No team ever deserved more to belong in the top 20, except.... The flaw is defense, and if Harvard (yes, Harvard, whose winter love story has always been hockey) decides finally to play defense, watch out. Potentially, the Crimson is the best of the non-ranked teams in the country. It might be better than that.
In a way the 1971 Crimson constitute a veritable miracle. They play in the attic (seating 1,400) of a building where the big splash is the pool. Even indoor tennis at Harvard has more modern facilities. But two more high school All-Americas, Tony Jenkins and Jim Fitzsimmons, join two others, juniors Floyd Lewis, a 6'7" forward, and James Brown, a 6'6" guard. Lewis led all New England scorers last winter in shooting percentage (52.3), and Brown was All-New England. Jenkins, 6'8", smashed his predecessors' freshman records, averaging 26.2 points a game and 17.3 rebounds. Fitzsimmons, a fearsome outside shooter for the freshmen at Duke, averaged 57% from the back-court before he transferred. There are plenty of scorers and height behind these four. Now, if somebody would just block a shot.
There is a revival going on in Greenville, S.C., but this time it has nothing to do with religion. The scene is Fur-man University and the scene setter is mod dresser Joe Williams, the son of a onetime Methodist circuit preacher who will never be mistaken for a man of the cloth. Last season, Williams' first since coming from Jacksonville (where he recruited Artis Gilmore), he took a strictly no-talent team and managed a 15-12 record. "It was satisfying," says Williams, "but this season I've got that old feeling." He should have. Back are 6'7" Russ Hunt and 5'10" Don Jackson, and with them are two excellent performers, 6'6" Bud Bierly and 6'8" Roy Simpson. Simpson played with North Carolina's Robert McAdoo at Vincennes JC and there were those around Vincennes who thought Simpson was better.
In a tactic that 100 years ago might have rewritten the history of the Plains, West Texas State Coach Dennis Walling is arming his Buffaloes with a shotgun—a four-plus-one shotgun offense to be exact. "I think we'll win 20 games," says Walling. He very well could. His schedule is the unrepresentative sort that a coach can love. He has an experienced team that beat four NCAA playoff clubs last winter. It is headed by Ray Golson (19.9 points a game) and Steve Davidson (18 points), both of New York. It also has a fine 6'8" junior-college transfer, Jon McCoy. And it has that interesting shotgun in which each player rotates to a new position on every pass. Buffaloes people.
Teams traveling to DeKalb, Ill. this winter had better think in terms of Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. That's the picture in which Cary Grant is strafed by a loaded crop duster. Northern Illinois, a major college for the last four years, has a 6'9" duster named Jim Bradley and everybody, but everybody, is saying he is the finest sophomore in the Midwest. In Northern's opening scrimmage Bradley snatched the first two defensive rebounds, dribbled behind his back to the center of the floor and, when the fast break stalled, drilled 15-footers. The Huskies were only 13-10 last year, despite finishing third in the nation in scoring (92.7). Coach Tom Jorgensen insists the problem was not defense but simply a lack of size. He has that now.
And so to Denver, which has gone to the NCAA final round nine times and won the championship five times in the last 13 years. The hockey team, that is. The basketball team, up to last season, usually split a couple with Regis and the local cowboys and went off to ski. Then Coach Jim Karabetsos and his 6'8" pivotman, Dave (Stretch) Bustion, a transfer from Northeastern JC in Sterling, Colo., came to town. The Pioneers' 13-game winning streak was finally halted by Loyola in the last game. The loss deprived NIT fans of a chance to watch the exciting Bustion reaching for the rims. Stretch, who averaged 19.5 points and 12 rebounds in 1970-71, has play director Bill Jones (brother of the NBA's Wally), high scorer Joe Wallace, another Northeastern transfer, and 6'7" Ura Sippial to help him. Beware of Greek coaches bearing Bustions.
