Indiana practices are more closely guarded than a Howard Hughes hideaway. Players work out behind a shroud of black curtains, and few visitors are permitted to pass through them, not even $1,000 contributors to the Hoosier Hundred Club. The reason stems from the charity in Coach Bob Knight's heart: a stray opponent stumbling onto the scene might lapse into terminal depression at the sight of how good Indiana looks.
Behind their security blanket, the Hoosiers have been assembling an all-round game that may surpass last season's rugged combination of offense and defense. They have been pressing like the best UCLA teams, setting up screens and picks like the Chicago Bulls and, all the while, calling out switches with voices that echo off the pre-stressed concrete walls of Assembly Hall. Even Knight admits, "There's great senior leadership. These players are as aware of how hard they should be working as any I've had."
Obviously there have been no ill effects from last year, when Indiana swept to a 31-0 record before suffering a 92-90 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Mideast Regional. The fact that Forward Scott May, who had suffered a broken arm seven games earlier, was rushed back for the Kentucky game and played poorly while wearing a cast, could have inspired morbid second-guessing; it hasn't.
December 1, 1975
Indeed, unless there arc more freakish injuries this season, Indiana will be almost impossible to stop. Steve Green, an extraordinary 58% shooter, and dependable sixth man John Laskowski have graduated. They will be missed, but not mourned. Tom Abernethy, the 6'7" forward who will replace Green, should better his predecessor's four-rebound average and will turn over the ball less often. The new sixth man will be 6'3" Wayne Radford, a clutch performer who can play either guard or forward.
The four returning starters—Guards Quinn Buckner (6'3") and Bob Wilkerson (6'7"), May (6'7") and Center Kent Benson (6'11")—are all probable first-round pro draft choices. Buckner has come on strong as a floor leader since giving up football last season. May averaged 51% from the floor and 16.3 points a game. Benson was known for alternating subpar games with outstanding ones (he had 33 points and 23 rebounds against Kentucky), but he should be more consistent this year. Off-season work with isokinetic machinery increased Benson's vertical jump from 22 inches to 26, and that is likely to lead to improvement in his 8.9 rebound average. But the biggest improver over the summer was Wilkerson, who gained an inch in height, strengthened his upper torso and may have become the most intimidating defensive guard in college.
"Indiana has the best team with the best players and the best coach," says Marquette Coach Al McGuire. After last season, Knight is understandably cautious. "You'll talk to me in March," he told Dan Barreiro of the Indiana Daily Student, "and I probably still won't be pleased with certain things." One of his displeasures is not apt to be the absence of an NCAA title.
This is a UCLA team with a new coach, a modified philosophy and an ominous secret.
The coach, Gene Bartow, affects a scholarly, fatherly attitude to match John Wooden's, but he is contemporary. After all, he has brought the two-inch side-burn to the UCLA bench.
As for the philosophy, Bartow is going modern and allowing a bit of dat ol" debbil one-on-one out on the floor. "We're not going to go hully-gully, but there will be a little freedom," he says.
With Bartow loosening the reins, the rest of the country—with the possible exception of the state of Indiana—can start humming, "Hoofbeats keep falling on my head," because the Bruins have the horses from top to bottom. The bench is so deep that several potential stars are drowning in obscurity at the far end of it. Only five players can be on the floor at once, and after Richard Washington, Andre McCarter and Marques Johnson (called Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt by Bartow), the talent levels off to just below world class.
For years UCLA has been running an underground railroad called the ABA-NBA Transcontinental Line. This season four good freshmen have signed on board. The biggest is 6'10" David Greenwood, who would not even need a slingshot against Goliath. Greenwood does things like dribbling behind his back, shooting fadeaway jumpers from the ozone and snagging his knee pads on the rims. Still, he is probably not good enough to start, and neither are the other frosh, Guards Roy Hamilton and Brad Holland and Forward Chris Lippert. UCLA has that kind of team.
Only the Big Three—Washington, McCarter and Johnson—are assured starting jobs. Forward Washington's outside shooting is improved, which will take some inside pressure off 7'1¾ Ralph Drollinger, the most likely regular at center. Introspective Guard McCarter seems ready to blossom. He spent the summer honing his jump shot and lifting weights. Forward Johnson again looks like Pop-eye after fully recovering from last year's bout with hepatitis.
Diminutive Jim Spillane started the first four games at guard in 1974-75 before McCarter moved into the lineup for good. Now Spillane should play alongside McCarter, although the two freshmen and sophomore Raymond Townsend will press him.
The worst news for this year's opponents is that the Bruins feel they have something to prove—that they can win without Xs and Os chalked by the Wizard. "Coach Wooden was the master," says McCarter. "He proved his greatness. Now we have to prove ours."
Oh, yes, the secret. UCLA has only two seniors, and unless somebody jumps off the train at Hardship Junction, the Bruins should be even better next year.
The number 10 suggests power and authority: Ten Commandments, 10 tons, ten-shun. Marquette is bullish on 10s. Ten-strong in players for a change, the Warriors are almost certain to go to a postseason tournament for the 10th straight year. Should they qualify for the NCAAs, then 10 could really become Marquette's lucky number. After nine seasons of routine success, the Warriors now have the talent to do the extraordinary—win a national title.
Even Al McGuire, the middle-aging James Dean who is in his 12th year as the Marquette coach, is optimistic—in his fashion. "The petty jealousies and dissension haven't started yet," he says. "Maybe the agents will give us until January."
The Warriors, 23-4 last season, were eliminated in the NCAA regionals by Kentucky's big men. Now Marquette will be better—much better, it appears—than any team on its schedule except Notre Dame. There are four tall reasons: 6'8" Bernard Toone, 6'6" Ulice Payne, seven-foot Craig Butrym and 6'10" Jerome Whitehead.
