It is only a matter of time, just a few more years, before this league's representative in the annual NCAA championship tournament will be a powerful contender instead of the pushover it has mostly been in the past. The reason lies not only in the fast-rising interest in basketball within the conference, but, more important, among the high schools in the area, where future college stars must get their basic training. The newest school in the conference, TEXAS TECH, where rabid fans presented Coach Polk Robison an air-conditioned car last year despite only a third-place finish, appears-to have a winner this time around. Seven tall, accurate shooters who were alternate starters last season are back, and 6-foot-9 sophomore Harold Hudgens joins them to make up a deep squad that is strong on the boards and lacks only outstanding speed. The veterans are Charley Lynch, Gerald Myers, Leon Hill, Wade Wolfe, Chuck Key, Pat Noakes, Gene Arrington and reserves Jim Wiley, Dale McKeehan, Don Apple and Sid Seligman. The tallest and most experienced team in TEXAS CHRISTIAN'S history makes the Horned Frogs the top contender. Coach Buster Brannon has the league's leading scorer and rebounder in Ronny Stevenson, and will surround him with veterans Derrill Nippert, H. E. Kirchner, Ken King and Ken Brunson. Reserves include veterans Roy Davis, Tommy Meacham, Don Williams, Bobby Tyler, Tommy Turner and F. A. Davis. Three sophomores will make the squad: Jerry Cobb, Perry McMichael and Jerry Pope. Last year's champs, shrewd, taciturn Coach Glen Rose's ARKANSAS Razorbacks, have lost the steady, high-scoring Fred Grim and two other regulars but anticipate much help from two sophomores. They are Ronnie Garner and Clyde Rhoden, who led their freshman team to a 10-2 record. Two veteran starters, Jim Carpenter and Harry Thompson, and reserves Ora Lee Boss, Zane Hankins and Tommy Rankin complete the list of first-grade talent. Rose will have a taller starting lineup and possibly greater scoring potential than last year, but is worried about defense. At TEXAS A&M hopes are high and will be higher at midterm, when transfer student Kelly Chapman becomes eligible and joins the first five. There is a solid nucleus of veteran regulars: Neil Swisher, Wayne Lawrence, Archie Carroll and Ernie Turner; plus reserves Jack Collier, Dave Corson, Sam Myers, Jack Schwake and Jim McNichol. Two sophomores, Donei Mercer and Elliot Craig, are also expected to help. Coach Bob Rogers has excellent size, fair shooting and a strong bench but could use more speed. At SMU courtly, quick-witted Coach Doc Hayes, who has won the title three times in the past four years, will have a small team, but one of the nation's best little men in Max Williams. Doc's choice of other starters from a shallow squad likely will be veterans Bobby James, Wilbur Marsh, Kim Nash and Carter Creech. He looks to 6-foot-7 sophomore Steve Strange for help at center when this green newcomer acquires poise, because getting the ball off the boards will be Doc's big headache. At RICE seven seniors, plus a list of seasoned reserves, plus two fine sophomores, plus two transfer students give hope for an improved record. Biggest asset of all is 6-foot-8 Center Tom Robitaille, who is extremely agile for his size. With him, Willie Preston and Gary Griffin make up a strong front line. With these three, Coach Don Suman likely will start veteran Steve Galloway and sophomore Jim Davis. Reserves include veterans Dale Ball, Bob Higgins and Jay McIlvain, transfers Max Bedenbaugh and Dave Craig and sophomore Steve Smith. At TEXAS Coach Marshall Hughes has his first reasonably tall squad in years, led by 6-foot-8 sophomore Albert Almanza, who broke all freshman scoring records at the school last season. Three other lanky newcomers may start: Wayne Clark, Bill Mimms and Jerry Graham, though two veteran guards, Jay Arnette and Bobby Puryear, are sure to see plenty of action. Reserves include Charlie Cox, Jerry Smith, Ed Russell and Bill Davenport. The future isn't any brighter at BAYLOR than last year's record indicates. Coach Bill Henderson has six letter-men returning and hopes for help from sophomores Richard Tinsley and Wendell Cason. His veterans are Gene McCarley, Bob Turner, David Pierce, John Moore, Charley Pack and John Fite. Some improvement can be expected in shooting, but the Bears lack both speed and height.
If SMU should finish with the best season record, the second-place team will go to the NCAA tournament. The school is on probation because of remarks allegedly made by some of its officials regarding a referee's decision during the A&M game last year—which seems a highly unjustified penalty for the offense charged.
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