This loose, sprawling collection of 34 colleges and universities is really a basketball league in name only; the members could hardly play a full intraconference home-and-home schedule because it would take two seasons to accomplish this. Furthermore, the quality of basketball runs the gamut from some of the best in the country to some of the weakest. It is treated as a conference here only because the members select a representative each year for the NCAA championship tournament. Four teams are perennially the class; four others are included because miracles have occurred in college basketball. Boiling things down still further, the Mid-Atlantic's NCAA standard-bearer this year should be either TEMPLE or LA SALLE, both Philadelphia schools. At Temple, one of the very best collegiate teachers of the game, Coach Litwack, has all his starters back from last year's third-place NIT team. Just as important, the big man that was missing for a year with a broken arm is also back: 6-foot-8 Tink Van Patton. But the big reason for the Owls' prominence is the 6-foot Guy Rodgers. It will be something of a national scandal if this graceful back-court wizard is not chosen on every All America first five. With Van Patton to get the ball to Rodgers off the boards, Temple's famed fast break should again be in operation. Joining Rodgers in the backcourt is 5-foot-ll "Pickles" Kennedy, who had a 26-point average on the freshman team a year ago. The forward spots feature a four-way battle among veterans Mel Brodsky, 6-foot-5 Ophie Franklin, 6-foot-6 Dan Fleming and Jay Norman, who was last year's top rebounder for Temple though only 6 feet 3. There is also plenty of reserve strength and Litwack's always tough zone defense. La-Salle almost matches Temple in returning strength and has four sophomores ready to push veterans out of jobs. The old hands are Forwards Billy Katheder and Charles Eltringham, both 6 feet 4, and Al Ferner, and Guard Tommy Garberina. The other guard spot will be fought over by veteran Bill Lavery and Sophomores Joe Heyer and Ralph Bantivoglio. There is fine additional over-all height up front. The Explorers will play a five-man weave with a "flash" pivot; they will be pushing Temple for top honors in Philadelphia. In the past two years, LAFAYETTE has lost 10 starting regulars. From last year's fine crew, 6-foot-8 Bob Mantz returns as a nucleus, with reserves Joe Sterlein, Rich Kohler, Tom Brett and Ronnie Gustafson. Aside from Mantz, however, this may be an all-sophomore first five. Leading candidates are: 6-foot-10 George Hoerrner; Forwards Charles Ross, 6 feet 6, and Mike Wallace, 6 feet 4; and Guards Jim Hurst, Joe Boylan and Bill McDonald. Hurst, a fine ball handler, is certain to start. The Leopards will be too green, the early part of the season at least, to be in contention for an NCAA spot again, ST. JOSEPH'S lost all of its starters except alternate Joe Spratt. The backcourt will still be sound, however, with Spratt, reserves Al Cooke and Jack Savage and two good sophomores in Joe Gallo and Bob McNeill. Elsewhere, it's all sophomores: 6-foot-8 Center Bob Clarke, tallest regular in the Hawks' history; Forwards John Hoffacker, Fred Slaveski, Jim Coolican and Joe Reilly. The height will be fair, the backcourt shooting good, but inexperience makes this a rebuilding year for Coach Ramsay, BUCKNELL, which gave Lafayette a fair fight in one of their two games last year, will be improved but faces a much tougher schedule, MUHLENBERG has to rebuild almost completely, but has a good crew of ex-freshmen coming up, including Herb Loeffler and Don Robins at 6 feet 7. RUTGERS has a veteran nucleus but still no real height, and winning basketball today demands at least a little of that priceless ingredient, LEHIGH lost none from a squad that was hot and cold last year except for consistent 18-point-average scorer Bob Roepke, and the Engineers' schedule is neither full nor first-rate.
Man to watch: TEMPLE'S GUY RODGERS