Several days after he had been named Coach of the Year, Michigan's Johnny Orr received a call from an old grad, Gerald Ford. Orr was overwhelmed, but as the conversation continued, he became suspicious, and soon his large pink face turned crimson. This was not the President on the line, it was Bobby Knight, whose Hoosiers had recently beaten the Wolverines in the NCAA finals.
This season Orr may get a call from the real President, even if he isn't from Michigan. The Wolverines appear to be on their way to the national championship. Michigan's only loss is Wayman Britt, the 6'2" magic forward, leaving Orr with Guards Rickey Green and Steve Grote, and Forwards Johnny Robinson and Olympian Phil Hubbard. All that's missing is the one big center that would permit Orr to move the 6'8" Hubbard, with his face-to-the-basket quickness and 15-foot kangaroo jumper, into the corner. Playing against taller centers in 29 of Michigan's 32 games last year, Hubbard still managed 15.1 points and 11 rebounds as a freshman. At forward he would be sensational.
Orr did persuade three of the nation's best big men to narrow their choices down to Michigan and somewhere else, but while Orr was out on the banquet circuit and playing "58 different golf courses" all spring and summer, the three all chose "somewhere else": 6'11" Stuart House, from Detroit, went to Washington State; 6'11" Ricky Brown went to Mississippi State; and 6'10" juco transfer Mike Davis went to Maryland. So much for tall centers.
Orr is still determined to play Hubbard at forward, and the center job could fall to Ann Arbor's own Doctor Dunk, 6'8" Joel (pronounced Joe-el) Thompson, a man who can shoot as long as the trajectory is straight down, or 6'9" Tom Bergen. Another comer is 6'6" sophomore Alan Hardy, a forward who plays superb defense and handles the ball better than Robinson. This combination of skills could be enough to cost Robinson his starting job.
Grote and Green are the most complementary pair of guards in the country. Grote has started 78 of 86 games since his freshman year and is frequently called the most punishing runner at Michigan, which makes Bo Schembechler wonder why he is wearing short pants and sneakers. Because Grote often runs over people, the two backup guards, Dave Baxter and Tom Staton, see plenty of action. Green is simply a scoring and ball-handling machine who can accelerate to the basket in the blink of a defender's eye. In his first year after transferring from Vincennes Junior College, he averaged 19.9 points on .491 shooting, and was about to walk into the sunset in search of an NBA contract. But he finally decided to scratch his name off the hardship list for the good of the OF Maize and Blue. For that, he should at least get a phone call from the ol' President.
2 NORTH CAROLINA
After the final Olympic basketball game was played last July, Walter Davis of North Carolina asked teammate Scott May of Indiana how winning a gold medal compared to winning the NCAA title. "It's two different feelings," May said, "and both are great."
Davis was interested because he figures the Tar Heels have a solid chance at the national title themselves this season. North Carolina has four starters returning from last year's 25-4 team and half a dozen of the country's best freshmen. The only missing regular is Center Mitch Kupchak, who along with Davis, Tommy LaGarde, Phil Ford, Head Coach Dean Smith and Assistant Coach Bill Guthridge gave a decided Tar Heel flavor to the U.S. Olympic effort. The question some people are asking, with only the slightest exaggeration, is can the best team in the world become the best in the country?
Possibly. The Tar Heels seemed to have a chance last year until they dried up in the postseason, losing to Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and Alabama in the Mideast Regional. "We were as good as any team in the country," Smith says, "but we didn't use our opportunity to prove it."
With Kupchak in the pros, the Tar Heels will play the game a little differently and maybe even better this year. LaGarde takes over at center but moves out to a high post. This should put his fine shooting touch to good use and also open up the middle for Ford's whirling drives down the lane. Smith would also like to use Davis, a 6'6" swingman, more at guard.
Help should come from 6'7" freshman Forward Mike O'Koren, who has unusual court savvy to go with his considerable playing skills. O'Koren will probably keep 6'8" senior Bruce Buckley in his role as Carolina's sixth man.
LaGarde is the center of attention, though. He was the Tar Heels' field-goal (61%) and free-throw (82%) leader last year and he looks forward to his increased responsibilities this season. "I only did an adequate job at forward," he says. "There were times Mitch and I seemed to clog things up too much underneath. I probably played better when he wasn't in the game."
Ford and Davis were consistently outstanding. Ford led the team in scoring (18.6), set a school record for assists (203) and made All-America. Davis averaged 16.6, led the team in steals and was the top player in a composite statistical rating that only Smith understands. Smith likes his fifth starter, Guard John Kuester, because he dives after loose balls and sacrifices his offense for the rest of the team.
For all his success, the Tar Heel coach has never won the national championship. Sometimes being best in the world is just not good enough.
Overcome by a fit of youthful enthusiasm, Kentucky's muscular 6'5" James Lee swooped toward the basket in a layup drill, soared high above the rim and slammed the ball through with a whump that echoed through nearly deserted Rupp Arena, the Wildcats' new 23,000-seat home. The next man in line, Mike Phillips, the 6'10" center, lumbered toward the hoop and outdid Lee with a reverse smash. That was enough for Coach Joe B. Hall, watching from midcourt. "Whoa, whoa," he yelled. "Let's settle down, put the ball on the floor, cut out the fancy stuff and do what we're supposed to do." The Wildcats meekly devoted the rest of the drill to solid, but dull, layups.
Aside from having four of five starters back from last season's National Invitational Tournament champions—plus a healthy Rick Robey and three promising freshmen—the Wildcats are moving from on-campus Memorial Coliseum, where they terrorized rivals for 25 years, to downtown Rupp Arena, largest basketball hall this side of the Superdome and site of this season's NCAA Mideast Regional tournament. Says Hall, "We're looking for that first exciting game that will turn a crowd on, to see if we've been able to transport that Coliseum spirit."
