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COLLEGE BASKETBALL NATIONAL PREVIEW : A 64-Team Question: Who Will Make Tournament?


What goes around, comes around . . .

True story: Last March, Steve Kirschner, North Carolina's assistant sports information director, called his Duke counterparts for exact directions to a building on the Durham campus. As usual, good-natured insults were exchanged.

Near the end of the conversation, one of the Dookies reminded Kirschner about the Blue Devils' recent national championship run. The same Dookie also made sure to mention North Carolina's status as title banner has-beens.

Kirschner had heard enough.

"Aw, why don't you go shine your rings," he said, smiling.

Now look who's pulling out their NCAA jewelry for a quick wax and buff: none other than the Tar Heels, who left Duke in the tournament dust last season. Now then, will they do it again?

A season's worth of predictions awaits.


Ten teams you'll see in the NCAA tournament: UCLA, California, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State, New Mexico State, Brigham Young, Pepperdine, Nevada Las Vegas, Idaho.

At last, the West will rise again.

Bubble teams: USC, Santa Clara, Pacific, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado State.

No smirking allowed: The Pacific 10 Conference could have as many as six invitations if the Trojans are half as good as Coach George Raveling says they are.

Final Four candidates: UCLA, California.

The Bruins still don't have much of an inside game, but they have everything else to start asking for preliminary directions to Charlotte, N.C., site of this year's Final Four. Cal has two great players--Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray--and sometimes two are enough.

Final Four longshot: Arizona State.

Disregard this prediction if Sun Devil forward Mario Bennett and his surgically repaired knee aren't 100% by February.

Team most likely to fade: Cal.

The Golden Bears have enough talent to go long and far . . . and enough egos to crash and burn. If Kidd and Murray are thinking more about the NBA than the Pac-10, Cal's potential might never be realized. Then there's the Lou Campanelli factor. The deposed coach was a convenient source of motivation during Cal's 11-2 post-Campanelli run. Now that's gone, as is All-Pac-10 center Brian Hendrick.

The five best players: guard Jason Kidd, California; guard Stevin Smith, Arizona State; forward Lamond Murray, California; forward Lorenzo Orr, USC; forward Ed O'Bannon, UCLA.

Coach of the year: Tom Asbury, Pepperdine.

Asbury, who has endured personal tragedy in recent months--the deaths of a daughter and his father--will lead the Waves past Santa Clara for the West Coast Conference championship and an NCAA bid.

Coach for a year: Jim Anderson, Oregon State.

Impatient Oregon State fans will be thrilled when the Beavers, who finished 13-14 last season, struggle to win 10 games this time around. Guard Brent Barry is a Pac-10 star, but unless he learns to shoot and play center, Oregon State and Anderson are doomed.

Best rumor: Kidd and Murray are counting the minutes until the NBA draft.

Two seasons from now you'll be talking about this team: UNLV.

Rollie Massimino didn't leave Villanova for Vegas just so he could get a deal on show tickets. Little by little, Massimino has distanced his program from the Jerry Tarkanian era and the NCAA probation that went with it. His recruiting classes have been solid and his work ethic impressive. Two years sounds about right until people are asking, "Jerry, who?"


Three teams you'll see in the NCAA tournament: Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor.

Bubble team: Houston.

New Cougar Coach Alvin Brooks has point guard Anthony Goldwire and, according to the early reports, his share of junior college ringers. A team to watch.

Final Four candidate: Texas.

Last season's 11-17 record was about as ugly as Bevo the longhorn. At one point last year, Coach Tom Penders was down to eight scholarship players and three walk-ons. This season he can go 12 deep and choose from a roster that includes the conference's three best players. The Longhorns will have to do without star guard B.J. Tyler for their first four games, but it won't matter. This is Penders' best team since he arrived in Austin six years ago.

Final Four longshot: Baylor.

The Bears have four starters back from a 16-11 team and have added a handful of star junior college players. Second-year coach Darrel Johnson actually has people in Waco talking about Baylor basketball. Don't be surprised if the Bears are still playing in late March. Southwest Conference coaches swear that Baylor is loaded with talent.

Team most likely to fade: Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders had a chance until point guard Lenny Holly transferred to a junior college.

The five best players: guard Terrence Rencher, Texas; guard B.J. Tyler, Texas; guard Anthony Goldwire, Houston; forward Damon Johnson, Texas A&M; center Albert Burditt, Texas.

Coach of the year: Tony Barone, Texas A&M.

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