One of a Series
Undated (AP) _ Temple has a No. 1 ranking from last year’s final poll to defend. The Owls have to get over the hurt of a tough loss just one step from the Final Four.
Temple has so much back in Mark Macon, one of the country’s top freshmen last season, and Mike Vreeswyk, one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. The Owls lost so much to graduation.
Macon, Vreeswyk and the round-robin format of the Atlantic 10 Conference are enough to get the Owls a No. 19 ranking in the preseason poll. But the loss of Tim Perry, Ramon Rivas and Howard Evans was more than enough to make people realize a repeat 32-2 season would be very tough.
″This year we have just two mainstays back to our team and to replace the three starters, certainly there is no way possible that we can do it,″ Temple coach John Chaney said. ″We have some youngsters who have been sitting and waiting for two years. We’re left right now with a lot of question marks on our ballclub.″
Macon is certainly not one of them. The Saginaw, Mich. native averaged 20.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, with the numbers staying constant as the national attention grew intense as the season wore on.
Temple lost to Duke in the round of eight in the NCAA Tournament last season, a game in which Macon went 6-for-29 from the field and Vreeswyk 2-for- 12.
This year, Evans won’t be there to handle the ball. Very few handled it as well last season. Evans averaged 8.7 assists and turned the ball over about as often as the Owls played poorly.
″My role is mainly going to be to bring leadership onto the court,″ Vreeswyk said. ″Being captain, I have to make sure everyone gives everything on the court and that off the court we stay a tight unit.
″Obviously you can’t replace Howie. You can’t replace Timmy or Ramon. You just have to play the hand that’s dealt and hopefully everything will turn out all right.″
West Virginia and Rhode Island appear to be the teams that could give Temple a run one season after the Owls went 18-0 in regular-season conference games.
The Mountaineers have four double-figure scorers back from last season’s third-place club and there are nine newcomers to Coach Gale Catlett’s program.
The backcourt and coach are gone from Rhode Island, which caught the national eye during the NCAA Tournament with upsets of Missouri and Syracuse. After the season, Tom Penders left to take over the Texas program and assistant Al Skinner moved up.
″I feel I have been a big part of the success of the building process as an assistant,″ Skinner said. ″I’m not walking into a new situation, it’s one we created for ourselves.″
Only one other conference team - St. Joseph’s at 15-14 - bettered the .500 mark last season. The Atlantic 10 is still a top-heavy league, although the weight could be distributed a little more evenly across the first division this season.
The Big East doesn’t have problems with balance. There are three ranked teams, three more teams ready to break into the high altitude of the polls, and three in the league’s lower echelon who are good enough to compete for titles in many other conferences.
Georgetown finished second to Duke in the preseason poll and the Hoyas will be a team that will rely on a shot-blocking, defensive-oriented center. Think coach John Thompson will be able to handle that situation?
Alonzo Mourning is 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds and he burst into the national spotlight with an impressive performance during the Olympic trials. He has been compared to Patrick Ewing, the last big men Thompson coached at Georgetown and who led the Hoyas to three Final Four appearances in his four years.
″I think Alonzo is going to be a good player, but you have to realize he is a freshman and he will have to go through the period of attaining maturity,″ Thompson said. ″With a marquee player like Alonzo, the expectation level is very high. He’ll have his impact on the league before his career is over.″
Mourning, who was the next-to-last cut for the 12-man team in a bid to become the first high school Olympian, will be joined up front by newcomers John Turner, a 6-7, 235-pound junior college transfer, and 6-11 Dikembe Mutombo, a native of Zaire. The backcourt will be handled by five returnees who saw considerable playing time last season, including some as fill-ins at small forward.
Syracuse is another team with a solid core of veterans and a much- anticipated freshman - Billy Owens.
The 6-9 Owens will join Derrick Coleman and Stephen Thompson on the front line for the eighth-ranked Orangemen and the ballhandling will be taken care of by senior Sherman Douglas.
Coleman said there won’t be any jealousy over the attention Owens has received, including the cover of ″Sports Illustrated.″
″He’s real good,″ said Coleman, who will have to take over more of the inside responsibilities with the graduation of center Rony Seikaly. ″I had my time in that light and Sherman had his. We just want to win and Billy thinks that way, too.″
Villanova, 12th in the preseason poll, returns starters Doug West, Kenny Wilson and the ever-improving 7-1 Tom Greis.
Pittsburgh has to overcome the loss of Charles Smith, Demetreus Gore and Jerome Lane. Coach Paul Evans will rely on four sophomores who were forced into considerable action as freshmen during the Panthers’ drive to the regular-season title.
Connecticut, coming off an NIT championship, has center Cliff Robinson, heralded as one of the better big men in college.
Seton Hall lost three four-year starters from the team that brought the Pirates their first-ever NCAA bid. Coach P.J. Carlesimo did add 6-7 Australian Andrew Gaze, a 3-point marksman who was the No. 2 scorer, behind only Brazil’s Oscar, in the Seoul Olympics.
St. John’s will rely on freshmen Malik Sealy and Robert Werdann to help a team that seemed to lose everybody but Coach Lou Carnesecca. Boston College needs Dana Barros to repeat his spectacular junior year - he led the conference in scoring at 21.9 - if the Eagles are to threaten. Providence will be under first-year coach Rick Barnes, who won 20 games at George Mason last season in his debut as a head coach.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will undergo changes in membership each of the next two seasons, but the league’s shining star will be at La Salle for two years.
Swingman Lionel Simmons averaged 23.3 points and 11.4 rebounds for the Explorers last season as a sophomore in earning player of the year honors. He is on pace to break all of Tom Gola’s career marks at La Salle.
Holy Cross is banking on 6-7 senior Glenn Tropf, who set an NCAA record last season by making 63.4 percent of his 3-point attempts.
The ECAC Metro Conference changed its name this season to the Northeast. Unfortunately, 7-4 Rik Smits of Marist departed for the NBA and the conference doesn’t have a player of that stature to step in.
Fairleigh Dickinson won the conference title last season, but lost leading scorers Damari Riddick and Jaime Latney to graduation. Only Monmouth, 16-13, of the remaining seven conference members broke the .500 mark last season.
The ECAC North Atlantic title has been won for the past eight seasons by either Boston University or Northeastern. Siena has a deep team this season and the Indians have a chance to break the Boston-based monopoly on the championship.
The East Coast Conference lost two-time player of the year Michael Anderson of Drexel, but the league should be balanced. Four teams won at least 18 games last season.
Jim Barton will provide the outside scoring for Dartmouth in the Ivy League, but the Big Green’s fate is linked to the play of 7-1 Walter Palmer, who showed considerable improvement last season following knee surgery.
End Adv Fri PMs Nov 18