Final Four contenders await early showdowns

OUICK START, SUDDEN DROP

November 29, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

Are you the impatient sort, the kind of person who pulls the socks out of the dryer while they're still a little wet? The kind of person who skips over the main course and goes right for dessert?

If you are, and you happen to be a serious college basketball fan, this week is made to order. Forget about sweating through thousands of games and endless hours of Dick Vitale. Forget about waiting for March Madness or the Final Four in New Orleans.

Stay home Saturday for a little preview.

That's when Indiana will play Kansas at the Hoosier Dome in the afternoon and Duke meets Michigan at the Cameron Indoor Stadium at night. So what if the two games will be played hundreds of miles apart? So what if the outcomes will do little to change the national rankings?

"It'll be a great day -- and night -- of college basketball," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Too bad the winners couldn't meet somewhere in between on Monday night. How about, say, in Baltimore?

Here's a look at the nation's top five teams, according to the Associated Press poll.

MICHIGAN

The Fab Five made it all the way to the championship game as freshmen last year before losing to Duke by 20. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and the rest of 5X (as they called themselves) are eager to bring the national championship to Ann Arbor. Though Webber, 6 feet 9, is a candidate for national player of the year. Rose, 6-8, is the key because of his point-guard duties.

KANSAS

The Jayhawks still have a bitter taste in their mouths from last season's shocking, second-round NCAA tournament loss to University of Texas at El Paso. Coach Roy Williams, who is no longer in the shadows of mentor Dean Smith, has put together the nation's best backcourt in Adonis Jordan, Rex Walters and Calvin Rayford, a transfer from Wisconsin. Added to the mix is Darrin Hancock, 6-7, the junior college Player of the Year last season.

DUKE

Christian Laettner is gone, but the Blue Devils will be a legitimate threat to three-peat. Duke might miss Laettner's toughness, but he didn't exactly endear himself to his teammates. Seniors Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill took the proverbial torch in last year's championship game, and junior Grant Hill has the ability to be the Atlantic Coast Conference's most electrifying player since that Michael Jordan guy. The key will be the play of sophomore center Cherokee Parks, who started to come around in the Final Four.

INDIANA

Aside from senior forward Calbert Cheaney and sophomore forward Alan Henderson, the Hoosiers are not overflowing with blue-chip talent. But they have some of the best blue-collar types in the country, such as ex-high school Wunderkind Damon Bailey. Like him or not, Bob Knight is still one of the best -- if not the best -- coach in the country. The Hoosiers lost Pat Graham with a broken foot in last week's Preseason NIT victory over Florida State.

KENTUCKY

Rick Pitino has revived a program rich in tradition and, more recently, nearly shut down by scandal. Though it will be hard to repeat the emotion of last season, when the Wildcats nearly ended Duke's run in the NCAA East Regional final in Philadelphia, Kentucky could be a Final Four team nonetheless. Junior forward Jamal Mashburn is one of the top big men in the country, and freshman forward Rodrick Rhodes is a star in waiting.

STARTING FIVES

FIVE TEAMS ON THE RISE

MASSACHUSETTS

MARYLAND

GEORGE WASHINGTON

OREGON STATE

CAL-BERKELEY

FIVE TEAMS IN DECLINE

ST. JOHN'S

VILLANOVA

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT

PRINCETON

NOTRE DAME

FIVE COACHES ON THE BUBBLE

LEFTY DRIESELL, JAMES MADISON

DAVE ODOM, WAKE FOREST

JOE HARRINGTON, COLORADO

CLIFF ELLIS, CLEMSON

# BENNY DEES, WYOMING

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO WATCH

MICHIGAN-DUKE, Dec. 5

KANSAS-INDIANA, Dec. 5

LOUISVILLE-KENTUCKY, Dec. 12

CINCINNATI-MASSACHUSETTES, Jan. 7

2& NORTH CAROLINA-SETON HALL, Jan. 24

FIVE FRESHMEN TO WATCH

OTHELLA HARRINGTON, GEORGETOWN

JOHNNY RHODES, MARYLAND

JASON KIDD, CAL-BERKELEY

JOHN WALLACE, SYRACUSE

RODRICK RHODES, KENTUCKY

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