Five to Watch
It is hard to imagine that anything among the Colorado Rockies could come up short, but that is what has happened to the University of Colorado Buffaloes, who are tall in every way except height. With a few more inches here and there they might have made the top 20. Still, they will be very much worth watching. not necessarily because they will finish in the next five—they likely will not—but because, like Louisiana State, Purdue, Boston College and Oregon, they are an interesting team that has not been heard from much recently but will be soon. What the Buffaloes have instead of height is Lee (Harpo) Haven, whose blond locks will be reflecting the dim light of the CU field house as he leads a fast break. Haven is one of the scrappy players who helped unflappable Sox Walseth become the Big Eight's 1972-73 Coach of the Year by hanging up a 9-5 league record. Junior-college transfer Tony Lawrence and Scott Wedman, a 6'7" senior and one of the country's better defenders, can both score in Walseth's patterned offense.
Another Coach of the Year was Louisiana State's Dale Brown. Late-season SEC wins over Alabama and Tennessee led the Tigers to a 9-9 league and 14-10 overall record and helped Kentucky (ho-hum) take the conference title again. In his second year Brown has a solid nucleus in a backcourt of Mike Darnall and Eddie Palubinskas and an interchangeable frontcourt of Collis Temple, Wade Evans, Randy Herring, Ed LeBlanc and John Engquist. Temple developed into a surprisingly accurate shooter last season after he was advised to soak his hands in hot water before games and during half-time. The best of five promising newcomers is Glenn (Hondo) Hansen, a transfer from Utah State who can play every position but center. Dennis Wolff, a superb passer, provides depth in the backcourt. Brown, called "Billy Graham in Sneakers" by the local press, has a reputation for getting maximum performance from his players. In a well-balanced league, maximum might be just enough.
Purdue, mother of astronauts, NFL quarterbacks and Heisman Trophy losers, has been missing its share of hot-shots lately, and no one is more concerned about this post-Rick Mount state of affairs than second-year Coach Fred Schaus. So far he is coming in third to those other state rivals. Digger Phelps at South Bend and Bobby Knight at Indiana, which is not particularly pleasant for a man who had become accustomed to better things as coach and, most recently, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, Schaus managed a 15-9 record in his first Purdue season—mainly because he instituted the same UCLA track conditioning program that Bill Sharman used to transform the Lakers into an NBA champion—and his Boilermakers could improve with John Garrett and Frank Kendrick scoring and Bruce Parkinson directing matters. Now if Schaus can come up with some supers, he should not mind those season-ending games at Indiana so much.
Mel Weldon of Boston College thought "the whole world was coming at me" when he was playing for the U.S. at the World University Games this summer. Turned out it was only the Cuban team. Life will be slightly less precarious this winter as Weldon tries to make the Eagles highflyers again. A Tiny Archibald-style guard from Jersey City via junior college, Weldon will be abetted by some fine homebreds, among them Bob Carrington, Wilfred Morrison and Bill Collins, and Syd Sheppard from Pennsylvania. Coach Bob Zuffelato expects to use a free-lancing offense featuring a point guard and four mobile forwards and to substitute freely enough with Team Captain Dan Kilcullen, Jere Nolan and Mark Raterink to wear down opponents. Weldon eventually wants to enter social work so he can "help the people." Boston College is his first case.
Ron Lee, the son of a Boston motorcycle patrolman is one local product that BC let get away—all the way to Oregon. He averaged 19 points a game last season and became the first freshman ever named to the All-Pac Eight first team, but he is not all Coach Dick Harter is relying on to do something about the UCLAs, USCs and Stanfords his Ducks have to face. A promotional picture that shows all five Oregon players in a pileup for a loose ball is what Harter has in mind, the Kamikaze defense that worked well for him at Pennsylvania. Harter says, "We'll be clean but tough." Two of his toughies are Steve Manker, a 7-foot center from Des Moines, and former Pennsylvania high school star Stu Jackson, but it is Lee, whose brother Russell plays for the NBA Bucks, that Harter counts on most. Among other things, Lee does sleight-of-hand card tricks in his spare time. Now, if he can make UCLA disappear....
Independence remains a respected calling in this region where such loners and non-joiners as South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Jacksonville continue to send out teams that, respectively, have had five straight 20-win seasons, an NIT championship and, in the cases of the Seminoles and Dolphins, berths in two of the last four NCAA finals.
