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COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEW

Same Schools Remain at Top of the Charts

November 06, 2005|From Associated Press

This season will be no different from most in college basketball. There will be a lot of changes, and nothing much will have changed.

Twenty-two schools will be playing in a different conference. Quite a few star players left early for the NBA. More than 40 schools will have a new coach this season.

But when the Final Four begins in Indianapolis, it's possible that the last three teams to win it all in that city -- Duke in 1991, Arizona in 1997 and Michigan State in 2000 -- will be there again.

That's college basketball: Things keep changing, and things stay the same.

Duke has J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams back to lead a team that will be much deeper than the one that won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament for the sixth time in seven years and reached the third round of the NCAA tournament.

Four seniors and a six-man freshman class that is among the best recruited to Durham by Mike Krzyzewski in his 25 seasons there will have Duke looking like, well, Duke.

"They've been accustomed to walking the ball up and having a play called for them," Krzyzewski said. "Now we're going to do that a little bit differently. They're going to have much more freedom. They also have to think in how to use that freedom. That'll be a big thing in teaching the older guys how to do that."

Michigan State has four starters back from the team that reached the Final Four last season, though the three seniors who left provided a lot off the bench.

"I feel better that our key people are very confident, very stable," Spartans Coach Tom Izzo said. "I feel worse that we definitely don't have the depth. We have more depth inside than we had last year, but no experience. And we have no experience or depth inside or outside in comparison to what we lost."

Arizona Coach Lute Olson also has most of his roster back from the team that lost a wild overtime regional final to top-ranked Illinois.

"We've always played up-tempo," Olson said. "And we've gotten a lot of points on turnovers and fast-break opportunities and that type of thing. But I think we have the depth and the quickness to where we can put a lot of pressure on the opposing team to hold up under 40 minutes of that kind of play."

Connecticut, Kentucky, Villanova, Texas and Gonzaga are among the other teams included in most preseason Top Tens.

One of the regular names missing from the favorites is defending national champion North Carolina. The Tar Heels lost the top seven scorers from the team that won it all in St. Louis, three to graduation and four to the NBA draft.

The field of 65 again will be dominated by the power conferences, although which league some schools will be representing will change.

The Big East added Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati, DePaul and South Florida to get to an unwieldy 16 schools. Boston College left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Conference USA lost the five schools to the Big East, Saint Louis and Charlotte to the Atlantic 10 and Texas Christian to the Mountain West. Six schools -- Central Florida, Marshall, Rice, Southern Methodist, Tulsa and Texas-El Paso -- joined Conference USA, which could use name tags as part of the uniforms early in the season.

"I think this has the potential to be a great basketball league," said Tom Penders, coach of Houston, one of the six C-USA members to stay around. "I don't see any league that will be as uptempo as this one. In this league, it's rip and run."

Coaches are college basketball's constant, and two of the most recognizable won't be on the sideline this season.

Bob Huggins was forced out at Cincinnati in August by school president Nancy Zimpher. Suddenly, the troubled program is in the hands of 37-year-old Andy Kennedy, who never has been a head coach before and had two months to prepare.

"I've certainly been dealt some adverse circumstances in the past," Kennedy said. "I don't think anything can prepare anyone for what we're dealing with now, simply because of the way that everything played out."

Matt Painter had all last season to get ready to take over at Purdue as he sat beside Gene Keady during his 25th and final season with the Boilermakers. On-court problems won't be the only ones facing Painter -- interest in Purdue basketball isn't where it was in recent years.

"I'm not upset that 4,000 people haven't bought their tickets, I'm excited that 10,000 people have," Painter said. "It's our job to convince the other 4,000 people to get in here."

Three schools turned to coaches with NBA backgrounds to run their programs: Former Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd takes over at USC, former Denver Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik moved within the state to Air Force, and former NBA player and Louisville assistant Reggie Theus takes over from the retired Lou Henson at New Mexico State.

One familiar face at a smaller program will be former North Carolina and Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty, who takes over at Florida Atlantic.

Bob Knight starts the season at Texas Tech needing 25 victories to tie Dean Smith atop the career coaching list with 879.

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