Freshman Toone was an All-America center at Gorton High in Yonkers, N.Y., where he averaged 32 points, 20 rebounds, six blocked shots and five assists a game. The switch to forward has been driving him loony, but McGuire expects him to come around. Junior Butrym, alias Stretch, Cloud-Piercer and the Great White Hope, is starting to play like the first 7-footer in Marquette history should. Payne, a deft, intelligent transfer from Ohio University, is so dedicated that he runs around the court twice even before playing tennis. But the best bet to crack the starting lineup is Whitehead, the only freshman to make the All-California junior college team last year. He is, McGuire admits, a "keeper."
The four other positions belong to returning starters—Butch Lee, who played well in a Puerto Rican league this summer; Lloyd Walton, who set a school assists record last year with 159; 6'9" Bo Ellis, the team's leading scorer (16.3 points a game) and rebounder (10.5); and 6'6" Earl Tatum, a forward-guard whose excellent outside shot—a Marquette rarity—is the key to the Warriors' balanced attack.
McGuire is known for keeping his squad happy. He never demotes a starter, even if he appears for just the opening tap. As for the subs, McGuire says, "We have three sixth men. I mean, you've got to replace a guard, a forward and a center, right? This way the ninth man is the seventh man and everybody's happy." To extend McGuire's logic, there are two seventh men, six-foot Gary Rosenberger and muscular 6'5" Bill Neary. That, somehow, adds up to 10.
And that doesn't count the bearded Boswell (Sports Information Director Kevin Byrne) McGuire has added to his retinue this year. Byrne keeps busy by recording the Quotations of Chairman Al. The one to remember is "seashells and balloons." It means everything is cool. In this year of 10s, Marquette could be seashells and balloons all the way to the end of March.
While Alabama, Kentucky and Vanderbilt were fighting it out for the SEC title the past two seasons, Tennessee quietly was developing into a monster. No longer the tight-fisted band that led the nation in defense from 1963 through 1973, the Vols have been transformed into a scoring machine by a pair of New York City players named Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld who combined for 71 points in one game last winter. Together, the gentlemanly King and the rugged Grunfeld make Tennessee an excellent and explosive club.
Like a football team playing without a huddle, the Vols put points on the board by racing the ball back up the floor whether or not the opposition has scored. Grunfeld will take any shot he can get before the defense is able to set up; the rest of the time, the ball usually will go inside to the 6'7" King. From there, it generally goes through the hoop.
As a freshman last season, King led the nation in shooting (.622), finished 11th in scoring (26.4) and 20th in rebounding (12.3). NCAA statisticians have discovered that only a handful of players King's size ever enjoyed a comparable season.
Grunfeld had to work hard to score his 24 points a game, but this year Tennessee's opponents know all about King and will have to key on him. That should spread out the defenses and make Grunfeld's mad rushes to the bucket easier.
In Coach Ray Mears" scheme of things, King plays the high post and Grunfeld the left wing. Senior Doug Ashworth did a creditable job at the low post last year, but another New York recruit, 6'9", 225-pound freshman Irv Chatman, is being counted on to take over at that spot by midseason. Chatman wears 40-inch sleeves and has a 9½-foot arm span. The starting job at right wing also is being contested, and that is hard to believe because last season junior Mike Jackson shot 51%. But his rival, Terry Crosby, is no ordinary freshman. Crosby, 6'4" and 205 pounds, works the ball back and forth between his legs while he tries to decide which of his many moves to use. The little man being asked to run the show is 5'10" freshman Johnny Darden who, surprise, is a native Tennessean.
Their 103-98 victory over Kentucky last year was the kind of performance the Vols are capable of delivering regularly now. King had 20 rebounds to go with 24 points, Grunfeld scored 29, Jackson poured in 24 and Ashworth added 12 points and nine rebounds. Tennessee should be a Big Orange Menace.
So which team has a secret service offense, employs the coach with the highest rankings in college basketball and knows the answer to that age-old question: What is a terrapin? If you answered the University of Maryland, proceed directly to Largo, Md.—if you can find it—and wait for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to arrive.
This is a team with more good guards than President Ford. Coach Lefty Driesell usually starts three of them: seniors John Lucas and Mo Howard and sophomore Brad Davis, a passer so accurate he could toss a basketball into a milk bottle.
In case you haven't noticed, Driesell's club finally has arrived as the UCLA of the East, a phrase that now has been translated into 17 languages. Lefty has had more teams (seven) ranked in the Top 10 than any active coach.
This year he should get No. 8, and in honor of that the Terrapins should hold a contest for a new nickname, because they are anything but turtles. With its three-guard offense, Maryland runs a layup drill the entire game. That is a major reason the Terps set an NCAA shooting percentage record last season when they hit .547 from the floor. Most teams' best shooter does not do that well. Lucas (.549), Howard (.565) and Davis (.580) all beat the team mark. Lucas was Maryland's leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, followed by Steve Sheppard (14.3), even though the muscular 6'6" forward started only about half of the time. Another returnee is 6'9" sophomore Chris Patton, who is recovering from a fractured wrist.
And there are a bunch of new faces, including Larry Gibson, a 6'10" freshman with a reputation for toughness, James Tillman, a District of Columbia product who is an extraordinary jumper, and Larry Boston, a 6'8" junior college transfer.
The Terps lost a lot of rebounding with the graduation of Tom Roy and Owen Brown, who were the main reasons Maryland was able to play three shorties at the same time. But Driesell is not overly concerned. In his 15-year coaching career, he never has had a team outrebounded over a season.
Last year the Terps were 24-5 and won the ACC regular-season championship, accomplishments they should repeat with four-year-starter Lucas settled in as the team leader. They will have ample time to work in the new recruits at a leisurely pace; Maryland plays nine of its first 10 games at home, most of them against opponents whose team symbols should be lilies. Then the Terps move into ACC play with an eye on the conference tournament, an event Maryland always seems to find a way to lose. This year, happily, it will be held for the first time at nearby Largo. To find it, go to College Park and ask someone.
