Sunday, October 12, 2003

New looks await as practices open


UC adds Whaley; XU turns to guards

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

More than six months have passed since Syracuse cut down the nets in New Orleans and brought to a close another season of college basketball.

Much has changed in that time for the four area teams, Cincinnati, Xavier, Kentucky and Miami, all of which enter this season with entirely different storylines than they left with in March. They each begin practice Saturday, be it after midnight or sometime later the next morning, with new needs to address, new players to work into the system and renewed goals of conference championships and NCAA Tournament runs.

At the University of Cincinnati, the Bearcats usher in a highly touted freshman/transfer class expected to make an immediate impact. Big man Robert Whaley, a 6-foot-10 junior-college transfer, headlines the group that includes former Purcell Marian/Brewster (N.H.) Academy prep star Mike Pilgrim. Their ability to mesh with current players will be critical early in the season for Cincinnati.

Xavier must deal with the void of last year's national player of the year David West, now with the NBA's New Orleans Hornets, and adjust its game plan accordingly with four returning starters.

That will place a greater emphasis on perimeter play, where the Musketeers return the most experience, including 6-foot-5 swingman Romain Sato, who could make a bid for All-American honors.

Kentucky is coming off a 16-0 Southeastern Conference season and appeared to be the best team in the nation entering the NCAA Tournament last season.

A regional final loss to Marquette ended the Wildcats' season surprisingly early with a 32-4 record, but it was enough to earn coach Tubby Smith an eight-year contract extension worth $2.5 million per year. Kentucky returns just 55 percent of the scoring from that team, but the Wildcats boast one of the top backcourts in the nation with Gerald Fitch and Cliff Hawkins, as well as a deep bench, this season.

Miami University didn't reach the NCAA or NIT, but coach Charlie Coles has reason to be optimistic with preseason Mid-American Conference first-team selection Juby Johnson back for his senior season.

The RedHawks last reached the NCAA Tournament when Wally Szczerbiak took them to the Sweet 16 in 1999. This veteran team could be the group that gets back to the NCAAs.

Coming this week

The Enquirer takes a look at area college basketball teams, which officially begin practicing Saturday. The team-preview schedule:

TUESDAY: The University of Cincinnati

WEDNESDAY: Xavier

THURSDAY: Miami

FRIDAY: Kentucky

---

E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
ALCS Game 3: New York 4, Boston 3
NLCS Game 4: Cubs 8, Marlins 3
Popeye takes on Pedro
Cubs, Marlins break NLCS homer record
Playoff notebook

BENGALS / NFL
Palmer's time remains a mystery
Frerotte's on fire, still heads to bench
Curnutte's NFL power rankings

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
UAB 31, UC 14
No. 23 Wisconsin 17, No. 3 Ohio St. 10
Buckeyes fans watch winning streak end
Miami 59, Buffalo 3
QB is making mark in MAC
No. 1 Oklahoma 65, No. 11 Texas 13
No. 2 Miami 22, No. 5 Florida St. 14
Notre Dame 20, No. 15 Pittsburgh 14
Northwestern 37, Indiana 31 (OT)
Roundup of other Top 25 games
Scores, how Top 25 fared
Small colleges: Mt. St. Joe thumps Manchester 28-6
Quarterback corner
ACC expansion: Boston College targeted again
Clarett's attorney: Court should protect tailback

SPORTS IN THE TRISTATE
Daugherty: As good as it gets
The readers speak
Powerful Denison's deep with Cincinnati players
Enquirer Page Two power rankings

PREP SPORTS
Athletes at the mercy of injuries
Pupils await Shields' next move
Covington Catholic 34, South Oldham 12
2nd-round 64 sends Hillsboro's Balser to Div. II title
NewCath captures district championship
Ursuline's Rentschler repeats as champ
Saturday's results

BASKETBALL
Former locals ready to start NBA careers
New looks await as practices open

HOCKEY
Blue Jackets surprise woeful Rangers 5-0

SOCCER
Americans finish on high note

GOLF
Appleby atop Vegas by one

MOTOR SPORTS
Stewart chases down win
Biffle sets mark with Busch win
Tracy remains on pole for Mexico Grand Prix
IRL's finale may be its best

ON THE AIR
Sports on TV, radio