The end of SMU'S domination of the conference appears at hand, with the graduation of two-thirds of the cast that won three straight titles. However, Coach Hayes has experience up front in the poised, deadeye-shooting Rick Herrscher, and in the back-court with Ned Duncan. Four exceptional sophomores will be battling for positions: Bobby James and Carter Creech, forwards; Wilbur Marsh, center; Max Williams, guard. The speed and shooting are there; only the big man is missing, and if 6-foot-8 John Engelmann can conquer his awkwardness, this will be a dangerous crew. Top choice to replace SMU is RICE, tall, deep and experienced; all but one man returns from last year's second-place club. The Owls can put four skyscrapers in the pivot—6-foot-10 Temple Tucker, 6-foot-9 Tom Robitaille, and Gary Griffin and W.A. Preston, both 6 feet 6. The backcourt is also solid: Gerry Thomas, Steve Galloway and Dale Ball. Coach Suman will play a wide-open, fast break, hoping to get upcourt before the inevitable zone gets set. The only other real contender will be TCU, which will field the tallest and, potentially, one of the best teams Coach Brannon has ever had. Best sophomore in the conference last year, Ronny Stevenson, is back, as are two other starters: Derrill Nippert joining Stevenson up front, and Guard Ken King. Supporting height includes H.E. Kirchner, 6 feet 10, and newcomers 6-foot-7 Don Williams and 6-foot-5 Tom Meacham. There is adequate depth behind this all-junior-sophomore team, good outside shooting and rebounding. The weakness is speed. A falling off in quality is apparent at this point, with the usually well-disciplined Razorbacks of ARKANSAS possibly the best. Coach Rose doesn't have any size to speak of, but is somewhat used to that by now. He has a fine backcourt pair in veteran Fred Grim and Sophomore Tom Rankin. Centers include regular starter Wayne Dunn and Jay Carpenter. Others who compete for berths include Larry Grisham, Ora Lee Boss, Harry Thompson, Dick Rittman and Larry Stolzer. If the shooting percentage improves, as it should with another year's experience, Arkansas will finish in the upper middle of the league. New Coach Bob Rogers inherits two much-heralded sophomores at A&M: 6-foot-8 Wayne Lawrence, a 28-point scorer as a freshman last season, and 6-foot-6 Dave Corson, a strong rebounder. Six lettermen return, headed by Neil Swisher, who hit in double figures last year, and Ken Hutto in the backcourt. The others include Jim McNichol, Ernie Turner, Fritz Connally and Jack Schwake. Rogers plans to play man-to-man on defense but will undoubtedly add the zone when he sees how prevalent it's become in this area. BAYLOR'S hopes also rest on the development of their two big men, 6-foot-7 John Moore and 6-foot-8 Eddie Ashwood, as post men. They have experience up front in Tom Kelly and Gene McCarley, both 6 feet 3, and in Guard Larry Barnes. David Pierce, a junior college transfer, and Rex Hughes and Bob Turner will also make the squad and there is a fair amount of depth behind them. Coach Henderson will surely miss Jerry Mallett, the Bears' alltime scoring leader. After a year's hiatus, while schedules were being arranged, TEXAS TECH becomes an official member of the Southwest in actuality as well as name. Coach Robison's squad is loaded with sophomores and juniors and their unfamiliarity with the rest of the conference will be a handicap. He has three returning starters in 6-foot-6 Leon Hill up front and Charlie Lynch and Gerald Myers in the backcourt. Sophomore Pat Noakes, 6 feet 9, will probably start at center, and Forward Bobby Wilson will team with Hill. Reserves include Lettermen Chuck Key and Wade Wolfe and Sophomore Gene Arrington. Myers will make the team run, and with normal improvement the first time around the circuit the Red Raiders could be a sound team. TEXAS lost five lettermen through graduation, including the indispensable Ray Downs, and even last year they shared the cellar with the Aggies. They have no established post man and will be weak under the boards. Big hope for the future is Sophomore Jay Arnette, a 6-foot 2-inch guard who averaged 21 points on last year's freshman team. Both returning backcourt men are small: Ken Cleveland and Kermit Decker. Veteran Dick Farrell is 6 feet 5, but the only other tall man likely to see regular service is 6-foot-6 Sophomore Bob Hover. Speed is the Longhorns' biggest asset, but that does not appear sufficient to change their record appreciably this year. The tandem post offense dominates in the Southwest, with the fast break next in line. If Rice wins, as expected, they draw a bye in the first round of the NCAA tournament and face a member-at-large in the second. But then comes the winner of a Big Eight-Missouri Valley elimination—too bad.
Man to watch: RICE'S TEMPLE TUCKER