But the tension surrounding this young man is already brimming and he knows it. "I'd like to think that the pressure doesn't worry me," he said, choosing the words. "But it does. We won two straight state titles in high school, but it was nothing like this." Adding to the burden is the fact that the Cardinals will depend on sophomores a great deal and Unseld will have to be the leader. Guard Fred Holden, wildly unpredictable but good enough in any other year to get all the notices, is a certain sophomore starter, and yet another, Ellis Bryant, may also open in the backcourt. The regulars up front are upperclassmen—6-foot-7 junior Joe Liedtke and 6-foot-4 seniors Eddie Whitehead and Wade Houston—but the newcomers are the good ones.
However modest Unseld is, he is also so good that the team will be going to him on offense. If he gets help up front so that defenses cannot concentrate on him, Louisville should win its first Missouri Valley championship and Athletic Director Hickman will be terribly tempted to keep Coach Hickman on for another year. Or two.
10 NEW MEXICO
When Coach Bob King cautiously revealed that the Lobos might speed up their tempo this season, the fans in Albuquerque, Tucumcari, Socorro and Truth or Consequences just grinned in disbelief. "The response," King himself admitted, "was a quiet snigger." King's teams are known for a slow, deliberate ball-control style that at times looks like the CBS stop-action reruns. In this age of basketball a Go-Go, King has been the sport's answer to the siesta. Though agonizing to watch, this style has won games. In King's three years at New Mexico the once lowly Lobos have had three winning seasons and have been no worse than fourth in defense in the nation.
King is a defense specialist. His conference is noted for fast-rampaging Injun-raid techniques, but he favors the discipline of the outnumbered cavalry: overpower 'em at the stockade first, and then carefully counterattack, making every shot count. Even when the Lobos launched an offensive, the ball handling was so careful that King rightfully described it as a "defensive offense." Last year's point man, Skip Kruzich, would nurse the ball through the midcourt, and then play catch with Dick Ellis—back and forth, never taking any chances—until the moment of the sure thing came. It got so that the home folks would groan and King would wring his familiar red towel whenever the scoring, by either team, seemed to be occurring too fast. Kruzich and Ellis are gone now, but King has had lots of other players learning the same pace.
So why speed up now? Maybe because last year's Lobos started with 19 wins in their first 22 games and then finished with five straight defeats? "Not at all," says King. "It's a matter of personnel." Like the old cavalry colonel with his first full complement of experienced troops, King feels he now has the depth to attack. There are eight regulars and only one is a sophomore.
Leading an all-junior starting five are Mel Daniels, 6 feet 9, and Ben Monroe. They started every game as sophomores and led the team in rebounding. Daniels was also the team's top scorer. Point Man Don Hoover and Wingmen Bill Morgan and Ed Burwitz feel like crafty old combat sergeants this year too. "Deep down inside we are all runners," Monroe says, "but Coach King taught us that a good slow team will beat a fast-break team. We'll increase the pace this year but not lose what we had. We have the potential for a breaking team, and our opponents will know it. Last year, when they were sure we weren't going to break out, they could bring up every man and hit the boards with all they had."
The last two New Mexico teams went to the NIT; this year it looks like the NCAA for the Lobos.
Dec and K were Coach Joe Mullaney's centers and that would have made Providence one of the very best teams in the country. Unfortunately, Dec had this thing about going to class, and K had this thing about going to practice. So here is what Mullaney has now: he has Dec ineligible, and he has K, back off his ineligibility, but also fat. K is so fat that it appears now a new father named Bill Lasher will have to be the Friars' center. Lasher is only 6 feet 6. (His new son is only 1 foot 7, "but," Lasher says hopefully, "he has big feet.") Lasher was counted on as the Friars' bench; after him there is not much. "It would have been fun," Mullaney says, wistfully recalling his happy prospects at center. "We would really have enjoyed the chance to see if we were as good as they said we were."