This Conference has not seen a close championship race in recent years, as first San Francisco and then St. Mary's have run away with the title. But all signs point to a whale of a battle this time around, with, refreshingly, a perennial loser as the likely favorite. That would be PEPPERDINE, where a veteran crew is back, led by jumping jacks Sterling Forbes and Bob Sims and outside hot-shooter Bobby Blue—the three top scorers last season. They will be joined as starters by two tall transfer students, Rex Hughes from Baylor and Rich Bucklew from Seton Hall. The first five has excellent size, shooting and speed and is backed up by a strong bench that includes Jerry Fuller, Dave Hancock, Bob Hultz, Tim Tift, Gary Dixon and Cleo Harris. In an area where ball control prevails, Pepperdine plans to fast-break a lot. Defense is the significant weakness. SANTA CLARA is also loaded with tall veterans, including four of last year's starters: Frank Sobrero, Jim Russi, George Gardiner and Joe Sheaff. Sobrero is well on the way to breaking the school scoring record set by Kenny Sears. His 17-point average isn't much by the run-and-shoot standards that exist elsewhere, but, again, this is deliberate-offense, take-only-the-good-shot country. Coach Bob Feerick has a great deal of reserve strength to draw on, including veterans Jerry Bachich (a former regular), John Marshall, Dennis McGrath, Dave Ramm and Dave Lillevand, and there are two sophomores, Ron McGee and Barry Cristina, good enough to play often. The Broncs have an 18,000-mile itinerary that takes them from Honolulu to New York this season. Defending champion ST. MARYS must count heavily on the powerful veteran Tom Meschery who, fortunately, is the solid type that scores 15 points and grabs 15 rebounds every game. All other starters are gone. Two sophomores, Bill Leedom and Phil Hart, are likely regulars and the rest will be drawn from among reserves Al Claiborne, Larry Brennan, Gene Womack, Jack Dold and Wes Tamm. Over-all depth is greater than last year, and there is fair speed and good board strength; inexperience is the big drawback, COLLEGE OF THE PACIFIC fans anxiously await the test of regular-season games to see how Leroy Wright's knee holds up after last summer's operation. Wright, the nation's leading rebounder last season, is unquestionably the team's bellwether. His supporting cast is deep at every position and is probably the tallest over-all in the league. A high-scoring sophomore, Ken Stanley, and two promising transfer students, Sanford Bleier and Lew Leonard, are likely starters who should improve the poor shooting percentage that hampered COP last year. Reserves include Gary Brinck, Bob Downum, John Nicholls and Neill Stafford. The other regulars are 6-foot-8 Brent Leonard, Bryant Larkin, Gary Kaufman and Dick Walsh, SAN FRANCISCO'S hopes of a quick comeback after last year's misfortunes were hit hard by the news of Fred La Cour's suspension for class-cutting. He was easily the best of a slim group of veterans, and his absence obliges Coach Phil Woolpert to lean even more heavily on the nine sophomores he will keep on the squad. They are the best group of newcomers in years, but it will take time for Woolpert to work his magic with them. The old hands include Ron Cox, Charles Range, George Jercich, Bob Norton and Dan Drinon. Two tall transfers are Fred Bruener and Steve Smith, and the leading sophs are Bob Gaillard, Bill Gallagher and Bob Ralls. Outside shooting is USF's chief weapon. Both LOYOLA and SAN JOSE STATE are considerably improved, but not to the level of the top five teams. Tom Ryan and Jim Senske are returning starters at Loyola, where three outstanding sophomores, Ed Bento, Omer Simeon and Jerry Grote, from the best freshman team in the conference last year add height and scoring ability. Reserves Jim Weidercher, Jack Rieg and Ed Mitchell, plus sophs Tony Grullman and Bernard Bowler, will help. Loyola should be strong on the boards and will shoot well. San Jose's veterans include Bob Chapman, Jim Whelihan and Joe McGrath. Five sophomores, led by Marc Dennis and Vic Corl, are possible starters. Others are Art Dalby, Gary Ryan and Vance Barnes. Jim Embree, Buzz Ulrey and Al Andreas also return from the 1959 varsity. This squad has speed, which last year's didn't, and vastly more scoring potential. Again, however, taking the green hands into battle against the Mescherys and Wrights is what turns coaches gray.
HONING A WEAPON that helped win West Coast Conference title last year, St. Mary's versatile Tom Meschery practices his hook shot. Gaels will have trouble this season.