That Kentucky will regain its rightful place atop the Southeastern Conference is a foregone conclusion among Wildcat loyalists. There's even speculation that Kentucky has a chance to add to the four NCAA titles won under the man for whom the new arena was named. Says Hall, "We're going to have a good team, no question about it, but we don't seem to have that one area where we dominate. We've got to become dominant in shooting, defense, rebounding, something. Until then we're an iffy team."
Actually, better than iffy. For rebounders, Kentucky has Phillips, Robey and Lee. Now that the 6'10" Robey has recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of 18 games last season, Hall plans to use him and Phillips together as much as possible, meaning that Kentucky will have the muscle to trigger its legendary fast break. However, if playing the giants simultaneously proves to be a defensive liability. Hall can alternate them at center and use Lee as his strong forward.
For shooters, Kentucky has Jack (Goose) Givens, he of the 20-point average and silky jump shot, and Guard Truman Claytor. If Claytor gets down on himself at guard, as he did at times last season, Hall will call on a couple of freshmen, Tim Stephens and Jay Shidler. The man running the show will be senior Larry Johnson.
All of Rupp Arena's 23,000 seats are sold out for every Kentucky game, and 10,000 requests were returned to the senders. As Hall knows better than anyone, that kind of ardor can be maintained only by winning. No problem.
Following John Wooden as coach at UCLA is like having to play Rhett Butler in the sequel to Gone With the Wind. Both parts are too juicy to pass up, but there is a catch: when the critics compare you to a legend, they're likely to clobber even your best performance.
Ask Gene Bartow. He had a 27-5 record in his first year behind Wooden's old desk at UCLA and got roasted alive by the spoiled sports around Westwood. Bartow had never won 27 games in a season in his entire career—his Memphis State team that lost to UCLA in the 1973 NCAA finals won only 24. Nevertheless, those five defeats were five too many for Bruin fans, and the furor that resulted has made Bartow wary about reading the Letters to the Editor page—or even answering his own telephone.
"Hello," he croaked weakly into the receiver recently, though not so much in fear of a disgruntled alum being on the other end as in deference to his stomach, which had been unable to process the two dozen chocolate-chip cookies he had consumed the previous evening while watching the World Series. A friend prescribed lunch, and Bartow suggested a trip to the corner for his regular Thursday afternoon bowl of bean soup at the Westwood Drug Store.
"Yeah, all the hit men in town should know where to find me," said Bartow, sliding into his favorite booth. "UCLA is like the Green Bay or Notre Dame jobs in football. It's tough to come in when there's something big going on that you had no part in making. But I used to enjoy life before I came out here and I think I can again."
Bartow's optimism stems from the fact that Forward Marques Johnson decided not to join teammate Richard Washington in the NBA hardship draft. Johnson, who stands 6'7" and weighs 218 pounds, can spring a 35-point, 17-rebound game on anybody in the country. Moreover, Dave Greenwood, a 6'9" sophomore, can become a terror at center if Bartow will let him play there. Bartow left Ralph Drollinger in the lineup too long last year and is talking about 7-foot Brett Vroman playing center this season, while Greenwood moves to forward. James Wilkes, no relation to Jamaal, heads a list of four highly decorated in-state freshmen and could eventually start in the corner, as could senior Wilbert Olinde.
To start some big doings of his own at UCLA, Bartow has to learn to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged fans and still push all the right buttons. He has to allow his talented but inexperienced sophomore guards, Brad Holland and Roy Hamilton, to emerge from hiding and get their feet wet. "I must agree," said North Carolina State's Norm Sloan, who watched a recent Bruin practice. "But what would I do if I were out here myself? I don't know. I've never had this much talent."
5 LAS VEGAS
If the players find a way to take turns shooting the dice, and the NCAA does not impound their score books, and Coach Jerry Tarkanian does not bite off his fingernails and swallow his towel in the clutch, the Las Vegas Rebels could win the national championship.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to call it by its proper name, is so laden with talent that no marquee could handle the billing. The top five scorers are back from the team that went 29-2 last season, shredding seven NCAA records along the way, among them scoring 110.5 points a game. In one game, the Rebels racked up 164. And with a schedule that begins with the Nationalist Republic of China and continues with a collection of mystery teams, Las Vegas might hit 200 one night. "We're so good," says Guard Glen Gondrezick, "that even I'm in awe of it sometimes."
Tarkanian does have a few problems, however. The NCAA is wiring its electric chair as it completes an investigation of his program, but if Tarkanian can figure a way to make a happy equation out of Time divided by Nine Players, the sleuths are the only thing that can beat him.
The Rebels have six capable seniors, two fine transfers and a sophomore who probably is the best of the bunch. The coach's answer is a whirlwind attack and liberal substitution. Las Vegas never relaxes, pressing all over the floor, running the fast break and letting fly with 30-foot jumpers like so many Beat the Clock contestants.
The town loves the Rebels. One service-station operator swapped a year's supply of gasoline for two tickets, and Sands' blackjack dealer Sandy Berman turned down $1,200 for his two seats.
The leading scorer is Eddie Owens, a left-handed part-Japanese forward who averaged 23.4 points while playing 27 minutes a game last year. Gondrezick anchors a defense that is better than most people suppose, and Forward Jackie Robinson is the leading rebounder; also a Ferrari on the break and an improved shooter. Sam Smith comes off the bench as the master of the rainbow shot. Lewis Brown is big and mean in the middle. And Robert Smith is the dealer on the fast break. That takes care of the seniors.
The two newcomers are Tony Smith, a transfer from Houston who hardly ever uses the whole basket on his jump shot, and Larry Moffett, up to the big time from the junior colleges. If Tony Smith can show any kind of defense, the Rebels will have still another gun, and if Lewis Brown does not bruise Moffett during practice, he will help inside.
