FIVE TO WATCH
There was a time—well, to be honest, it was only last year—when it was possible to scan the rosters of teams and spot the oddities, the schools with a gifted player or two that were going to surprise everybody by suddenly nosing into the national rankings. But as the 1972-73 season begins, it seems almost everybody has a couple of giants who can pass like Lenny Wilkins, drive like Billy Cunningham and defend like Bill Russell. They need those just to stay in the game. The teams that are going to spring fresh into the public consciousness now have four and five such men, and the reasons why they haven't been better known before are 1) they only recently got their players and 2) they could do handily with a couple more of them to reach parity with the Top 20.
Take Canisius, and not many teams will. The small Jesuit college was always the respectable little brother to St. Bonaventure and Niagara in the Buffalo neighborhood but the Golden Griffins never seemed to get a Lanier or a Murphy—until now, when they have a Montgomery. Mel Montgomery is a sophomore who, according to Niagara's Frank Layden, will soon be a household name in his own right. He won't be playing alone of course, and, in fact, John Morrison, Canisius' new 27-year-old coach, intends to break him in slowly. Morrison can afford to. He has four two-year starters, including Forward Mike Macaluso, who averaged 16.9 points last year, another strong sophomore in Mike Roberts and freshman Charles Jordan, the third-leading rebounder in Indiana high school history. The Griffins will not be mythical for long.
The University of San Francisco, on the way back to a prominence it once knew, is a different story. Starting slowly last season, the Dons won 16 of their last 19 games to capture the West Coast Athletic Conference title. Four starters return who, says Coach Bob Gaillard, "are not afraid to win." Who would be with players like Byron (Snake) Jones, the league's top rebounder, and 6'10" Kevin Restani, co-sophomore of the year? Joining them on the front line will be sophomore Eric Fernsten ("A shot rejector," says Gaillard), Phil Smith, the team's leading scorer, and a former Los Angeles high school sensation, Richard Johnson. The Dons meet UCLA on Jan. 19—which brings up the record the Bruins want to break. Remember the Bill Russell teams' 60 straight in the 1950s? You can bet SF does.
There is no such tradition in the Southwest Conference, where basketball has been about as popular as log rolling in the Mojave Desert. But now, from of all places, the University of Texas, comes a team that doesn't punt, doesn't operate a Wishbone but doesn't mind hooking horns with anybody. The Longhorns—the basketball Longhorns—finished 19-9 last year and upset Houston in the first round of the NCAA regionals. Southwest Conference Player of the Year Larry Robinson (21.9 points, 10 rebounds) is one of four returning starters that include 6'9" B. G. Brosterhous and playmaking Guard Harry Larrabee. And there are more refugee football players coming up. Even with the improvement of the other Southwest teams, the schedule is the kind of which 20-win seasons are made.
Opponents of Morehead State have more to worry about this year than the faulty lighting, funny scorekeeping and freaky officiating that are legendary in the Ohio Valley Conference. So maybe Morehead's anagramatic president, Dr. Adron Doran, will be less inclined to charge out onto the floor to scold referees. The Eagles are loaded, with every member back from the 16-11 team that tied for the league championship last season. The best are Leonard Coulter, who averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds as a sophomore, and Guard Howard Wallen, who set a school assist record. The Eagles play a wide-ranging schedule, which suits Coach Bill Harrell fine. "Recognition is what we need," he says. And recognition is what they should get.
Notoriety would be a better word for Illinois State, all because of a skinny kid from Benton, Ill. who became something of a folk hero at the Olympic try-out camp in Colorado and at the Olympics themselves when he sank a pair of free throws that appeared to win the gold medal for the United States. Doug Collins, a 6'6" guard, finished third in the nation in scoring last year for the 16-10 Redbirds, and now Will Robinson, who coached Mel Daniels, Spencer Haywood and Ralph Simpson at Detroit's Pershing High, has brought in some young turks to work with Collins in his senior year. Among them are high school All-Americas Bubbles Hawkins, who played for Robinson at Pershing, and Roger Powell and another freshman, Mike Bonczyk, who as a high schooler teamed with Indiana's Quinn Buckner on consecutive Illinois state champions. Robinson also has 6'11" Center Ron de Vries and 6'9" Forward Stepney Bacon. It is a lot for a 115-year-old school only recently turned major.
