This is another section where the schools are small, the players are tall and the quality of the game bears more relation to the size of the men than to the enrollments. And this year, with six of the seven teams welcoming back at least four starters apiece, the pace should be furious, the competition keen. For the same reason, the edge must be given to the two teams that tied for first last season. Essentially the same crew returns to MOREHEAD that led the nation in rebounding last year and was fifth in total offense. The starters: 6-foot-7 Steve Hamilton, 6-foot-8 Bernie Shimfessel and 6-foot-7 Dave Keleher across the front, and Ken Thompson in the backcourt. Three topnotch guards will fight for the fifth spot: Charles Hoodenpyl, Ken Myers and Herbie Triplett, and three veteran reserves round out the squad: 6-foot-6½ Thornton Hill, 6-foot-5 Gerald Yentes and 6-foot-3 Gene Carroll. Coach Laughlin's Eagles rely almost exclusively on the fast break. Coach Diddle's WESTERN KENTUCKIANS also have fair height, with the essential big man in 6-foot-8 Ralph Crosthwaite, but the backbone of the team is a pair of slick and speedy guards: Owen Lawson, best backcourt man in the league, and Eric Back. Veteran Billy Case has one forward spot, and the other will be shared by four men, all 6 feet 5: Reserve Howie Dodds and Sophomores Albert Ellison, Darrell Bicknell and Jude Talbott. Guard Kenny Cornelius seems also sure to make the squad. The Hilltoppers have won or shared the title eight times in the nine years since the conference was organized; they will be hard to dislodge this year too. If the two champs are beaten out, the choice here is for EASTERN KENTUCKY to do it. Coach McBrayer finished last season with 10 sophomores and two juniors, and they are all back, tall, seasoned and fast. Both the front and backcourt are two deep in capable personnel; the best include: Forwards Dale Moore and Hugh Gabbard, both 6 feet 5, and 6-foot-4 Clayton Stivers; Guards Jim Kiser and Larry Wood, both 6 feet 3, and Ray Vencill. There is a question mark at center, but only as to who will play more; 6-foot-7 Virgil Butler and 6-foot-8 Bernie Kotula may have to make way for 6-foot-ll Carl Paulus. Wood is the quarterback for the fast break here, MURRAY STATE'S Thoroughbreds can't be counted out either. Coach Alexander has the good big man at center in Quitman Sullins, 6 feet 8, and adequate size among the junior reserves. The other regulars are Terry Darnall and Gerald Tabor, both 6 feet 3, up front, and Sherril Marginet in the backcourt. Sophomores sure to make it include 6-foot-5 Gene Herndon and Ralph Teter. The rebounding is not up to Valley standards but shooting, speed and depth are above average. TENNESSEE TECH'S four veteran starters are further strengthened by 6-foot-8 Herbie Merritt, who returns after skipping school for a year, and an upcoming crew who averaged 98 points per game last season on the frosh team. The regulars are Forwards Larry McDonald and Don Sexton, and Guards Kenny Sidwell and Dale Phelps. Leading the newcomers is 6-foot-9 Center Jim Hagan; the others: 6-foot-7½ Hearon Puckett, Ralph Shearer and Alan Herron. All starters are back at MIDDLE TENNESSEE and hopes are high for a squad which seems to have everything but real speed. The regulars: 6-foot-7 Center Jerry Hurst; Forwards John Price and Frank Davis; Guards Bob Williamson and Oscar Fitzgerald. From a good freshman team come three forwards: Dick Baugh, Ray Hammers and Bob Tillman; Center Lewis McManus; Guards Mike Batsel, Wally Johnson and Ronnie Newman. Rebounding is the strength here; the tandem post will be used in preference to the fast break on offense, EAST TENNESSEE STATE joins the Valley this year, with a completely green team and cannot be expected to show anything the first time around against the rugged competition that abounds here.
Man to watch: MOREHEAD'S STEVE HAMILTON