The addition of Hank Iba's COWBOYS to this perennially rugged conference will bring new furrows to the brows of coaches from Ames to Norman. Iba's 28-year record of 598-174 is enough notice that his tenacious, ball-control teams will be year-in year-out contenders. Previous schedule commitments make Oklahoma State ineligible for the Big Eight crown this season; they will play only four intraconference games, two each with KANSAS and OKLAHOMA. Iba has four of his starting five back: Jerry Hale, Ed Sutton, Henry Kemple and Jerry Adair, and they'll be joined by a group of ex-freshmen wao won 14 of 15 games last year. This will be a squad of skilled ball handlers, with great depth and lacking only size. Among the eligibles, every squad appears somewhat improved except the champions, Kansas—which indicates an extremely tight race. KANSAS STATE is simply loaded with returning and upcoming talent and can field a balanced five whose average height is an incredible 6 feet 6½—Bob Boozer, Jack Parr and Wally Frank are 6 feet 8, 6 feet 9, 6 feet 8 across the front line, and Roy DeWitz and Steve Douglas make up a 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 backcourt. Altogether, Coach Winter has 10 returning lettermen and five fine sophomore prospects; tall, seasoned, good shooters who may be one of the five best in the nation this year. At Kansas, Coach Harp is left with Wilt Chamberlain, Ron Loneski and Bob Billings from last season—a sound enough nucleus—but can anticipate little help from sophomores. There is a minimum of speed to take advantage of Chamberlain's and Loneski's strong rebounding for fast breaks, and no replacement for last year's outside shooting that took the pressure off Chamberlain on offense. Whoever thought a college team featuring Wilt would fail to make the NCAA tournament?—but that's just what seems likely. All-America Gary Thompson, who led IOWA STATE to a conference victory over Kansas last year, left a backcourt vacancy that will be hard to fill. But Coach Strannigan has substantial assets remaining in the rebounding of John Crawford, the size and scoring of 6-foot-8 Don Medsker, the ball hawking of Lyle Frahm. He has seasoned juniors in Ron Baukol and 6-foot-7 John Krocheski, and four speedy sophomores coming up. If they coalesce around a strong floor general—probably Frahm—the Cyclones will be contenders all the way. Biggest improvement of all should be shown by Coach Parrack's Oklahomans, who finished in the cellar last year and have the talent to give anyone a battle this season. In veterans Joe King and Don Schwall they have two skillful front-court men; Sophomore Guard Dennis Price has already nailed down one backcourt spot and the other should go to Gene Hudson or Bruce Medley, both seniors; four men can play center—King, Bob Stoermer, Jack Marsh and Bill Hammond, though only Stoermer, at 6 feet 8, has the height necessary in this league. Better outside shooting should be the big difference over last year. At NEBRASKA, Coach Bush ha; four veteran starters returning, but the height he needs desperately will all be green. The big newcomers include Allen Graves (6 feet 9), Bob Mayo (6 feet 7) and Bob Harry (6 feet 6). They back up a foursome of Gary Reimers, a clever, high-scoring guard; Don Smidt, Lyle Nannen and Jim Kubacki. This is one of the few Midwest squads that plays eastern-style give-and-go (Bush is an alumnus of Brooklyn's St. John's); it numbers some fine ball handlers, and in any other league would vastly improve its last year's standing. A realist about the power he faces, or perhaps a pessimist about the sophomores he largely depends on, COLORADO'S Coach Walseth is willing to settle right now for his so-so record of last season. He has an outstanding outside shot in Gerry Schroeder—and a long list of question marks behind him. Chief of these is Center Jim Jochem, who can be a big help if his injured knee holds up. The newcomers bring size in 6-foot-8 Bill Wrage, 6-foot-7 Matt Baskim and 6-foot-5 Frank Javernick, but inexperience in the pivot is a grave weakness in a team which, like most others in the area, plays the single post almost exclusively. Sophomores Bill Lewis and John Musciano up front, and Russ Lind and Larry Anderson in the back-court round out the squad. Like Walseth, MISSOURI'S Coach Stalcup has one good outside shot in Sonny Seibert and not enough else to cheer about. He is blessed with some speed and a bit more experience in veterans Roger Egelhoff, John Stephens, Al Abram, Mike Kirksey and Jon Paden. And he adds size with Sophomores Cliff Talley and Don Hymer and transfer student Elmer Harb, all three 6 feet 5 or better. Jerry Kirksey, a mere 5 feet 8, rounds out a shallow squad that a consensus of rival coaches rates last. Over-all, the conference favors set pattern offenses; half the teams use some form of zone.
Man to watch: KANSAS' WILT CHAMBERLAIN