The team's best player might be Reggie Theus, a sophomore with a complete game, an ability to play guard or forward and an unusual virtue: patience. "I'm able to accept not starting," says Theus. "There's enough in winning for everybody." And on that score, everybody should be happy.
During his four years at Arizona, Freddie (the Fox) Snowden has taken a ramshackle basketball program and made it over into a sleek high-rise. This year he has done some more renovating, including installing a bank of high-speed elevators.
The Wildcats have 16 lettermen returning from a 24-9 team that won the Western Athletic Conference and gave UCLA a scare in the NCAA Western Regional finals. In addition, the Fox has a stunning junior-college transfer in Kenny Davis, the 1976 JUCO Player of the Year at Southern Idaho. No wonder the coach is telling people his team ought to be No. 1.
Snowden is the master of the suave sell, a mesmerizing recruiter replete with gold jewelry, silver Thunderbird and glib tongue who can go into a neighborhood filled with cracked windows and leave with a diamond. His detractors, however, whisper that he is a lackluster sideline coach, a charge that rankles. "How can you argue with success?" asks Bob Elliott. "He's won 71% of his games."
How can you argue with Bob Elliott, 6'10" and soon to become the leading scorer in school history? Elliott is so motivated that occasionally he even elbows his wife Beverely for rebounds, but only when he is dreaming of winning the national title. "We got a little taste last year," he says. "This year we could take it all. We've been down too many roads and always taken too many wrong turns. This year we're going to follow the yellow brick road."
Snowden had chalk dust on his hands during preseason drills as he instituted a few changes for Operation Optimism. The primary shift will be to move Elliott from center to forward, where he will be too quick for the big men and too large for the small forwards.
Elliott is only one reason why the Wildcats' front line is awesome. Phil Taylor and Larry Demic are two other big, strong types, and Jerome Gladney can spring off the bench to throw his weight around.
The backcourt could be a problem as the team searches for a leader to replace Jim Rappis, who graduated. Gary Harrison is the likeliest candidate. Gilbert Myles, a starter as a freshman two years ago, is another possibility. The other guard is Herman Harris, the master of the pigeon-toed jump shot and the cuckoo pass. Harris is an exciting player who leaves third-degree burns on the man trying to guard him. Now more mature as a senior, his rambunctious style is sufficiently polished so that Snowden won't have to watch it through hands over his eyes.
Check Arizona by midseason. If the move of Elliott to a wing is working, if Davis has adapted to the big college game and if someone is directing the offense, the Fox might just be drinking champagne made from those NCAA grapes.
Cincinnati: Home of Champions. Better believe it. "People don't realize what we've done," says Gale Catlett, the country slicker who coaches basketball at the University of Cincinnati. "Two years ago we had a team full of freshmen that won 23 games. Last year we won 25. Our top six players are back and we've got at least two good freshmen. I think we match up well with any team in the country." As if to prove his point, Catlett and his Bearcats are taking their 46-game home winning streak, longest in the nation, into Riverfront Coliseum, hard by the home of the Reds.
On paper, everything Catlett says makes sense. His double post consists of Pat Cummings, a 56% shooter who, Catlett believes, is the most underrated player in the country, and 6'10" Bob Miller, who led the team with 15 points and 11 rebounds a game. Sag on them and Mike Jones, Gary Yoder, Brian Williams and sixth man Steve Collier can all beat you from outside. "I plan to be undefeated," says Williams. "I don't want to lose six games, one game, no game."
And there's the rub. Last year the Bearcats lost six games to teams they might have beaten; each time they were dismantled. The season ended in a bizarre 78-77 loss to Notre Dame. Cincinnati led by one and had the ball out of bounds with five seconds showing on the clock but lost the ball on a stalling violation and the game on a tip-in at the buzzer. "Sometimes when you have so much talent," says Yoder, "it's easy for guys to try to do it themselves and not to blend their talents with others." Accordingly, the players speak of their 1976-77 goals in communal terms: tight defense, fast-breaking, aggressiveness. But that takes individual leadership, and last year's tri-captains, Mike Artis, Hal Ward and Garry Kamstra, all inspirational coming off the bench, have graduated. Just to survive the tough Metro Seven (Florida State is the new entry), Cincinnati must get more floor generalship from Yoder, better shooting from Williams and even more yeoman service from Miller.
The talent's there, especially with the arrival of freshmen Eddie Lee and Greg Johnson. Lee, a 6'4" guard, is blissfully ignorant of Cincy failures past. "People know all about us in Queens," says the New Yorker. "They know we're coming to Madison Square Garden to play Rutgers and they know we're a power. I think we can do it." Cincinnatian Johnson, a 6'6" forward, was contacted by 380 schools but chose to stay close to home. "My grandparents raised me," he says. "They gave me 15 years of their fives. I can give them four."
A soloist in the choir of a Baptist congregation, Johnson felt right at home when Catlett opened the first practice with a prayer. But this team has all the God-given ability in the world. The Bearcats must do the rest themselves.
"This year the ball goes to Bo," says Warrior Coach Al McGuire. "That's my whole recruiting philosophy. We decide who gets to star."
"I've paid my dues," says Bo. "I'll continue to get my four or five assists and 14 or 15 rebounds, but I'm not going to pass up as many shots as I did last year."
The designated star is Maurice (Bo) Ellis, a 6'9" forward who is the first four-year starter in modern Marquette history. Last year, when the team had its 10th consecutive 20-win season (27-2, to be specific), Ellis played a supporting role behind seniors Earl Tatum and Lloyd Walton, who have moved on to the pros. Now it is Bo's turn to put on the late rush for points, publicity and a fat pro contract.
