Three Ohio teams, Dayton, Toledo and Ohio State, could conceivably join or replace Cincinnati in the top-20 listings four months from now. Dayton, a year away from opening a handsome 13,500-seat arena, has lost the two finest players from its 1967-68 NIT championship unit, Forward Donnie May and Guard Bobby Hooper. That is probably too much talent to replace immediately, but Coach Don (Mickey) Donoher hates to sit home when those big March tournaments are going on. and chances are the Flyers will sneak into one.
Actually, there is a May around. This one is younger brother Ken, a 6'5" forward who averaged 22 points for the freshmen and can dribble and drive better than Don, although he is not yet in the same class as a shooter or re-bounder. Good as his credentials and bloodline are, May might not start. Donoher also has 6'8" George Janky, a Chicago product who studied up on calories between seasons and lost 25 pounds of lard, and 6'6" senior defensive ace Dan Sadlier for the forwards, and 6'10" Dan Obrovac in the pivot. Obrovac is stronger defensively than offensively, but he scored 30 points in one NIT game and made 20 of 22 free throws in the tourney. The Dayton back-court is not spectacular. Donoher probably will start the homebred Gottschall twins, Jim and Jerry, neither of whom is a Hooper.
Toledo was a disappointing third in the Mid-American Conference, but the Rockets have their best men back and defending champion Bowling Green lost everybody, including Coach Bill Fitch to Minnesota. Toledo's top scorer has been 6'6" home-town bruiser Steve Mix, 21.8 points as a junior, 23 as a sophomore, who might be moved from center to forward this season to make room for 7' Doug Hess, an awkward junior from East Detroit. The trouble is that Mix likes to mix it under the hoop and makes most of his points there.
The frontcourt would be strengthened if 6'4" John Brisker would give up catching passes for the football team and get out to basketball practice. Coach Bobby Nichols is not counting on him. Quick Guard John Rudley, an honored first lieutenant in the ROTC, was the team's MVP last season over Mix.
Ohio State surprised people and won the Big Ten title last season and then shocked people by beating Kentucky at Lexington and getting into the NCAA tournament finals. The Buckeyes have graduated leading scorer-rebounder Bill Hosket, yet it is difficult to count out a team coached by Fred Taylor and a school with all the basketball tradition of Ohio State. There are other impressive assets. Center Dave Sorenson, only 6'7", is a fine shooter and smooth maneuverer, and 6'5" Forward Steve Howell averaged 17.5 points a game behind Hosket. Howell is fairly quick and agile despite looking like one of the Buckeyes' defensive tackles.
There is every indication that the Big Ten will be just as messed up as last time, when Iowa was nipped at the wire and three or four other schools were in the running until practically the last buzzer. Iowa lost Sam Williams but has 6'7" JC transfer John Johnson (eased away from Utah State recruiters) and 6'7" service returnee Ben Mc-Gilmer, plus all four men who started with Williams. Michigan won its last four league games and returns 6'7" Rudy Tomjanovich, who scored 19.5 points a game and had the second-best rebounding average in the Big Ten. His trouble is fouling too much when guarding a good big man. The Wolverines have a new coach this year, Johnny Orr, and a new assistant, Fred Snowden, a Negro from Detroit whose job it will be to mine all that raw talent in the Motor City and keep Michigan State away from it. Snowden's coaching record at Northeastern High was an arresting 162-7.
A fine defensive player and a fine scorer, both from Indiana, make Drake the best bet to challenge Cincinnati in the Missouri Valley. Guard Willie McCarter is the scorer and, according to Coach Maurice John, "the best guard in the country." He averaged 23.2 points last season. The defender is 6'5" Forward Dolph Pulliam.
"He's usually assigned to the other team's top scorer," said John. "He will cut the effectiveness of a good forward or guard in half, he's that quick and strong."
Plenty of other teams in the Midwest have outstanding individuals. Two top players who left Illinois after the athletic-fund scandal will improve their new teams. Bradley got 6'8" Steve Kuberski, who should at least partly make up for the loss of high-scoring Center Joe Allen. Coach Moe Iba at Memphis State got Illinois' 6'7" Rich Jones, and he was considered better than Kuberski.