Virginia Tech, regarded as one of the nation's top independents, put its reputation on the line early. And, for a while, it looked as if Tech would make this calculated risk pay off. With Glen Combs shooting mostly off a post screen from 20 feet outside (he scored 32 points), Tech had DUKE in a 64-64 tie with three minutes to go in Greensboro. But Steve Vandenberg, who had come off the bench in the first half to rouse the Blue Devils, hit four straight free throws and a layup, and Duke went on to win 74-66. The next night, at Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech led NORTH CAROLINA 48-37 early in the second half as Combs again scored well. Then the Tar Heels exploded. While Carolina's pressure defense forced Tech into errors, sophomore Charlie Scott led his team on a 13-point tear. Minutes later Joe Brown sparked a 17-4 surge, and Carolina won 89-76. "We had to be more aggressive in the second half," said Coach Dean Smith. "We were in real trouble."
North Carolina state began its Atlantic Coast season with a 79-63 victory over Wake Forest as flashy Eddie Biedenbach—they call him "The Pickpocket" because of his fast hands—stole the Deacons blind and scored 14 points, SOUTH CAROLINA had it easy against Erskine, winning 104-54.
When John Dromo took over at LOUISVILLE, he announced that Westley Unseld his 6'8" All-America, would shoot more and score more. Unseld did that against Georgetown(Ky.) pilling up 45 points (and 29 rebounds) as the Cards won 118-86. But Western Kentucky came up short in the OVC Tournament, MURRAY STATE eliminated Western 83-75 and TENNESSEE TECH took Murray 67-60 in the final.
Tennessee, playing the kind of defense Coach Ray Mears likes—unyielding—tumbled Richmond 93-45. FLORIDA, an SEC dark horse, rolled over Jacksonville 109-73 as 6'10" Neal Walk scored 37 points and pulled down 25 rebounds. Georgia'S Ken Rosemond is ready to challenge anyone now, all because of 6'11" sophomore Bob Lienhard, a New York import. Lien-hard scored 44 points and grabbed 26 rebounds as the Bulldogs smothered Arkansas A&M 138-91. LSU'S Press Maravich was ready for better things, too, after his son, Pete, scored 48 points in a 97-81 thumping of Tampa.
Davidson Coach Lefty Driesell added a ballet course to his preseason training this year, getting his inspiration from watching ballet star Vladimir Vasiliev rocket four feet straight up into the air. "It can't hurt," said Driesell. Anyhow, the Wildcats, with sophomore Mike Maloy scoring 38 points, beat Bucknell 91-70 and VMI 80-73. WEST VIRGINIA, Davidson's chief competition for the Southern Conference title, whipped William & Mary 83-66.
One thing about Michigan—the Wolverines are gracious hosts. Last Friday night Coach Dave Strack and more than 100 alumni threw a testimonial dinner for KENTUCKY'S venerable Adolph Rupp. The next day Strack's team gave Rupp's Wildcats the ball 27 times on turnovers in Michigan's new $7 million University Events Building—known around Ann Arbor as "the house that Cazzie [Russell] built"—and Kentucky took the game 96-79. Rudy Tomjanovich, Michigan's 6'7" sophomore, tried his best, scoring 17 points and grabbing 27 rebounds, but Kentucky's two sophomores, 6'4" Mike Casey and 6'8" Dan Issel, were even better. Casey scored 28 points and Issel 18. "This is the best group of sophomores I've had since Frank Ramsey, Lou Tsioropoulos and that bunch," raved Rupp. "We're going places this year."
While Purdue, the Big Ten favorite, and Rick Mount were scaring UCLA (page 30), the other conference teams warmed up for the race ahead. INDIANA'S defending cochampions got off to a scary start, barely beating Northern Illinois 71-65, while IOWA had to go all out to beat Bowling Green 79-73 and Northwestern lost to OHIO U. 71-70. But MINNESOTA buried South Dakota 85-52, OHIO STATE routed UCal at Davis 95-52, ILLINOIS defeated Butler 75-57 and MICHIGAN STATE battered Fullerton State 80-49. Fullerton? "Biggie Munn lets me schedule one game a year," explained MSU's John Benington. "That was it."
Kansas Coach Ted Owens, who had been saying that he had sufficient versatility in his personnel to cope with almost any situation, proved part of his case, anyway, against Utah State. When the Aggies threw a zone at the Jayhawks, choking off top-scorer Rodger Bohnenstiehl, Owens put in Phil Harmon, an accurate outside shooter. Harmon shot over the zone for 24 points, and Kansas won 84-55. Some other Big Eight teams looked good, too. COLORADO, getting most of its points from Guards Chuck Williams (27) and Pat Frink (15), put down Texas Tech 87-69, while KANSAS STATE clobbered Fullerton State 103-54, and OKLAHOMA beat Centenary 91-73.
Toledo, the Mid-American favorite, started off with a bang against Hillsdale, winning 136-88. MIAMI of Ohio got caught in a shooting hoedown with Ball State, while Coach Tates Locke, a basketball purist, grimaced on the bench. Happily for Locke, the Redskins won in overtime 107-100.
Louisville's competition in the Missouri Valley hardly looked dangerous. CINCINNATI was pressed to get by Indiana State 83-79, while BRADLEY had its troubles before beating St. Cloud 87-71, and TULSA had to work to take St. Mary's of Texas 70-57. ST. LOUIS, however, drubbed Kansas State Teachers 94-53.
Among the top independents, DAYTON breezed past Northern Illinois 78-61, as Donnie May, obviously over his knee troubles, scored 22 points and took 28 rebounds. LOYOLA of Chicago buried Augustana 125-79; NOTRE DAME swamped St. Joseph's of Indiana 97-72; MARQUETTE trounced St. Thomas 87-45, and DEPAUL also beat Augustana 111-79. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS, enjoying its new major college status though still playing 14 small college games this season, won twice, over Sam Houston State 70-54 and MacMurray 78-51.
