Coach Jim Lynam will have some pleasant problems to ponder this season, like whether to start a big lineup or a small lineup. For the Eagles, this is a sign that their program is on the upswing.
Sixteen victories, a level that American has surpassed only once as a Division I team (in Kermit Washington's senior year), seems attainable because of better depth and stronger rebounding. Lynam plans to use 10 players regularly.
Rebouding, a shortcoming against such teams as Syracuse and La Salle in a 13-13 season a year ago, should improve with 6-foot-10, 220-pound senior Howie Lassoff finally starting to show the consistency Lynam wants.
When AU goes with its big lineup, the other inside man will be either 6-8 sophomore Joe Mitchell, whose strength is rebounding, or 6-10 sophomore Tom Pfotzer, whose asset is his defense.
Neither Mitchell nor Pfotzer is polished offensively, and Lynam is worried about replacing Calvin Brown and Cleo Wright, his top scorers last season.
Donald Kelly, in injury-prone point guard, is a solid middle man on the fast-break. Lynam has five players for the two wing positions, including 6-5 sophomore Leon Kearney, who started the final seven games a year ago.
AU will find out quickly how good it is. The Eagles open against Maryland and play Clemson and Syracuse before Dec. 15. BOWIE STATE
Bowie State has nobody back from last year's squad.
"I think they were soured after what happened last year," said new coach Taft Hickman, who came to Bowie after last year's 5-21 season. "The whole squad decided not to return. This is a rebuilding year."
Hickman was expecting David Cartwright, the team's second-leading scorer, to come back at quick forward, but was left with a list of disconnected telephone numbers. He still hopes Cartwright will return.
"We should be sorta scrappy," said Hickman. "I expect us to be in most of our games and I expect us to win some." CATHOLIC
It's been a long time since the Cardinals lacked a prolific scorer, but they don't have one this year, and that's one reason why coach Jack Kvancz, the eternal pessimist, is even more worried than usual.
"We don't have one guy (like Glenn Kolonics and Bob Adrion) who can put the ball in the hole and score 40 points," Kvancz said. "Three things can happen; they can fire it up, trying to replace Glenn; they can freeze, looking for Glenn, or they can play. We've done all three so far."
CU, however, does have talent for improving its 13-13 record in it's first year of Division I play. "We have lots of depth," Kvancz confirmed. "The problem is I don't know which five to start."
He starts with a core of four seniors: 6-6 center Kevin Dziwulski, 6-6 forward Peter Gruzinskas, 6-5 forward Stan Cooper and 5-9 guard Mike McNally. The other position - shooting guard - has three contenders: sophomore Steve Dade, 1976-77 leading JUCO scorer David Butler and freshman Joseph Colleta. Dade is the most talented but also the most erratic.
CU has started slowly in Kvancz' first two seasons, going from 3-8 to 12-14 and from 2-6 to 13-13. But this year's squad has four senior starters and Kvancz is worried that another bad start will make these seniors more interested in academics than basketball, and he says he could understand that: it happened to him in his final season at Brown. GALLAUDET
Gallaudet hasn't won more than eight games in a season since 1965, but coach Hubert Anderson has some sturdy newcomers who have prompted him to predict "10 wins or more" this year.
The most notable new face is that of 6-foot guard Jimmy Newsome, who averaged 25 points a game at Model Secondary School for the Deaf. Danny Sellick, a 6-3 forward, comes to Gallaudet fresh off the U.S. Deaf Olympics team, which won a gold medal this summer in Romania.
Anderson is also high on newcomers Greg Pullman, a 6-9, 240-pound center, and Don Mutti, a 5-8 guard. All five starters are back, including leading scorer Steve Blehm at guard, but they face a battle to keep their positions. GEORGE MASON
George Mason, which delighted fan two years ago with a tiny but quick team that won 19 games, is looking for a 20-win season with a bunch of big people.
Mason has so many mastodons that coach John Linn has been toying with a one-guard offense.
Linn looks up when he says, "Our program looks exceptionally healthy right now."
David Skoff, a 6-5 freshman, is a guard who will make 5-11 backcourt partner Myron Contee feel shorter than he is. Skaff hit 13 of 17 shots from the floor in a recent scrimmage, and, if he keeps that up, George Mason is a threat to improve greatly on last year's 9-19 record.
Across the front line is 6-10 center Andre Gaddy, 6-6 forward Riley Clarida (both freshmen from Brooklyn, N.Y.) and 67 Keith Lewis, a transfer from Loyola of Chicago.
