The student campaign to shift Saturday night basketball games to the afternoon so that weekend evenings would be free for dances gets a big boost this year. Beginning December 13, NBC will telecast nationally an outstanding college game every Saturday afternoon for 14 weeks (except Dec. 27), ending with the NIT championship game in Madison Square Garden. The first game, pitting NCAA titleholder Kentucky against St. Louis, is previewed below.
St. Louis will have a considerable height advantage up front, with Ferry, Burkel and Burnett, and an even bigger edge when Sophomore Nordmann spells one of those three. Kentucky has the superior backcourt in Lickert and Cohen, two fine ball handlers and shooters. Both teams have adequate reserves, but St. Louis has the larger number of seasoned bench hands on whom to draw.
OFFENSE: Despite its apparently far greater board strength, St. Louis will not use the race horse fast break that distinguished past Billiken teams. Instead, they will work off a single post when Ferry is in alone, and a double post when Nordmann joins him. Ferry is the only returning regular to have averaged more than seven points per game last season. Kentucky's attack often looks like a simple weave, but it has patterns aimed at setting up particular men in particular spots. Watch for Cox's feathery hooks from unusually far outside, and his accurate corner shooting. Lickert (20-point average with last year's freshmen), Cohen (MVP of 1958's junior college tournament) and Jennings (17-point average last year) are also potent scorers. They give Kentucky a clear advantage on offense.
DEFENSE: Both teams play man to man, switching when necessary. Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp has always emphasized a tenacious defense, which generally improves greatly as the season progresses. Because of the presence of many newcomers on this Kentucky squad, it may not be at its best for this game. St. Louis' new coach, John Benington, is also an advocate of strong defense, but he, too, is handicapped by inexperience in the guard positions.
REBOUNDING: Kentucky teams always hustle under the boards, but St. Louis should have the edge here nevertheless. However, the Billikens' lack of skilled ball handlers, which weakens their fast-break potential, tends to cancel out this superiority.
Difficult to assess by points, but impossible to ignore, is the advantage to Kentucky of playing on their home court under familiar lighting and with solid cheering support from the stands. In addition, though he is a sound tactician, St. Louis' Coach Benington is up against the old master in Kentucky's Rupp.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]