Picking a winner here is like choosing the best of a cageful of hungry tigers. You never know who is going to turn on and demolish whom. But ducking is a coward's way; we like PURDUE. All five starters are back, a smooth unit that makes up for the lack of a giant with good average size, great speed and accurate shooting. Coach Ray Eddy worries about his shallow bench, but this starting five could turn the trick without help. It is comprised of Bill Greve, Bob Fehrman, Jake Eison, Willie Merriweather and the slick and speedy Harvey Austin, NORTHWESTERN will be hurt if starter Dick Johnson does not recover in time from a knee operation, but four other regulars are back and there is great reserve height and strength. Four sure first-stringers are slick ball handler Willie Jones, fine hooker Joe Ruklick and sharpshooters Phil Warren and Nick Mantis. Outstanding reserves are Floyd Campbell, Dick Becker and Charles Brandt. The Wildcats are preseason favorites among the coaches. MICHIGAN STATE builds its offense, defense and everything else around 6-foot-5 Johnny Green, the equal in board strength of many men a half foot taller. Likely to start with him are Bob Anderegg, Lance Olson, Tom Rand and Jim Stouffer. Peppery Coach Forddy Anderson has a balanced though relatively small first string, but a shallow, inexperienced bench. He has, however, won plenty of games with less talent than this. Only one starter returns from INDIANA'S championship team, but there is still a host of skillful veterans, and two sophomores, especially, look very good indeed. One of them, slick, fast Herbie Lee, will team in the backcourt with the lone returning regular, Bob Wilkinson. The other, 6-foot-10 Walt Bellamy, strong and agile, should also start, and the likeliest candidates for the remaining spots are veterans Lee Aldridge, Bill Balch, Glen Butte, Frank Radovich and Norbert Witte. Undoubtedly the youngest major-college coach in the nation, 24-year-old Sharm Scheuerman happily inherits a tall, veteran squad at IOWA. He will probably start Nolden Gentry, Dave Gunther and Frank Mundt up front and Clarence Wordlaw and Bobby Washington in the backcourt. The 6-foot-8 Mundt is the key to success here. If he fails to improve on his mediocre scoring average (4.4) of last year, Scheuerman will have to shift his strength around considerably. The reserves, fortunately, are good; they include George Seaberg, Earl Nau and sophomore Denny Runge. ILLINOIS, probably not a contender, should nevertheless move up in the standings. Coach Harry Combes has the height, so completely absent last year, in sophomores John Wessels and Vern Altemeyer, who will likely alternate at center. Other starters are Roger Taylor and Mannie Jackson in the backcourt and the high-scoring Govoner Vaughn up front, while the fifth spot will be fought over by Bruce Bunkenberg, Ed Perry and Alan Gosnell. Ozzie Cowles starts his 30th year as a coach with a promising MINNESOTA crew built around double-figure scorer and fine rebounder Ron Johnson at center, playmaker Whitey Johnson in the backcourt and hot shooter Tom Benson up front. He expects considerable help from sophomores Tom Skadeland, Curt Thalberg and Dick Erickson. Inexperience in the first-stringers will be the big handicap, but the presence of only one senior among the starters augurs well for next year. There is a serious lack of scoring punch at OHIO STATE, but a bunch of strong re-bounders may make the Buckeyes tougher than they appear on paper. And, of course, hardly anyone, including new Coach Fred Taylor, can wait for the sensational Jerry Lucas to become eligible for the varsity next season. Larry Huston, Joe Carlson, Dick Furry, Joe Roberts and Dave Barker are the veterans, but two of them will move over for sophomores Larry Siegfried and Richie Hoyt. Coach Bud Foster's search for a center who can score for WISCONSIN may be ended. Bud has sophomore Bob Rossin, and if he won't do, John Stack, injured last year, is ready and apparently able. All the other needed ingredients seem to be present in veterans Ray Gross, Brian Kulas, Bob Barnesson, Fred Clow, Jim Rogneby, Steve Stephens, Bob Serbiak and Rick Murray, and more help is expected from the sophomores, especially Ivan Jefferson. MICHIGAN hurts for some real size, but has a veteran nucleus in the strong M. C. Burton, George Lee and Terry Miller, plus seasoned reserves Gordon Rogers, Dale Kingsbury and Henry Gualtieri. Sophomores John Tidwell, Arlen Parker, Dick Donley and Richard Robbins will also see action. Coach Bill Perigo can't hope for much more than a repeat of last year's so-so record, and he might, unhappily, end up with a lot worse.
Man to watch
HARVEY AUSTIN, PURDUE
A 6-foot-1 bundle of power, speed and deception, he is a key asset in Purdue's bid for the conference title.