The resurgent interest in basketball in New England, caused by the great success of the professional Boston Celtics, has begun to produce a better brand of play and tighter competition among both Ivy and Yankee schools. In this league, for example, there are signs that the era of easy supremacy for Connecticut (10 titles in 11 years) may be coming to an end. And this is good news not just for fans who follow the conference race and would enjoy a good fight but for Coach Hugh Greer and his UConns as well. Surely the lack of consistent, first-rate competition during the regular season is one of the prime reasons for Connecticut's dismal record in NCAA championship play. It is a situation similar to West Virginia's in the Southern Conference. The UConns will surely win the title again this season, but not by a 9-1 record as they did last year. VERMONT should challenge all the way, with a fast, veteran crew whose only apparent flaw is lack of height and consequent weakness in rebounding. Bob Kuchar, Clyde Lord, Charlie Isles, Frank Giordano and Bob Gallagher are all back, along with two veteran reserves and some good sophomore prospects led by Center Harry Zingg. Kuchar was the Yankee's top scorer last season, and he and Lord will be playing together in the backcourt for the third straight year. With one first-rate big man, Vermont would have an even chance of upsetting Connecticut. Two other schools—Massachusetts and New Hampshire—can boast better-than-average strength this year. MASSACHUSETTS can field the tallest team in the conference: 6-foot-8 Steve Allen, 6-foot-7 Red Porter, 6-foot-5 Doug Grutchfield, 6-foot-4 Connie McDonough and 6-foot-1 Buddy Adamczyk. Allen, Grutchfield and McDonough are sophomores, however, and only Grutchfield is a likely starter at this stage. Guard Ed Larkin and Forward Bob Eichorn, both veterans, are the other first-stringers. For the first time in years, obviously, Coach Bob Curran does not lack power under the boards; the problem now is scoring ability, since only one Redman averaged better than 10 points a game last season, and he won't be back. At NEW HAMPSHIRE, Coach Bill Olson has a well-balanced, experienced group of starters but no reserve strength. The veterans are Terry Parmenter, Pete Smilikis, Pete Davis and Doug Macey; the fifth man will have to come from a few holdover substitutes, because the sophomore crop offers little promise. This is another strong-rebounding, poor-scoring team, unable to match Connecticut's high point production, which is always the UConns' chief tactical weapon, RHODE ISLAND'S Rams are not yet ready to fill their former role as conference leader, but they are on the way back from being the patsies. (Last season they actually beat Connecticut 85-81.) In his second year on the job, Coach Ernie Calverley has a nucleus of veterans, which he didn't have a year ago. They are starters Don Brown, Tom Harrington and Bill Holland and reserves Dudley Davenport, Paul Caswell and Alan Hirsch. Calverley's five-man weave style demands expert ball handlers to be effective, and while this Ram crew is not in that class yet, they should show the benefit of a year's experience and improve their record. Three starters also return at MAINE: Maurice Dore, Dick Sturgeon and Dick Collins. Sophomores Don Sturgeon and Wayne Champeon appear the likely fourth and fifth starters. Reserves include Bob Hume, Ron Boynton and Terry Spurling. There is fair average size here and good speed, but no one over 6 feet 3 to handle the rival big men. New Coach Brian McCall hopes to continue the five-game winning streak with which Maine finished last season, but it does not appear to be a reasonable prospect, and Maine is the likeliest last-place club at this stage. Which leaves the champs for final consideration. The UCONNS are loaded again, with a raft of veterans plus five newcomers good enough to make the squad. As a sophomore last season, 5-foot-11 guard Jack Rose displayed the poise and polish of a candidate for the pro ranks. He was the team playmaker, its best ball handler and yet managed to be top scorer as well—an impressive combination. Other starters will be Al Cooper (when he recovers from a hand injury) and John Pipczynski for certain, and two others from among Ed Martin, Wayne Davis, Glenn Cross and John Risley. Such an all-veteran lineup would average close to 6 feet 4 but might lack the speed necessary for Coach Greer's fast break, so sophomores Bob Countryman and Pete Kelly may be occasional starters. The UConns were seventh in the nation in team offense, last year, with an average of 81.1 points per game. This year's crew is easily as potent. Offenses in this league run the range from the UConn fast break to Massachusetts' patterned, high-and-low-post style.
Man to watch
CONNECTICUT'S JACK ROSE
Easily the best playmaker and ball handler in the conference, Rose has all of the finesse of a professional.