discouraging, so long as the lessons of defeat help in the seasoning process, as they did for Villanova last spring. The Wildcats, you may remember, had lost 10 games upon entering tournament play, but wound up valedictorians of the NCAA class with a six-game run to the title.
This feat wasn't unprecedented either. Only two years earlier a 20-10 North Carolina State team had achieved the same thing.
The mark of the new season, it seems, will be the absence of a dominant team, quality seven-footers, and household-name players. There's a sense of starting anew.Nowhere is this more apparent than in the selection of Georgia Tech as the pre-season No. 1 pick in many quarters.
Most people just don't associate the Yellow Jackets with basketball excellence. That has begun to change under coach Bobby Cremins, though, and now it's entirely possible they may be the best not just in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but in the nation as well.
The team's big star is not big at all. Mark Price, a six-foot sharpshooter, took the Jackets to their first ACC crown and Top 10 ranking last season, and has the supporting cast to do it again.
As good as this group may be, however, there's no feeling that they will match the Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas as an intimidating presence in the game. It's even possible that the Jackets could finish third in the conference behind North Carolina and Duke, two other highly ranked teams.
North Carolina has experienced hands Brad Daugherty and Kenny Smith to key the attack, while Duke is led by guard Johnny Dawkins, the nation's only returning consensus All-America.
The ACC almost certainly will take over from the Big East as the premier conference. The Big East, which placed Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova in the Final Four, will be in something of rebuilding period now that Ewing, Chris Mullin, and Villanova's ``three seniors'' (Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain, and Gary McLain) have graduated from these schools.
Don't expect any of these Beasts of the Easts to suddenly become pushovers, though, especially not Georgetown. Coach John Thompson still has a reservoir of talent which possesses a passion to win without Patrick. And who knows, forwards Reggie Williams and David Wingate could form a winning nucleus the way Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe once did during UCLA's post-Alcindor years.
UCLA, the defending N.I.T champion, owns the nation's longest current winning streak of eight games. During the Bruin salad days of the 1960s and '70s, that might not have merited a mention, but it does now. Enthusiasm had been sagging around Pauley Pavilion.
Other teams to watch include Michigan, Syracuse, Illinois, and bluegrass rivals Louisville and Kentucky, who square off Dec. 28. Louisville leads the nation with 41 consecutive winning seasons, and, of course, Kentucky has long been a perennial power. New Coach Eddie Sutton aims to keep things that way and has inherited four starters from Joe B. Hall, including 6 ft. 8 in. Kenny Walker, a potential Player of the Year.
Kentucky, however, has seen a cloud drift over its program in the form of newspaper reports that former players were paid by boosters.