Ellis led the team in rebounds as a junior and he has plenty of help on the boards. Center Jerome Whitehead, a 6'10" junior with a set of weight-lifters' shoulders, "will dominate most people he faces this year," says McGuire, "and he'll hold his own with the super centers." At the other forward is 6'9" sophomore Bernard Toone. As a freshman he led the team in field goal accuracy. When any of those three needs a breather—and they surely will during a schedule that includes nine games vs. 1976 tournament teams—in will come Ulice Payne, a transfer from Ohio U.; honor student Bill Neary, a walk-on who didn't even start in high school; or the designated star of 1979, freshman Robert Byrd, who can soar like his surname.
Senior star system or not, Marquette's act could be called the Butch and Bo Show. Guard Alfred (Butch) Lee was the Warriors' second-leading scorer as a sophomore, then started for the Puerto Rican Olympic team at Montreal and scored 35 points in a one-point loss to the U.S. (He was born in Puerto Rico but spent only three days of his infancy there.) A fight is on for the other guard spot, which could go to either Jim Boylan, a two-year starter at Assumption before transferring, or hometown favorite Gary Rosenberger, a fine outside shooter.
The talent goes deeper still, with Craig Butrym, a seven-foot backup center, and Jim Dudley, a 6'6" transfer from Michigan State (Marquette leads the NCAA in transfers). However, perhaps the most important backup man will be Assistant Coach Hank Raymonds, one of the best Xs and Os men around. Raymonds is doubly important because the hot-tempered McGuire, who hurt his team by getting called for technical fouls in the last NCAA Mideast Regional championship tournament, has vowed to send Bo and company without him this time. That means Raymonds would be in charge. However, McGuire is already hedging on his vow.
"The toughest thing," he says, "is I'm afraid they'd win without me."
Like most of his teammates at the University of Louisville, 6'11" Center Ricky Gallon digs soul and jazz. Unfortunately, he didn't dig his music history course, along with a few others. So Coach Denny Crum was forced to open Louisville's practice sessions on this discordant note: unless Gallon started attending class and worked to improve his grades, he would spend the season as the tallest student in the cheering section. Shaken, Gallon passed a makeup test in music history, putting him back in Crum's good graces—and back on the squad.
Without Gallon, Louisville still would have been outstanding. With him, the Cardinals have a chance to do wondrous things. Instead of using 6'6½" Wesley Cox or 6'7" Larry Williams in the pivot, Crum can play both at forward, and he can keep 6'4" Ricky Wilson at guard, where last season he was Most Valuable Player.
Crum has so much talent and experience on hand that he can afford to play it cool with Darrell Griffith, the local kid who was the No. 1 schoolboy prospect in the country last season. Although he leaps higher than anyone save Dr. J and David Thompson, Griffith may be on the bench when Louisville opens its season. Crum's intention is to nurture Griffith and his superbly talented high school partner, Bobby Turner, with the greatest of care.
"Their attitudes are great," said Crum. "So many kids are concerned with starting as freshmen that they can't see the future. But coming here, where they'll get that good competition in practice, will make both better players in the long run. Turner has the best pair of hands on the team, and Griffith, well, he does something spectacular in practice every day."
The fact that Griffith and Turner may not start is only a measure of Louisville's talent. After last season, Cox underwent tests that indicated he suffered from exercise-induced asthma, which cut down his lung capacity. Now that he has been diagnosed and treated, Cox appears ready for his finest season, as is senior playmaker Phillip Bond. Even if Bond falters, however, Crum has an outstanding passer and ball handler on the bench in Tony Branch, yet another fine freshman.
Nonetheless, Louisville will have considerable difficulty being No. 1. One reason is its killer road schedule, which includes games against Las Vegas, Marquette, North Carolina and Memphis State. Worse is the Metro Seven postseason tournament, which determines the league's NCAA representative.
But sing no sad songs for the Cardinals. Win or lose, they ought to be one of the most entertaining teams in America. With a little luck they can go to the final four for the second time in three years.
Not far from the University of Maryland in College Park there is a petting zoo where animal lovers can go and make nice with the sheep. But the best animal act within 100 miles of the Potomac River this winter could be just up the road at Cole Field House, where the Maryland Terrapins play. With only two starters returning from last season's 22-6 team, the Terps will need time to learn how to stay out of each other's way; until then, Coach Lefty Driesell is preaching Southern fried hostility. "Y'all got to be animals out there," he shouted at his team in a recent practice.
Though Driesell has been telling visitors that Maryland "ain't got nothin' " this season, he clearly relishes the prospect of molding a young team in his own image. Which is not necessarily to say bald, but certainly aggressive. "We may not be the best team in the ACC this year," says Driesell, "but we'll be the roughest and the toughest."
The toughest man in Driesell's menagerie is 6'6" Forward Steve (Bear) Sheppard, the only senior on the team. When the Terps led the nation in shooting percentage last year (.537) Sheppard shot a stunning .567 and averaged 17.6 points a game.
Maryland lives and dies by the fast break, and the man who will be responsible for making it go is junior Guard Brad Davis, a 6'3" passing wizard who is entering his third season as a starter. Davis had nearly six assists per game last year and his 11.6 scoring average indicates he can shoot. He should get a chance to prove it now that John Lucas (the NBA's No. 1 draft pick) and Mo Howard have departed for the pros with their combined 33.3-point scoring average.
Whatever the Terrapins lack in experience they should compensate for with depth. Driesell believes there are at least 10 players he can use interchangeably in any situation and concede nothing. First among equals is 6'8" Forward Lawrence Boston, who led Maryland in rebounding last season, although starting in only 15 games. Boston will share the Terps' double post with either sophomore Larry Gibson or junior Mike Davis, both 6'10". Gibson started 16 games last year before being sidelined with a knee injury. Davis, a junior-college All-America, is an inventive offensive player who averaged 14 points, 17 rebounds and .five blocked shots a game at Mercer Community College.
The wing guard—or small forward—in Maryland's lineup will be either freshman Jo Jo Hunter, arguably the best high school guard in talent-rich D.C. last year, or sophomore James Tillman. And when Driesell goes to his bench he will find Guard Brian Magid, a .630 shooter.
