The Southern Conference, like the Atlantic Coast, uses its regular-season results only as a basis for pairings in its own postseason tournament. The winner of this elimination represents the league in the NCAA playoffs, on the theory that it has proved itself in the tension of tournament play. Thus, WEST VIRGINIA won the championship last year for the sixth straight time. To do it, they beat Virginia Tech, whom they did not meet during the regular season. New Coach George King has starters Lee Patrone and Jim Ritchie, key reserves Nick Visnic, Paul Miller and Joe Posch, and many talented sophomores, including a good big man. He is 6-foot-8 Dave Shuck, who moves up from the undefeated (16-0) frosh, with the all-round star of that team, 6-foot-4 Rod Thorn. Guard Jim McCormick is another soph likely to start, and there is ample depth in reserves Ed Bode, Kenny Ward and Dick Dubois. VIRGINIA TECH is again the chief challenger. Chris Smith, at 6 feet 6, is the best center in the league; he averaged 22 points and 19 rebounds last year. Forward Bob Ayersman scored 18 per game, and Guard Bucky Keller had 15. Coach Chuck Noe has a fourth returning starter in Forward Dave Demarest, and two regular reserves, John Fleischman and Dean Blake. Two promising sophomores are Lee Melear and Ed Corcoran. Tech's main concern is to develop a floor leader to replace graduated Lew Mills. WILLIAM AND MARY had its best season in 10 years last winter. Energetic Coach Bill Chambers now has a genuine contender, led by 6-foot-7 Jeff Cohen, who averaged 24 points and 18 rebounds. Forward Bev Vaughan, 6 feet 5 and a 17-point scorer, and sophomore Kirk Gooding, 6 feet 6, join Cohen in an impressive front line. Guard Ken Roberts has no partner yet, but sophomores Dan Dickerson and Roger Berger may help. Lack of depth and 17 road games are the handicaps. GEORGE WASHINGTON has four starters back. Three of them are fairly tall—Forwards Ralph Kunze and Gar Schweickhardt are 6 feet 4, and Center Dick Markowitz is 6 feet 5—but the star, Jon Feldman, who averaged 21 points last year, is only 5 feet 9. His running mate at guard is sophomore Bill Norton. Reserves are plentiful: Mike Herron, Larry Usiskin, Dick Wickline, Dave Lockman and 6-foot-9 Bill Ingram, THE CITADEL has a new coach, Mel Thompson, a fine rebounder, Gary Daniels, and a fine ball handler, Dick Jones. But graduation took the scorers, and Thompson must look to reserves: Forwards Dan Howe, George Wehrmiester and Kip Ormerod, Centers Keith Stowers and Bob Elliott and Guards Jerry Buchanan and Dennis Rebber. A 6-foot-9 sophomore, Dick Meade, moves up. Inexperience is the drawback, VMI has a small, explosive, inconsistent bunch of juniors who are sure to annoy the established favorites—but only now and then. Norm Halberstadt, Joe Gedro and Gene Lazaroff are all double-figure point-makers, with Halberstadt the leader at 18.6. Getting the ball is again the problem, although 6-foot-6 soph John Yurachek should help. Sophomore Guard Bob Byrd completes a fast first five, FURMAN is rebuilding. Three sophomores move into Coach Lyles Alley's starting lineup to join veterans Tom Conard, who averaged 16 points at center, and Guard Bobby Pinson. Gerald Glur, Jerry Smith and Charles Jennings are the newcomers. All, however, lack size. RICHMOND'S chief asset is height, but Coach Les Hooker needs some shooters. Starters Tom Booker and Lee O'Bryan, and sophomores Danny Higgins, Mac Dirom and George Grodzicki provide good rebounding but not enough points. At DAVIDSON Coach Charlie Driesell hopes that 6-foot-7 Bill Jarman will provide scoring punch. Bill Shinn, Joe Markee, Al Millar, Jerry Bussell are likely starters.
Year after year, another school in this area, TENNESSEE A & I, produces outstanding teams. Coach Harold Hunter's crew won the Midwest Athletic Association title again, and nine veterans are back. George Finley, a 7-foot center, joins starters Porter Meriwether, Mel Davis, Rossie Johnson and Bob Clark.
HOPEFUL CHALLENGER for West Virginia's title is a seasoned Virginia Tech crew coached by dapper, peppery Chuck Noe (left). Tech has speed, shooting and savvy.