6 SAN FRANCISCO
Enthusiasm is when one of your former stars (Warrior Phil Smith) practices with his pro team all day, then comes by to watch his old college club work out.
Enthusiasm is when you increase your season-ticket sales by 600% and people are scalping seats in October.
Enthusiasm is when a faculty member mistakenly overpays for his season ticket, then says, "Keep the $55. That'll buy a couple of lunches for Cartwright."
Enthusiasm is when people say you can win the national championship.
That is the mood at the University of San Francisco. The Dons took the 1955 and 1956 NCAA titles, winning 60 straight games along the way, and USF fans are already talking about a replay.
Well, they don't have Bill Russell this time, but some think USF had a better recruiting year than the all-volunteer Army. At the top of the list is seven-footer Bill Cartwright, and his arrival attracted a squad of other top enlistees, including freshmen Winford Boynes and 6'8" James Hardy and junior college transfers Sam Williams and Allen Thompson. The Dons also have the top four players from the team that last season had a 19-7 record and finished second in the West Coast Athletic Conference. No wonder there is enthusiasm.
Cartwright ran up his 67% field-goal mark in high school against inferior opposition, but he has the talent to adjust quickly to the college game. He will be glad to see the season start, since the quality of competition should drop off. At practice his teammates batter him around, and the first two times he tried an unfamiliar hook shot Hardy caught the ball in midair. Cartwright is a nice little guy who happens to be inside a giant body. When he learns to shove as well as he shoots, the Dons will be mighty tough.
Hardy, whom Coach Bob Gaillard calls "Trouble" (as in trouble for other teams), will play the low post, freeing Cartwright to pop jumpers from the high position. Boynes, who has been brilliant in drills, will shine on the wing.
The backcourt could be a problem. Gaillard is considering moving 6'5" Marlon Redmond there despite the fact that he was an All-WCAC selection at forward last season. The other backcourt candidates are Thompson, Sam Williams, two-year starter Russ Coleman and Rod Williams, the team's best outside shooter and the man who will be called on to break-the zone defenses the tall Dons are sure to see.
This is the 35-year-old Gaillard's sixth season at USF, where he has won three league championships. He applies his training rules with an even hand; if he is late for practice, he has to do penance by running up and down the gym stairs. A couple of times players have moved up the clock on him, so he arrives early now. And what coach wouldn't get there ahead of time just to watch the sort of team he is assembling.
7 NOTRE DAME
More than any other team, Notre Dame has relied on freshmen to step in immediately. Two years ago Adrian Dantley and Bill Paterno were barely out of high school when they became key players on a 26-3 team. Last season freshmen Guards Jeff Carpenter and Donald (Duck) Williams and Forward David Batton helped the Irish to an unexpectedly good 19-10 record and a spot in the national championship tournament. Now three more freshmen, 6'2" Guard Bernard Rencher, 6'8" Forward Bruce Flowers and 6'11" Center Bill Laimbeer, are being counted on to play important roles in another drive toward the top of the rankings.
Rencher, who comes from New York City, is an excellent shot. Flowers is an exceptionally agile player from suburban Detroit who spurned offers from Indiana and Michigan. Californian Laimbeer is big, and that is almost enough. "'The thing UCLA and some other teams have had over us is the dominant big man," says Notre Dame Assistant Coach Frank McLaughlin. "Laimbeer could change that by the end of this season."
"Like most freshmen, these kids have to learn defense," says Coach Digger Phelps, "but they'll help us in other ways. We're going to be very physical—I think rebounding is the key to a successful season. We'll also be using all 10 men. People ask me who will start, but that's not important. Some nights a guy will play 12 minutes, other nights 38."
The most likely 38-minute players are 6'6" Paterno, who is trying to move from forward to guard, and 6'5" Dantley, who was second in the nation to David Thompson last year with a 30.4-point scoring average. It is likely that Dantley will have to restrict his shooting somewhat now that he is playing on a well-balanced team. "Maybe not," he counters. "They won't be able to stop me with a box-and-one, because we'll have more good players on the floor. But I'll do what Coach Phelps wants. I'm very sensitive. When I was a freshman, people said I had too much baby fat. I overreacted to that and worked myself so hard that I suffered from dehydration. Now they're saying, 'What do you have left to prove?' Well, I want to prove that I'm a complete player."
Two other juniors, 6'8" center Toby Knight and Guard Ray Martin, and Bat-ton, a 6'9" forward-center who helped turn the Irish around after a 7-6 start last season, will see considerable playing time.
For all Notre Dame's improvement, it will be difficult to surpass the 19 wins of a season ago. The problem, as usual, is the schedule. The Irish play three of last year's top five teams, including UCLA twice. "I'll settle for 18 or 19 wins—whatever it takes to get us a tournament bid," says Phelps. Then, and only then, do the Irish hope to improve on last season, which ended with a loss to Maryland in the regionals. If Notre Dame receives its usual quota of help from the freshmen, it could go much further than that.
8 NORTH CAROLINA
Hardly anything seems to change at North Carolina. The Tar Heels still play their Chinese checkers attack, forcing the ball in from 10 feet to eight feet to six feet to get a better shot. They still seem to pull out most of their wins in the last 10 seconds, when Coach Dean Smith interrupts his four-corners delay offense long enough to call his last three time-outs. And they still drive the rest of the ACC crazy with their assured attitude that basketball is meant to be played this way.
But, surprisingly, there are a few new things at Chapel Hill this year. For once nobody on the Carolina staff hears much from the players except at practice. This was hardly characteristic of some of the busy BMOCs who have played for Smith in the past. Steve Previs, for example, did color commentary on the Carolina baseball network. George Karl used to live in the publicity office, checking his stats and snooping for pictures. And the off-court antics of All-Americas Larry Miller and Billy Cunningham are legendary. By comparison, the current UNC starters—6'10" Center Mitch Kupchak, Forwards Walter Davis and Tom LaGarde and Guards John Kuester and Phil Ford—have a low profile.
