The best teams could benefit most in this season of change

November 21, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

Coaching a college basketball team these days is a difficult, albeit well-paying, profession.

If it's not some NCAA rules committee deciding that teams needed less time to shoot and more time to dribble, then it's a bunch of academicians making life tougher by recommending stiffer freshman eligibility requirements while further restricting scholarships.

If it's not one of those problems, it's one of your star underclassmen deciding that making $6 million a year to play in the NBA is more fun than getting room, books and tuition. It

didn't used to be that way in the old days. Or, in the case of some of these headaches, even last year.

Welcome to the 1993-94 season.

Welcome to a season of change.

"I wouldn't care if they said we should have rules making us use a peach basket or playing with 9-foot rims or widening the lane, but then they should stick with them," said Georgetown coach John Thompson. "Every year they change the rules. It's almost as if they're trying to justify their jobs."

With the shot clock being pared 10 seconds to 35 seconds per possession, with the five-second violation being made obsolete as long as a player doesn't pick up his dribble, with the clock being shut off after field goals in the final minute of regulation and overtime, there will be a new look to college basketball this winter.

And some coaches don't like what they're expecting to see.

"I think you might see a lot of teams get away from that good, sound passing game," said George Washington coach Mike Jarvis, "and players become more selfish with the basketball. I can't see how that's going to help make the product better."

Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton said: "We didn't even know this was going to happen. It would have been nice if they told us."

Some believe that the elimination of the closely guarded five-second rule will give teams with slick ballhandlers or dominant post players who can handle the ball a decided advantage, especially when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

And it gives teams with superior talent, such as defending national champion North Carolina, even less of a chance to get beaten because smaller opponents will have 10 fewer seconds to force turnovers.

"I don't know if you're eliminating the Cinderella upsets," Southern Cal coach George Raveling said, "but you're certainly reducing that possibility."

But the changes in the rules on the court pale in comparison with the potential for changes in the NCAA's freshman eligibility requirements. The controversy that erupted when Proposition 48 was introduced nearly five years ago -- including a two-game walkout in protest by Thompson -- might be tame when considering what may happen if Proposition 17 is passed in January.

The Black Coaches' Association has hinted at a nationwide boycott of everything from the NCAA convention to the Final Four to repeating Thompson's actions if requirements are raised to the recommended levels. Instead of a 2.0 GPA and a 700 SAT score, incoming freshmen will be required to have either a 2.5 GPA or a 900 SAT on a sliding scale that has yet to be determined.

"If that goes through, you'll be taking away a lot of hope to a group of kids who don't have much to start," said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell, who was part of a BCA delegation to visit Capitol Hill last month.

That's what the college basketball season is usually about: hope. While the Tar Heels are hoping to become the second team in the past two decades to win back-to-back titles -- Duke, in 1991 and 1992, was the first since UCLA to do it -- others are merely hoping that Dean Smith gives them a chance.

Thompson hopes the experts who pick North Carolina this season are the same ones who picked Nevada-Las Vegas in 1990-1991 and Georgetown in 1984-85.

"The teams that are picked to win it usually don't," said Thompson, whose Hoyas will open their season Friday by playing Maryland for the first time in 13 years. "And the teams that say North Carolina can't lose are trying to find ways right now to beat them."

One of the reasons the Tar Heels have been picked is that they have changed so little from last season and some of the other perennial powers have changed so much. Among North Carolina's biggest rivals, Duke lost all-time NCAA assist leader Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill, and Indiana needs to replace Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham.

Among last year's Final Four teams, North Carolina needs Eric Montross to take over George Lynch's leadership role; Michigan's Fab Five is down to four with the departure of Chris Webber to the NBA; Kentucky must find a successor to Jamal Mashburn, and Kansas has to answer its backcourt question mark left by the loss of seniors Rex Walters and Adonis Jordan.

"If you're recruiting a potential first-round pick, you should only plan on him being there for two years and hope you can get him for three with the money the NBA is throwing at these kids," one prominent coach said. "It's now almost a given that a kid will

leave early."

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