THE CHOICE...ADAMS STATE
This 53-year-old athletic organization is one of the oldest, smallest and now least pretentious conferences in the NCAA. The big bad wolf of the league, Idaho State, which won eight consecutive championships, is now an independent. This leaves five teams that play each other four times apiece in a tight fraternity of intense competition.
Adams State, though only 8 and 8 last season, can now beat the quartet of Coloradoes it faces. Bob Pigford, who at 6 feet 4 and 150 pounds is a bundle of rattling bones, and Garland Osborne are starters among seven returning players. Two sophomores, Dick Buck and Berkley Sterling, and a transfer student, 6-foot-6 Kent Layton, help make this a tall team in a short league. Freshmen are eligible to play, and Coach Jack Cotton has two good ones from Waterloo, Iowa, John Kincaid and Lonnie Porter.
Coach John Bunn expects to make up for a loss of both speed and outside shooting strength at COLORADO STATE by having a much tighter defense. He has an All-Conference returnee in Forward Robert Ruffin and an experienced guard, Ted Wright, who can move well in Bunn's fast-breaking free-lance offense. Don Mulvaney, a 6-foot-4 forward, is the best newcomer. But he and Center Larry Balman (6 feet 5) are the team's big men. That is rarely enough height to win a title.
Colorado College won the championship last season, but only two starters, Guards Dan Wright and Farrell Thompson, are among the five lettermen back for Coach Leon Eastlack. A sophomore center, 6-foot-7 Steve Sabom, and three junior-college transfers, Carl Cabbiness, Bill Burke and Gregg Smith, would have to develop very quickly to keep the Tigers from being offensively weaker than a year ago. A tougher schedule will not lead to a more successful record either, but conference rivals had better concentrate on beating this team early. It is going to improve.
Colorado Western may have the conference's leading scorer in Forward Phil Coulter, but there isn't another man around with starting experience to comfort new coach, Gene Anderson. Dave Adams, a short, chunky sophomore, is the best prospect up from the freshman class, and two junior-college transfers are out for practice. The biggest of these, 6-foot-4 Ted Downing, brings helpful height to a team that averages 6 feet 1.
Colorado Mines, 3 and 13 in the conference last season, faces a subterranean future once again. Forwards Chuck Strain and Steve Harvey return, as does starting Guard Jerry Cronen. But with a minuscule center, 6-foot-2 Brent Beer, and no impressive sophomores to help out, the Orediggers will be shoveled under again.