Men sort through letters

National Men

November 07, 2001|By Don Markus

Didn't we just get back from the Final Four in Minneapolis?

Didn't Duke recently claim its third national championship and Maryland claim it wuz robbed? Did Dick Vitale have enough time to catch his breath? Is it college basketball season already?

The 2001-02 season is quickly upon us, with Shane Battier leaving the ranks while Rick Pitino and Bob Knight are returning, with some of the same teams (including the Terrapins) picked to go back to this year's Final Four at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Here's a look at the men's game, from A to Z.

A is for Arizona

Last year's runner-up will open the season against Maryland tomorrow in the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. The game should take on special meaning for Wildcats coach Lute Olson, whose wife, Bobbi, succumbed to ovarian cancer midway through last season.

B is for bubble

March Madness is still months away, and every team is starting with a clean chalkboard. But it won't be long before you begin to hear that word ad nauseam to describe those teams whose chances of making the NCAA tournament seem to rise and fall with each game.

C is for Cole Field House

Among the most underrated venues in college basketball, the place that played host to the historic 1966 national championship matchup between Kentucky and Texas Western will play out its final season for Gary Williams and his Terps.

D is for Duke

What did you think we were going to say, DePaul? Even without Battier, the Blue Devils are loaded. Jason Williams and Chris Duhon make up the best backcourt in college hoops, Carlos Boozer is fully recovered from his foot injury and Mike Dunleavy will be coming off a memorable title game against Arizona.

E is for early departures

They have become de rigueur in the college game, leaving it nearly void of true stars. The NBA's new developmental league will only further deplete the amateur ranks, though many who fall into the category of athlete rather than student belong there -- or in the NBA -- anyway.

F is for Florida

Even though Kwame Brown opted for the pros, the Gators could be in line to win the national championship. Billy Donovan kicked Teddy Dupay off the team because of betting allegations, but senior center Udonis Haslem and junior guard Brett Nelson are leaders.

G is for Georgia State

After making the NCAA tournament and knocking out Wisconsin in the opening round, the Panthers nearly became Maryland's worst nightmare. Lefty Driesell should have his team back there again, this time as a representative of the newly named Atlantic Sun Conference.

H is for Horizon

That's the name of the new league that used to be the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, home to some of the NCAA tournament's recent giant killers. The favorite to win the nine-team conference is Butler, which crushed Wake Forest last year.

I is for Izzo

Aside from Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State's Tom Izzo is the most successful postseason coach in the past five years. The Spartans have gone to three straight Final Fours. Given the rebuilding job in East Lansing this season, it probably won't be four.

J is for Jacobsen

Stanford's Casey Jacobsen could become this season's Battier -- in other words, college basketball's poster boy -- but he won't have the supporting cast to get the Cardinal deep into the tournament. But he is a prime candidate for Player of the Year.

K is for Knight

That's Coach Knight (above) to you. It seems only yesterday that Knight was trying to save his job at Indiana. Having run off half his team at Texas Tech, it will be interesting to see how long it will take for the welcome mat in Lubbock to get a little frayed.

L is for Louisville

Once considered among the nation's elite, the Cardinals fell on tough times. Exit Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum. Enter Pitino, who has played savior before, most notably up the interstate in Lexington, where he will return Dec. 29 for the annual uncivil war between the Cards and the 'Cats.

M is for Maui

While honeymooners like to visit here to get their marriages off to a good start, college coaches treat the annual Maui Invitational with mixed emotions. It's a great recruiting tool, but when it comes time to play the games, most would rather be home for the holidays.

N is for non- conference games

With the exception of a few high-profile matchups, the early season is filled with the so-called "money" games for low-echelon schools looking to pay the bills by getting waxed on the road. Just ask Coppin State's Fang Mitchell, the king of this road.

O is for O'Connor

Marvin O'Connor (right) hasn't put St. Joseph's on the map when it comes to big-time college hoops, but he has helped the Hawks re-emerge as a force. His performance in last year's NCAA tournament made the senior one of the top prospects at shooting guard in the country.

P is for Pac-10

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