The Terps play their first 13 games at home, at the end of which time Driesell hopes to be feeding them raw meat.
Fred Schaus took the Purdue coaching job four years ago because he wanted to escape the headaches of being a general manager in the NBA, even for his beloved Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt's moods, Elgin's knees, agents' demands—they had all taken their toll on Schaus. Maybe the college game didn't pay as well and Doris Day wouldn't be at courtside every night, but at least a Boilermaker couldn't walk out of camp because you refused to negotiate his contract. Or could he?
Consider the curious case of Kyle Macy, a freshman guard from Peru, Ind. who helped salvage a 17-9 season for Purdue last year. It was Macy who filled the nets with baskets after nifty senior Bruce Parkinson broke his wrist in the second game of the season and missed the remainder of the schedule. Macy continued to perform ably down the stretch, while Schaus suffered from the anxieties of two hairbreadth losses to Indiana and from some private worries about his own health.
When the disappointing season ended, Schaus checked into the Mayo Clinic. On April 26 he had one of his kidneys removed. Back at work but still shaky from surgery, Schaus met with Macy and learned that he wanted to shop for another school. A week later, without further word from his prize freshman, Schaus picked up a copy of The Indianapolis Star and read that Macy was transferring to Kentucky.
What was bothering Macy and his old high school coach, papa Bob Macy, should also be a chief concern of Purdue's opponents this winter—namely, a slew of talent at guard. Junior Eugene Parker (15.6 points per game, .508 shooting percentage) is a left-handed gun who can dominate a game. He was the Boilermakers' MVP, and according to weight room gossip, is stronger than many of Purdue's football players. Parkinson, a pro draftee, took a look at the guard-rich Cleveland Cavaliers lineup and opted for another year of college eligibility. Sophomore Jerry Sichting, who sank 13 straight shots in a three-game span last season, is too good to be a sub.
Purdue's skinny forwards, 6'8" Walter Jordan and 6'7" Wayne Walls, look like a million bucks but can be liabilities when 6'10", 220-pound Center Tom Scheffler is in foul trouble. Jordan led the team in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (9.2), but at 195 pounds is not strong enough to outmuscle very many people. Neither is Walls, a spasmodic scorer-blunderer who weighs 190. Scheffler played only 24 minutes a game last season but had some nice numbers when his stats were projected over 40 minutes. He is not Kent Benson, but if he can stay away from the silly foul, the Boilermakers may finally beat Indiana. Whether or not they can beat Michigan is another matter.
12 SAN FRANCISCO
Now that freshman orientation is over and everyone has been properly introduced, San Francisco can get down to the business of winning games and influencing people.
Last year the Dons tried a starting lineup that included three freshmen and a junior-college transfer, with the predictable result that Coach Bob Gaillard spent more time on his knees than a clothing salesman trying to unload the Gats-by look. Gaillard knew he was in trouble when one of the players he was counting on to run the offense asked, "Coach, how many hours does it take to drive to Europe?"
That the Dons won 22 games was testimony that freshmen Winford Boynes, Bill Cartwright and James Hardy were among the best in the country. Boynes, for example, made three all-tournament teams. This season the 6'6" Boynes will see more action in the backcourt. "It will give me a chance to be more creative," he says.
The 7'½" Cartwright was the most publicized and tallest newcomer to hit The City since the Transamerica Building, and although he finished second to Boynes in scoring, he did not fulfill some of the great expectations. During the summer back home in the small California community of Elk Grove, Cartwright ran five miles a day while wearing a weighted vest; he also lifted barbells and practiced growling. Not only did he report for preseason drills heavier and stronger, he had a new hook shot. While it does not remind anyone of Bill Russell's, it is a beginning.
Inexperience showed last year as the Dons lost the West Coast Athletic Conference championship and four of their last five games, three in overtime. After a defeat by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament, a game in which Hardy was benched, there were rumors that everyone but the water boy was transferring. Only one player did, Russ Coleman, who shifted to the University of Pacific. He was the most experienced guard; Allen Thompson and transfer Chubby Cox seem the best bets to fill his position, although juniors Sam Williams and Rod Williams (no relation—one passes, the other shoots) will see a lot of action.
The team's surprise could be sophomore Ray Hamilton, a forward who was lost in all the hullabaloo last year. During a 22-day tour of Spain and Italy this past summer, Hamilton blistered opponents with his jump shots. "All he has to do is get a little confidence," says Gaillard. Marlon Redmond once again will fill the role of shooting star, dashing off the bench as a sixth man, a job that earned him all-conference honors as a soph two years ago.
For the most part, however, USF is the same team, just a season older and a world smarter. That alone should make a big difference.
If you're the sort of movie fan who gets a thrill watching King Kong scale the World Trade Center, then you'll love the production being put together by that temperamental young director Roberto Knight on location in Bloomington, Ind. Entitled King Kent, it's about this giant redhead who goes wild and stomps on every college basketball team that gets in his way. When rehearsals began this fall, the star, Kent Benson, checked in at 6'11" and 255 pounds, up 10 pounds. He also was two inches wider around the chest. He's so big that whenever he yawns, windows rattle in places like Ann Arbor, Mich. and West Lafayette, Ind.
The critics are anxious to see if Benson likes his star billing. Previously, he had costarred with the likes of Scott May, Quinn Buckner, Bob Wilkerson and Tom Abernethy. Now they all are gone, leaving Benson with an unknown supporting cast. A couple of 6'9" bit players named Scott Eells and Jim Roberson are trying to fill the forward roles, while Jim Wisman and Wayne Radford are attempting to learn their lines at guard. But supersub Rich Valavicius may win one of those forward spots, depending on what kind of cast Knight needs for a given scene. Waiting in the wings is a talented but raw crop of freshmen, including 6'9" Glen Grunwald, 6'5" Butch Carter, 6'5" Mike Woodson, 6'11" Derek Holcomb, 6'4" Bill Cunningham and 6'8" Mike Miday. Woodson has a good, chance to grab the other corner position and the rugged Miday will be one of Knight's first replacements. However, Grunwald underwent knee surgery in September, Carter was laid up with a broken foot this fall, Cunningham injured his knee and will not be back until December and Holcomb broke his thumb early this month.
