10 questions worth asking

November 13, 1998|By SUN STAFF WRITER DON MARKUS

1. Will Connecticut finally win the national championship?

It is difficult to call the Huskies perennial bridesmaids, because they have yet to get to the Final Four. Jim Calhoun might be among a handful of coaches who, like some high-profile golfers, are considered the best never to have won a major. But with two of the country's most explosive players in junior swingman Richard Hamilton, the reigning Big East Player of the Year, and point guard Khalid El-Amin, who as a freshman won MVP at the Big East tournament, Connecticut might finally overcome The Ghost of Christian Laettner and go all the way.

2. How much will Duke miss the leadership of Wojo?

On the surface, it seems unlikely that a team boasting such blue-chip big men as sophomores Elton Brand and Shane Battier will miss little Steve Wojciechowski, the blue-collar point guard from Severna Park. His replacement, sophomore William Avery, played a key role for the Blue Devils in their ACC semifinal win over Clemson and their NCAA South semifinal win over Syracuse. But the last time Duke didn't have a true point guard running the show, Mike Krzyzewski had a fellow named Grant Hill to bail him out. Last we looked, Hill is no longer in Durham.

3. How many games will it take Lefty to win No. 700?

After his Georgia State team blew a chance for its coach to become a member of the 700 club in last year's Trans-America tournament semifinals - with history repeating itself, Driesell's team blew a lead in the waning seconds - the ol' Left-hander will get another shot when it is host to Georgetown in the season opener. With the proverbial hatchet buried with John Thompson, you know Driesell would love to get this one to prove that you know and he knows that he can still coach.

4. Which Indiana player will Bob Knight run off this year?

Two years ago, it was Neil Reed, who has resurfaced at Southern Miss. Last year, it was Jason Collier, who will be eligible after the first semester at Georgia Tech. Luke Recker appears to be a good candidate, considering how well he played in starting 30 games as a freshman. Dane Fife is another, because he might start at point guard as a freshman. It will be interesting to see how much patience Knight has left after 33 years of coaching.

5. Do Clyde Drexler and Jeff Ruland have the tools to be good coaches?

Drexler has gone back to the University of Houston with hopes of reviving the memories of Phi Slamma Jamma, and Ruland is at his alma mater, Iona, after being promoted as the successor to Tim Welsh. Ruland has a better chance to succeed. His Gaels have been picked to finish first in the Metro Atlantic. Drexler's team was picked to finish near the bottom of the National Division in Conference USA.

6. Was it worth the wait for Rhode Island's Lamar Odom?

After a tumultuous high school career and a year spent getting out of his commitment at UNLV and into a uniform at Rhode Island, this 6-foot-9 vagabond has finally suited up for the Rams. He just missed a triple-double with 19 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in his debut against TCU. Joining a team that nearly made the Final Four last season, Odom could be the player who brings Jim Harrick back to the promised land. But can Odom stay eligible?

7. Is the honeymoon finally over for Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State?

After three straight NIT berths, the pressure is on Tark to produce a team that gets headlines for what it does on the court rather than off the court. Chris Herren, whose career began at Boston College and included a stint in a rehab center for cocaine addition, will have to share the backcourt with transfer Courtney Alexander, who left Virginia after being charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Considering his history, Alexander should fit right in.

8. Did Rick Majerus make the right move staying at Utah?

The most popular man at last season's Final Final Four had the pick of several jobs last spring, including Texas and Arizona State. But the coach whose appetite for food is matched only for his appetite for hoops decided to remain at the "U" despite losing two key players to graduation and three others to Mormon missions. The Utes will still be a Top 25 team because point guard Andre Miller, the leader of last year's run to the championship game, is back with Majerus.

9. Has the Pac-10 overtaken the ACC as basketball's supreme league?

Consider the facts: In the past four seasons, two Pac-10 teams have won national championships (UCLA in 1995, Arizona in 1997) and another, Stanford, reached the Final Four last season. ACC school hasn't won it all since North Carolina in 1993, and only the Tar Heels and Duke have made it to the Final Four since. The ACC might be stronger from the middle of the pack down, but the Pac-10 still gets the vote as the country's top conference.

10. Will Dickie V. ever run out of things to say?

It has been 20 years since a relatively unknown coach from the University of Detroit started analyzing games for a relatively unseen cable outfit known as ESPN. Like him or not, Dick Vitale has become the sport's pitchman, an unabashed cheerleader who for four months every winters seems to be everywhere. Don't take a timeout, baaaaaabbbbbby!!!!!!

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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