Louisville is located barely below the Mason-Dixon Line, but its citizens drawl in the Deep South manner of Scarlett and Rhett. Their talk is soft around the edges, with none of the nasal sound from the surrounding hills that conjures images of cars jacked up on cement blocks in the front yard. The natives rhyme the name of their city: "Lull-vull." Most of the rest of the country says, "Louie-ville," and when Denny Crum arrived three years ago, he called it "Lewis-ville."
That immediately marked Crum as a foreigner of the most deplorable sort, not necessarily a good thing to be in proud and provincial Louisville. But it turned out to be a pardonable transgression because Lull-vullers quickly found out that Crum knew a lot about two beloved local traditions, basketball and winning.
In Crum's first two years at the University of Louisville, he coached the Cardinals to 49 victories. Last season they won 21, despite playing with a front line of Mickey Rooneys. No one was over 6'5". Now bigger and deeper, they are the front-runners for the NCAA championship next March.
And running is Crum's game. His players need steel-belted radial sneakers the way they ignore speed limits. Their best ploy could be called, "Everybody Go Deep," with sophomore Wesley Cox taking the ball out of bounds and throwing it the length of the court to a streaking teammate. If that doesn't work, Louisville runs its offense. "We have one set play," says Guard Terry Howard.
Crum is 37 years old, and this is his first head coaching job after a long stint as an assistant to UCLA's John Wooden. Obviously, he is off to a good start. During his brief tenure at Louisville he has concentrated on amassing talent and this year the Cardinals have all they need. Nine of the first 10 players of a year ago are returning. Two others, Guard Phillip Bond and 6'9" senior Center Bill Bunton, who missed last season because of illness and injured grades respectively, again are healthy. Louisville has added a 6'10" freshman center named Ricky Gallon who, Crum claims, is the best thing to come out of Florida since the orange. "I can play 10 different guys with the first unit," he says. "We have more flexibility than ever before."
Last year's Cardinals had a big problem at center—they did not have one. Crum used Cox, his most gifted player, but at 6'5" even he was giving away too much height. Louisville had to struggle to get any rebound that did not first bounce on the floor. Bunton's return to the middle will allow Cox to move outside. Wesley averaged 14 points per game and eight rebounds playing out of position and was considered by some, not all of them citizens of Lull-vull, the best freshman in the country. As a forward, he should be merely devastating.
As valuable as Bunton is apt to be this season, he may be challenged for his starting job before March rolls around. Gallon is only 17 years old and needs experience, but he is 6'10" and can jump higher than anyone on the team.
Even with Cox and the two centers, Allen Murphy and Junior Bridgeman remain the nucleus of the team. Three years ago, when the University of Kentucky was getting all of the publicity for its "great" freshman team, Crum scoffed and said he would not trade Murphy or Bridgeman for any of the UK players. Those frosh are all seniors now, and Kentucky has another great team, but it's in Louisville, not Lexington.
Bridgeman was named Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. His roommate, Murphy, led the Cardinals in scoring, hitting 61% of his shots in league games, and he is the team's best defensive player.
Bridgeman is a psychology major, which may explain the unobtrusive way he moves around the floor, keeping the opposition only subliminally aware of his presence. "He's a quiet player," says Indiana's Quinn Buckner, "but at the end of the game he has 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, a couple of steals."
These two players are the major factors in the Cardinals' extraordinary flexibility. Bridgeman, 6'5", plays guard on offense; 6'5" Murphy is there on defense. "We can take advantage of the other team's weakness," says Bridgeman of the confusion the interchangeability causes. "I might wind up with a little guard on me, and Allen can beat those big forwards all day."
The Cardinals' first challenge will be to survive the initial weeks of the season relatively unscathed. Crum's teams never have won an opening game, and this year's schedule does not make an early victory easy to come by. Louisville begins with contests against Houston, Dayton, Clemson, Florida State and Marquette. Four of them are on the road. From there on, things are more favorable. The Cardinals should take their third Missouri Valley title under Crum and arrive at San Diego for the NCAA championships as the team to beat.
