Vitale: 2002-03 Season Preview Index

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How good is Missouri? Stay tuned


Are the Missouri Tigers as good as they've looked in pounding people early this season? Hold it, we have to wait and see. Beating American, Austin Peay and Sacramento State is not like facing Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12.

If juco star Ricky Clemons is as good as advertised, Missouri could be legit.
We'll find out more about the Tigers this weekend when they face coach Henry Bibby's USC Trojans.

Up until now it's been Cupcake City, but soon we'll see how good Missouri's perimeter play really is.

It's clear that the Tigers have a solid interior group. Arthur Johnson is solid, Rickey Paulding can flat-out score on the wing and Travon Bryant is a factor at power forward.

If juco star Ricky Clemons is as good as advertised in the backcourt, Missouri could be legit. But hold off on the evaluation for now. The game against the Trojans will be a good early test. The non-league schedule also has Illinois, Memphis, Iowa and Syracuse still ahead to give coach Quin Snyder a better idea of how good his Tigers are.

Check out the score: Florida State 80, Iowa 67.

Let me tell you, coach Leonard Hamilton is putting his imprint on the Seminoles already. He is teaching defense, having his Florida State players attacking the opposition, having his kids playing hard. That was his trademark at Oklahoma State and Miami.

He didn't waste any time making that a priority in Tallahassee. Check out the scrapping, hustling Seminoles, forcing turnovers while attacking on the defensive end. Florida State forced 24 turnovers in the win over Iowa.

This is a big win for the Seminoles' program and a shot in the arm for Hamilton. Keep an eye on Florida State, baby!

I hear the cries already ... 0-2, 0-2! UCLA lost its first two games for the first time in 41 years.

I can understand the loss to Duke on a neutral court (in Indianapolis at the Wooden Tradition). But the opening defeat at home to San Diego was tough to take. San Diego coach Brad Holland, the former Bruins guard, was jumping for joy after that Shock City result.

This is a clear case of hoops unrest in Westwood. Pauley Pavilion is like a Hollywood studio for this soap opera, starring Steve Lavin as the good-looking leading actor. And he always finds a way to survive.

Last year, UCLA started 2-2. The year before, the team opened 4-4. Just think about this stat: Over the past six years, only two coaches have led their respective teams to five Sweet 16s: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Mr. Lavin.

The next three games could help: Long Beach State, Portland and Northern Arizona, all at Pauley. Judge Steve Lavin at the end of the season, not now!

Boston College was highly regarded at the beginning of the season due mainly to the veteran backcourt of Troy Bell and Ryan Sidney. But it's been a tough start in Chestnut Hill.

First the Eagles were blown out at Conte Forum by Saint Joseph's (watch out for the Hawks in the Atlantic 10). After a win over Boston University, the Eagles fell to coach Ralph Willard and Holy Cross of the Patriot League.

Coach Al Skinner's Eagles suffered a couple of other blows. Assistant coach Ed Cooley was hospitalized as a precaution due to chest pains. Then forward Uka Agbai, who was averaging 14 points per game, suffered a neck injury against the Crusaders. He'll be sidelined for at least six weeks.

The field for the 2003 Maui Invitational is set. Leading the way are Villanova of the Big East and Ohio State of the Big Ten. Also in the field are California, Dayton, Florida State, San Diego State, Hawaii and host Chaminade.

The tentative field for 2004 is impressive: North Carolina, Louisville, Iowa, Texas, Tennessee, Stanford, BYU and Chaminade.

Meanwhile, Duke headlines next season's Great Alaska Shootout field.

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