Impressive Four-Team Field In New York To Open Season
Nov. 8, 2000
NEW YORK - Four of the 11 winningest programs in collegebasketballhistory are getting the new season started in the Coaches Vs. Cancer ClassicatMadison Square Garden.
Kansas plays UCLA, and Kentucky faces St. John's in Thursday night'sopeninground as 318 Division I teams start paring down to the 65 which will play inthe NCAA tournament.
'We celebrate the end of the season every year with the Final Four andthistournament has become the way we celebrate the start of the season andcollegebasketball deserves that,' St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said.
The Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic has raised almost $1 million to helpfundresearch against the disease.
'This is great for the betterment of the teams along with a greatcause,'Kansas coach Roy Williams said. 'It's a little early but it's the same foreverybody.'
No. 7 Kansas has almost everybody back after a 24-10 season, while No.17UCLA has 10 players returning from a team that went 21-12.
'Some of our up-and-down play was attributed to three freshmen(forwardsDrew Gooden and Nick Collison and guard Kirk Hinrich) who are now sophomoressowe can't use that as an excuse now,' Williams said. 'The biggest improvementI'm hoping for is that we went through those experiences and we are now moreexperienced.'
'This team is not as athletic or as talented as even last year's but Ilikethe experience and maturity and I'm hoping they will offset some of thefirepower we lost to the NBA,' UCLA coach Steve Lavin said.
Jarvis and No. 12 Kentucky's coach, Tubby Smith, make it sound as iftheyhanded out name tags along with the practice jerseys last month.
St. John's has two starters back from its Big East championship team -Reggie Jessie and Anthony Glover - and six first-year players, includingpointguard Omar Cook.
Jarvis doesn't believe it's an advantage for his team to be playing inthebuilding where they play most of their big home games.
'Most of these kids have never played a college game in the Garden,' hesaid. 'We will get to spend a little more time in our normal surroundingsandthat's a big plus.'
Kentucky has three starters back from last season's 23-10 team, butnewcomers Marquis Estill and Jason Parker will be getting a lot ofattention.
The 6-9 Estill had surgery on both knees while he redshirted lastseason andis down to 240 pounds.
'Right now he is a lot more agile and that's helped his knees,' Smithsaid. 'He has good range for a guy his size but he is inexperienced at thislevel, inexperienced with high hopes and great expectations.'
The 6-7 Parker signed with North Carolina, but was not admitted, so hewentto Kentucky.
Last season, Duke lost both of its games in this mini-tournament, butthenreeled off 18 straight victories and went into the NCAA tournament as thetop-ranked team.
'This is as strong a competition as you can get this early in theseason,'Lavin said. 'It's a great opportunity to learn about your team, to get thatmeasuring stick and then go back and prepare for the rest of season.'
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer