THE CHOICE...OHIO STATE
Ohio State will be the first Big Ten team to win three consecutive titles since Wisconsin did it in 1914. Once some of the newcomers adjust to the style of the "big three" veterans—Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Mel Nowell—this edition of the Buckeyes may be stronger than the national champions of two years ago. The big three scored 55 points a game last year, making a remarkable 56% of their shots in Big Ten play, and Coach Fred Taylor has four first-class reserves and seven good sophomores to choose from in filling out a starting five. This is the best depth Taylor has ever had. Bob Knight will move up as a regular starter with Havlicek at forward, while a three-way struggle for the other guard spot continues among junior Dick Reasbeck, senior Gary Gearhart and a bony, 6-foot-4 sophomore, Leroy Frazier. The team's only weakness is lack of height at forward, which Taylor may solve by installing 6-foot-8 sophomore Gary Bradds at center and moving Lucas to a corner. Its strength lies in Nowell's speed and shooting, Havlicek's rebounding, his superb "second effort" on offense and ability to contain a rival's most dangerous player, and just about everything Lucas does, in his calm, confidence-inspiring manner. Whether he plays forward or center, the 6-foot-8 Lucas seems headed for his greatest season. The knee trouble that had bothered him through 20 uninterrupted months of basketball (including the Olympics and a tour of Russia) has been alleviated by a full summer's rest.
Purdue gets back four starters from a second-place team that took a 30-point thrashing in its only meeting with Ohio State. This year's schedule gives the Boilermakers two chances for revenge. Coach Ray Eddy's set offense will again do everything to utilize the hustle and brilliance of 6-foot-7 All-America Terry Dischinger, who won his second Big Ten scoring championship last season by averaging 28.9 points per game. Senior Forwards Jerry Berkshire, 6 feet 5, and Darrell McQuitty, 6 feet 6, complete the front line, but they do not contribute as much rebounding strength as they should. Senior Tim McGinley supplies experience and double-figure scoring ability at guard. Teamed with him is sophomore Mel Garland, rounding out a squad with improved depth and scoring potential, but not enough height.
Iowa, seemingly destroyed by the midyear scholastic failure of four starters, became the surprise team of the second half of last season, holding Ohio State to a 62-61 victory and tying for second place. Four starters are back from that persistent but undersized group, which received another setback when 6-foot-7 freshman star Connie Hawkins left school last May. The only veteran with real height is 6-foot-6 Don Nelson, the tow-headed senior center who averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds a game while holding the team together with his smooth passing and relentless driving. The backcourt will have experience and depth once Matt Szykowny regains his basketball legs after spending the fall as quarterback of the football team. Szykowny will alternate with Guards Joe Novak and Joe Reddington. Coach Sharm Scheuerman may get some of the height he needs from among four sophomores: Dave Roach, 6 feet 6, who may start in one corner, and Gerry Messick, Doug Mehlhaus and Bill Shea, who bring an average of 6 feet 8 to the other. If the forwards learn fast, Iowa will have a formidable frontline threat to go with its sticky man-to-man defense.
Muscular MINNESOTA shows enough improvement to move up slightly, maybe even far enough to threaten the leaders. Coach Johnny Kundla's predominantly junior lineup has good height, depth and firepower up front, especially with the return of 6-foot-5 Ray Cronk, who was ineligible last year after an outstanding sophomore record in 1960. But another scholastic casualty—Captain-elect Cal Sabatini—will force Kundla to experiment at guard, where sophomore Don Linehan has the best chance to start. The forecourt talent includes Tom McGrann, a 6-foot-7 center with a 14.2 average, Cronk, returning starter Norm Grow and two tall sophomores, Robert Jensen and Bill Davis.
Illinois brings back four starters, led by one of the best forwards in the conference, 6-foot-4 junior Dave Downey. Downey's regular contribution of 17 points and 11 rebounds will be more important than ever this year because Coach Harry Combes has no experienced help for him at the other forward. Bill Burwell, 6 feet 8, averaged 12 points a game as a sophomore center and should do better this season. Two 6-foot-2 guards, Jerry Colangelo and Bill Small, were a fairly effective backcourt scoring combination last year (13.6 and 8.5, respectively), but Combes will have to move one of them into the vacancy at forward, leaving senior Guard Doug Mills as the likely fifth starter. The Illini get very little help from their sophomores.
Indiana has lost All-America Walt Bellamy and two other starters, but the squad still has good size and speed. Coach Branch McCracken's problems are the lack of experience at center and a shallow bench. Gordon Mickey, 6 feet 7, who played last year as a substitute forward, probably will start at center, backed by two tall untested juniors, 6-foot-9 Winston Fairfield and 6-foot-7 Dave Granger. Charlie Hall, 6 feet 6, is back at forward, along with Tom Bolyard, a good (15.5) scorer and rebounder. The backcourt speed boys are Jerry Bass and Jim Rayl. Here, too, sophomores have little to offer during this season.
At MICHIGAN STATE, however, a number of promising newcomers move up, only one regular has departed and Coach Forddy Anderson may have the most improved squad in the league. Since there are only two seniors in the group, the Spartans are likely to be genuine contenders next season. As usual for most of his seven seasons at East Lansing, Anderson hurts for size. Only at center, where 6-foot-9 sophomore Fred Thomann competes with 6-foot-7 Ted Williams, is State a match for the rest of the conference. Another soph, Pete Gent, probably will start up front, opposite 16-point regular Dick Hall. The experienced backcourt men are 15-point-scorer Art Schwarm and Jack Lamers. Anderson should get close to the exceptional teamwork his perpetual-motion offensive style requires.
Wisconsin's aggressiveness began to pay dividends during last year's second semester, when Forward Ron Jackson moved up from the freshman team and Reserve Center Pat Richter recovered from football injuries. Jackson, who twice scored 26 points against Indiana, joins 13-point Forward Tom Hughbanks and Starting Center Tom Gwyn in an experienced but undersize front line. Junior Forward Ken Siebel, the first sophomore in 15 years to be chosen as the team's most valuable player, will probably shift to guard to steady several promising but inexperienced candidates.
Northwestern's fast, veteran team gets badly needed rebounding strength with the return of 6-foot-7 senior Chuck Brandt, who was on probation last year. Guard Ralph Wells's shooting (14-point average) and defensive abilities make him one of the best backcourt men in the conference. He and teammate, Bill Cacciatore(12.7), get scoring help from two outstanding sophomores, Rick Lopossa and Rich Falk. Lopossa displaces starter Ken Lutgens at forward and Falk backs Cacciatore at guard. Coach Bill Rohr still needs more points from Centers Dave Bone, 6 feet 5, and Bill Woislaw, 6 feet 9, both of whom averaged less than five last season.
Michigan depends on sophomores and transfers to make up for the loss of John Tidwell, the school's alltime scoring leader. The Wolverines have one tall pivotman, 6-foot-7 Tom Cole, who contributed 12 points and nine rebounds per game as a sophomore. Scott Maentz and transfer John Oosterbaan provide speed but no height in the corners. Coach Dave Strack, urgently in need of more firepower, plans to work sophomores Bob Cantrell, Doug Herner and Hiram Jackson into the lineup with Starting Guard Jon Hall.
LIGHT-HAIRED LOOK-ALIKES who brought Iowa surprising success last season are 27-year-old Coach Sharm Scheuerman (left) and the Hawkeye center, slick and rugged Don Nelson.