All of which should put to rest any skepticism that still lingers in Louisville about the outlander from the West Coast who has come to coach there. When Crum arrived, people suspected that he was just stopping off on his way to taking over at UCLA when Wooden retired. Last year Louisville tore up his contract and gave him a new five-year deal. Crum then bought a 232-acre farm where he can fish, hunt and ride his motorcycle. He likes Lull-vull, and it likes him, because they speak the same language. They both love winning basketball.
2 NO. CAROLINA STATE
Tobacco Road has not been the same these eight months since North Carolina State slew the bear and liberated the national championship from UCLA. First, there was all that hardware to admire. By the reckoning of the Associated Press, the team of the year also had the player of the year in David Thompson and the coach of the year in Norman Sloan. That meant trophies all around, followed by an orgy of clinics, camps, speeches, public appearances, dinners and charity drives. For a while the Wolfpack players and coaches hardly knew where their next autograph hound was coming from.
"All of a sudden," says Sloan, fat and happy as he begins his 23rd year of coaching, "I was very smart. I knew a lot of basketball. I was in great demand. I had to get an unlisted telephone."
The Wolfpack's 30-1 championship season provoked such enthusiasm in Raleigh that the players returned home to a prime-time televised pep rally. The sports information office answered publicity requests from as far away as Switzerland, and when the team toured the Far East in August, it was accorded Marco Polo treatment. Only around the Atlantic Coast Conference, where never is heard an encouraging word, was the response cold. "We still have to recruit against them," said one bitter victim of State's record 32-game winning streak in the ACC. "Besides, they went on probation two years ago to do it."
All the attention, good and bad, has had its effect, good and bad, on Sloan. "I know you have to pay your dues, but it got to be ridiculous," he says. "A shopping center would want to have a day for the team. It always turned out to be a day for the shopping center. A family might invite a couple of players to dinner, and when they got there they'd find 50 people waiting to meet them."
No one was in greater demand than the wondrous 6'4" forward, Thompson, twice a consensus All-America and heir apparent to the ACC's career scoring record. By Sloan's estimate, a less principled young man could have gleaned $50,000 from the glad-handers who sought to win his friendship by greasing his palm, not to mention the $2 million he could have picked up by signing with the Philadelphia 76ers. He rejected that offer just as he had a $1.5-million bid the year before.
"David will be all-pro the first season," says Sloan. "He's worth more money than any player ever. Not just because of his basketball ability, but also because he's the kind of young man he is. You become a better person just by being around him."
David Thompson is special, whether on the court or off. Since coming to North Carolina State he has played in 108 games, of which his team has won 105. He remains, refreshingly, as considerate as ever, giving freely of his time to those who call upon it, from prisoners to reporters. He rarely says no. "The demands have been great, but overall it's been nice," he says. "I'm in no hurry to leave."
This is not the same reticent youngster who arrived on the North Carolina State campus three years ago. He accepts the acclaim and attention more naturally now. Without being a show-off, he has the showman's ability to please the paying customers.
Thompson claims no special stature for himself, but he recognizes talent in others. "Great players can just play their normal games and be very good," he says. "Those are the ones who have the ability to make basketball an art. It comes natural for them. But not for me—I have to work at it."
His close friend, tiny playmaker Monte Towe, says, "David is always one of the first to want to play a pickup game. He's worked hard to refine his skills. He doesn't try to be showy. He just goes out to win."
Thompson has gone out to win 58 times as a varsity player and he has failed only once. His graceful presence all but guarantees similar success this year, despite the loss of Center Tom Burleson from last season's lineup.
For a while Burleson seemed suitably replaced by Tommy Barker, another 7-footer and the nation's outstanding junior-college player last year. But Barker changed his mind about coming to State and ended up in Hawaii instead.