"This is the best team overall we've ever had," said Linn. "There's no doubt about that." GEORGE WASHINGTON
John Holloran is gone but the Colonials should be better than last year's 14-12 team, despite of tougher schedule.
Last year's 14-12pped on its sneaker laces after beating Maryland for the first time in 17 years. That win gave GW an 11-5 record; the Colonials won only three more games. As many as three freshman started last season, so they return with needed experience.
Only one of those two, 6-foot-10 Mike Zagardo, is certain of starting. He will be in the middle of what coach Bob Tallent expects to be an improved inside game, with an emphasis on scoring from the front line instead of the perimeter.
Tom Glenn, a 6-7 forward who can also play center, will not start although Tallent considers him a potential 30-point-per-game scorer. The forwards are Les (High Rise) Anderson and Mike Samson.
But Glenn will get his playing time, along with as many as nine others. Tallent wents to use Glenn sparingly because the sophomore is foul prone.
Bucky Roman, the other freshman who started occasionally last year, may end up as the No. 3 shooting guard behind Tyrone Howze and Bob Lindsay, the latter of 6-4 1/2 transfer from the University of Florida.
Everyone in GW's division of the Eastern Eight puts on full-court pressure. "You can't press Tom Tate," said Tallent about his point guard. And there are two newcomers in reserve, freshman Curtis Jeffries from Louisville and Daryle Charles, a transfer from La Salle who becomes eligible in mid-January.
The Colonials' major goals are to play better defense and eliminate a lot of what Tallent calls "stupid fouls." Last season, only three teams outshot GW from the floor, but the Colonials made 114 fewer free throws.
Tallent will use both a man-to-man defense and a 3-2 zone. "There are some teams on our schedule that don't play well against the zone," Tallent said. "Coaches can say they're never going to play a zone, but unless you've got Jerry West and Walt Frazier at guard, Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley at forward and Bill Walton at center, you're going to need it sometime." GEORGETOWN
Coach John Thompson likes to say he was cheated out of a rebuilding year last season when he had to replace four seniors, but he still managed a 19-9 record in missing the NCAA playoff for the first time in three years. This season he has his top 12 players back.
Georgetown lacked the personnel to play a power game last season. "The thing we have to do this year is get a strong inside game," Thompson said recently.
If Craig (Big Sky) Shelton, the former Dunbar High All-Met, can overcome a broken kneecap that sidelined him most of the freshman year, the Hoyas could be formidable.
Shelton, a 6-7 power forward, is coming along nicely, but he still lacks the fluid motion he had before injuring his right knee, which, since Shelton is lefthanded, is the takeoff knee for his shots.
At center, Thompson has three possible choices. One is Mike Frazier, a 7-foot sophomore who has the size Thompson wants at the pivot. But he also can go with Tom Scates, the 6-11-255-pound man-mountain who plays defense better than Frazier or Ed Hopkins. Hopkins, at 6-9, is the best all-around center but he would fit in better as a big forward.
The guards are top-notch. Derrick Jackson is the shooter and sophomore John Durch the playmaker. Mike Riley, the 5-9 defensive gnat, is back for his fourth season and Thompson feels Craig Esherick can come in and shoot a team out of a zone.
There is competition at the small-forward, spot, too. Al Dutch still has not displayed the greatness predicted for him when he came out of Carroll High, and Steve Martin is pushing him.
In an understatement, Thompson said: "if we stay healthy, we'll be okay." HOWARD
Prospects were great for Howard until recently. The Bison had gained international experience in compiling a 9-2 record in Brazil last summer and practice had been going exceptionally well. Coach A. B. Williamson had been very optimistic the Bison could improve on last season's 18-10 record.
Then, 6-foot-10 center Dorian Dent came down with a peptic ulcer and may have to be hospitalized for three weeks. Even if he can play, his weight and stamina will be down.
Also, Howard was clobbered by George Washington in a recent scrimage. The disorganized manner in which the Bison played now has Williamson saying that the outcome of his team's first two games - against Catholic and George Mason - probably will map the course for this season.
"Our guys are being individuals now, instead of team players. They weren't in the game mentally," Williamson said. "We're three times better than we played against GW. We've got to get our roles straight. Role-playing is our problem at this point.
"Once they know their role and get into playing that role, we'll be a good team."