If anybody can win an Oscar with this young bunch, it is Knight. His production last winter—a 32-0 record and the national championship—was as good as anything ever done by the greatest of directors, John Wooden. Knight's secret is his never-ending quest for perfection and his intense interest in winners and what makes them tick. Over the summer, for example, Knight spent a lot of time hanging around the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse, picking the brains of Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose. Earlier this fall he went to Michigan to study Bo Schembechler's techniques.
Although King Kent is guaranteed to be boffo box office—all home games are sellouts—not even the most ardent Hoosier fan expects it to top last year's hit. Nevertheless, the show ought to be a good one. The operation on Benson's ailing left wrist was so successful that he is shooting left-handed hooks better than ever. By playing the kind of tough defense Knight demands, the supporting cast might end up being a lot better than the critics suspect.
When it became known that Tennessee was going to be on national television at least twice this season, most people assumed that it would be against UCLA on Jan. 30 in Atlanta's Omni and on March 5 against Kentucky, which could decide the Southeastern Conference championship. Well, that is the schedule, but as disturbing wire stories poured out of Knoxville the past few months, it looked as if the talent-laden Vols were also auditioning for TV Producer Norman Lear. Specifically, Tennessee has been confronted by two major problems that—sadly—are not laughing matters: All-America Bernard King has had four run-ins with the police since last season, three times for driving violations. Another charge, for possession of marijuana, was dismissed on a technicality. And, on the advice of his physician, Coach Ray Mears has not been attending practice and has put the team under the leadership of Associate Coach Stu Aberdeen. Mears is recovering from nervous exhaustion.
How badly these off-court miseries will affect a team that plays one of the nation's tougher schedules is hard to figure. King, who bypassed the NBA draft, has been suspended for at least the first three games—South Florida, UNC-Charlotte and Duke—all in Knoxville. He has averaged 25.8 points and 12.7 rebounds his first two seasons, and there is not a coach in the SEC who does not expect King to be wearing the Orange when the Vols visit Vanderbilt on Jan. 3 for the start of league play. A minor revamping of the Vol lineup for the first three games will find Olympian Ernie Grunfeld, who averaged 25.3 points last year, at the high post (King's usual position) and veteran Mike Jackson (16.7 points) and sophomore Terry Crosby at the wings. Crosby is the equal of his more publicized teammates in natural ability but doesn't always exhibit it.
Tennessee also should be improved at the other positions. Johnny Darden, the sophomore point guard, has a full season of experience running the offense and appears capable of leading the SEC in assists. The Vols needed help at the low post to relieve King of the brunt of the rebounding; Mears seems to have recruited aid in the persons of 6'9" Reggie Johnson and 6'6" Chuck Threeths.
If there is a clue as to how Tennessee will fare, it may come from Grunfeld, a Romanian-born New Yorker who won a gold medal, which, he says, "such great players as Julius Erving and David Thompson never did, because the Olympics occurred in the wrong year for them." Does Grunfeld have other goals? "Bernard and I never have won an SEC championship or an NCAA game," he says. As if they needed a reminder, the back of the Tennessee practice jersey bears an orange-colored (naturally) imprint of the Omni, site of the NCAA finals.
15 DE PAUL
In this age of Omnis, Marriott Centers and Superdomes, there is a gym called Alumni Hall that seats only 5,308 and has no stands behind the baskets. At a time when most top teams in the nation are scheduling a lot of patsies in order to look good in the polls, there is a team that beat seven nationally ranked opponents last year. While most programs are spending big bucks in a recruiting war that rages from New York to California, there is a coach with 529 victories who seldom looks outside the Chicago area for talent. And because getting a player to sign a tender often involves selling him on the beauties of a lush, God's-country campus, it is remarkable that there is a school backed up against the el tracks near Wrigley Field that has some pretty good players.
In other words, there is DePaul. Let's meet the Blue Demon starters:
•Forward Joe Ponsetto...6'7", 230 pounds...muscular paisano whose court savvy comes from playing with an otherwise all-black high school lineup...when he went to DePaul, friends thought he had quit school until they saw him on TV last year...scored 21 points against Marquette after vomiting for two days...wants to be a cop...local company of Grease should grab him instead.
•Center Dave Corzine...6'11" and needs every inch the way he jumps...had 13 assists to help beat Louisville 78-76 and break Cards' 24-game home-court winning streak...rang up 28 points and dozen rebounds in 70-60 victory over Cincinnati that was typical of DePaul's 20-9 season...holds NCAA record for bushiest Afro, particularly for white cat, which makes him look like a giant palm tree standing underneath the basket.
•Forward Curtis Watkins...6'5" pogo stick who is real threat to Corzine in hair department...parts Afro on rim...ferocious dunks may bring down old Alumni Hall walls.
•Guard Ron Norwood...started career at Providence, then went to junior college to get grades up (but didn't play ball there), wound up as one of few players to transfer from one major college to another and make it pay off...led team in assists, averaged 20 points, shot 50% from field...6'4" city player who likes to back the ball in Walt Frazier-style...third-round draft choice of Philadelphia 76ers.
•Guard Randy Ramsey...6'1" high school teammate of Watkins and eighth Chicagoan on team...while Norwood scored the points last year he guarded tough opponents like Lloyd Walton, Joe Hassett and Phillip Bond.
Not a bad crew for Coach Ray Meyer to have on hand for his 35th season in Chicago, and one that is sure to flatten a lot of the heavyweights on this year's schedule, which includes UCLA, Maryland, Indiana and Marquette.