"They're so happy playing ball they do whatever I ask," Smith says. "I used to think you needed a problem occasionally to keep things interesting, but here's what you run into with this bunch. The other day my seniors came in and told me that some guys were taking two glasses of water at dinner instead of one."
In their defense, it must be said that this year's seniors are not wholly stick-in-the-muds. They like a glass of ale now and then, and they did vote to push back the team curfew from 10:30 to midnight. But the team's favorite topic is the intramural softball championship it won last spring, with LaGarde providing a rare sight as a 6'10" catcher.
On the basketball floor Carolina won 23 of 31 games last season and narrowly lost in the NCAA regionals. There is no outstanding freshman waiting in the wings, as Ford was a year ago, but Kuester handles the ball well and is the only regular who did not start last season.
The Tar Heels' record was news of sorts, since it included Smith's lowest winning percentage since 1970. He was named U.S. Olympic coach in March, but remains a mysterious figure. Few people are close to him. Smith refuses to accept junior college transfers, tells terrific Al McGuire stories and hustles from Carmichael Auditorium to his new country pad in a gadgety 1976 Cadillac.
Both Kupchak and LaGarde had planned to go to Notre Dame, but ended up at North Carolina because of Smith. "You can't buddy up to him," says Kupchak, "but I think he's the best coach in America."
And there's nothing new about that sentiment in North Carolina.
And now for the latest Cincinnati success story, here are the national champion Bearcats, with Paul Hogue, Tom Thacker, Ron Bonham.... Whoops, sorry, this season's University of Cincinnati team just seems like the championship squads of 1960 and 1961. Good size, no dominant player, a record of beating favored opponents. Which is not to say the current Bearcats lack things distinctly their own. Where else can you find a team of veteran sophomores and a recruiter from big-league baseball?
Last year Cincinnati could have been called the Four Freshmen. No sooner had Steve Collier, Pat Cummings, Mike Jones and Bob Miller peeled off their high school letter sweaters than they were starting. And excelling. The Bearcats, 23-6, won 16 straight and defeated Marquette and Notre Dame on the road. Collier, a 6'4" guard, was the leading scorer with a 13.8 average and was elected the team's most valuable player, a feat Oscar Robertson first accomplished in his junior year at Cincy. And Collier can play so many roles other than scorer that he may be recruited next by David Merrick. Cummings, 6'9", is a 58% shooter with excellent range; Jones, 6'6", averaged 21 points against Marquette, Louisville and Houston; and Miller, 6'11", has a 42-inch vertical jump.
Center Mike Franklin was the only significant graduation loss. With the addition of 6'5" Brian Williams and a topflight junior college transfer, 6'4" Gary Yoder, Cincinnati should improve its record despite a tougher schedule.
Coach Gale Catlett's major concern is his team's tendency to lapse into helter-skelter defense. Having coached under Ted Owens, Lefty Driesell and Adolph Rupp, roomed with Rod Thorn and teamed with Jerry West, Catlett, 59-23 after three seasons, understandably has high standards. "The No. 1 thing is getting the good players," he says. "Our alumni have been great, and one of our best recruiters has been Pete Rose. He listens to every game on the radio."
"If they want me to speak to a kid, I will," says Rose. "I do it for the football coach, too. I didn't go to the university, but this is my city."
Rose has helped Cincinnati pull in a bundle of high school All-Americas. "We had five last year," says Jones, "and that was our big problem early in the season. It's not a question of having no differences—you always do. You have to learn to get along with each other despite them." A 17-game trip to Australia this summer helped the Bearcats do just that. Uniting in the face of haphazard scheduling and officiating, they were unbeaten Down Under.
Catlett came home from Australia with a working definition of bearcat. "I wanted to call us the Fighting Bearcats," he says. "When I got to Australia, I conducted a survey and found that the. bearcat is a lazy animal that sleeps all day. It was a great disappointment."
It is unlikely that he'll be disappointed in the Cincinnati breed of cat.
Maybe in the old days summer was the time when a basketball player went home to eat mama's cooking and take his high school sweetheart to the drive-in. But now the sport is a year-round affair. Consider Alabama's 6'9" Center Leon Douglas, a member of the U.S. International Cup and Pan-Am teams this past off-season. At one point he played ball on 42 consecutive days.
Douglas was used often at forward while on tour, and that sharpened his already fine shooting eye. The traveling shaved 20 pounds from his frame, and that has made him a good deal quicker. All of which is very welcome news for 'Bama fans, because Douglas must have an especially good senior year if the Crimson Tide is finally to break the pattern of near-misses that has marred its recent seasons.
Alabama has won 22 games in each of Douglas' previous three years, and Douglas has averaged 16 points and 11.2 rebounds. But the team has had little to show for these efforts. 'Bama is yet to win an SEC championship outright and suffered a 97-94 defeat by Arizona State in the NCAA tournament last year.
Mention any of this to Coach C. M. Newton and he will rekindle the fire in his pipe and cry shucks-by-dern, dad-blazes or golly-gee in rebuttal. How can you fault a team, he asks, that put together a 22-5 record in '74-'75? The answer, as in the previous two seasons, is that Alabama could scarcely have picked worse games for its conference losses. Against Vanderbilt in 1974 and Kentucky in 1973 and 1975—the two teams that have won or shared SEC titles during that period—Alabama was 0-6.
Newton hopes a transfusion of new blood will provide a cure. He had a banner recruiting year: 6'6", 225-pound Forward Reginald King had 26 points and 29 rebounds and was named MVP in the state high school all-star game; Tommy Bonds scored 31 points in the same game and should provide a strong back-up for junior Guard T. R. Dunn and Sophomore Anthony Murray, who will hound the opponents' best shooter from the other backcourt spot. Newton is still trying to bring out the competitor lurking inside undeniably talented 6'8" Forward Rickey Brown, but hot-shooting 6'7" freshman Keith McCord is already raring to go.
