Basketball continues its spectacular rise in popularity in this football-mad area, and the upcoming conference race—very close by all indications—should justify the interest. SMU'S shrewd Coach Doc Hayes would have had the clear favorite but for the tragic death of Bobby James, the team's leading scorer and re-bounder. Getting the ball off the boards will again be Doc's big headache, but otherwise SMU is sound. Five veterans include the slick ball handler Max Williams, tall Steve Strange and Wilbur Marsh, Kim Nash and Carter Creech. Sophomore Jan Loudermilk may crash the first five, and other good prospects are Jim Hammond, Jon Larson and Bruce Mills, who head a strong bench. Even noncommittal Coach Glen Rose can hardly deny he has a top contender at ARKANSAS. Three of the best sophomores in the Southwest last year are back: Ronnie Garner, Pat Foster and Clyde Rhoden. Another fine veteran is Tommy Rankin, who boasts an unusual weapon these days—a good two-hand set shot. Deep in veterans, Rose also can count a number of talented newcomers, especially Alan Morrison and Jerry Carlton, who may start. This squad has size and can shoot, lacks only real speed. At TEXAS A&M, Coach Bob Rogers' two-year building program pays off this season with the best-balanced personnel in the league. Wayne Lawrence, 6 feet 8, leads the veterans, who include Kelly Chapman, Wilmer Cox and Elliott Craig. Carroll Broussard, 19-point man with the frosh last year, may also start, and John Keller and Tommy Smith will see much action. Finally, there are the Stanley twins, Pat and Don, from Kilgore Junior College's championship team, whom Rogers is also considering for regular spots, TCU has no place to go but down and may skid a long way, having lost its whole first team. In addition, there is very little height and only fair shooting. The guard play should be above average, led by Bobby Tyler, a sure-handed dribbler and feeder. Sophomores Bobby Bernard and Phil Reynolds bring an element of speed; Bernard is a former state hurdles champ. Other starters will come from among Jerry Cobb, Tom Meacham, Tom Turner, Jerry Pope, Don Williams and Billy Simmons. At TEXAS TECH the league's best attendance testifies to that portion of the state's basketball fever. But there may be little to cheer about this year except for the all-round brilliance of Gene Arrington, a fine defender, shooter and rebounder. Nine of last year's varsity players are gone. Coach Polk Robison will surround Arrington with Jim Wiley, speedy Del Ray Mounts and two more from among Dale McKeehan, Steve Lee, Mac Per-cival, Carlyle Smith, Don Perkins and Roger Hennig. TEXAS should leapfrog many a school on its way up into contention. New coach Hal Bradley (from Duke) has 10 lettermen, good size, speed and shooting. Jay Arnette, Brenton Hughes, Albert Al-manza and Wayne Clark are starters who average close to 6 feet 7. Sophomore Bill Brown has a fine outside shot and may make the first five, and there is a wealth of size and experience in Jerry Graham, Jerry Don Smith, Bill Mimms, Arved White, Don Wilson, James Gandy and Bill Davenport. Bradley considers his big problem coaxing this squad out of a losing complex, a hangover from last year's dismal showing. The only impressive item at RICE is the 259-121 record that new Coach John Frankie brings with him from Wharton Junior College. He inherits only one man, Dave Craig, with any real experience, and one good sophomore, Mike Maroney. Four transfer students, Roland Burris, George Gordon, Roger McQueary and Ernie Mills, are hopeful starters. If Frankie beats last year's record with this squad, he rates one of those air-conditioned cars Texas coaches regularly receive for lesser achievements. Despite a so-so season last year, BAYLOR had to move games from its campus gym to the coliseum in Waco that seats 7,600. Four regulars are back to sustain interest, but the one loss was critical—Gene McCarley was the floor leader who kept the Bears moving. Carroll Dawson and Bob Turner are above-average shooters and Jerry Walsh is an adequate playmaker. Transfer student John West, 6 feet 7, may be the man Coach Bill Henderson has been looking for to make up the lack of scoring from the post that has handicapped this team. Defense was Baylor's strength last year, one of the statistical benefits of its ball-control style, and it probably will be again.
UNDER AND UP goes little, elusive Max Williams, SMU's backcourt speedster, whose deceptive drives, ball handling and feeds often draw opponents into errors.