Possibly the biggest upset in college basketball last year took place in this league when IDAHO STATE actually lost a conference game. That hadn't happened in all of three previous seasons, because nobody in the Rocky Mountain Conference plays ball the way they do at State. With seven consecutive championships behind them, the Bengals are again a cinch for the title; if any school hoped to catch Idaho State this year, it would have had to start building many seasons ago. Nobody did. In addition to that game, State lost its fine coach, John Grayson, at the end of the season. Grayson is now at the University of Washington, facing a much tougher schedule, but the talent he left for his successor, Johnny Evans, and the winning tradition he built at Idaho, is immune to the present challenge. Evans has nine lettermen returning, at least two top-grade rookies and an outstanding marksman in transfer student Myrl Goodwin. Starting veterans are Center Homer Watkins, best shooter and rebounder on the team, Guard Alan Morris and Forward Raymond Griffith. They may be joined occasionally on a first five by sophomores Bob Blum and Frank Swopes, but there are many veteran reserves (and Goodwin) who will start often. They include Ron McNeley, Don O'Rourke, Don Kugler, Joe Germaine, Jim Link, Tom Mingus and Dennis Moulton. Everything a coach could want is here: good size, speed, shooting and strong rebounding. At COLORADO STATE the team that upset Idaho last year returns intact, exuding optimism. Coach John Bunn has arranged a tough early schedule, including Kentucky and Loyola of Chicago, in a deliberate attempt to further stimulate his veterans. They will also be goaded on by the presence of several fine sophomores on the bench, eager to take their places. What this all will likely add up to, sadly, is second place, behind Idaho State. The all-veteran first five includes Theo Holland and Frank Carbajal in the backcourt, and Jim Hruska, Leon Johnson and Dick Daugherty up front. Experienced reserves are Bob Pratt, Al Sherman, Jerry Salmans, Jim Blewett and Bob Preisendorf. The best of the newcomers are Larry Balman, Bob Ruffin, Charles Hastings and Roy Betz. The floor balance is good, the over-all shooting better than average, but a major problem is board control. Hruska is the only strong rebounder; Holland, only 6 feet tall, is second-best on the boards, hardly a good sign. Actually, Colorado State faces strong challenges for the runner-up spot from COLORADO COLLEGE, which has most of its regulars and key reserves back, including star performer Art Ackerman, and from ADAMS STATE, which has four returning regulars in Guards Doug Anderson and Phil Swille, standout Center John Friem and Forward Lee Vickers. At Adams much-needed height is supplied by 6-foot-8 sophomore Jim Moore and transfers Jack Horn, 6 feet 6, and Jim Davenport, 6 feet 5. Two other newcomers who may start are backcourtmen John Blatnick and Garland Osborne. There is speed enough to take advantage of the board control the new tall men can supply. COLORADO WESTERN'S Coach Willard Pederson survived a desperate personnel situation last season when he had a bare handful of players available. Now he has four of his regulars back, plus eight outstanding junior college transfers from whom to choose. The veteran starters are Gale Fillmore, an excellent floor-man but a weak shooter, Gary Peyton, Wally Rinehart and Richard Buck. The transfers, all between 6 feet 2 and 6 feet 6, are Jim Homey, Al Tevis, Jim Bevers, Ken Barone, Lynn Faubian, Bill Welkner, Jay Ramthum and Bill Baugham. In early practice sessions the newcomers have shown good speed and shooting ability, especially Barone, Bevers and Baugham, but all have to learn Pe-derson's give-and-go style before becoming starters. COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES has hopes of getting out of the cellar it has occupied so long, based on the presence of four returning regulars on a rather thin squad. The veterans are Center Bill Anderson, Guards Frank Patete and Bill Houston and Forward Dick Egen. The fifth starter will be either Gordon Van Sickle or George Clausen, which gives Coach Jim Darden fair average size if no really big man. Sophomore reserves are Brent Beer, Chuck Strain and Bill Flesner. This should be one of Colorado Mines' better teams, but it is obviously not in the same class with Idaho State, and, like some other schools here, probably should not be in the same conference.
BASKET-BOUND Don Kugler drives outside as Idaho State sharpens the attack likely to bring it another conference title. New Coach Johnny Evans supervises at right.