Howard's two starting forwards are back. Gerald Glover, the Bison's most talented player, is again performing well and so was Michael Nettles until he lost his shooting touch last week. Gerald Gaskins is back at point guard, with backup help from newcomers Andre Byrd and Lewis Wilson. Nathaniel Speight will open as the shooting guard. MARYLAND
Maryland's basketball team is a puzzle. No one quite understands it and few would attempt to put the pieces together.
Coach Lefty Driesell's first problem is the famed four-on-probation situation. On the court, he has found a point guard who's too quiet, a great shooter who only passes and a key defensive player who would rather score.
Almost everyone is too young. Lawrence Boston and Mike Davis are the only seniors and Driesell says they don't figure to start.
Freshman Albert King looks like a starter at small forward but Driesell would feel better about that if the 6-6 King were older and would shoot more.
"He's never second a point or gotten a rebound in the ACC," said Driesell. "You just don't dominate as a freshman. Albert is only 17 years old.
"He's much better defensively than I anticipated. He has concentration and vision of the court which most scorers don't have. Offensively, he really hasn't pushed himself. He's more concerned about passing. He's still not scoring like he's capable of. He's over-passing."
Another freshman, 6-7 Ernest Graham, will back up King.
Jo Jo Hunter seemed the logical choice to replace hardships-case Brad Davis at point guard, but Driesell is trying out 6-4 Billy Bryant and freshman Greg Manning.
"Jo Jo is more of a second guard," said Driesell. "He plays better without the ball. To be a lead guard, you have to have vocal leadership. Jo Jo is quiet. I don't think he can handle it. I think it bothers him mentally to be the lead guard."
Boston (6-7) and John Bilney (6-8) are the candidates at big forward and surprising once again, Driesell says he's leaning toward Bilney.
"I think Boston plays better off the bench. I'm inclined to start Bilney," said Driesell. "He's one of our better defense players, he passes well and is our leading defensive rebounder by far - which we lacked last year. He would not average 18 points a game, but he realizes his shortcomings and works on them."
Driesell leans toward 6-9 Larry Gibson at center but admits, "Sometimes, Mike Davis looks awesome."
At the moment, Driesell is most concerned about getting this group of guns to play defense by Friday, when the Terps open at home against Bucknell. MONT.-ROCKVILLE
Starters Dennis Cassey (6-5) and Bob Boyd (5-11) return from last year's 11-12 team. Casey, who averaged 25 points per game, will be joined up front by 6-8 Barry Hecht, who is expected to be a big help on the boards. Swingman Dan Harwood (6-5) is a good outside shooter who has also been impressive as a one-on-one player.
Coach Don Crown would like to see the Knights run more this year and is adding and full-court press to speed things up. The faster pace should provide plenty of playing time for backcourt men Greg Bates (6-3) and lLen Greco (6-3). MONT.-TAKOMA
Forward Hugh McGillicuddy (17.5 points per game) and guards Roy Holzle (4.0) and Dwight Lacey (8.0) return from last year's 2-16 squad.
Top freshman include rebouding forward Harold Walker (6-3), swingman Sam Melton (6-1), center Brian Burton (6-3) and guards Len Trafficanti, Rick Teamer, Barry Edmonson and Phil Silbert. Walker and Burton have looked particularly good in early practices, according to coach Bruce Wagner.
To offset their lack of height, the Falcons will run more while looking for the high-percentage shot. NAVY
In an era when everybody schedules as many patsies as possible, Navy coach Bob Hamilton has done just the opposite. He dropped Johns Hopkins, George Mason, Washington College, Texas Wesleyan and Lynchburg from the Mids' schedule. The reason: He wants to attract better players with a better schedule.
Therefore, the Mids may have a better team this season but be unable to equal last season's 13-11 record, Navy's best in 15 years. That was Hamilton's first year as coach and he got a late start on recruiting.
The season, there are five plebes practicing with the varsity, which is built around returning starters Kevin Sinnett and Hank Kuzma. They were the leading scorers and rebounders a year ago and Hamilton is looking for more balance this year.
The biggest problem facing the Mids is lack of size and depth in the middle. For a school that is limited to a 6-foot-7 center by academy height regulations, Navy was a strong rebouding team last year, finishing fifth nationally in average rebound margin.
But the Mids lost their top two centers through graduation, so Hamilton is planning to start Kuzma in the middle of a front line that will go 6-5, 6-5, 6-4 with Sinnett and Jack Stumborg. The guards - Bobby Scott, Vic Smith and Bruce Grooms - all have a year more experience, and freshman Tom Dean will be a contender for Smith's job at the point.