North Carolina State was barely into a lackluster 13-14 season when Coach Norman Sloan looked longingly toward his freshman team, where 7'4" Tom Burleson was showing off tall potential. "I can hardly wait," Sloan sighed. Burleson is varsity now and he stands out among this year's garden of giant sophomores as the biggest and one of the best. Only 19 and still developing—State might have redshirted him were he not needed so much right now—he will form an imposing double post with 6'9" Paul Coder, the top returning scorer and rebounder. Unfortunately, Coder and 6'7" Bob Heuts may be distracted from their best games by recent charges of possessing marijuana. Virginia's Bill (Hoot) Gibson welcomes standout Guard Barry Parkhill and three others from a 15-11 team that could surprise everybody if it learns to win on the road. Last season's away record: 6-10. The rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference is either losing ground (Duke), rebuilding (Wake Forest) or trying very hard to get started (Clemson).
The Southeastern Conference expects its most competitive race in years. The new five-second front court rule will speed things up at Tennessee, which returns high-scoring Guard Mike Edwards from its 21-7 NIT team. LSU has a fruit basket full of talent in 6' 7" Al (Apple) Sanders (21 points, 15 rebounds) and 6' 9" Bill (Fig) Newton (19, 12). Only the backcourt needs help. Georgia will rise from 10th place, probably to the first division, with transfers John Fraley and Tim Bassett and eagerly awaited sophomore Charles Anderson. Improving Alabama, which returns everyone, adds two high-scoring sophomores. Mississippi lost Johnny Neumann but the Rebs have their second straight outstanding freshman team coming in.
While Western Kentucky was slipping a little, Eastern Kentucky and Murray State did some catching up, which should make for an interesting race in the Ohio Valley Conference. Western has Guards Jerry Dunn and Rex Bailey back from its third-place NCAA team. In 1968 they played on a state championship club coached by Jim Richards, who succeeds the promoted John Oldham. Eastern returns four starters from a 16-8 team and one of them, 25-point scorer George Bryant, may be the league's best player. Murray State was 19-5 last winter. It has three starters returning, led by junior Les Taylor.
Even with Furman getting all that attention in the Southern Conference, Davidson, which has won the regular season title the last four years, should not be dismissed. Forward Joe Sutter, who led the team in scoring last season, is one of three returning lettermen. If gifted Guard Bryan Adrian is able to play after two knee operations, he and sophomore John Falconi could make the Wildcats tough again.
Tougher yet could be Southwestern Louisiana, going big college with Dwight Lamar, who averages 36 points, often firing from midcourt. Lamar and SWL are ambitious.
Oregon State was threatening to become a power in the Pacific Eight under Coach Ralph Miller last year, when an auto accident took the life of one player and disabled another. The Beavers are recovering only now, with three starters returning and an outstanding 6'11" forward coming up from the freshman team. The forward, Steve Ericksen, averaged 23 points a game last year and promises to be an outside shooter of the Mel Counts mold. He will ably complement versatile Guard Freddie Boyd, who averaged 18 points. At Washington the outlook is brightening, too. New Coach Marv Harshman will be even cheerier if 6'10" Steve Hawes' knee proves sound again. He averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds. Oregon has Penn's old coach, Dick Harter, but not its players, and Stanford has shooter Claude Terry.
Long Beach State is not exactly alone in its own conference, the PCAA. To begin with, there is last year's second-place finisher, UC-Santa Barbara, which is missing only one starter from a 20-6 team. Then there is Pacific, newly arrived from the WCAC, where it won the title a year ago. The Tigers are built around 6'10" Center John Gianelli, who scored 21 points a game and grabbed 18 rebounds in 1970-71, and sophomore Guard John Errecart.
Seattle, taking Pacific's place in the WCAC, will contend with Santa Clara, another veteran team, for the league championship. Both are coming off rare losing seasons, and the road back is going to be complicated by exceptional sophomores on three other clubs. Pepperdine's William (Bird) Averitt and Nevada-Las Vegas' Robert Florence each scored 36 points a game as a freshman, and 6'9½" Kevin Restani broke the freshman scoring and rebounding records of Bill Russell and Ollie Johnson at San Francisco.