It was hardly a fair test for HOUSTON, but the freewheeling Cougars enjoyed themselves immensely against Sacramento State. While George Reynolds, a handy junior-college transfer, buzzed around the bewildered Hornets, stealing passes, leading the fast break and handing out assists—mostly to Elvin Hayes—Houston ran over State 110-79. The Big E, playing the corner regularly now that 6'9" Ken Spain has learned to operate at center, scored 35 points.
Texas at el Paso, in the shiny new 8,400-seat El Paso Coliseum for the first time, coasted past Texas at Arlington 80-65, though the Miners' inside game was not exactly devastating, much to Coach Don Haskins' chagrin.
SMU's Bob Prewitt, taking over for retired Coach Doc Hayes, almost had the thrill of his young life. His Mustangs attacked vehemently and, led by Gary Sibley's 23 points, had favored VANDERBILT in a 78-78 tie at the end of regulation time. In the overtime Vandy went into a stall, but only until Tom Hagan got a chance to stir up things. Hagan, who scored 34 points in all, threw in seven quick ones, and Vanderbilt squeezed through 88-84. Prewitt was pleased with his team, but, he said, "the object of the game is to win. We aren't satisfied with a close one."
Another new coach, TEXAS' Leon Black, had a more successful debut. His Longhorns whipped Mississippi 95-82. TEXAS A&M beat Louisiana Tech 84-77, while BAYLOR had it easy against Austin, winning 90-61. But Rice and Arkansas lost, the Owls to GEORGIA TECH 84-70, the Razorbacks to MISSOURI 74-58.
New Princeton coach Pete Carril had legitimate worries before his team played Army. His two big men were ailing, 6'9" Chris Thomforde with a bruised heel and 6'8" sophomore Mike Mardy, Thomforde's substitute, with a broken nose. They both played, but Army went after Carril's Tigers with the kind of aggressive verve the Cadets usually reserve for Navy. They crowded Princeton's freelance shooters on defense, Mike Noonan and Steve Hunt scored 41 points and Army led with eight minutes to play. But the Cadets lost three players, including Noonan and Hunt, on fouls, and Princeton Guard Joe Heiser began slipping through the Army defense on drives. Heiser scored 10 points in the last five minutes (he had 23 for the game), and the Tigers pulled out a 62-59 victory.
Syracuse's Fred Lewis was worried, too, but not about injuries. "I don't know a thing about George Washington," he said. There was not much to know. Syracuse, going early from a 2-3 zone to a zone press, piled up a 12-0 lead and then coasted home 108-68 as sophomore Wayne Ward and George Hicker each scored 18 points.
There were signs that Providence, a perennial eastern leader, may not win its usual 20 games for the first time in 10 years. The Friars, without graduated Jimmy Walker's touch, gave VILLANOVA a tussle, but lost 58-54. "This year could be a test for our fans," said Providence Coach Joe Mullaney grimly.
St. John's, however, looked sharp against Virginia. Forward John Warren and Center Rudy Bogad wrecked the Cavaliers' defense with their shooting, and the Redmen won easily 82-63. Niagara's celebrated Calvin Murphy was everything people expected him to be (page 33), but LIU beat the Eagles 84-79. But NYU lost to SETON HALL 96-73 and Manhattan was upset by BRIDGE-PORT 80-72.
Some other independents also opened on a bright note, RUTGERS, playing tough defense, trounced Pitt 100-74, while FAIRFIELD surprised Canisius 65-54 and PENN STATE defeated Maryland 76-71. Georgetown, however, was beaten by AMERICAN U. 80-67. ST. JOSEPH'S rolled over Albright 90-62, LA SALLE rallied to take Rider 59-50 and PENN beat Navy 87-69.
Cornell made it three wins for the Ivy League, beating Colgate 92-84, but there were three losses, too. VERMONT edged Dartmouth 67-65, CONNECTICUT defeated Yale 70-62 and BOSTON U. upset Harvard 78-77.
About the best anyone can hope for in the Pacific Eight this year—and next year, too—is second place behind UCLA. And that race may be more interesting than the one for the title. Two teams—Washington State and USC—fancied themselves in it before the season began, but the Trojans got a jolt when Steve Jennings suffered a bone separation in his ankle. Without Jennings to set things in motion, use was hard-pressed to beat Idaho 59-50 and Loyola of Los Angeles 68-60. WASHINGTON STATE, however, looked good beating Gonzaga 95-66.
California also had high hopes until 5'10" Russ Critchfield suffered a shoulder separation in the early minutes against Idaho. But despite Critchfield's loss (for three to four weeks), Cal won 67-55. WASHINGTON, quicker than it has been in years, beat Miami of Florida twice, 96-54 and 81-80.
Santa Clara, the West Coast AC favorite, bombed San Francisco State 106 54, but the Broncos arc beginning to worry about SAN FRANCISCO. The Dons, playing careful defense, beat Oregon State 63-52. SAN JOSE STATE, a 94-59 victim of ARIZONA'S full-court press, recovered to beat Arizona State 78-75.
Running and gunning, when it works, is the style WYOMING Coach Bill Strannigan likes best, and his Cowpokes did plenty of both while beating Nevada Southern 120-87. UTAH, hemmed in for a while by Texas Tech's zone defense, found a way out to win 70-58.
New Mexico State, pressing hard, rolled over Texas at Arlington 102-86, but Colorado State was upset by WEBER STATE 71-61. The Rams, however, came back to edge Montana State 68-64.