As usual, the schedule will play a major role in deciding the SEC race. Tennessee and Georgia visit Tuscaloosa on the next-to-last weekend of the season; then the Crimson Tide finishes up on the road with Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
"It won't be easy," says Newton, getting really fired up. By dern, he's right.
It will be more than four months before college basketball's national champion for this season is known, but Arizona Coach Fred Snowden is absolutely certain right now who it would have been.
Three years ago Snowden came to Tucson with his celebrated "Kiddie Korps," a starting lineup composed of five freshmen. They would be seniors this year. Two of them, Eric Money (Detroit Pistons) and Coniel Norman (Philadelphia 76ers), are in their second seasons in the NBA, John Irving transferred to Hofstra where he was the country's leading re-bounder last season and Jim Rappis, who remains at Arizona, is recovering from yet another in a series of injuries. The fifth member of the group, Al Fleming, is still on hand and very healthy.
Partly because of Fleming, no one should feel too sorry for Snowden. An optimum optimist, he thinks the Wildcats still could take the national title, although they first must concentrate oh winning the Western Athletic Conference. For two consecutive years Snow-den's team has been the conference favorite, but Arizona has yet to win the championship.
Snowden spent a restless summer wondering if the players who rolled up a 22-7 record last year would return. "I expected the worst," he says, "but they told me they were interested in completing school and they all came back."
He will have to wait a bit longer for Rappis. This fall the 6'2" guard seemed recovered from his long string of mishaps, then last month doctors discovered a ruptured spinal disc and Rappis was operated on again. Three weeks later he was out on the floor shooting baskets. "'Knowing the type of guy Jimmy is, he'll be back before our sixth game," says Snowden.
By then 6'8" Forward Fleming may have missed the first of his long jumpers. He has a career field-goal percentage of .581. And while Fleming does his deadly work outside, Bob Elliott wheels inside. The 6'10" center averaged 23 points a year ago. This also could be the season that swingman Herman Harris lives up to his—and everyone else's—high expectations.
As usual, the Wildcats will run. Snowden has a big book full of intricate plays, but the one he likes best is the three-on-one fast break. His second choice is the two-on-one fast break. He even likes the one-on-five break, which is one reason Arizona committed 19 turnovers a game last year.
And the Wildcats will do some things other than run well. One is rebounding, since eight of the players stand 6'8" or taller. Nor is that the end of the 'Cats' talents. Forward Jerome Gladney plays the trombone and another forward, Tim Marshall, has appeared on television doing his nifty Muhammad AH imitation. If the players get together and come up with a magic act that makes those turnovers disappear, Arizona could be a smash.
12 KANSAS STATE
At the ancient Alma Hotel on the road between Topeka and Manhattan, a phenomenon known as the Purple Chef serves a million-dollar menu in two-bit surroundings. The Purple Chef is purple (well, his billowy hat is purple) because that is the color of his true love, the Kansas State basketball team. Over the years, Wildcat players have learned that if Coach Jack Hartman is good for a lot of laps, the Purple Chef is at least good for a laugh and a lunch. In his role as the Escoffier of K-State athletics, he cooks up snacks every so often and serves them to the players in their Manhattan dormitory. If the Wildcats do as well as expected this year, the squad may be getting breakfast in bed every day.
Kansas State made it all the way to the NCAA regional finals last spring, disproving last November's predictions that the Wildcats might not win half their games. They finished second in the Big Eight, came within an overtime of reaching the NCAA final round and managed an overall record of 20-9. With four starters back, including rapid-fire Guards Chuckie Williams and Mike Evans, and some quality frontcourt recruits, Kansas State should be even better this season.
As rocket launchers go, Williams and Evans are two of the best, and Hartman believes 6'10" Center Carl Gerlach can improve on last year's 10 points per game. Forward Larry Dassie, a 6'5" newcomer from Dodge City Junior College, can also become a top gun. Aggressive Dan Droge and inconsistent Darryl Winston-renew their competition for the other forward spot. Jerry Black, a 6'11" JC transfer, is expected to help.
Even if the frontcourt scores more, a return to man-to-man defense and an upbeat offensive tempo should keep Williams and Evans around their 22.1-and 17-point averages of last year. Evans is the better all-round player, more suited to working at point guard, but Hartman calls Williams "the best shooter I've ever coached." And that's saying something, since Walt Frazier was one of his charges when he was the head man at Southern Illinois.
Last year Williams scored 640 points, more than any other Wildcat guard ever, and Evans overcame a late-season broken nose to add 492 more. This winter the two guards may share the spotlight with Dassie, a JC All-America. Hartman worries over Dassie's uninhibited style, but says, "If he'll let me work with him and firm everything up, he'll make a big contribution."
If Dassie does dazzle, the Wildcats' prospects for at least a Big Eight title are as good as the Purple Chef's veal cordon bleu.
Because of UCLA's dramatic victories in the NCAA final round last spring, it is almost forgotten that the Bruins came within inches of being knocked out of the tournament before they reached San Diego. In fact, had C. J. Kupec's last-second shot gone in instead of hitting the rim, Michigan would have beaten UCLA in regulation time in the Western Regional. Instead, the Wolverines lost 103-91 in overtime. Now culprit Kupec has graduated and Michigan has added a gang of freshmen and a junior college transfer who look good enough to prevent such slipups this year.
The trouble is that none of the newcomers seems fully capable of replacing the skill or brawn of the 6'8", 230-pound Kupec, whose miss of that long heave against UCLA was one of his few failures last season. He was Michigan's best player, an 18-point scorer who also pulled down eight rebounds a game.
