In This proud and powerful basketball conference there is such a marked trend toward top-to-bottom balance that several schools which are considerably stronger than they were last year are in danger of finishing lower in the standings. Such balance is not being achieved at the expense of quality. At KANSAS STATE, for example, Coach Tex Winter has lost All-America Forward Bob Boozer and his all-league partner, Don Matuszak, yet has good reason to believe that by midseason he will again have one of America's best teams. Winter's toughest problem, like that of most of his colleagues, will be to sort out a nucleus of the best players from a group of 15 or more excellent athletes. His task is pleasantly complicated by more than the usual number of capable sophomores. There are five newcomers with a chance to break into the starting lineup on a club that already has five former starters on the roster. The "triple post" offense, which shuttles three tall front-court men in and out of the pivot, will be paced by 6-foot-8 Wally Frank, only man in the conference chosen in the "top player" category by every coach. He is strong and durable, has a good eye, lacks only a measure of aggressiveness to rate as a truly great player. Not far behind Frank is 6-foot-6 Cedric Price, while the improved condition of 6-foot-4 Glen Long's injured knee may permit him to regain his starting spot. An even taller trio of sophomores is eager to run the pattern, too: 6-foot-8 Mike Wroblewski, 6-foot-6 Pat McKenzie and Larry Comley, who is only 6 feet 5. Starting Guards Steve Douglas and Sonny Ballard are back, too, as are reserves Bill Guthridge and Bob Graham. Ballard, a fine all-round athlete, has never fulfilled his promise in basketball; this is his senior year, his last chance. Two soph guards, Joe Giarrusso and Dick Ewy, also show unusual promise. In December, K-State plays North Carolina State, North Carolina and Indiana, all on the road within a four-day period—a grueling test that will tell whether or not this is really one of the best teams in the nation. KANSAS endured a seven-game losing streak last year but righted itself in time to fashion a fair record in title play. Although there is still no one on campus possessing Wilt the Stilt's proportions, sophomore Wayne Hightower, who at 6 feet 8½ will be the tallest forward in Jayhawker history, answers the need for someone to match opposing big men. Bill Bridges, a junior and the only returning member of the league's 1959 all-star team, can be even better if he improves his defensive work. In the forecourt there are also 6-foot-6 soph Larry Sterlin, as well as veteran Al Donaghue, the team's No. 3 scorer and rebounder, and Jim Hoffman. A very strong backcourt trio includes veterans Bob Hickman, a skillful defender, and playmaker Dee Ketch-um, while sophomore Jerry Gardner brings his 22.5 scoring average up from the freshman ranks. Reserve Guard Dick Gisel and sophs Bill Goetze and Allen Correll round out a squad that has lots of good shooters but is not quite up to the conference's sticky defensive standards. Coach Dick Harp also faces a rugged early-season schedule, but the Big Eight has always taken on the best outside teams available. OKLAHOMA stands a good chance of being the first team from outside the state of Kansas to go to the head of the class since 1955. The Sooners, who leaped from last place to second in two seasons, retain four starters and have added tremendous height to an already perpendicular roster. Starting Forwards Joe Thompson and Bill Hammond, both 6 feet 6, are back, along with reserve Centers Ken Burd, 6 feet 7, and Jack Marsh. Newcomers who may cause Coach Doyle Parrack to favor a double post, and with good reason, are 6-foot-8 centers Brian Etherdige and Connie McGuire, both potential starters, and 6-foot-7 Forward Darrell Hohmann. Del Heidebrecht and Buddy Russell, reserve forwards, and soph Jack Lee average 6 feet 5 among them. At the guards there is real quality. High-scoring Dennis Price is a likely all-star choice, and will again call signals with Ray Lewis. Buddy Hudson is a top reserve, and soph George Kernek has a chance to start opposite Price eventually. A major weakness here last year was poor rebounding; hopefully, the tall newcomers will improve that department. The Sooners provide a striking example of the big role sophomores will play in determining the conference champion. A total of 55 athletes are likely to make the jump from freshman to varsity squads at the eight schools, which means that 50% of all Big Eight personnel will be playing varsity ball for the first time. At COLORADO no less than 10 sophomores are in the running for positions not filled by the one regular and four reserves who are back. Mainstay of a team which must overcome its obvious inexperience is Guard Russ Lind, a fine all-round operator. After Lind, Coach Sox Walseth will draw a pool of tall reserves and new faces. Top candidates in the front line are sometime starters Frank Javernick, 6 feet 6, and Bill Lewis, 6 feet 4, but two sophs, Gene Zyzda and Roger Voss, and transfer student Dave Jackson—all 6 feet 8—are in strong contention. Three more newcomers are being