Without the services of a "receiver," as Sloan calls the Maypoles in the middle, the Wolfpack is a different team, though not necessarily a lesser one. State was able to test a speedy, pressing lineup of two guards and three forwards in the Far East and again in September against the Russians. After coaching 13 victories in 14 games Sloan felt quite pleased with the adjustment.
The 5'7" Towe will once again beat presses, bomb from outside and defy all reason in the process. And underrated Moe Rivers now has a chance to gain some identity. "I can understand being in the shadow of David and Monte, but don't forget I've got some natural talent," he says earnestly.
The three forwards are Thompson, left free by Sloan to do what he wants when he wants, 6'7" senior Tim Stoddard and either 6'8" junior Phil Spence or 6'7" freshman whiz Kenny Carr.
"We're going to have a fine team," says Sloan, with the assurance of a man who knows one when he sees one. "These are good players. I've never been more relaxed, and the team is the same way. It isn't like last year when we had the anxiety of wanting to do something for the first time. I can take time to smell the roses."
This year State could catch the bouquet again.
You can almost hear the cadence, "Hup, two, three," as Indiana University marches onto the floor. Precision, discipline and self-sacrifice are the team's best players, and if the Hoosiers have the kind of year they are capable of, the military might regain its good name.
Indiana has everything it needs to win its battles: size, speed, experience and a defense that could hardly be more effective if the players used bayonets. And the Hoosiers have a commander who is no Sergeant Bilko. Bobby Knight earned his general's stars while coaching at West Point and his blood-and-guts approach to basketball shows it.
Knight has 12 of 14 lettermen back from a team that was 23-5, tied for the Big Ten title and then lost the playoff game to Michigan. Indiana went on to win the CCA's runner-up tournament in St. Louis. Now the Hoosiers are concentrating on making sure they do not miss this year's war games in San Diego.
Their key man is Kent Benson, a 6'10", 230-pounder who is commonly described as being "no Bill Walton." The only real resemblance between the two early last season was their red hair, but Benson's detractors forget that Walton did not start at UCLA in his first year because freshmen were not eligible then. Benson did play as a regular, improved game by game and wound up being the Most Valuable Player in the St. Louis tournament. As a soph he is quicker and decidedly more self-confident.
Another player who profited from last year's combat is Forward Scott May. The 6'7" junior gunned in 12 straight baskets during an intrasquad game a few weeks ago and he fits in perfectly with Knight's pass-and-cut offense that leads defenders through a Maginot Line of screens and picks.
At the other corner is Steve Green, slow afoot, but deadly of eye. He made 55% of his field-goal tries as a junior, the best percentage among Indiana's platoon of sharpshooters. Five of the team's first seven players hit near or better than 50% from the floor.
One of the two who did not was all-international Guard Quinn Buckner. For two years Knight threatened and cajoled Buckner about his insistence on wearing football pads while the rest of the basketball team conducted fall drills. This season Buckner did not play football and Knight feels he has a head start on Operation Field Goal.
Playing alongside Buckner could be John Laskowski, the Hoosiers' assist leader who was used as a sixth man most of last year but moved into the starting lineup at the end of the season. Now it is likely he will surrender permanently his reserve's title to Bob Wilkerson, a 6'6" junior who can be used at guard, forward or center.
Indiana has shown improvement in each of three seasons under Knight, winning 17, 22 and 23 games and capturing at least a share of the Big Ten title the last two times. Even though winning the league is hardly a certainty, the Hoosiers already are talking about an assault on the NCAA championship. They have the guns to do it.
A reporter called John Wooden the other day and asked, "Can UCLA come back?" Feigning puzzlement but surely having understood, Wooden answered, "Where have we been?"
For the first spring, summer and fall in eight years, where UCLA has been is off the throne and in the thick of also-random. How does it feel coming into a season as just another challenger? "No different," Wooden insisted. "We don't live in the past. We never made reference to the national championship when we won. We don't make reference to it now that we've lost."
Be that as it may, the Bruins are burning for the chance to come back, to show what they can do without Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes and the rest of the gang that won 88 straight and set college basketball on its ear.
