Bowing to the inevitable, the conference has finally joined the overwhelming majority of the other leagues by banning freshmen from varsity competition. This will help Rocky Mountain champions in future NCAA tournaments, since in the past many senior players (often the best, of course) have been barred from the tournaments by the regulation limiting participants to three varsity seasons. Of course, the term "Rocky Mountain champion" is really just another way of saying IDAHO STATE COLLEGE, since Idaho has won the title six years in a row. For two years now the Bengals have been undefeated in conference play, and they start this season with 26 straight conference victories behind them. It might appear that a coach who lost his three top scorers would have some difficulty in putting together a winning combination, but Idaho's John Grayson, who did lose his three best, has no such problems. Grayson will build his attack around veterans Jim Rodgers, one of the area's cleverest playmakers, and Roy Christian. Homer Watkins, a junior-college transfer, brings needed board strength (he averaged 15 rebounds a game last year), and all of last year's reserves return to plug the other gaps. They include Jerry Griffin, Don Kugler, Ed Kuska and Alan Morris. Idaho will be tall and deep in talent. They should win again, though the rest of the conference, taking heart from Idaho's surprising fall from football power this autumn will be hoping for a similar upset. If there is one, COLORADO STATE is the most likely team to accomplish it. Coach John Bunn welcomes two full platoons of returnees: last year's starting five and last year's freshman team, which may be good enough to be used as a unit. The veterans are Jim Hruska, Bob Pratt, Bob Preisendorf, Al Sherman and Bob Schneider. The new sophomores are Jim Blewett, Theo Holland, Leon Johnson, Gordon Ledford and George Sneddon. In addition, star center Dick Daugherty returns to his studies at State after a three-year absence and junior-college transfer Gene Neelly and Frank Carbajal are making strong bids for positions. This squad appears to have everything but a single standout big man, though the average height is good enough. At COLORADO COLLEGE Coach Red Eastlack exudes optimism as he watches his charges in daily drills at Cossitt Gym. The feeling stems from the performances of three transfer students—Jack Summers, Art Ackerman and Jack Hoskins—who bring that priceless ingredient, height, to an otherwise well-balanced squad. In addition, high-scoring Leeroy Williams continues to hit from all angles, and Ron McCarty, Bobby McKendry, Jim Becker, Jim Koslowski and Mike Tilma have all looked sharp. Eastlack predicts a second-place finish this year "at least." The good news at COLORADO MINES is the return of first-string center Bill Anderson. His presence should enable Coach Jim Darden to switch starter Dick Egen to the front court, with a consequent slight gain in over-all size. Three other regulars are back, plus five reserves, which means the squad is long on experience if still somewhat deficient in height. The list includes slick guard George Brown and Ed Rapp, Ed Crabtree, Frank Patete, Rip Van Sickle, Ken Ibsen and Tom Carroll. Three sophomores have also shown enough ability to stick: Roscoe Sutton, Vince Tesone and Jerry Cronen. Darden hopes to make up in speed for the lack of an outstanding tall pivotman. Inexperience is the key handicap at ADAMS STATE. Though five veterans return, only two were first-stringers—Don Bucher and Jim Groves—and Coach Ron Crawford will be leaning heavily on a flock of junior-college transfer students to fill out his squad. The newcomers are Lee Vickers, Dick Drake, Roger Maley, Jim Holt, Elliott Bardwell and John Miller. Unfortunately, there is little height here, which leaves the 6-foot-8 Groves the only really big man available. Bill Brookfield, Douglas Anderson and Carl Hutchins are the other veterans. Adams will also use the fast break, most popular offense in the conference. (On defense, man-to-man is preferred, except at Colorado Mines which employs a 1-3-1 zone.) At COLORADO WESTERN brave Pete Pederson, once a football coach, takes over basketball and steps into the most desperate personnel situation in the league. He has just six men he can count on. Three are holdovers: starter Gary Peyton and reserves John Hertzke and Walter Reinhardt. The other three are junior-college transfer students: Gene Fillmore, Gene Ogden and Wick Skipper. The two Genes are good shooters and will likely join the veterans on the starting five. Skipper is the tallest man on the squad at 6 feet 7, but he needs a great deal of polishing. It will likely take all of Pederson's courage to see the season through.
Man to watch
LEEROY WILLIAMS, COLO. COLLEGE
A rugged 6 feet 2, he is the conference's top scorer, with a bull's-eye jump shot from corner or outside.