Jacksonville has its usual plethora of height and might, most of it experienced, but the Dolphins could have trouble adjusting to the unfamiliar personality and methods of Bob Gottlieb, their third coach in five years. "I may be guilty of doing too much too soon," the former Kansas State assistant admits. Flashy Henry Williams and menacing Butch Taylor are two of the four starters back from last year's 21-6 team.
Transfers and dropouts have left Florida State's Hugh Durham with a young group-but without the dissension that helped create an 18-8 disappointment last year. Defending NIT titlist Virginia Tech, a late-blooming 22-5 surprise in 1973, returns nine of its first 10, though the absentee, leading scorer Allan Bristow, may be irreplaceable. South Carolina lost both its rebounder and its point producer, but skinny Alexander English and Brian Winters provide more than a little of both. Centenary's super big man, Robert Parish, would have ranked high nationally in both scoring and rebounding with 23.0 and 18.7 averages last year if the NCAA recognized the Gents as, well, gentlemen. But the NCAA does not and will not until the Louisiana school repents for a long list of rule infractions. Georgia Tech and Tulane are in better social standing, though new Coaches Duane Morrison and Charles Moir, both up from the smalls, would prefer improvement to popularity. Four returning starters buoy optimism at George Washington, whose 17-9 record last year was the school's best in 17 years.
Vanderbilt and Tennessee should pressure the Southeastern Conference leaders. Even with four starters back from a 20-6 team, including two-time leading scorer Terry Compton, the Commodores plan to reshuffle. Jan van Breda Kolff, Butch's son and a record assist man as a 6'8" guard, moves to center. When he is healthy, the Volunteers' 7-foot pivot, Len Kosmalski, is the league's best offensively, but he has to struggle to outrebound the team manager. Board help comes from freshmen Mike Jackson and Ernie Grunfield, the latter New York City's top high school player last year. Mississippi and Mississippi State have experienced teams but not a 20-point scorer between them.
When Duke Coach Bucky Waters unexpectedly resigned this fall, the Blue Devils almost lured 77-year-old Adolph Rupp onto the Atlantic Coast Conference battlefield. "I hated to say no," admitted the former Kentucky coach. "It was the greatest tribute ever paid me." Rupp declined when the death of his business partner left his Lexington farm unattended. Neill McGeachy got the job instead, but he picks up Duke's first loser in 35 years. Virginia Forwards Wally Walker and Gus Gerard are standouts, and freshman Bill Longloh steps in for the departed Barry Parkhill. Tates Locke had his best season in three tries at Clem-son, though 12-14 is not much to build a dream on. Seven-footer Wayne (Tree) Rollins will give the Tigers bark if not bite. Wake Forest, respectable in its first season under Carl Tacy, returns Guard Tony Byers with his 22-point average.
Davidson won its seventh straight regular season Southern Conference title last year, but Furman captured its second consecutive championship tournament. The Wildcats, with five returning starters, are still looking for a big man. Bullish Clyde Mayes and tall Fessor Leonard provide the punch for the inconsistent Paladins, who last year won 20 for the first time since 1954. Morehead State and Murray State are the most likely Fly (Williams) swatters in the Ohio Valley.
In the 35 years of the NCAA championship, only three Eastern teams have won the title. Excluding Villanova—disqualified after a tournament—only six finished second. Slim pickings, yet understandable considering the 56 major colleges in the region, the innumerable small ones and the legion of outside schools that cull the local product. But if all this has a watering-down effect as far as national championships go, it virtually guarantees the dog-eat-dog rivalries of the region. In Philadelphia, for instance. Penn, one of the few places that seem to collect hot prospects in bundles, fully expects to win the Big Five. Temple, La Salle, which won the NCAA 20 years ago, and St. Joseph's fully expect it will not, and one of them could be right.
Temple, which may be the strongest of the three, is playing under a new coach, Don Casey, who already has made two significant moves. He installed the free substitution system that Dean Smith made successful at North Carolina and he eliminated the cigar that his highly successful predecessor, Harry Litwack, always smoked. Otherwise no change. Four starters are back, including 6'10" Joe Newman, and the Owls have the usual whiz newcomer—this one is Wesley Ramseur. They should improve their 17-win record. Joe Bryant, 6'10" but scholastically ineligible as a freshman, makes his long-awaited debut at La Salle. Even without him the Explorers won 15 games. They expect more with Bill Taylor and Joe DiCocco returning and, when he becomes eligible in December, Varick Cutler, a 6'7" transfer from Maryland. St. Joseph's loses 40 points per game through graduation of Mike Bantom and Pat McFarland. Yet Coach Jack McKinney thinks he has a better shooting team than last year when the Hawks finished 22-6. Only at Villanova is there Big Five woe. Jack Kraft left for Rhode Island after a dozen years and his first losing season. Just in time maybe. Rollie Massimino follows him without many prizes—and without Tom Ingelsby.