16 WASHINGTON STATE
Driving the desolate road that connects Spokane to Pullman, the home of Washington State, one muses that the appearance of a telephone pole is almost like making human contact. It is a lonely ride, one that Pac-8 opponents won't find comforting this year. After long and doleful service as a conference sparring partner, the Cougars will be moving up to battle for the title with a seasoned cast and a House who has found a home.
Stuart House is a 6'11" product of Detroit who hid out at the home of his girl friend to evade zealous college recruiters. Why did he pick isolated Pullman, a sure cure for exhilaration? "There isn't anything to do but practice basketball and go to class," answers the freshman. "Someplace else I'd be out on the streets with my friends."
House is extremely quick for a big man, and if his ears don't turn blue from being yelled at by Coach George Raveling, the club will be strong on the boards with Center Steve Puidokas, already the school's alltime leading scorer, back for his final season and a bid for all-conference honors. "It's kind of nice to go out there and have to work every day at practice," says Puidokas, with an admiring eye toward House.
House is only one reason for the optimism around Pullman. Freshmen Don Collins and Angelo Hill also will make contributions, with Collins pushing seniors Greg Johnson and Brian Grun for a starting wing position. If Collins shows Raveling he can play defense, his push will become a shove. Harold Rhodes, the team's best shooter, will get the call at the other wing, while Marty Giovacchini and Ken Jones will divide duties at point guard.
Fitting all the pieces together is Raveling, recruiter, author, sports-gossip columnist, raconteur and television personality, as well as coach. Raveling has a reputation as a nonstop worker, a midnight recruiter who listens to motivational tape recordings while driving his car and a man who survives on five hours of sleep a night—a combination of Dale Carnegie, Rev. Ike and Elmer Gantry. He says, "I choose not to hang around with negative people."
"I know no one can work any harder," says school president Glenn Terrell. An enthusiastic Cougar booster, Terrell hired Raveling to revive State's program, sometimes leads the students in cheers during halftime and is an occasional visitor at practice.
Last year was Raveling's first winning season in four tries, and at one point the team was 11-3 before running into the tough part of the schedule and finishing 18-8. This time around, Washington State should start and finish stronger. When he came to the school, Raveling predicted he would make people remember Pullman. This year a lot of opponents will wish they could forget it.
Until the past few years, the only polls that counted in fashionable Georgetown were Gallup and Harris. Georgetown, the home of Congressmen, cabinet members and other political movers and shakers, never paid much attention to the AP writers' poll or the UPI coaches' poll, because it never had a college basketball power in its midst. Now it does. Georgetown University, home of the Hoyas, has arrived.
Not many Georgetown residents know what a Hoya is. (In fact, no one knows.) The term is supposedly derived from a Greek-Latin phrase, hoia saxa—what rocks—coined to describe an early Georgetown team nicknamed the Stonewalls. But whatever the Hoyas may be, they are essentially young, gifted and black. Coach John Thompson, the ham-fisted giant who is in his fifth year at Georgetown, has 11 lettermen returning from last season's 21-7 squad that made it to the NCAA West Regional, and only two of them are seniors. It was the second straight year for Georgetown to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, only to be knocked out in the first round, and this year just making the postseason show may not be enough to satisfy the ambitious Hoyas.
Thompson has been able to reduce the exodus of talented Washington high school prospects from the District by establishing contacts at the playground level, and his efforts have begun to pay off. Last year he brought in 6'7" Forward Al Dutch from Carroll High School, a silky shooter who averaged 11.6 points at Georgetown. This year Thompson once again got the area's top forward in 6'7" Craig Shelton, who averaged 21 points and 20 rebounds a game and led his Dunbar High team to a 29-0 season. Another Georgetown freshman, 6'3" Guard John Duren, scored 19 points a game for that same Dunbar team. He is one of three guards who could start beside the Hoyas' top scorer, junior Derrick Jackson, who averaged 17 points last year.
A great deal will depend on how long it takes Shelton to recover from a shattered kneecap, an injury he suffered in a high school All-Star game last spring. Thompson hopes he will be ready to play by January. "I think we can be a good team without Craig," Thompson says. "With him, we can be a very good team."
Georgetown will fast-break at every opportunity, and sometimes even when there is no opportunity. Thompson believes in the full-court press and the 25-foot turnaround jump shot. He will use nine players in equal doses.
The Hoyas prepared for the season with an eight-game tour of Taiwan, during which they discovered that playing conditions in local gymnasiums sometimes included bats hovering above the court. This season it is Georgetown's turn to drive its opponents batty.
18 HOLY CROSS
Here they come bounding out of history: Bob Cousy beating Loyola of Chicago with his first behind-the-back dribble; Tommy Heinsohn shooting that running hook shot; Togo Palazzi, at 44 still almost unbeatable at one-on-one; Jack (The Shot) Foley, the most prolific scorer in New England college history. That's basketball at Holy Cross.
And how better to revivify a legend than with something of a throwback, like freshman Guard Ronnie Perry Jr. The son of the school athletic director, young Perry is no doubt aware that Holy Cross won the 1947 NCAA and 1954 NIT championships. He probably knows, too, of the crummy areas that the Crusaders used as "home" courts and practice gyms—a Quonset hut, a cow barn, a temperance hall, an orchestra pit—until $3 million, 4,000-capacity Hart Recreation Center opened last year. And even though he set a state schoolboy scoring record at West Roxbury's Catholic Memorial High, Perry plays an old-fashioned all-round game. "I don't feel any real pressure," he says. "There's so much balance I just want to mold with these guys."