The collection of basketball talent at Furman University may raise more questions than it answers. Will one basketball be enough to satisfy Joe Williams' point mongers? Will the defense again let the Paladins lose 11 times while the offense is averaging 92.6 points a game? Williams has the players who could equal the success he enjoyed at Jacksonville, but he may not have the team. Furman's early practices indicated as much. "Sometimes there were four big men under the basket wanting the ball," said 7'1" Center Fessor Leonard, who was one of them. "We've got to learn to play together."
Leonard and another sophomore, 6'9" Clyde Mayes, have caused a reshuffling of the team that won 17 games for the most Paladin victories in 20 years. The Southern Conference's two leading scorers, Player of the Year Russ Hunt and Roy Simpson, have been moved to unfamiliar positions outside. And Leonard should not be confused with Williams' Jacksonville giant, Artis Gilmore. "Fessor is not the same defensive player or rebounder," he says, "but he's quite a shooter." The backboard help so missing last season will come from Mayes. "I've never had more depth," Williams says.
Conference rival Davidson has never had more talent, or so says Terry Holland, a player and coach there for 11 years. Only two starters arc missing from the 19-9 team of last season and the usually cautious Holland believes "we could win five or six more games." The three returnees are leading scorer John Falconi and Mike Sorrentino in the backcourt and Wing John Pecorak. They will form the nucleus of a fast-moving, constantly changing lineup. "We could break even by playing five, win 15 with eight and 20 with 10," says Holland. "We can go with 10."
Not everyone believes North Carolina's domination of the Atlantic Coast Conference is over. "Say what you will about Maryland and N.C. State," says a former assistant in the league, "I think the Tar Heels will beat out at least one of them. Maybe both before it's over." For this to happen Guard George Karl and Forward Bobby Jones must pick up their scoring while big sophomores Donald Washington and Ed Stahl mature. North Carolina should rebound well and play good defense but the offense lost 50 points a game with the departure of Bob McAdoo, Dennis Wuycik and Bill Chamberlain. "I don't care," says the scrappy Karl. "If the desire is there Dean Smith will make us a winner." The league's MVP, Barry Parkhill, should have the same effect on Virginia.
The Southeastern Conference has more good players (foreign and domestic), challenging teams and preseason favorites than ever before. What it doesn't have is Adolph Rupp, out after 42 years at Kentucky. Successor Joe Hall has three starters returning from last year's champions led by Center Jim Andrews and outstanding prospects like Kevin Grevey from a superb freshman team. He also has the long shadow of Rupp to haunt him. "A fellow told me the other day that if I won it would mean we had the talent and if I lost it would prove Coach Rupp was the difference," says Hall. "There's no way I can win." Tennessee is also highly regarded with Player of the Year Mike Edwards and 7-footers Len Kosmalski and Bob Brykalski. Georgia might have more talent than anyone with All-SEC returnees Ronnie Hogue and John Fraley, Tim Bassett, the league's second-leading re-bounder, and All-SEC freshman Billy Magarity. Vanderbilt has four double-figure scorers back and LSU's new coach. Dale Brown, recruited 6'2" Eddie Palubinskas of Australia, the second-leading scorer in the Olympic Games. The Tigers will finish down under anyway.
It was bound to happen. Basketball in the East is again becoming respectable. At Temple, for instance. Until three years ago Coach Harry Litwack had to conduct his practices in a third-floor room that looked like a dance hall from They Shoot Horses, Don't They? The walls were dirty and the place sat only 1,000. Had enough? So did the Owls. They have now taken up quarters at an ultramodern, spanking-new 4,500-seat court in McGonigle Hall and, for another change, they can start the season with a winner rather than ending it that way. In the past, Litwack created winners out of who he's? This season, with a year of experience behind them, the who he's? are already theys.