In the Ivy League, Gerry Alaimo begins a second term in the resurrection of Brown. The Bruins return all five starters, most noteworthy among them 6'5" Forward Phil Brown, the league's top re-bounder and its ninth-highest scorer. Princeton has 6'9" Andy Rimol and sophomore Guard Armond Hill, and Yale welcomes to the varsity last year's 20-1 freshmen. Poor Dartmouth mourns the graduation of James Brown, Cornell digs out the snowblowers and Harvard warms up a new coach, former Boston Celtic Satch Sanders.
Larry Weise has been replaced at St. Bonaventure by 27-year-old Jim Satalin, an ambitious redhead who may gray early. In December the Bonnies play an away game against UCLA. They have 6'9" Glenn Price and rave over 6'6" freshman Forward Essie Hollis. Niagara will open 8,800-seat International Convention Center in Niagara Falls in January with ever-smiling Andy Walker at forward. He is the best Niagara pro prospect since Calvin Murphy. Canisius starts without starters. All from last season had to be replaced. Yet optimism abounds because of 6'5" Forward Larry Fogle who transferred from Southwestern Louisiana where he was the top freshman scorer. With 6'8" Charles Jordan and Mel Montgomery expected to return in January, the Griffins again are favored to win the Little Three.
Lou Carnesecca returns to St. John's to find the Redmen in a power struggle with once-lowly Manhattan and without Mel Davis, who decided to spend his senior year as a pro. While Carnesecca does have a formidable set of guards in Mel Utley and Frank Alagia, he fears 6'7" Ed Searcy may get lonely under the boards. "Other teams have trees," he says. "We have a sapling."
Manhattan returns 6'10" Bill Campion, whose 15.5 rebound average was seventh in the nation. Charlie Mahoney can score around the key, and George Bucci plays as though he means it. Rutgers has a new coach, Tom Young, explosive Forward Phil Sellers, Mike Dabney and 6'10" Les Cason. Not a bad front line, until it is compared with Duquesne's. Coach Red Manning is luxuriating in able bodies. If either 6'10" Murray Meikenhous or 6'9" Ray Milligan comes through at the post, he plans to move All-America candidate Lionel Billingy, ill at ease at center, back to forward. Look for the Iron Dukes when the regular season is complete.
In New England, Fairfield should be back in another NIT, and Connecticut and Massachusetts appear best in the Yankee Conference...to name just a few of those 56 teams.
Gene Bartow is alternately amused and astonished each time he picks up a newspaper and finds his Memphis State Tigers unmentioned in a list of this year's best basketball teams. The papers may be forgiven since the finest players in the school's history—Larry Finch, Larry Kenon and Ronnie Robinson—all left at once. But Bartow, named 1973 Coach of the Year for leading MSU to a second-place finish in the NCAA tournament, has an easier route—State has left the Missouri Valley Conference—and better players than most people suspect.
Senior Forwards Billy Buford and Wes Westfall are tall and swift, sophomore Guards Bill Cook and Clarence Jones have already proved their stuff, and freshman Guard Dexter Reed looks too good to keep on the bench. Add 6'10" John Washington at center, and zippo! Instant Rebuild.
With the Tigers out of the Valley, everyone aims for Louisville, and the chief marksmen should be from Tulsa. Just in time, too, since crosstown rival Oral Roberts, a powerful independent with a gaudy modern arena, has just about monopolized the city's attention. In Willie Biles the Hurricanes have the first Valley player to average 30 points since Oscar Robertson and a shooter who can put the memory of Oral Roberts' Richard Fuqua to rest. Hopes soar, too, with 6'9" Sammy High, especially now that the Titans will be minus their 7-foot center, David Vaughn, out for personal reasons.
The mass exodus from Minnesota adds still another chapter to The Strange Case of Bill Musselman and leaves serious doubt as to his future in the Big Ten. Not only did the entire starting five depart, but his three top reserves transferred to smaller schools and Musselman's all-new freshmen-transfers squad ("skinny, short and white," says a local reporter) is more representative of his days at Ashland (Ohio) College than of the Ron Behagen-Clyde Turner regime. Wisconsin claims to have the tallest starting lineup in the country, average size 6'8½", and hopes to challenge Indiana and Purdue.
