While the two rival pro leagues wait in the wings, pens poised over checkbooks, giant Lew Alcindor—along with the usual few dozen other fine athletes—is back for one more season at UCLA. This means that the Bruins no doubt will become the first basketball team in history to win three national championships in a row. Or does it? Oklahoma A&M, Kentucky, San Francisco, Cincinnati and, not too many years ago, UCLA itself all won two straight but failed to get the third. Mindful of this and the fact that the Bruins can be had—in the past two seasons USC and Purdue came close, and last January Houston finally did pull off an upset—there is a growing army of excellent players and coaches who are determined that they will have to be beaten in the arenas, not by the wire-service polls. Some of the best are pictured on the following pages; others will be found in the ensuing scouting reports on the country's top 20 teams. The stiffest challenges this year should come from the South, where North Carolina, Kentucky and Davidson have powerful teams led by star juniors (see cover). Notre Dame, which opens its splendid new field house Dec. 7 against UCLA, is another contender, along with New Mexico, Kansas, Villanova and a handful of other schools, Any one of them would love to overtake UCLA, this season especially. Next year Big Lew will be off becoming a millionaire, and where is the challenge without Alcindor?
New Mexico State, hard by the White Sands weapons proving grounds, this winter will do some exploding itself with Coach Lou Henson's stars Jimmy Collins (left) and Sam Lacey.
Cincinnati, a riverfront town that cherishes its oldtime paddle-wheelers and college basketball, is relying on Jim Ard, Coach Tay Baker and Rick Roberson to navigate a sure course to the top.
Santa Clara Mission, a-replica of the Franciscan church built in 1777 on the site of the present university campus, looms behind Broncos Coach Dick Garibaldi, shown with his fine frontcourt of Dennis Awtrey (standing) and brothers Ralph (left) and Bud Ogden.
December 2, 1968
Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary, 300 years ago explored Lake Michigan. Al McGuire, coach of the university that bears the intrepid father's name, stands on its shores with his brilliant sophomore Dean Meminger (left) and Team Captain George Thompson.
Kansas Coach Ted Owens remains in the shadows as sophomore Dave Robisch (kneeling), a sure starter, and lettermen Bruce Sloan (left) and Phil Harmon, who will be tightly pressed by more sophomores, take their places in the sun on Mount Oread, near the campus.
New Mexico's hopes are high as Albuquerque's Sandia Mountains. Coach Bob, King, sophomore Willie Long(standing, center) and veterans (from left) Ron Sanford, Ron Becker, Howard Grimes and Greg Howard could climb to the top even without an aerial tramway.
Villanova, the posh suburbs of Philadelphia's Main Line, should be equally tony when Jack Kraft plays Johnny Jones (left) and Frank Gillen (right) with classy Howard Potter.