Whether the Owls can match last year's 23-6 record without the graduated Ollie Johnson, however, may depend on sophomores Joe Anderson and Kevin Washington. Washington was a backcourt teammate of UCLA's Andre McCarter at Overbrook High in Philadelphia and was overlooked by recruiters from big schools. He shrugs at the memory. "There wasn't anything I could do about it," he says. Before he is through, there may be little opponents can do about Washington, who already is drawing comparisons with Guy Rodgers.
Not far away in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly mayhem where basketball is concerned, are the Quakers of the University of Pennsylvania, who have been right up there in respectability the past few years. They will stay there, even without Corky Calhoun, Bob Morse and Al Cotler, who led the team to the best three-season record outside of UCLA's. Forward Phil Hankinson ("a 35-foot shooter with moves"), switching to the outside in another of Coach Chuck Daly's four-forward offenses, is the key to Penn's hopes, and Daly is almost ecstatic over sophomore Ron Haigler, the new big man inside. "He's so smooth," says Daly, "it's like running water."
The Quakers should take their fourth straight Ivy League title—unless the Harvards learn to play together. Ten of 12 players, headed by All-Ivies Floyd Lewis, Jim Fitzsimmons and James Brown, return from a team that won eight of its last nine games. But Coach Bob Harrison still hasn't harnessed his superior talent. Brown, which may play five blacks, has an outside chance for the first time in light years.
In New York, where Madison Square Garden is battling Nassau Coliseum for the game's top names, the local teams will be playing schedules that are almost murderous. Almost, because the New Yorkers are good enough to acquit themselves, if not handsomely at least well. St. John's will be the best of them if Mel Davis, the nation's fourth-leading rebounder, is recovered from an injury incurred in the NIT quarterfinals. Another if is Ed Searcy, who will not be eligible until late December. But any team with even a one-kneed Davis and a shooter like swingman Bill Schaeffer—his 64% accuracy was fifth best nationally—is a threat. Fordham lost its forecourt, but it got in some fine, tall freshmen and has enough other good operatives surrounding Ken Charles, one of the country's better players, to be dangerous. Similarly Rutgers, a young team for sure but one with freshman Phil Sellers, an All-America who was voted most valuable player in Pittsburgh's Dapper Dan Tournament, and clever shot and ball handler John Somogyi. Princeton, Manhattan and St. Peter's may be a year behind these.
American University's Kermit Washington, the country's leading rebounder, made the cover of the NCAA Basketball Guide. If he becomes the seventh college player to average 20 points and 20 rebounds per game during a career, and if he can convince his teammates to get over an inferiority complex about playing Philadelphia schools, the Eagles should challenge Temple and St. Joseph's in the Middle Atlantic Conference. In Pittsburgh, Duquesne's Lionel (Big Train) Billingly (22 points, 14 rebounds) can delight in a retinue—graduates from the country's highest-scoring (109 average) freshman team. Niagara's Al Williams and St. Bonaventure's Glenn Price could make the Little Three's chase of Canisius interesting and Syracuse, even without Greg Kohl and his 27-point average, may match last year's 22-6 record with the likes of Rudy Hackett, Mike Lee and Dennis DuVal. Three for the future are Boston College, with freshman Will Morrison, Holy Cross, with Boston all-everything, freshman King Gaskins and Rhode Island, with Abu Bakr (formerly Don Blackman).
In the outer hall of Ohio State's St. John Arena is a gallery of the Buckeye version of who's who in Sport. Beside three Heisman Trophy winners and numerous football and basketball All-Americas hang photographs of Glenn Davis and Jesse Owens, Jack Nicklaus, Frank Howard, John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas and Larry Siegfried. A trophy case holds a much smaller picture of a 1951 All-America first baseman named Fred Taylor, who has simply been outcoaching the rest of the Big Ten and winning basketball championships at Ohio State for 14 years.
This year Siegfried returns to his alma mater as an assistant to Taylor, and the former Boston Celtic and his college coach face an unusual dilemma: their star seniors, Luke Witte and Allan Hornyak, must play as they did as sophomores for OSU to have a chance at the title that evaporated so suddenly last year. In a vastly strengthened league, that won't be easy. Taylor may no longer be able to prosper while losing many of the best athletes in Ohio and starting only one black player at a time. But he has a favorable schedule and four regulars returning. The man in the little picture just could win again. Indiana, coached by another of Taylor's protégés, Bobby Knight, is next best, but dangerous players lurk at every school and winning conference games on the road will be a sometime thing, as usual. The Big Ten's nonconference record should soar to around .700.