Kansas State leads the land rush against Oklahoma in the Big Eight. Coach Jack Hartman's record (344-132) and disciplined teams make him look more like John Wooden every day. Guard Lon Kruger is back and should be enough to hold off Iowa State. The MidAmerican Conference winner will be either Bowling Green, defending champion Miami of Ohio, Ohio University or Kent State. All four return at least four starters.
Southern Illinois was one of the few Midwest independents to finish under .500 last year, and that should not happen again. Three college players who participated in a children's benefit tournament in Gary, Ind.—Center Jim Bradley of Northern Illinois, Center Andy Pancratz and Forward Bill Robinzine of De-Paul—will reportedly be lost to their teams until Jan. 1. Dayton could have a contender for national scoring honors in Donald Smith, who led in free-throw shooting last season. Marshall lost four starters but has a much easier schedule. Cincinnati will not be as dangerous without Derrek Dickey on the boards, but the Bearcats have Lloyd Batts and freshman Jim Webb, shooters. At Detroit, former Rutgers assistant Dick Vitale will try to re-create the success he once enjoyed in the New Jersey scholastic tournaments. Seven-footer Mike Heck has put on 15 pounds and should help Creighton better its 15-11 mark. Oklahoma City will miss Ozie Edwards and Marvin Rich too much to win 21 games again. Indiana State is talking about the NCAA playoffs, and the Sycamores have a new 10,000-seat amphitheater. Illinois State, without Doug Collins, is on the way down from 13-12.
Hawaii is a fine place to visit, which is why coaches hate to journey there. Their teams like it so much they forget to play basketball. Matters could be still worse because the University of Hawaii's first-year coach, Bruce O'Neil, has assembled an array of stunning Rainbows, among them Tom Henderson, the former Olympian, and Melton Werts, who developed into a promising center as a freshman. Now, if they do not fall into the same lassitude as their visitors, aloha.
Houston, another strong independent, has Louis Dunbar back—all 6'9" of him—and he could play guard, where he averaged 21 points. Freshman Otis Bird-song sounds as if he should be with the Supremes, but he plays the backcourt well enough to probably move Dunbar to forward. Pan American is rebuilding under humorist-Coach Abe Lemons, who will have some tall tales to relate. Another Texas outfit, UTEP, will contest Arizona, New Mexico and Utah for Arizona State's Western Athletic Conference title. Coach Don Haskins has Gus Bailey, who could play for anybody, and two-year starter Beto Bautista, who can run the offense in his sleep. And, if he recovers from a knee injury, James Forbes, another former Olympian.
New Mexico's Bernard Hardin is the equivalent of UTEP's Bailey and he plays for a coach, Norm Ellenberger, who has a way with young men, witness his 21-6 team of unknowns last season. Utah Coach Bill Foster expects improvement now that Mike Sojourner and Luther (Ticky) Burden have acquired experience. And Arizona State has the height in Ron Kennedy, Mark Wasley and Scott Lloyd to chase after its own WAC title.
Stanford, with 7-foot Center Rich Kelley, gave UCLA trouble last year and could be the surprise team of the Pac Eight. Washington Coach Marv Harsh-man grew his hair longer and added a mustache. He is still a good coach, but that never seems to be enough. San Francisco and Nevada-Las Vegas do not have a monopoly on all the good players in the West Coast Athletic Conference. Lloyd McMillian (brother of Buffalo pro Jim) and Luther Philyaw are at Loyola, Pete Padgett at Nevada-Reno, Frank Oleynick at Seattle and the alleged Super Six at St. Mary's.
Southern Methodist was a disappointing fifth in the Southwest Conference mostly because Ira Terrell, Sammy Hervey and Zack Thiel could not get their act together any more than could their feuding coaches. Coach Bob Prewitt says things have settled down. "We have a very positive attitude. Last year is forgotten." Amen to that and hello to tomorrow. If Larry Robinson is healthy, he and Harry Larrabee could make Texas a contender. Weber State does not always win the Big Sky title, but it has taken six straight and eight in a decade, and Coach Gene Visscher is ready again. Denver, with four starters returning, possibly will make a postseason tournament, and defense-minded Air Force could have its finest team in Academy history.