He won't have to score a ton for the Crusaders, but Perry does give Holy Cross the good-shooting guard it lacked last season (22-10). The team is strongest at forward, where Puerto Rican Olympian Michael Vicens averaged 15 points a game, and Chris Potter is expected to increase his 12-point output. Swingman Bill Doran, who averaged 14 points a game, is a superb clutch player, and Guards Pete Beckenbach and Kevin McAuley are patient feeders and expert ball hawks. The only significant losses through graduation were Centers Marty Halsey and Jim Dee, who together averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds. "John O'Connor is better defensively than either of them," says Coach George Blaney, "and our freshman Charlie Browne is more physical." The Crusaders, however, always seem to have injury problems. Browne suffered chipped bones in his right ankle during practice and won't be 100% until January, and McAuley had to skip much of the preseason following knee surgery. Although the schedule is not exactly taxing, Holy Cross' admission standards are; they just about rule out anyone who doesn't have a 3.0 average. But Blaney sees this as a plus. "We need bright players," he says, "because we ask them to play at two completely different tempos—very fast on defense with zone traps, man-to-man presses and fast breaks after steals, but very patiently on offense. That's why when I recruit, I look first for attitude and second for quickness. Height is overrated. Vicens is listed at 6'5", but he's actually about 6'3½" and he can jump with anyone."
Indeed, the starting lineup averages just 6'5". The last NCAA champion that small was UCLA in 1964 and 1965. And you know the tradition it started.
19 UNC CHARLOTTE
They stole your heart while almost winning the NIT last March, and now those Cinderellas in knee socks are back again. You remember them: Cornbread and Machine Gun Lew and the coach with the cotton top. And if anybody doubts that UNCC can do it all again, Cornbread says, "We're going to prove we weren't snowballs in the pan."
As Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell might also say, the 49ers have come along faster than greased thunder. Eleven years ago the University of North Carolina at Charlotte became a four-year school. Six years ago the 49ers played their first major-college basketball schedule. Last season they won more than 20 games (for the third straight year) and received a grudging invitation to the NIT. In rapid order UNCC showed it belonged by beating San Francisco, Oregon and North Carolina State before losing to Kentucky 71-67 in the finals.
With four starters back, including NIT MVP Maxwell and leading scorer Lew Massey, the 49ers will be even better. And everybody knows it, too. They can no longer creep into Vanderbilt, win by 17 points and have people call it an upset. "For the first time," says Coach Lee Rose, "the teams will be pointing to beat us." That unfamiliar prospect has added a few more white hairs to his 40-year-old head.
The four best teams on this year's schedule, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Florida State and Creighton, could well be caught—but not caught napping. Even the cautious Rose admits his team has the talent to play anybody. What UNCC does not have, though, is size or depth. Nonetheless, while building a 24-6 record last year the Mean Green never allowed more than 80 points and averaged 84 themselves.
Maxwell, the 6'8" senior center, and Massey provide most of the offense. Massey is a 6'4" forward who shoots well and often from the outside. He averaged 22.5 points per game last season for a school record total of 677. His uncle, Walter Davis, the Olympian who plays down the road in Chapel Hill, did not come close to these numbers. Maxwell averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds by floating to and around the basket. His odd habit of practicing his free-throw form before every foul shot helped make him an 82% shooter from the line. But then Maxwell is unusual in other ways, too. Take his nickname, Cornbread. You can have it, he says, because he cannot stand the stuff. He even insists he is "not crazy about basketball" and prefers to be called "the best chess player in college basketball." But he showed all the moves while becoming king of the NIT.
The other starters are Forward Kevin King, Guard Melvin Watkins, both 50% field-goal shooters, and Guard Chad Kinch, a freshman playmaker of fine promise. If everyone stays healthy, the 49ers will strike gold again.
"When I was in the ninth grade I decided I wanted to be a basketball coach," says Chuck Daly, who has no cause to regret that decision. In the five years Daly has coached at Penn, the Quakers have gone 107-30 and have won four Ivy League titles. Daly had hopes his team would earn a fifth championship last season. In September of 1975 his squad played five games in a tournament in Italy, where one of its two victories was against a team named Varese.
"As we got on our bus after that game, the players from the Real Madrid team from Spain applauded us," Daly recalls. "It was their way of congratulating us. We didn't realize it at the time, but that loss for Varese was only its second at home in seven years."
Particularly Encouraging to Daly in the Varese game were the performances of big man Henry Johnson, playmaker Mark Lonetto and high-scoring Keven McDonald. Clearly, Daly had cause for optimism.
Sad to say, Daly never found out how good his team might have been, for on the day of the first game of the 1975 season the 6'11" Johnson came down with appendicitis. Then he suffered complications, his weight fell from 215 pounds to 178 and he missed the entire season.
Without Johnson, the Quakers were 17-9 and second in the Ivy League. Now Johnson is healthy, his weight is back to 215 and he is honing his reflexes and his close-in shots. Johnson is not a dominant center (he averaged 10.8 points and seven rebounds as a junior), but he can be intimidating on defense and productive on offense. Back, too, are Lonetto (an 11-point scorer) and McDonald, who was the ECAC Rookie of the Year last season, averaging 18.9 points and 7.4 rebounds.
Freshmen are not permitted to play varsity ball in the Ivy League, but the shifty-nifty newcomers who were 17-1 for Penn last year are now eager sophomores who will help the Quakers feel their oats. Most prominent among them may be 6'1" Guard Bob Willis.
"He's got me excited," says Daly when speaking of Willis, who averaged 12.7 points per game as a freshman. Willis is an exceptional leaper who can dunk the ball backward. What really excites Daly, though, is that Willis "runs the fast break better than anyone since I've been here."
Other sophomores who give Daly a few tingles are Tony Price (21.3 points, 10.8 rebounds), rugged 6'8", 215-pound Matt White (10.1 points, 8.4 rebounds), Tim Smith, Ed Kuhl and James Brown, a 6'2" guard who has run the 100 in 9.2. "I can't hide it," Daly exults. "We've got talent. What I like about coaching is that it's not an everyday boring existence." But then Daly must have known that back in the ninth grade.