People planning parties in Wichita have been careful for some time to avoid a conflict with the school's basketball games, but if the Shockers make the Midwest Regionals—played this March in their own field house for the first time—there is going to be one mighty big party all over town. And if the Shockers do make the regionals, a trip on to the finals seems as safe as surplus wheat. Wichita loses in Wichita about as often as it rains in Death Valley (annual precipitation, two inches). Last year the Shockers beat three of the top four nationally ranked teams (they did not play the fourth), including NCAA champion Loyola and Cincinnati, but seemed to lack incentive against lesser lights. Coach Ralph Miller says his team is prepared this season "to go calmly ahead and play all our games the way we want to play them." The Shockers press full court, they like the fast break and—that failing—they work in well. Last year 80% of their shots came from within six feet of the basket.
Inside 25 feet, All-America Dave Stallworth can make any shot. A 6-foot-7 forward, he is almost impossible to stop one-on-one. He has excellent peripheral vision, is a fine passer and ball hawk. Stallworth has been double-teamed in the past, but if Center Nate Bowman continues to improve, opponents will find that costly. Bowman averaged a mere 9.2 last year and, sporting a beard, was something of a clown. But the beard is off, Bowman is serious, and he could score twice as much and foul half as frequently. Student Government President Dave Leach, who seemed hampered by nervousness last year, is at the other forward, with sophomore Kelly Pete (15.2 points and 15.2 rebounds a game with the freshmen) moving up from guard to relieve Leach occasionally. Pete and 5-foot-10 John Criss will alternate in the backcourt alongside Leonard Kelley during the first semester. Ernie Moore will replace Kelley for the second. Kelley and Moore both have one term of eligibility left, and Miller is spreading their talent over the season. Moore, a superb defender, is being held out for the last half because that is when the NCAAs take place. Also, Armageddon (nicknamed Cincinnati) shows up twice on the schedule in the second semester this year.
A good basketball player without knee trouble is about as rare these days as a movie star without a nose bob, and nowhere are bad knees more in fashion than on Philadelphia's Main Line, where one of the nation's slickest backcourts is returning from surgery. So far it looks as if the knees in question are sound again. If so, so is Villanova. The celebrated joints are those of Wally Jones and George Leftwich, sophomore stars two years ago: both quick-handed defenders and good shooters. Last season Leftwich could not play at all; Jones did, but at half speed. Still, with his long jump shot, he averaged 16.7. This pair will outsmart many an opposing backcourt of more imposing size and muscle. So will Jim Washington, 6 feet 7, a center last year, but now moving to forward because Coach Jack Kraft believes he will play better facing the basket. Washington was always exceptionally agile and now knows how to use his speed and mobility—some of this undoubtedly picked up at a summer recreation center where he scrimmaged with pros. The other forward will be sophomore Richie Moore, who averaged 23.6 with the freshmen. This is such a potent scoring team that Center Al Sallee—an ex- Quantico Marine—needs to do little but stand tall. "Just block out and rebound," says Kraft. Sallee does not jump too well but starts at 6 feet 8. If Moore and Sallee cannot play both ends of the court, Kraft will staff his combination zone and man-to-man defense with Eric Erickson, a starter last year, and sophomore Mike Tralies. The Wildcats operate out of a basic 2-3, but when an opponent with the ball works in too near the basket, he gets man-to-man coverage. Kraft has an offensive bench, too. Since sophomore Bill Melchionni can score, Kraft will go with three backcourt men on occasion. Bernie Schaffer, another sophomore, can out-shoot Sallee and Tralies, so he will play a good deal, too. That sounds like a lot of sophomores, but Kraft controls the youngsters well. Indeed, the best thing about this team is its coaching. In a scrimmage against NYU, the Wildcats demonstrated they can push a club with superior personnel to the limit, using their heads and following intelligent direction.
Will success spoil Loyola? Not likely. Coach George Ireland had his boys running with the cross-country team this fall, to get in I shape, and the champions were running proud, not cocky or scared. They still are. Is the loss of Jerry Harkness critical? Probably not. No team loses an All-America with complete impunity, but in some ways this year's is a stronger squad. Then why should Loyola lose its title? The answer is that a number of other teams, like the five here rated above it, have improved much more than Loyola, if it has at all. Many still believe the champions were lucky to win last year. They were not. Against extremely disciplined clubs like Mississippi State and Cincinnati they kept their poise and just refused to be beaten. They will do that again, often. Others believe the Ramblers do not play defense. Indeed they do. Their first line of defense is powerful, four-man rebounding that keeps the ball away from the opposition for long spells, the best defense of all. Away from the boards they play individual rather than team defense, but this was good enough to upset Cincinnati under pressure in the finals, and it is again that good. What about offense? Harkness averaged 21.4 points a game—but somebody else was averaging 70.4. All of those somebodies are back. Since the Loyola attack was all fast break, the loss of a Harkness is considerably less significant than it would be on a deliberate-offense team. Ireland is not changing his style of attack, though he is altering a few of the options that emphasized Harkness' role. The only starting vacancy will be filled by either Chuck Wood, last year's sixth man, or by Jim Coleman, who was All-Army in 1961-62 and the Loyola freshman high scorer last year. If Coleman starts, springy Ron Miller will move into the forecourt with Vic Rouse and Les Hunter. And this year there is some depth in the forecourt: sophomores Frank Perez (6 feet 6) and Tom Markey (6 feet 5). Chunky little John Egan is still around to hustle the ball into the break. Loyola plays a rugged road schedule without some of the breathers that helped it to make those area-code scores 11 times last year, and everyone, of course, will be laying for them, hoping to catch their jumping jacks with unaccountably heavy-soled sneakers.
