One of the nation's toughest old-timers, in his 37th year of coaching and with a remarkable 677-235 record, Ed Diddle has another winner at WESTERN KENTUCKY. Though he lost four starters, he still has 6-foot-8 Ralph Crosthwaite, who has averaged 20 points over the last three years, a slew of tall, strong veterans and a sophomore of great promise in Charlie Osborne. This year's crew will lack the famous Hilltopper trademark, blazing speed, but has excellent board strength and shoots well. The veterans include Darrell Bicknell, Al Ellison, Jude Talbott, John McClearn, Don Parsons, Chester Montgomery and Bill Curry. Defending champion TENNESSEE TECH will be without the services of Larry McDonald, who is ill; he was counted on heavily up front, but nevertheless Tech will be a strong contender. Coach Johnny Oldham has a shallow squad that is small at the guard positions but has good size elsewhere. The veterans are Jim Hagan, Dale Phelps, Hearon Puckett, Alan Herron and Jackie Pearson. They will be backed up chiefly by sophomores, who include Lloyd Hardy, Tony Price and Roy Shumate. Two top, double-figure scorers lead a flock of returning veterans at EASTERN KENTUCKY, whose poor record last year was caused mostly by a rash of illness and injuries. Nine men were down with the flu at one time. The two high-point men are Dale Moore and Larry Wood; the others, strong rebounders and fine shooters, are Bernie Kotula, Carl Paulus, Bruce Springate, Ray Vencill and John Ratliff. Three fine sophomores will be battling for starting positions: Carl Cole, Roland Wierwille and Jack Upchurch. Barring a repetition of last year's miserable luck, this squad will be contending all the way. Too many sophomores will be starting at MURRAY STATE for new Coach Cal Luther to make an impressive debut, but the newcomers are tall and fair shooters and things should be better next year. They include Ken Peterson, Mike O'Ruirdan, Frank Smikoski and Harold Wilkins. Veteran Terry Darnall will start, and the other old hands are Ken Wray, Dale Alexander, Gene Herndon and Ralph Teter. Murray State will be slow, inexperienced and weak in reserves. Much the same situation exists at MOREHEAD STATE, where only Thornton Hill and Herb Triplett have any substantial varsity playing time behind them. Sophomores Jim Harrison, Tom Hamilton and Hecky Thompson will likely start with them, and Sam Van Hook, Gerald Yentes, Arthur Cole and Granville Williams make up the bench. The size is fair and the speed good, but inexperience is costly in this tough league. At MIDDLE TENNESSEE Coach Ed Diddle Jr. expects to give his father and other coaches in the league a peck of trouble, and for sound reasons. His team has depth, defensive ability and experience. Diddle has three veteran starters in Dick Baugh, Bob Williamson and Wally Johnson, seasoned reserves in Lewis McManus, Ronnie Newman, Ray Hammers and Mike Batsel. Two sophomores, Ralph Bryant and Bob Burden, add height. John Price, out last year with injuries, and transfer student Don Smith will see much action. Only top speed is lacking. EAST TENNESSEE STATE joins the conference this year and is not expected to make much of a splash in its debut. Inexperience is again the great drawback, since only two starters, Buddy Hartsell and Stan Johnson, are back, and only three veteran reserves, Douglas Kern, Ken Cole and Jim Williams. Three sophomores may be regulars: Jim Brown, Tom Chilton and Charles Webb. Hugh Jenkins and Charlie Kelly will join the reserves. The team has good speed and shooting ability, but the lack of height is too much to overcome. Coach Madison Brooks will have a tough row to hoe in this league.
Though it does not enjoy major-college status, one team that plays in this area and merits wide recognition is TENNESSEE A & I STATE at Nashville. This all-Negro school had a 28-3 record last year, including 21 victories in a row, and won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) title for the second time in succession. One of the members of that championship team, who returns for his senior year at Tennessee State, is Richard (Skull) Barnett, who surely will be a top draft choice among the pros next year. He is a superb shooter and has great speed afoot. State's coach, Johnny McLendon, must be rated one of the best in the business, a fine teacher of fundamentals and fast-break basketball. In addition to Barnett, the squad has starters John Barnhill and Jim Satterwhite back, and some strong veteran reserves in Rossie Johnson, Ben Warley, Eugene Werts and Nurlin Tarrant. They are high-percentage shooters, strong re-bounders and can run with anybody. They will surely clean up in their conference, the Mid-Western AA.
Coach, W. Ky.
Man to watch
RALPH CROSTHWAITE, W. KY.
This tall Kentuckian sank more than 60% of his shots from the floor last year to lead the nation in accuracy.
E. TENNESSEE STATE*
*Ineligible for conference title