College basketball practice will begin almost everywhere in the nation Tuesday, with familiar faces missing from at least four local schools.
Georgetown will begin its first season in four years without three-time all-America Patrick Ewing. Maryland will start without four-year starter Adrian Branch. George Mason will have a brand-new gymnasium but will be without four-year starter Carlos Yates. George Washington hopes that new Coach John Kuester can continue the improvements begun by Gerry Gimelstob, who resigned.
Without Ewing, Georgetown probably won't be the overpowering squad it has been since 1982, but the Hoyas still appear to be one of the five best teams in the nation and will start the season with a national player-of-the-year candidate in junior guard-forward Michael Jackson.
"Nobody should come in feeling sorry for us this year," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said, "but I hope they all do."
Most preseason polls have picked Syracuse to win the Big East. But many of those votes were cast before center Ralph Dalton announced he would return to Georgetown for a fifth season, which will help fill the void created when Ewing moved on to the NBA.
Maryland will start with its own player-of-the-year candidate in all-America senior forward Len Bias. But Coach Lefty Driesell has his usual problem: no experienced, legitimate center. And the Terrapins will start looking for a third player to take the pressure off Bias and point guard Keith Gatlin.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, after a year in the shadow of the Big East, again figures to be the premier league in the nation. Maryland could be one of the best 20 teams in the nation and still trail at least three ACC teams -- Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke -- in the rankings. In fact, those last three teams may be in the top five, at least to start.
Navy has its first bona fide all-America basketball candidate in years: 6-foot-11 center David Robinson.
The Midshipmen, who enjoyed their finest season last year, with an NCAA tournament victory over Louisiana State, have to be favored to win the new Colonial Conference (the old ECAC), which also should benefit from an improved American University team.