The fast break makes Coach Ed Jucker cringe. "I don't go out and get a good six-nine center," he says, "and then let a five-nine guard lose me the ball." After years of remarkable success with his pattern-style game, Jucker is not going to switch to the break, but he is going to open up Cincy's offense and call for more shooting. He has to—to win. He has lost three superb defensive players—Tony Yates, Tom Thacker and Larry Shingleton—and his opponents are going to score more than they have in the past three years. Jucker does have his good center, maybe. He is 6-foot-8 Ron Krick, the boy who broke Wilt Chamberlain's Pennsylvania high school records. This is Krick's third year at Cincinnati—and all he has to show for the first two are three freshman games and two constantly dislocated shoulders. This fall he had surgery, and since the operation he has come along very slowly. Krick has looked good with the ball, but his rebounding, jumping and defense have not been up to par. If Krick makes the lineup George Wilson can shift back to forward, where he is more effective. So far, in practice, Wilson has scored almost at will against Krick. With Krick on the bench Thacker's forward post is open. Gene Smith, a spot player last year, has the inside track, but freshman MVP John Serbin should move in before long. A brawny 6-foot-6, Serbin was high school All-America in football and basketball, but has been slowed by a bad toe. Ron Bonham, naturally, is the other forward. Probably the best shooter in college today, he appears to be bearing down as never before. "I think he'll want to go to the board more," says Jucker. "I think he'll want to bow out in a big way." In his search for points, Jucker may start sophomores Roland West and Dave Cosby. They can shoot from outside and are much bigger (about 6 feet 4) than the usual Cincy backcourt prototype. If he goes for experience, Jucker will start juniors Fritz Meyer and Ken Cunningham, who are better at setting up the front line. The Bearcats should be slow to form, but tough down the stretch. There was another Cincy team like that. It started poorly but became the national champion. It was the 1960-61 bunch, and Jucker is very mindful of the fact.
Jay Buckley, the 6-foot-10 center for the Blue Devils, is a bright young physics major who was one of 60 students handpicked from all over the country to take part in a National Aeronautics and Space Administration summer program. "Jay," Coach Vic Bubas said recently, "I wouldn't be surprised one of these days to read that you are the first man to land on the moon." "Oh, I don't know, Coach," Buckley said. "If I get there, I'll probably find you already there looking for ballplayers." Buckley's answer was not all gag. Though the collegiate Player of the Year, Art Heyman, has graduated, demon recruiter Bubas has made enough finds to keep Duke among the nation's elite. Heyman will be missed, of course. He was the rare kind of player who could break a game open, and the team depended on him—perhaps too much. He took 36.3% of the starting five's shots. The major share of Heyman's burden falls on Captain Jeff Mullins (20.3 last year). Physically, though, Mullins, can never be another Heyman. At 6 feet 4 and only 185 pounds, he literally gave out several times last year. But he actually is a more accurate shooter than Heyman and is a good floor leader. Buckley and another 6-foot-10 man, Hack Tison, will complete the front court. Tison is much the better shot, but Buckley is the stronger and rebounds well. Still, neither of the two will ever cut it at Muscle Beach, and an opponent with a rugged pivotman likely would force them and the team into foul trouble. Brent Kitching, a 6-foot-7 junior, is thus an important reserve; if he works into the lineup Duke will be better off, since Bubas then can alternate his big men. Buzzy Harrison won a backcourt post during last season, and is the logical choice to keep it. There is a scramble for the other guard position among two juniors, Ron Herbster and Denny Ferguson, and two sophomores, Steve Vacendak and Frank Harscher. Duke is well-drilled defensively and will switch from a zone to man-to-man the way so many southern teams do. If this squad is not as explosive as last year's, it has better balance and greater depth.
