Although Coach Fred Schaus is undoubtedly sincere when he says there are three teams beside his own WEST VIRGINIA who "could easily win the championship," it is most unlikely that anything will keep the Mountaineers from their sixth straight title. Granted, someone may snap their 50-game conference winning streak, but even that is a big order. All-America Jerry West simply dominates the league with his all-round brilliance. His timing on rebounds is superb, he shoots very well and he passes with accuracy and deception. Helping West will be veteran Willie Akers, rookies Paul Miller and Paul Popovich and returning reserves Paul Goode, Joe Posch, Jim Ritchie, Lee Patrone and Nick Visnic. The team should go at least as far as the NCAA quarter-finals next March. Coach Chuck Noe puts himself on the spot at VIRGINIA TECH by insisting that his best-ever squad has no more excuses for losing. Great team speed will enable Tech to employ a three-quarter or half-court press much of the time, an effective luxury to add to its fine shooting and depth. Rugged Chris Smith returns at center, and high-scoring Bob Ayersman (26.5 average) has improved his floor play. They team with Dean Blake to give the front line an output of 52 points per game. Starting Guard Lew Mills returns with reserves Duke Rice and Bill Shepherd, plus three outstanding sophomores, Dave Demarest, John Fleischman and Bucky Keller, THE CITADEL has high hopes, based on the return of four starters, including speedy Forwards Art Musselman and Ray Graves and polished Guards Dick Jones, a fine scorer, and Dick Wherry. Center is Coach Norm Sloan's main worry—either Bob Elliott or rookie Keith Stowers, both 6 feet 6, must do the job. Experienced reserves are George Wehrmeister, Jerry Buchanan and Jerry Records. No other teams appear to be in the same class with the top three, although WILLIAM and MARY will be no pushover, since four starters, led by 6-foot-7 Jeff Cohen, return. Guard Tom Farrington is a double-figure scorer, and front-liners Chuck Sanders and Bev Vaughan are 6 feet 10 and 6 feet 5, respectively. This big, strong quartet is complemented by Dave Bottoms, Jim Osbon, Dave Fiscella and five sophomores, none of whom, thus far, is pressing the veterans. RICHMOND will have all it can do to match last year's record. Coach Les Hooker Jr. has a veteran starting lineup but practically no bench. Tom Booker, Art Lambiotte, Carl Slone and Alan Cole return, backed by Lee O'Bryan, Gerald Sklar and sophs Ron Floyd and Mike Morchower. The team has some accurate shooters but is hobbled by lack of speed and inadequate rebounding. GEORGE WASHINGTON will look to sophomores for improvement of 1959's good 14-11 mark. Senior Forward Howie Bash is joined by four rookies: Gar Schweickhardt, Kevin Murphy and the Feldman twins, Jon and Jeff. Dick Markowitz, a junior transfer, is being counted on for much help on a team that hopes to jell by midyear. Des Gatti, Bill Ingram, Ralph Kunze, Jim Walters, Joe Paluck and Larry Usiskin furnish good depth. At FURMAN heavy back-court losses may hurt. Senior Forwards Byron Pinson, Tom Conard and Dag Wilson and Guard Pete Carlisle must carry the burden. At VMI Coach Weenie Miller may start sophomores Norm Halberstadt, Gene Lazaroff and Joe Gedro with veterans Frank Oley and Roy Quinn. He needs more height and depth than is provided by lettermen Jim French and Jerry Lawson, or rookies Weldon Ed-dins and Dick Fravel. At DAVIDSON, too, all hopes rest with the sophomores. Jerry Russell, D. G. Martin and Ron Anderson move up to join veterans Bill Shinn, Ed Stewart and John Huie. Reserves Jim Nuckolls, Bill Cannon, Height Redmond and Joe Markee should help counter the team's inexperience.
Basketball history continues to be written at TENNESSEE A&I STATE, which won its third consecutive NAIA title last year with a 32-1 record, a 98.8 scoring output and a shooting average well above .500. Gone are Coach John McLendon and three starters, but Harold Hunter, McLendon's former assistant, has taken over the coaching duties, and two full teams of talented athletes should sustain the school's proud tradition. Porter Merriweather, Eugene Werts and Ben Warley lead veterans George Finley, Hillary Brown, Rossie Johnson, Mel Davis and Bob Clark, and rookie Ron Heflin.
FLAILING BLOCKADE of arms can't stop All-America Jerry West as he slips through for layup, one of many scoring methods he uses to lead West Virginia to high ranking.