We know our weaknesses from last season," says Cincinnati Coach Ed Jucker, "and we intend to correct them." Weaknesses? Jucker's team lost exactly two games. It won a championship in the toughest basketball conference in the country. It quite thoroughly trounced Ohio State to win its second straight NCAA title. Back from that championship team are four starters plus four other lettermen, and, as if that weren't enough, four good sophomores join the varsity this season. Weaknesses?
One might think the graduation of huge Center Paul Hogue hurts. ("He was a big hunk of regular," Jucker says wistfully.) It would, except that 6-foot-8 George Wilson, moving over from his regular forward position to center, may be even better. The smooth junior has exceptional speed (Hogue didn't) and can score points from outside (Hogue couldn't). A vicious rebounder, particularly on offense, he has the excellent timing that is even more valuable than muscles in backboard play. A 6-foot-8 sophomore, Jerry Krick, was being groomed for the post position, but a shoulder injury is going to sideline him for the whole season. Dale Heidotting, also 6 feet 8, who has had two years of spot assignments, moves in to fill Wilson's old forward position.
Forward Ron Bonham (see page 38), certainly one of the fine shooters in college basketball, has taken off 30 pounds and no longer looks like a football tackle. "I'm faster for it," says Bonham, "and I can jump better." A faster, higher-jumping Bonham is alarming to contemplate.
Good as Cincinnati's front line is, it is the backcourt that makes the Bearcats the best team in the country. In Tony Yates, Cincinnati has what Jucker calls "America's finest defensive player." Tom Thacker—recovering well from a badly sprained ankle—is nearly as good. And it is defense that Jucker loves. He makes it a wonderfully positive thing, as exciting to watch as any run-and-shoot offense. Yates, Thacker and the other Cincinnati players so thoroughly bewitch, bother and bewilder their opponents that the best-planned offenses can become totally ineffectual. Weaknesses?
Bradley, at Bradley, Jan. 17
Wichita, at Wichita, Feb. 16
St. Louis, at St. Louis, March 2