considered for starting roles: 6-foot-5 Forward Wilky Gilmore and Guards Stan Williams and Gil Whissen. The Buffaloes' improved height will help compensate for inexperience, and added speed will lead to some flirting with the fast break in addition to Walseth's old reliable single-post attack. Rounding out a roster with good depth are returning reserves Glen Piper and Joe Beckner, and sophomores Wayne Millies, Don Butler, Don Gunsaules and Grayal Gilkey. If Colorado's sophomores don't learn their lessons quickly, there are several teams with plenty of veterans (for this league) who will be happy to teach them. MISSOURI, for example, has four veteran starters, who are understandably anxious to forget last season. Coach Wilbur Stalcup is still looking for the one good big man needed to anchor his single-post offense and work the boards, but even so can look forward to a decidedly better year on the basis of experience alone. And Stalcup might even have his big man if starter Charles Henke, a 6-foot-8 junior, can improve his 10.6 scoring average. Al Abram was the take-charge man last year, and he is back, as is 6-foot-6 Cliff Talley, who rounds out a starting forward trio in which Henke or Abram occupy the post. Starting Guard Joe Scott returns, along with backcourt reserves Don Sarver, Jim Lockett and Burt Jensen, and Forward J. C. Leimbach. Three sophomores, Ron Cox, Jack Gilbert and Walt Grebing, the latter two both 6 feet 5, rate consideration as starters. At NEBRASKA the brilliant Herschell Turner is again on hand, and so is his sidekick at forward, Al Maxey. Last year this pair scored half the team's points. The urgent need for height has been met by the addition of four sophs standing 6 feet 6 or better. They are Ray Solee, Bill Bowers, Al Buuck and Jan Wall, and the last two figure prominently in Coach Jerry Bush's plans. One may replace last season's starting center, Bob Harry, and the other may alternate at forward with Maxey. The veteran guards are Wayne Hester and Dick Shipwright, but two newcomers, Rex Sweet and Al Roots, will also appear regularly. A long list of reserves includes Jim Kowalke, Phil Barth, LeRoy Dick, Bernt Elle, Ivan Groupe and Al Olsen. For the first time in six years Bush has really adequate material to work with—he has speed, height and depth—and he is one of the best coaches in this or any league. Nebraska will run a varied offense, using a fast break (now that it has a chance to contest the boards) and a double or open post. And the defense will be tenacious as usual. OKLAHOMA STATE'S 11-14 record last year marked only the second time in 30 years of college coaching that Hank Iba suffered a losing season. It is a measure of the play in this conference (OSU just joined it last year) that Iba may suffer again this time around. He will very likely field the smallest team in the league, and it will also be weak on rebounding and short on experience. Last year OSU had scoring potential in close but no one could hit from outside; this time the situation is reversed. Hank's son Moe Iba, a 6-foot-1 guard who was unable to play last season because of a knee injury, is an outstanding shooter. He probably will start in the backcourt with veteran Don Heffington, a fine defensive man. Sophomore Cecil Epperley and Eddie Bunch will join Dick Soergel up front. Reserves include Dennis Walker, Lew Wade, Maurice Jackson, Jack Hollingsworth, Todd Ikard and the first Negro basketball player in the school's history, L. C. Gordon. As usual, Iba will stress ball control—a change-of-pace style for most opposing teams that often forces them into costly errors—and the sticky defense that is his trademark. Nevertheless, this is not a squad to match the versatile giants in the northern sector of the league. Things look somewhat better at IOWA STATE, where Glen Anderson moves into Bill Strannigan's coaching spot after four years of handling the freshmen. Anderson has one senior starter, four juniors who have seen considerable action and three sophomores who are potential first-stringers. He has the tallest man in the conference in 6-foot-l 1 Terry Roberts, and fair depth at every position. The front court will consist of Roberts and two others chosen from among veterans Henry Whitney and Ted Ecker and soph Vinnie Brewer, all with reasonable size and speed for forwards. Either Gary Wheeler or Dave Groth, both newcomers, are likely to start with Larry Fie at the guards, and reserves include Nick Bruno, Bob Stoy, Jay Murrell, Terry Owens, John Ptacek, Gary Grossklaus and Sam Barnard. Anderson expects better shooting than last year and greatly improved play generally at the forward spots. This year the Midwest regionals of the NCAA tournament have been moved from Lawrence to Manhattan, Kansas. The quarter-final game will take place there, and the odds are it will again match the champions of the Big Eight and Missouri Valley in one of the great contests of the year.
HOOKING CLEANLY, Kansas Forward Bill Bridges demonstrates his markmanship. He was all-conference as a sophomore.
COMING DOWN with the rebound is Kansas State's tall pivotman, Wally Frank, who will lead another strong Wildcat crew to national ranking.