If the Wolverines are to improve their 19-8 record, they must receive immediate help from the new players, particularly 6'7" frosh Phil Hubbard, who is expected to step in for Kupec. Hubbard was an All-America at Canton, Ohio's McKinley High, where he broke Washington Bullet Nick Weatherspoon's scoring record, but at 195 pounds he cannot come close to matching Kupec's bulk, which was a big asset under the boards.
Fortunately, Hubbard will have more help in the forecourt than Kupec did. Six-foot-eight Joel Thompson, who averaged just two points a game last season, was the team's leading scorer during a 7-0 summer swing through Egypt. John Robinson (6'6") was last season's most pleasant surprise, shooting 60% from the floor. And depth will be provided by 6'9" Tom Bergen, a transfer from Utah, and 6'6" freshman Bobby Jones.
Nevertheless, Michigan's mightiest players are its mites. In 6'2" Captain Wayman Britt, the Wolverines may have the smallest major-college forward. That does not bother Britt at all. "Ninety percent of the time, the ball is rebounded below the basket," says Britt, who can go a foot above the rim if he has to.
Another 6'2" player, Steve Grote, is among the country's toughest backcourt men; Football Coach Bo Schembechler even wanted him to play the "wolfman" linebacker position. With a blond mustache and Afro, Grote would have been perfect for the part. Rickey Green, the nation's premier JC guard at Vincennes, where he averaged 21 points last season, completes a strong backcourt, though he needs to improve his ballhandling.
Despite winning 41 of its last 54, Michigan has had just one sellout in the past two years at Crisler Arena. The Wolverines use what should be a crowd-pleasing man-to-man defense and fast-break offense. Coach John Orr, a man who has lectured nuclear engineering students on positive thinking, expects the fans to come back this year. They should. After all, Michigan is a team that literally plays over its head.
After years of going off to play some teams nobody knew in some places nobody ever heard of, Louisville has forsaken the spread-eagled Missouri Valley Conference in favor of a league that makes sense. By most standards—economics, publicity, natural rivalries—the new Metro Six (Cincinnati, Memphis State, St. Louis University, Tulane, Georgia Tech and Louisville) promises to benefit the Cardinals' program. Instead of outlanders from Texas and New Mexico fans will get to see more of Memphis State and Cincinnati. And instead of dodging dust in Amarillo, the players can strut their stuff on Beale, Bourbon and Peachtree streets.
However, the transitional period will be perilous, even for a team that Coach Denny Crum says, with uncoachly optimism, could be better than last season's NCAA third-place finisher. At least until the Metro Six can put together its double round-robin regular-season schedule in 1976-77, the league's champion—and NCAA representative—will be determined by a postseason tournament. It is the Cardinals' good fortune that the event will be held this season in Louisville's Freedom Hall, which also will be the site of the NCAA Midwest Regional.
"In effect, we'll be playing a Missouri Valley schedule without having the chance for a conference championship, so we have to play as if we were an independent," says Crum. "I've never been in favor of a tournament, but right now we've got no choice."
With mainstays Junior Bridgeman and Allen Murphy gone to the pros, the Cards will go more often to gifted 6'5" Wesley Cox, who averaged 11 points last season on only nine shots a game. As the outgoing Cox told a newsman on team-picture day, "I'm the man this year." Indeed he is, but he is not the whole show. Junior Guard Phillip Bond was the MVP in the Midwest Regional last spring and this fall was a key man on the U.S. gold medal-winning Pan-Am Games team. Sophomore Center Ricky Gallon, 6'11 ", looks stronger and more aggressive, as do Danny Brown, Rick Wilson and Billy Harmon, who are all fighting for a starting guard spot. The only freshman to make the varsity, 6'7" Larry Williams, is one of four players who will share the forward spot opposite Cox.
The first half of the season could be rough for the Cardinals; they have road games at Memphis, Cincinnati and Providence. But sooner or, more likely, later, Crum expects his no-senior team to be a good one. "I don't know whether we'll become a great team at midseason or in late season. Maybe we'll have to wait until next year," says Crum. "But we'll be plenty good. This team is potentially better than last year's, and I thought we were the best in the country then."
Founded as Queens College in 1766, Rutgers took 209 years to get its team to an NCAA tournament. Alas, the results of that long-awaited trip last March hardly inspired the campus statue of William the Silent to burst into a chorus of On the Banks of the Old Raritan. In the first round at Oral Roberts University, the Scarlet Knights drew powerful Louisville, and Coach Tom Young had only to look at the sides of the court to see the words of Oracle Oral himself: "Expect a Miracle." The Rutgers fast break rolled up a somewhat miraculous eight-point lead in the first half, but then the Cardinals" depth took over for a no-miracles-tonight 91-78 Louisville win.
The defeat was not a complete loss; the Rutgers coaches and players believe they learned a lesson from it. "Those Louisville guys kept coming off the bench and they all played the same," says Center Mike Palko. "Junior Bridgeman scored 36 points against us, and I still don't know which guy he was. If we are going to be that kind of basketball power, we are going to need as much depth."
With that in mind, Young has recruited two prize freshmen, Abdel Anderson and Jim Bailey, to augment returning starters Phil Sellers, Mike Dabney, Ed Jordan, Hollis Copeland and Palko. There may be no faster lineup anywhere.
Sellers, a temperamental senior All-America, should complete his career as the leading scorer and rebounder in Rutgers history. He averaged 22.7 points last season and has a marvelous knack for saving his most productive games for tough opponents. For example, he had 29 points against Louisville.
Like Sellers, Dabney is beginning his fourth season in the starting lineup, and he, too, is exceptional. "I get as many-pro feelers about Mike as I do about Phil," Young says.
With Sellers and Dabney at the wings, Jordan directs a "rip and run" offense that occasionally will fast break on the out-of-bounds play after an opponent's goal. Jordan also is Rutgers' best defender, the kind of light-fingered operator that Karl Maiden warns about in those traveler's check commercials.