Because of past standards, coming back means all the way, and that will be some task. For the first time since the Bruin reign began, UCLA has neither a dominant force in the middle nor an experienced leader in backcourt. And in October the team suffered a severe blow when illness benched promising sophomore Forward Marques Johnson.
Nevertheless, the Bruins are not yet Teddy bears. They do have some strength left—such as size, speed and talented players. Seven-foot-one Ralph Drollinger returns from a summer of mountain climbing to take over full-time at center where he filled in admirably for Walton. Senior Dave Meyers and sophomore Rich Washington hold down the corners. Meyers claws the backboards like a 6'8" wildcat. In the 6'9" Washington, he has a running mate of unlimited potential. Many observers compared last year's freshman pair of Johnson and Washington with the young Curtis Rowe-Sidney Wicks combination of several seasons ago. Rowe played the solid, workman role and Wicks was the uncertain child of brilliance. If Johnson cannot come back from his mild hepatitis—and Wooden is not counting on his return—Washington, often lazy in his first season, must take over as rapidly as Wicks did to fill the void.
Similarly, Andre McCarter, the quicksilver enigma in backcourt, will be a marked man. Since coming to Westwood from Philadelphia, the 6'3" McCarter has always played out of control, failed to adapt to Wooden's style and never shot well. With a starting position finally in hand, he is trying hard now and seems to be assuming a leadership role. Six-foot-five Pete Trgovich and little Jimmy Spillane will share backcourt time with McCarter, depending on how much Wooden needs Spillane's shooting or Trgovich's defense.
Though Swingman Gavin Smith is coming along, nobody seems possessed of that ideal "sixth-man spark" Wooden covets. As a result, the Bruins are no longer very deep, and the Pacific Eight is even talking about a conference race. Still, UCLA is UCLA. That might be enough.
5 SO. CAROLINA
Silver cuff links are in order for dapper Frank McGuire, whose 25th college team should be among his most sterling. It seems almost certain that South Carolina will enjoy its seventh straight 20-win season and earn its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament bid. But that does not indicate a thing about the Gamecocks' prospects once the postseason shooting begins. McGuire's St. John's team reached the national finals in 1952, and his North Carolina club won it all five years later, but with the Roosters it has been one early-round disappointment after another.
This South Carolina contingent breaks with the past in several respects, so there is hope that its tournament record also might change. The most recent Gamecock teams looked as if they all had hatched from the same egg: deliberate on offense, zone on defense, high scoring in the backcourt and thin on the bench. And, oh yes, a whole lot of New York-New Jersey kids saying, "Youse guys" in a region dominated by "Y'alls."
Times have changed. McGuire has netted enough fast-breaking, quick-handed, all-round talent to stock two contenders. And some of the best actually were raised on grits, not corned beef and cabbage. Junior Forward Alexander English, the leading returning scorer with an 18-point average, comes from right there in Columbia, where USC is located. So does 6'4" sophomore Nate Davis, the first man off the bench and, most likely, the first to jump clear out of Carolina Coliseum. The best player, 6'9" Center Tommy Boswell, transferred from South Carolina State where he averaged 24 points and 17 rebounds a game as a sophomore two years ago.
The remaining Yankees are just dandy, too. Freshman Jack Gilloon comes from New Jersey with ball-handling moves and long hair remindful of Pete Maravich. His arrival at the point position shifts Brooklyn's Mike Dunleavy to shooting guard. Dunleavy averaged 16 a game last year while setting things up for the lone graduate, Brian Winters. Joining Boswell and English on the formidable starting frontline is New Yorker Bob Mathias, a rugged 6'7" junior.
Add to this abundance a superior bench including defense-minded Mark Greiner, freshman Guard Billy Truitt, who is the team's best shooter, and fine playmaker Jimmy Walsh, and it's no wonder that McGuire is optimistic. "I'm expecting us to do well," he says, adding himself to that assessment now that he has recovered from a serious stomach disorder that caused him to miss five games last year. "We have a lot of possibilities, in what we can do and how far we can go."