Hamilton's game is a fast-paced one and, until the freshmen develop, he is uncertain whether he can give Sinnett and Kuzma the breathers they need to play the entire game at the swift pace he wants PRINCE GEORGE'S
Coach Ed Crescenze must quickly break in four new starters if the Owls are to come close to duplicating last year's 18-10 record. Six of seven returnees are on academic probation and will be out until at least the second semester.
The sole is returning starter is 6-foot-5 center Mike Freeman, who is coming off a 12-point, seven-rebound average as a freshman. Forward Ken Robinson, a good inside shooter, should also help Freeman on the boards, an area in which Crecenze admits his team needs help.Mark Whitner and Dwaine Ross will split time at the other forward position.
Sheldon Edwards (6-0) will quarterback the team with 5-5 Tony Newton at the other guard.
Crescenze believes he has a good bench, a positive factor since the Owls will play pressure defense and run at every offensive opportunity SOUTHEASTERN
Four veteran players return from a 13-14 crew, including 6-5 center Jimmy Vines with his 11.5 scoring, 13.9 rebounding averages. Swingman Darryl Joyce and forward Anthony Lawson (11.6 rebounds) join Vines underneath.
Freshman shooting guard Jesse Harrison and forwards Michael Baker and Vernon Wright, both 6-3, are expected to see action. Additional height comes in the form of newcomer sophomore Greg Tolson, a 6-6 transfer from Los Angeles City College.
Coach C. L. Singleton is relying on his team's speed in an effort to break .500 for the first time in 16 years STRAYER
First-year coach James Brown has initiated a more disciplined offense in an attempt to better last year's 0-7 record. Running the show will be Joe Gilchrist (5-8) and Danny Ford (5-11), substitutes last season.
Top newcomer is 6-1 1/2 Eugene Johnson, a "tremendous leaper and excellent shooter," according to Brown. Swingman Tyrone Irby (6-1); Richard Benson, a stocky 6-6 center and Junior Fowlkes (6-5) are frontrunners for the other big-man slots.
"Strayer will surprise a lot of people this year," said Brown. "We have had the reputation of a pickup team of barnstorms in the past but we're not going to be that easy to beat this year." UDC
The consolidation of Federal City, Washington Tech and D.C. Teachers into the University of the District of Columbia has enabled coach Emory Waters to choose from a number of quality players. Waters believes that if UDC can at least split its first four games, it has the potential to win 18 of its 22 contests.
Barry Frazier, the area's leading scorer (27 points per game) last year at Washington Tech, and former Tech teammate Weldon Parham (15 points per game) will contest the guard spots along with veteran Reggie Moore (Teachers). Alton Taylor (FCC), a good-all-round small forward, will join jump-shot artist Gary Simmons (6-4) and leaper Ray Witcher (6-4) in the frontcourt.
Top substitutes will include Robert Curtis (6-4), Aubrey Taylor (6-3), Horace Johnson (6-4), Ronnie Bethea (6-3) and Michael Roach (5-10). VIRGINIA
Virginia lost leading scorer Billy Langloh at point guard, but coach Terry Holland has two new backcourt starters who could give the Cavaliers a chance for the ACC tournament final for the third straight year.
Tom Hicks, a transfer from Tulane, takes over at point guard, a position for which Holland says Hicks was made. At the other guard is 6-5 Jeff Lamp from Kentucky, the highly recruited freshman.
Leading rebounder Steve Castellan returns at center. Fourth-year starter Mark Iavaroni teams up with Mike Owens at forward.
The key for the cavaliers will be an avoidance of the injuries that hurt their season (12-17) last year. Holland says the conference races look almost even.
"We feel we have just as good a chance as anyone to finish first." said Holland, "and just as good chance to finish seventh." VIRGINIA TECH
Virginia Tech lost its front line, including leading scorer and rebounder Duke Thorpe, but coach Charlie Moir says he has better men to replace those players in 6-9 center Sam Foggin, who is recovering from a chipped wrist; 6-6 sophomore forward Les Henson, and 6-9 sophomore Wayne Robinson, who plays at forward or center.
Both guards, Marshall Ashford and Ron Bell, averaged in double figures last year, but Bell may find it tough to keep his starting position away from Dexter Reid, a freshman playmaking whiz.
VPI, which has only fair height and depth, has a tough road schedule.