Sophomore Copeland was the fourth Scarlet Knights starter to average in double figures last season, and he and Palko are expected to shoulder most of the rebounding chores. But by tournament time this season they should be receiving some help from 6'7" Anderson and 6'9" Bailey.
With its new-found depth, Rutgers should move up among the big basketball powers. If the Knights pull that off, the excitement in their 2,800-seat gym will be at its highest since the night in the mid-'50s when Dr. Alfred Kinsey lectured the student body on what people do when they are not watching basketball games.
Berkeley was the capital of basketball in 1959 and 1960 when Pete Newell coached the University of California to one title and a second-place finish in the NCAA tournament. But thereafter free speech, not free throws, became the hot topic on campus.
Professors say these things run in cycles, and now basketball has come around again at California. There are two hot new prospects on hand, a midget and a giant, plus four starters and all the reserves from last year's team that compiled a 17-9 record, the Golden Bears' best since 1960.
The heart of Cal's club is 6'3" Rickie Hawthorne, a 14.9-points-a-game guard who must feel like a vice-presidential selection. He has been on the All-Pac-8 second team for the last three years. Now he appears to be a cinch for a top spot on the ticket.
Coach Dick Edwards' squad includes 6'9" Center Jay Young, and there is also real size on the bench, although you have to look closely to see it. Freshman Tom Schneiderjohn, 6'11", has such long arms that he can stand flat-footed and touch the bottom of the backboard. Of course, at a mere 185 pounds he needs something to hold on to.
Cal probably will be forced to play a zone defense at times to help improve its rebounding. Last year Young was the best on the boards, but his 7.5 average would get him thrown off some teams. Guard Connie White, 6'4", tied for second in rebounding behind Young, and it would help the Golden Bears' board work if he could be shifted full time to forward.
There are two things holding up the switch. One is freshman Guard Gene Ransom, a 5'9" dervish of a ball handler. Ransom can run the offense, but his defense is Las Vegas style. He likes to gamble, and too frequently he comes up broke.
The other reason for keeping White in the backcourt is Forward Ray Murry, a JC transfer who eats his spinach and often his opponent's lunch. Murry is only 6'5", but he weighs 225, most of it sinew. "Some people think I should be playing football," he says. Edwards probably will solve the dilemma by swinging White between guard and forward and alternating the two others, pulling Ransom into the pits for a fresh supply of chips while Murry blocks and tackles. Another starter will be 6'8" Carl Bird, a consistent 12.7-point, 4.9-rebound performer.
Because of the school's reputation for activism, Edwards felt some trepidation when he arrived at Berkeley three years ago. But things have changed. Cal may bomb some people this year, but the victims won't be bankers.
Since the Auburn press guide does not bother to report that Coach Bob Davis' doctorate is in education, the logical assumption is that his Ph.D. is in comedy & torture. While coaching at Georgetown (Ky.) College, Davis once got so angry at his players during a game that he left the bench, went up in the stands and sat down to read a newspaper. Another defeat so enraged him that he locked his team in the dressing room all night.
Wherever he has coached, Davis' players have been provoked by his needling, his cynicism, and by jokes laced with razor blades. Yet Davis' style has served him well. By the time he was 45 years old, he had won 452 games coaching in small-college competition. When he inherited a 6-20 team at Auburn two years ago, Davis was expected to improve the situation. The only question was whether any Tiger players would live to tell how he did it.
After they were shelled 93-65 at Mississippi early in the 1973-74 season, Davis let his Tigers out of the dressing room—not for the trip back to Alabama, but for a two-hour late-night practice.
At home, Davis pushed his players through three-a-day drills, but matters did not improve. Finally, during a 96-51 thrashing at Vanderbilt, Davis turned to his assistant coach, John Lykins, and screamed, "Why don't you go out and get me some players I can win with!" Lykins was so startled that he immediately got up from the bench, left the gym and was not heard from for 16 days.
That first team of Davis' was not as bad as all this sounds. It beat Kentucky 99-97 late in the season and finished 10-16. Guard Eddie Johnson topped the SEC with 22.3 points per game as a freshman, and classmate Pepto Bolden led the conference in rebounding. Bolden scored 27 points in the first game last year to launch an 18-8 season. It is an index of the Tigers' growing strength that Bolden will not start this year.
Gary Redding, a reliable 6'6" senior, mans one forward position. Opposite him will be Mike Mitchell, a rugged 6'8", 215-pound sophomore who likes to sew. Mitchell is one of those players that Lykins was chased out to recruit, and he starred in last year's 90-85 defeat of NCAA runner-up Kentucky with 31 points and 15 rebounds. Another of Lykins' prize catches is Center Myles Patrick, who may have improved his shooting enough to hold back 6'8" Cedrick Hordges. Hordges is a cocky freshman who thinks he can do anything on a basketball floor, and he may very well be right. Guard Stan Pietkiewicz is an accurate shooter if allowed to stand and aim. Finally, there is Johnson, who remains one of the finest unheralded players in recent memory. He averaged 20.9 last year, was fourth in the nation in free-throw shooting (.879) and is quicker than a flick of your Bic.
The key to Auburn's season lies in the Tigers' ability to play as a team. They committed 36 turnovers in one game last year and sometimes reverted to an uncontrolled offense. But they have two powerful incentives for getting together. One is the possibility of an SEC championship. Another is avoiding the merry ministrations of Dr. Davis.
Nothing has changed in the 10 year since the Bear won his NCAA championship. Don Haskins of the University of Texas at El Paso is still sinking putts, billiard balls and free throws to the consternation of all challengers. And when he is not doing those things, Haskins spends his time outcoaching everybody in the desert.
As usual, this year's Miners probably will not shoot 50% or score 90 points in any game, but they will play the kind of defense that rival Coach Abe Lemons once described as "biting the numbers off your uniform." In the process they will win a bunch of games (19 victories is an average Haskins season) and challenge for the WAC championship.