The favorite seldom wins the Western Athletic Conference title, and that augurs well for Arizona State and Texas-El Paso, giving chase to Brigham Young. High-scoring State returns its "Iron Eight" from a 16-10 team, led by top scorer and rebounder Paul Stovall. He is a solid 225-pounder whose willingness to play rough inside has caught the attention of pro football scouts. UTEP is another team that will use its depth at forward and guard to advantage because "we couldn't recruit a center," says Coach Don Haskins. But 6' 6" Scott English can high-jump 7'2", and there is an outstanding sophomore in 6' 8" James Forbes, another of those comparative unknowns who played on the Pan Am team.
Weber State should continue its three-year domination of the Big Sky Conference despite the loss of Willie Sojourner. And once again, the Southwest Conference race is as wide open as it is meaningless. For the record, Texas, with newcomer Larry Robinson, is a slender favorite.
One of the West's better independents is Hawaii. The Rainbows return everyone from a 23-5 team that was among the national leaders in both scoring and rebounding but blew its NIT chance. Explosive Portland State has a fine brother act in Willie and Charlie Stoudamire; Utah State, suffering from the departures of Marv Roberts and Nate Williams, has no act.
Well, the son of the undertaker is gone, and it's like the old days again for Marty and his Bronx buddies. "Wha duh ya wanna do?" one of them would ask the laconic Marty (when Ernest Borgnine was playing the role). "I don oh," he'd answer, "wha duh you wanna do?" Last year nobody asked. They marched over to Rose Hill on Fordham Road and watched the Rams of Digger Phelps. It was the kind of show they knew and loved. New York basketball, all scrap and drive, "Duh bigga dey ah, duh hoddah dey fall." Before the season was over Notre Dame did fall and Marquette just managed to keep its balance in overtime.
The new season brings Hal Wissel as coach but no Martys to Fordham Road. Wissel left Lafayette (and Tracy Tripucka, the East's leading returning scorer) to replace Phelps and the one-year miracle. Wissel inherited starters Ken Charles and Bart Woytowicz and the cry has to be, "Waid a next yeah." Rutgers also has a new coach, but next year may not be Dick Lloyd's problem. Bill Foster, who departed for Utah, left Lloyd with John Somogyi, the New Jersey high school career scoring leader who came home after spending two years at New Mexico. Somogyi will wear No. 14, once the number of Bobby Lloyd, the All-America and Dick's younger brother. A supporting cast of 6'9" Gene Armstead, Steve Kaplan and Vinnie Roundtree will make Rutgers almost as attractive as its crosstown affiliate, Douglass College. Miss New Jersey, Miss Black New Jersey, Miss Teen-Age America and Miss Bikini U.S.A. all attend Douglass.
Philadelphia's Big Five has hired its own advertising and public relations agency, perhaps in the wrong year. Aside from Penn, only Villanova has the sort of team Philadelphia has grown accustomed to. Three starters, rugged Hank Siemiontkowski and Guards Chris Ford and Tom Inglesby, are back from the Villanova team that lost the NCAA championship game to UCLA—and the season by forfeit when star Howard Porter was declared a pro. Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph's play the feisty defense the city is noted for and each could be a spoiler. Temple especially. The Owls generally seem to start slowly, but then Coach Harry Litwack subdues his gnawing ulcer and things begin to happen.
In the rugged Ivies, Princeton is only third, but what a third. Shooters Brian Taylor and Ted Manakas have a friend in 6'10" Andy Rimol. Columbia, making new moves, has talented sophomores, and Dartmouth will add Bill Raynor to a team that already includes Paul Erland and James Brown, Hanover edition.
Three positive dark horses all come from the Pittsburgh area—Duquesne, Pitt and St. Francis. Lionel (Big Train) Billingy and Billy Knight will make their debuts for the Dukes and Panthers respectively, and St. Francis has Kevin Porter, a deadly shooter and passer.