"Good things are meant to be shared; so is basketball shooting," reads a sign in the K-State locker room. This really is not an exhortation by Coach Tex Winter against hogging the ball. It is an accurate indication of how the game is played in Manhattan, Kans. State almost always has so deep a squad that the shooting automatically is spread through two platoons. This bench strength has been a key factor in State's record of four Big Eight championships and two ties for the title since 1956, and it is very much in evidence this season. There are six strong front liners: Willie Murrell, Jeff Simons, Joe Gottfrid and Dave Nelson at the corners and Roger Suttner and Gary Williams at center. At guard are Max Moss, Ron Paradis and Richard Barnard. This crew has height, speed and experience. It lacks only a little beef, which seems odd in a school in the heart of the cow country, whose training-table steaks are supplied free by proud alumni. The 7-foot Suttner, who has never quite lived up to his promise, "is not a real free-wheeling center," Winter puts it somewhat wistfully. He seems to be playing more aggressively in practice than in the past, but his interest is still minimal. "He shows up because he has to, not because he wants to," says Winter. Two genuinely talented players are Murrell and Paradis. In Winter's triple-post offense, with each player handling seven or eight options, Murrell moves in and out of the corner or post with ease, can score from outside or underneath equally well. He had trouble learning Winter's system last year but is relaxed and playing with abandon now. Paradis is as fanatic as Suttner is indifferent, spends his spare time running off reel after reel of old State games, studying players he will meet and the successful moves of teammates. He has excellent moves of his own, including an accurate long-range jumper that he flips off the two outside fingers of his hand instead of the index and middle fingers as most players do, but he is a streak shooter. Paradis can run a fast break, so Winter may use it a bit more than he has recently. He will not depart from his aggressive defense, however. Kansas State will again use the full-court press, and not just when it is behind and trying to catch up. The rest of the time it will play a half-court press. The rest of the Big Eight is warned.
Politicians in Arizona may be a little coy about running, but not Arizona State basket-bailers. Coach Ned Wulk has recruited a fine crop of quarter horses for his fast break, and all the sophomores moving up have two things in common—they are fast, and they don't come from Arizona. Instead, Wulk found one apiece in Winamac, Ind., McKeesport, Pa. and Manitowoc, Wis., and he found two in Struthers, Ohio. But speed, as the National Safety Council points out, does not always get you there. The Sun Devils have had impressive records of late (26-3 last year), but they often have a hard time adjusting to a slowdown game. A lot of teams, of course, have tried to drop the tempo at Tempe, but Arizona State usually managed the switch against local competition, simply on quality. Really good defense and controlled play can beat them, which is why one coach says they are not a "tournament team." Nevertheless, there are not many defenses good enough to contain this offense. Wulk has lost one starter, but his fast guns, Joe Caldwell and Art Becker, are back. Both averaged 19 points per game, and Becker's improvement off the boards (11.2 rebounds a game) released Caldwell, who may be the fastest 6-foot-5 man in college, for more up-court work on the break. Additional help is expected this season from Dennis Dairman, who scored 12.5 last year as a guard. Back at forward, a position he much prefers, he should do better. Junior Gerald Jones will take over Dairman's old spot alongside Gary Senitza, the team quarterback. Senitza gets the few points he scores when they count most, and he is the one who leads the adjustment to a slowdown. His value increases this year, since there is no experience at all on the bench, just sophomores and two junior college transfers, Luther Harper and 6-foot-10 Jim Proctor. Arizona State plays a tough intersectional schedule this year, and must also contend with the fact that almost every team in the Western Athletic Conference is improved, particularly New Mexico. But Wulk and his road runners are still too fast company for most of their competition.
"Frankly," Coach Chuck Orsborn says, "I don't know what our style is. We shift around so much, I don't see how anyone could do a good job scouting us." Orsborn is telling only half the story. It 'is not just the shifting that will make Bradley tough this year. It is what Orsborn has to shift: a tall (for a change), deep, talented squad with the speed and rebounding skill that were missing last season. Orsborn will also have his fine center, 6-foot-9 Joe Strawder, and Levern Tart all season. Last year Strawder was ineligible until February, and Tart flunked out at midsemester and missed the last half. Right now Tart is the best player on the team; Orsborn cannot decide whether to use him at guard or forward and just wishes he were twins. At guard four lettermen are available: Rich Williams, Rich Donley, Bobby West and Leon Hall. Williams is a certain starter; Donley has been erratic in recent practice. There are three good sophomore forwards: Eddie Jackson, Ernie Thompson and Ron Martin. The first-two are very good—they averaged 18 points apiece with the freshmen and are leading contenders for starting jobs with Ron Patterson, a junior who saw little action last year and senior Steve Day. Thompson is the shortest, at 6 feet 3, but he still managed to pull down 14 rebounds per game. Jackson, however, pulls down the raves. For one thing, he was something of a cause c�l�bre in Illinois. In his junior year at Peoria's Manual High he turned 19 just before the state finals. This made him ineligible and set up such a fuss that the age rule subsequently was changed. Now a mature 21, Jackson is a slender 6 feet 6 and can do almost anything but gain weight. He is especially impressive on defense. As Orsborn puts it, "Most sophomores can't guard the coach, let alone their man. But Jackson will do a better job than our upperclassmen."