There was the promise of an immensely exciting race here even before two late developments tightened the competition considerably. WASHINGTON'S hook-shooting, 6-foot-9 Bruno Boin has left school for a year, and UCLA's speedy, deadeye Fred Crabtree has quit for good and plans to go to West Virginia. Since these were the two best in what looked like a five-team battle for first place (OREGON STATE, CALIFORNIA and USC are the others), the prospect is for a close, tight campaign. Coach Gill's Beavers may now have the edge, with all starters back and one of the nation's outstanding big men in 6-foot-7 Dave Gambee, who hooks well with either hand and rebounds strongly. Veterans with Gambee are Guards Lee Harman and Jim Anderson, Center Gary Noble, at 6 feet 8, and Forward Ken Nanson. Gill says no sophomores will make the squad, but there is still depth in reserves Gary Haynes, 6-foot-9 Wayne Moss and Ted Miller. This is a well-balanced, seasoned club. Of course, Coach Dye's Huskies will miss Boin, a great hooker and rebounder, but the league's best sophomore last season is back: 6-foot-7 Doug Smart, who actually outscored Boin. All the other starters are also back: Dick Crews, Lou Coaston and Don Dorland in the backcourt; Bill Stady and John Tuft up front. Three sophomores will give the regulars competition for starting spots: high-scoring Earle Irvine and Al Murphy and George Grant. Minus Boin, the Huskies lack the really big man, and Dye also complains about his speed. UCLA has a high-scoring veteran quartet back: Forwards Jim Halsten and Conrad Burke, Guard Walt Torrence and Center Ben Rogers, tallest of the lot at 6 feet 6. It will be a fast-breaking team, in contrast with the rest of the PCC, led by Torrence, who is a great jumper and good shooter. Teaming with him in the backcourt will likely be Denny Miller, who showed well as a freshman and returns after three years in service. There are adequate reserves, and Sophomores Bob Bell and Bob Fisher and Olympic decathlon star Rafer Johnson should also make the squad. Though the average height is fair, lack of a big center will hurt. The Trojans have seven returning lettermen, one of the best ex-freshmen groups from last year and three fine junior college transfer prospects. Leading the veterans are Phil Dye and Jim Pugh up front and Monte Gonzales in the backcourt. Gonzales, a mere 5 feet 10, was USC's second-best scorer last season; he and transferee Jerry Pimm make up one of the smallest—and best—backcourts in the area. If Sophomore Jim Hanna, 6 feet 7¼, can handle the center post well, the Trojans will be tough, because there is fine reserve strength in newcomers Bob Hampton and 6-foot-8 Doug Clements and Sophomores Jim White, John Werhas, Steve Kemp, Bill Bloom and Mike Fryer. California's good height will be fairly green, with only backcourt man Earl Robinson back as a starter. Last year's reserves are 6-foot-6½ Don McIntosh and 6-foot-5 Jack Grout; the big sophomores: 6-foot-8 Dick Doughty and 6-foot-5 Earle Schneider. The guards are strong; with Robinson are reserve Al Buch and Bernie Simpson. Coach Newell, a stickler for sound defense, also expects help from Forward Bob Washington, back after a season of ineligibility. There is a drop in quality at this point, with either OREGON or IDAHO the best of the rest. Coach Belko's Webfoots have veterans Hal Duffy and Eli Morgan back, both 6 feet 6, and strong rebounder Charlie Franklin. From an undefeated freshman team, Chuck Rask, Stu Robertson, Dale Jones and Jerry Anderson move up. This is no longer a last-place team, but not much better. The Vandals of Idaho are also loaded with veterans: Guards Gary Simmons and Bill Wilson, Forward Wahylen Coleman and Center Gary McEwen. Sophomore Guard John Livieous will be a help, but there is no height here and only fair speed to make up for it. Aside from standout Guard Paul Neumann and Dick Haga, STANFORD will field an inexperienced, small crew. The team will be made up of the above two and Guards John Arrillaga and Chris Burford, Forward Mike Tipton and 6-foot-7 Center Jerry Thueson. With only one senior on the squad, there is hope for next year. WASHINGTON STATE has lost Larry Beck, who carried them as far as one man can in this rugged competition. Of those who remain, two guards appear set as starters: Jim Ross and Mert Kennedy. Everything else is a question mark. While admiring the fine defensive records that abound in the PCC, it is worth noting that this is ball-control country also. Not a team in the conference was in the first 50 in the nation last year in points scored per game.
Man to watch: CALIFORNIA'S EARL ROBINSON