McGuire has not been quite so upbeat about the Gamecocks' prospects since the John Roche teams, those marvelous clubs of a few years back that began the dual traditions of 20-game winners and failures in the clutch. Once again, the question for South Carolina is not how, but how far.
Cover your eyes, all you tradition-minded University of Kansas fans, because here they come now, marching down Jayhawk Boulevard and into your local X-rated movie house. Danny Knight and Rick Suttle, those twin 6'10" towers from over at Allen Field House have teamed up in the soon-to-be-released epic Linda Lovelace for President.
In recent interviews Knight and Suttle have gone to great lengths to create the impression that they co-starred with Lovelace. But Jayhawk rooters who missed the filming in Lawrence and do not plan to see the picture can breathe easy; their young heroes were only extras who carried a parade banner.
Still, those who want to see more of Knight and Suttle appearing together had better plan on going to the film. After platooning them for two years, Coach Ted Owens toyed with the notion that he had enough swifties at other positions to accommodate two lumbering big men in the lineup at once. But he has changed his mind. The luxury of being able to keep a player like Suttle on the bench indicates that Owens could lend three or four men to Kansas State and still win the Big Eight again.
Besides Knight and Suttle, three other double-figure scorers return: 6'6" Roger Morningstar, 6'8"Norman Cook and 6'3" Dale Greenlee. Morningstar is the forward with the baby face and the Indian name who turns on in pressure situations; Cook is the one who made 10 out of 10 shots in his college debut last year; Greenlee is a mid-America boy-next-door who makes A's in the classroom and would not dream of missing a free throw or an open jump shot.
Hot after the other backcourt job is Rick Bussard, once Morningstar's junior-college teammate. Where that leaves 6-foot freshman Milt Gibson, the outstanding high school player in the Southwest from Roswell, N.M., is a good question. Owens is also excited about two other freshmen guards, Marc Fletcher and Clint Johnson. Eight of his top 12 players hail from Illinois, which may explain why the Illini won only five games last season.
Owens' 10-year record at Kansas is a handsome 191-83, including six postseason tournaments, and last season's Jayhawk team made it to the NCAA semifinals. But all those successes cannot overcome the humiliation Owens still feels about the 78-61 NCAA consolation game loss to UCLA's second team after the Jayhawks led Walton & Co. by seven at the half.
"I decided right there and then that when we came back to the NCAA's the next time, we would be better prepared," says Owens. "And I think we are. The other day I heard Morningstar and Greenlee talking about winning them all. They've already figured out that would make us 30-0, so I know I've got a job of coaching ahead of me." If he pulls it off, it will be a show even the most staid Kansans will love to watch.
Alabama basketball has come a long way in six years, as Evelyn Newton, wife of Coach C. M. Newton, was reminded the other day when she made a trip to the cleaners. "Oh, you mean you're Mrs. Newton, the basketball coach's wife?" she was asked by the young woman behind the counter. "Well then, I've got to put tissue paper in the sleeves of these jackets before you can take them home. We've always done that for Coach Bryant, so I've got to start doing it for you, too."
Bear Bryant is also the Alabama athletic director and intensely interested in basketball, particularly now that Newton has made Alabama a power in the Southeast Conference and helped it capture the last two SEC all-sports trophies.
That represents a big change from 1968-69, Newton's first year as coach, when the Crimson Tide won only one conference game and set up C. M. for an almost perfect growth curve. From that 4-20 starting point Alabama grew to 22-4 last year. Bama finished 10-9-8 in the SEC during Newton's first three seasons and has been 3-2-1 the last three.