Rhode Island may become the best in the Yankee Conference and one of the best in New England, if its transfers come through. Tops among them is Don Blackman, 6'8", from Duke. West Virginia's Wil (one L) Robinson, one of the nation's better guards, singlehandedly makes the Mountaineers a sleeper. In St. Bonaventure country, Syracuse, Canisius and Niagara, with Cleve Royster moving up from the freshmen to help Marshall Wingate, are around to pick up the pieces should the Bonnies fall apart. Georgetown, George Washington and American University, with outstanding rebounder Kermit Washington, each has at least one good player.
Between them, Kansas and Kansas State have won the Big Eight title 17 times since 1950, and one or the other should win again, although neither will dominate the conference as Kansas (14-0) did last year. State is strong, tall, experienced, not very quick and the league favorite. KU's guards, Aubrey Nash and sophomore Tom Kivisto, are so good that All-America Bud Stallworth has been moved to forward. However, the Jayhawks have not found a Clyde Lovellette, Wayne Hightower, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Bridges or (most recent of the big men) Dave Robisch to play the pivot. Oklahoma will be close if it can overcome its lack of reserves, but the most exciting team should be Iowa State, a lowly 5-21 last season but now in the hands of Maury John. He proved himself as a junior-college recruiter almost without peer when he was at Drake, and already he has at least three transfer students starting.
Not that they needed assistance that much, but fate and funds lent helping hands to Ohio State and Minnesota in the Big Ten when Michigan lost Ken Brady and Indiana lost George McGinnis, who traded his last two years for a contract with the Indiana Pacers. Brady, a 6' 10" monster and the central figure in the Wolverine offense and defense, had knee surgery in October and will not be back until January at best. Until then, Henry Wilmore will have to work his abundant talents overtime to get the points while replacement Center Ernie Johnson goes after the rebounds. Indiana's new coach, Bob Knight, would like the Hoosiers to forget their impetuous past, play defense and look for the good shot. That kind of gamesmanship and Joby Wright's decision to remain in school even after his name appeared on an ABA hardship list should compensate somewhat for the loss of McGinnis and all those football games. There are talented individuals throughout the league (Illinois' Nick Weatherspoon is one, Wisconsin's 6'9" twins, Kim and Kerry Hughes, are two others), but Purdue is the only other team likely to be in contention for the championship.
Drake's Bulldogs, who represented the Missouri Valley in the NCAA tournament last year, have lost their bite with their coach and four starters gone. St. Louis and Memphis State should push Louisville. "Miami's Midgets" have grown up. Their tall sophomore class, which beat Ohio State, Purdue and Kentucky as freshmen, should help them repeat as Mid-American champions.
Among the independents there is not really anybody; there is not, in particular, Notre Dame, even with the addition of ex-Fordham Coach Digger Phelps. The firm of Austin Carr, Collis Jones and Sid Catlett has graduated, 6' 8" John Shumate has thrombophlebitis in his legs and Captain-elect Doug Gemmell broke one of his own wheels in a cycle accident. Phelps will have to live up to his nickname merely to achieve .500. A good Dayton club is rebuilding; Marshall has cornerman Russell Lee; Detroit leads the nation in player rebellions; Xavier and DePaul will not trouble anyone and Cincinnati, although it will have a 19th straight winning season with the addition of 6'5" sophomore Lloyd Batts, will not remind anybody of the Oscar Robertson days. Loyola of Chicago, despite the presence of 6'10" Center LaRue Martin, the nation's sixth-best rebounder, is still looking for that lost magic, too.
Southern Illinois won the new Midwestern Conference's first basketball title with ease, and Evansville, whose Don Buse stirs memories of Jerry Sloan, took the NCAA College Division championship for a record fifth time. However, neither school is used to the kind of treatment it will get this year. Greg Starrick, a 22.4 scorer and the nation's leading free-throw shooter, will lead the Salukis against taller and faster Northern Illinois. Butler's little Billy Shepherd has scored 1,347 points in two seasons, and if the Bulldogs improve themselves much in early games with Illinois, Drake, Minnesota, Western Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana and Cincinnati, they'll be too much for the Indiana Collegiate Conference they still play in.