With only one shooter in double figures, UTEP last season scored just 64.2 points per game, finished 20-6 and led the nation in defense (57.3) for the third straight year. Those last two figures are most impressive, and nearly all of the players who helped compile them are back—notably, John Saffle, Charles Draper, Jack Poole and Gary Brewster.
"We're a good 6'5" team," Haskins says. "We can't pitch the ball up and go chase the rebounds, so we'll control the tempo, like always."
The reluctant star of this modest bunch is Brewster, a 6'8" senior who last season led the team in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (8.3). "When I lose him, I'm gonna lose my heart," Haskins says. "He's the best defender in the country. He doesn't look pretty, but when Gary's on somebody, they don't get nothing."
Because of shyness Brewster is about as tough to talk to as he is to score against. Haskins says that when he recruited Gary, he would no sooner walk in the front door than Brewster would run out the back. "Now that I've got him, I can make him turn around and face me," says Haskins. "But he still doesn't like meeting strangers. When I told him he'd have to learn to talk more after he became a pro, he said, 'Well, I just won't play pro ball.' "
Brewster may be stubborn enough not to. He cares not at all for individual awards. As a high school senior he ducked the Athlete of the Year banquet thrown in his honor. On another occasion he refused to accept a paycheck from an employer because he did not feel he had earned it.
Players like Brewster are rare, and so are teams like Texas-El Paso.
19 BOSTON COLLEGE
Please pardon Bob Zuffelato for smiling. Any coach would wear a big grin if he had recruited Tom Meggers, a 6'9" high school All-America who averaged 34 points and 14 rebounds as a senior.
Please excuse Zuffelato for smiling again. He also has Pat Holmes, a 6'7" center who shot 60% in high school.
Please forgive Zuffelato one last time. The excuse is freshman Ernie Cobb, a 5'11" guard who both looks and plays a lot like fellow-Connecticuter Calvin Murphy.
Zuffelato also gets considerable pleasure from the sight of two other freshmen, 6'7" Forward Michael Bowie and Guard James Jackson.
Last season those five had a combined scoring average of 142 points a game. And Zuffelato has a fine group of holdovers led by 6'6" senior Forwards Will Morrison (17.6 points) and Bob Carrington (20.9). Morrison, a Honduran, has an extremely accurate off-the-top-of-his-head juniper from the corners and the key. If those shots do not stagger opponents, something else is sure to: the heavy dose of odorous body liniment Morrison rubs on before each game.
Carrington, Zuffelato says, "is like a snake around the basket. And late last season he had about six excellent games on defense. To join the pros he needs just one thing: heart." Carrington's disinclination to give 100% is something 6'10" Center Bill Russell Collins will work on. "When I was named captain, I thought, 'I'll have done my job if I can just once get Bob to dive for the ball," he says. Collins, a happy-with-either-hand hooker, will do other things, too. Last season he scored 13.4 points a game and topped the Eagles with 55% shooting and a 10.4 rebound average.
Two players, ball handler Mel Weldon and 6'11" Paul Berwanger, are gone from a year ago, when the Eagles were 21-9. But Zuffelato is banking on the playmaking of junior Guard Mike Shirey to ease Weldon's departure. He also has improved shooting and speed, and a fine sixth man in 6'5" Jeff Bailey.
But the Eagles will not soar until Zuffelato begins to get the best out of the freshmen. "It's not easy working with new talent because you have to find out what attitudes the players have about life and about the game," he says. "But every kid has a moose call, and if you can find the right call to reach him, then you can build a team."
Zuffelato is working on his moose calls, and still smiling.
Pete Carril was enjoying a drive through the Princeton campus when his demeanor suddenly changed. "See that building?" he said, nodding toward a large rectangular structure. "That's the admissions building. The financial aid office is also in there. If they don't get me on one floor, they will on another. I call the place Heartbreak Hotel."
Supreme pessimist, perpetual cigar smoker, history buff, ref baiter and one of the best coaches in the country, Carril was singing another refrain of The Princeton Recruiting Blues. "I love that kid," Carril will say of any of half a dozen members of his squad. "He's bright—and he's paying his own way."
But the results of Princeton's games undermine Carril's complaints. He predicted that the underfunded Tigers would win nine times last year. They were 22-8 and swept their final 13 games. The last four victories gave Princeton a stunning NIT championship and the longest current winning streak among major college teams.
The return of four starters and some key reserves gives Carril even less reason for dire predictions this year. The Tigers are strongest in the backcourt with Armond Hill and Mickey Steuerer. Hill, an unselfish offensive player and an exceptional defender, keeps the one-on-one moves he learned in Brooklyn under wraps most of the time, and his 13.9 scoring average shows it. Steuerer, another restrained New Yorker, averaged 12.3 points.
Carril's emphasis is always on defense—the Tigers ranked fourth in the nation last year by allowing only 61.2 points per game—but with 6'5" Frank Sowinski, a 19-point scorer as a freshman, joining 6'7" Senior Barnes Hauptfuhrer (14.7) at forward, Princeton also should score well. Hauptfuhrer is from sound stock; his father George, a star at Harvard, was the first man ever drafted by the NBA. He turned down the Celtics to enroll in law school. Last February an old family friend from Philadelphia unexpectedly dropped in to see Hauptfuhrer play against his father's alma mater. She was Princess Grace of Monaco. "I had never met her and I was pretty shook," Hauptfuhrer says. "I missed four one-and-one free throws." Carril remembers the glamorous occasion well. "We won" is how he describes it.
In fits of pessimism during practice, Carril will admonish his Tigers and predict that they will win five—not nine—games this season. Forget you ever heard it. This is the season Princeton should end Penn's domination of the Ivy League. "Top 20?" Carril says. "Do me a favor and keep us out." Sorry Pete.