Ev Shelton, 21 years a basketball coach and seldom reluctant to predict success, thinks his WYOMING team this year will do better than the one that captured the title last year. The majority of the conference's coaches disagree with him, but Shelton has some strong arguments on his side. He has a 14-man squad of excellent size, speed and scoring ability, led by the area's best back-courtman, Tony Windis. The likely starters with Windis are veterans John Bertolero and Don Hatten and sophomores Clarence Lively and Terry Happel. Top reserves include Ken Chase, a fine hook shooter, Terryl Draney, LeRoy Hulsebus, Ed Morris and Harold Whitefoot. Because this crew runs well, Shelton plans to fast-break a lot, something he has seldom done in the past. Despite Ev's optimism, the choice of a winner here is UTAH, coached by that shrewd, expert recruiter, Jack Gardner, who has assembled a squad from Indiana, California, Colorado, New York, Idaho and even a few from Utah. They are a tall, strong bunch, led by poised ball handler DeLyle Condie, who would be an outstanding shooter if he could achieve consistency. The veterans include Keith Ancell, Gary Chestang, Benny Cutler, tall Pearl Pollard, Dick Shores, Jim Thomas and pivotman Carney Crisler, on whose development much depends. Two sophomores, Dick Ruffell and Joe Morton, will see a lot of action, too. At BRIGHAM YOUNG, kindly, soft-spoken Stan Watts has a nucleus of three veterans in high-scoring John Nicoll, Roy Thacker and Russell Peterson, and experienced reserves in Gary Miles, Don Helm, Mac Madsen and Valoy Eaton. Some transfer students show promise, and three sophomores have starting potential: Robert Skousen, Dave Eastis and Gary Earnest. Watts has only fair average size at his command but some good shooting and much better speed than last year. After these three there is a falling off in conference strength, with DENVER, led by two fine shooters, Jim Peay and Jerry Cole, probably the best of the rest. George DeRoos is the third veteran regular, and there is a strong bench that includes Steve Lee, Clare Skov, Steve LeSatz, Doug Campbell, Herb Galchinsky and Stan Ferrare. In addition, two sophomores, Dave Jones and tall Bob Grinstead, will play fairly regularly. This crew should move Denver up in the standings. Two of Coach Jim Williams' three double-figure scorers, Larry Hoffner and Charles Newcomb, return at COLORADO STATE, along with the smooth Sonny Blanton in the backcourt. CSU's problem was rebounding last year; they scored readily enough but were unable to control the boards when it counted. The height situation isn't much better this year, though sophomore Oliver Watts and transfer student Smith Mac Ellis offer some hope. Other regulars will come from among reserves John Gillen, John Donnelly, Gary Tway and Dave Wilson, and sophomores Kay McFarland and Jim Turner. MONTANA'S hopes of holding on to fifth place rest on improved punch provided by sophomore Duane Ruegsegger, who will share the center post with veteran Marv Suttles, and continued high-point production by Dan Balko and Darroll Dunham. The bench will be composed largely of sophomores, untested and lacking in size. They are Terry Screnar, Mike Allen, Kay Roberts, Paul Miller and Gale Henriksen. Veterans who round out the first string are Dave Shelby, Tom McEacheron and Vince Ignatowitz. Coach Frosty Cox's teams are generally strong defensively, and that may be the biggest asset this year. A pair of Indiana boys, Jerry Schofield and Max Perry, are expected to make a big difference at UTAH STATE, Schofield adding the board strength so sadly lacking last year, and Perry the outside shot that was also missing. They join veteran starters Bob Ipsen, Harold Theus and Ralph Cullimore on the first five, which will be fast, enough but very likely the smallest in this and many another area. The top reserves, all sophomores, provide a bit more size, but no significant scoring ability. They are Dave Langrock, Richard Lind, Ron Mich'l and Daryl Garn. NEW MEXICO, which has no place to go but up, hopes to make a start, at least, in that direction on the strength of an upcoming sophomore squad that had a 10-1 record as freshmen last season. That squad's coach, Bob Sweeney, has taken over the varsity job this season, and he plans to use many of his sophomores as regulars. The most likely candidates are Dean Dorsey, Vic Kline, Fred Sims, Don Kinney and Don Williams. Veteran starters are Dale Caton, Bob Martin and Dick Petersen, and reserves include Larry Neely, Eddie Miller and Sulo Mattson. The rebounding, very weak last year, and the shooting should improve, with the greater height and accuracy provided by the newcomers.
Man to watch
TONY WINDIS, WYOMING
A strong, speedy 6 feet 1, he is the area's top scorer, with more than 1,000 points in two seasons of play.