Unfortunately, last year's 15-3 conference mark was not good enough to win the title outright, and that cost Alabama its first NCAA bid. Vanderbilt, also 15-3, was the conference representative at the tournament as a result of its two close victories over Alabama during the season. And as host of the Mideast regionals, Alabama was obliged by NCAA rules to stay home and pass out ham sandwiches while the Commissioners Tournament and the NIT filled their draws with lesser teams. With Alabama out of action, the tournament crowds missed seeing an exciting team whose fast break and bruising board game had defeated Louisville and South Carolina on consecutive nights.
Gone from that bunch is playmaking Guard Ray Odums, whose misfortune it was to miss a wide-open layup that would have beaten Vandy early in the season. Otherwise, everything is the same, except that corn rows have taken the place of Afros as the semiofficial team hair style. Newton will replace Odums with the best player in the conference, 6'5½" senior Charles Cleveland, who has played guard off and on and will now team full time with 6'4" sophomore Theodore Roosevelt Dunn, who carries a big stick on defense and played more minutes than anybody on the team as a freshman. Newton did not recruit the big rebounding forward of his dreams, but he is happy with 6'4" Charles (Boonie) Russell and skinny 6'8" Rickey Brown. In the middle of this all-Alabama-born-and-bred lineup is the hulk, 6'10", 230-pound Leon Douglas. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds last year with a .602 shooting percentage and 78 blocked shots.
Newton's bench is loaded with more Alabama folks like Johnny Dill, Anthony Murray and Leroy Russell. His opponents are going to find C. M. taking them for his special treatment at the cleaners.
Now is the time for all good Ivy Leaguers to come to the aid of their conference. For too long the critics have gone unchallenged. How, they ask, can a league play winning basketball when it does not grant athletic scholarships and tells its freshmen to go play with their friends? There are several answers, but the easiest is Pennsylvania. Competing in Philadelphia's prestigious Big Five as well as the Ivies, the Quakers attract honest-to-goodness scholar/athletes. Over the past five years they have won the titles in both groups every season and have had the country's fourth-best overall record (129-19). Only a critic-squashing big win in the NCAA tournament is missing from the Quakers' list of accomplishments. This could be the year.
For one thing, the opening round of the NCAA playoffs will be held in Penn's own gym, the Palestra. Then the action shifts to Providence for the Eastern Regional, which are being held outside the South for the first time in 18 years. But it's not just fortunate scheduling that gives Penn high hopes of becoming the first Ivy representative since Princeton in 1965 to make the NCAA's final four. Everyone important is back from last year's 21-6 team, and they should cut the losses in half, despite the possibility of playing Indiana and Hawaii in the Rainbow Classic.
The best reason for the Quakers' lofty aspirations is 6'8" senior Ron Haigler, who last year became only the sixth underclassman to be named Big Five Player of the Year. The others were Ken Durrett, John Jones, Howard Porter, Wally Jones and Guy Rodgers. Haigler averaged 17 points in a subdued patterned offense. With Coach Chuck Daly looking to a more freewheeling, run-and-gun attack this season, Haigler's neat, sweet jumpers will be showing up all over shot charts. He scores points off the court, too, where he already has rolled up enough credits to qualify as a high school English teacher.
Six-foot-eight, 215-pound junior John Engles was last season's Rookie of the Year in the East and he bulldozes his way around the basket, plowing up opponents and scooping up rebounds. Penn's most improved player, 6'11" Henry Johnson, and 6'7" Bob Bigelow, who has played every position, will compete for the other frontcourt spot, possibly with 6'6" Larry Lewis, a returning starter who has been slowed by knee injuries.
So far, so good, but the Quakers' problem rarely has been the frontcourt. Last year not even John Beecroft's outstanding free-throw shooting (87.3%) and Ed Stefanski's ball-hawking could prevent defenders from concentrating on the big men. Now joining these 6'1" holdovers is a Penn rarity, a big guard. Six-foot-four Mark Lonetto, a high school All-America who averaged 22 points a game with the Penn freshmen, may be the key to the season. "I won't be able to penetrate as freely as I did last year," he says. "I'll have to stop short and throw up the 15-footer. But I have confidence in that shot." So do his coaches.