Kansas State, Missouri and the use of a 30-second shooting clock are the excitement in the Big Eight. The Tigers' John Brown is the best player around and would have gone to Munich had he not broken a bone in his foot for the second time. The timer gives the Tigers a running advantage over the methodical Kansans. However, State's lineup is nearly intact and its guards, Danny Beard and Lon Kruger, could be the difference between the two teams.
In the Missouri Valley race St. Louis is the choice for third place behind Memphis State and New Mexico State, hut Denny (rum's all-new Louisville Cardinals, with 6'4" sophomore forward Allen Murphy, will trouble everybody. Jim Snyder's record at Ohio University is fast approaching Taylor's at OSU. With a little luck and a lot of Luckett (freshman Walter, that is), the Bobcats will earn Snyder's seventh Mid-American title in 13 years.
Northern Illinois and Marshall dominate the list of independents. The Huskies blazed their way to a 21-4 record last year while playing in the now-defunct Midwestern Conference and will soon be a national power if they upgrade their schedule. Center Jim Bradley is as good as anybody the Big Ten has to offer. Marshall lost its coach. Carl Tacy, to Wake Forest and Forward Russell Lee to the Milwaukee Bucks, but Guard Mike D'Antoni will adjust to his third coach in three years and lead the Thundering Herd to another 20-win season. Dayton's record will be good and at last there is some size at DePaul, where the Blue Demons should have their best season in a decade.
Along the irregular coastline of the Far West, one might expect to find clusters of college coaches squatting resolutely in the sand, Jonathan Livingston Seagulls staring glumly into the Pacific and muttering: "When will they lose? When will they lose?" Yes, it is troublesome to be a coach in the shadow of UCLA, and no one is more aware of that eclipse than Bob Boyd of Southern California. In eight years Boyd's teams have won 145 and lost 64, a good record against tough opposition. But not nearly good enough. As one fellow coach emphasized: "Drop USC's teams into any other conference in the country the past eight years and in four of them they would have been in the NCAA finals."
With Forwards Bruce Clark and Monroe Nash doubtful starters, six players from last season's 18-1 freshman team (all of whom averaged in double figures) will have key roles on Boyd's latest edition of second-best sellers. They are joined by junior-college transfer Victor Kelly, who topped the National Junior College tournament last season in scoring and assists. Victor is only 5'6".
Even though Oregon State graduated Freddie Boyd, one of the better guards on the coast last year, the Beavers figure to battle USC for the runner-up spot in the Pacific Eight. Four starters return, including 6'11" Steve Ericksen.
The rumors are prevalent again that Long Beach State will not win the Pacific Coast Athletic Association title. Truth dispelled rumor the last three years and probably will again. Should Long Beach falter just the least bit, though, San Diego State, with fine strength at guard in junior-college transfers Dan league and Brad McNamara, will provide one threat. So could Los Angeles State, with Raymond Lewis, the best player in the league outside of Long Beach's Ed Ratleff. A sophomore, Lewis has a deal with his coach. Bob Miller. "He's promised me I can take as man) shots as I want in a game as long as I shoot the 59% I did as a freshman." says Lewis.
Olympian James Forbes and Coach Don Haskins should take UTEP far in the Western Athletic Conference, although not past Brigham Young. Forbes looked quicker in practice this year until he injured a knee that will put him out of action for a couple of weeks. He will get much help from returning starters Gus Bailey, Beto Bautista and redshirt Greg Davis.
Pepperdine University has a new $50 million campus at Malibu Beach and a beautiful swan in William (Bird) Averitt—the nation's fifth-leading scorer—but no birdcage. The field house will not be ready until spring.
Idaho State and Weber State plan to volley for the Big Sky crown; and Southern Methodist, with Sammy Hervey, the nation's second-leading junior-college scorer last year, and freshman Ira Terrell, joins the University of Texas as prime cuts in the Southwest Conference.