Not far from the football stadium on the University of Illinois' sprawling flatland campus is a huge, unfinished structure, circular and silver and looking like it belongs at somebody's world fair. It is the new field house, a wonder of symmetry and function that will be opened during this season. By a pleasant coincidence, after 10 dreary years of struggle in the Big Ten, Illinois has a bright young team to match its fine, bright building.
"We're shooting for the Big Ten title, and nothing less than a 14-0 mark will please me," says Coach Harry Combes. That is pretty strong talk for a man about to do battle in what looks like the toughest Big Ten race in years. But there is reason for it. The fact that four starters are back from last season's third-place team is one cause for optimism. And the fact that three of those four probably won't start this year indicates that either 1) plague has struck or, 2) there is some awfully good sophomore talent that is forcing its way in.
It is sophomores, and you had better remember their rather unusual names: Skip Thoren, Bogie Redmon, Tal Brody. They are the best group to swoop down on a Big Ten campus since Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Mel Nowell came to Ohio State four years ago. Thoren, 6 feet 10, has shown so much ability he figures to share center with 6-foot-8 senior Bill Burwell, and could replace him. Redmon, a bruising 6-foot-6 and 220-pound specimen, is a likely starter at forward and the 6-foot-2 Brody gives Combes a talented guard. There is actually another sophomore, 6-foot-7 Forward Larry Bauer, who ranks with these, but he put his arm through a glass door and is still mending.
Only 6-foot-2 Bill Small, a good guard with unusually long arms and an unusually accurate shot, appears to be a sure starter off last year's squad. Forwards Bob Starnes and Dave Downey, and Bill Edwards, who has moved from forward to guard, are other regulars from last season who must fight the Illinois Kiddie Corps for a job. It is hard to win the Big Ten with a team of sophomores, but this group has enough talent to ignore its inexperience and take the title.
Ohio Stale, at Illinois, Jan. 7
Cincinnati, at Chicago Stadium, Jan. 26
Indiana, at Indiana, Feb. 16