Louisville, which averaged crowds of 12,842 at home last season with All-America Center Westley Unseld as the big attraction, has lost both Unseld and Guard Fred Holden. Coach John Dromo, in his second season as head man after succeeding his longtime boss, Peck Hickman, must rebuild around speedy Butch Beard. He also has 6'9" Center Mike Grosso, but the highly touted New Jersey giant underwent a second knee operation recently (he had his first while attending South Carolina) and he probably will never live up to his promise. This is his last season of eligibility and he has hardly played any varsity ball.
Behind Kansas in the Big Eight, Kansas State, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma State all have outside chances. Best sophomore in the league might be O State's 6'7" Amos Thomas, who averaged 30.9 points and 12.5 rebounds as a freshman. His duels with Robisch of Kansas the next three years should be something to see.
Since ripping through its 22-game regular-season schedule last year without a loss, some awful things have happened to St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies were badly beaten in their two games at the NCAA Eastern Regionals, their three best cornermen were lost through graduation or serious injury and, in October, when Coach Larry Weise began trying to piece together what was left, the NCAA slapped Bonaventure with a year's probation. Still, the Bonnies should be anything but bad, mostly because of the return of Bob Lanier, the 6'11", 265-pound center who wears size-19 sneakers. Last year Lanier scored 26.2 points a game, shot 58% from the floor and grabbed 390 rebounds. Returning backcourt starters Jim Satalin and Bill Kalbaugh must score more to balance the loss of Forwards Bill Butler and John Hayes, who combined for 36 points a game, but a repeat of their strong defense and ball handling of last season will give the Bonnies a solid pair of guards.
Columbia, which throttled Bonaventure by 20 points in the regionals and finished as both the Ivy champs and the best team in the East, probably cannot successfully defend its league title against Princeton now that 7' Center Dave Newmark has moved up to the pros. Newmark's absence will hurt the Lions most on defense. To fill the void, Coach Jack Rohan plans to use full-court pressure. Extra-quick junior Guard Heyward Dotson will key the defense and help Forwards Roger Walaszek and All-America Jim McMillian in an offense that should be a step faster without Newmark. McMillian, easily the best and most exciting Ivy player since Bill Bradley, is a bullish, 6'5", 235-pounder who can score with long jumpers and also use his strength to drive underneath. He topped the Lions in both points (22.3 per game) and rebounding last year. While Princeton and Columbia are battling each other, Cornell could sneak around the back door and take the Ivy title. Whether it does depends on how well new Coach Jerry Lace is able to mold a team out of a talented group of experienced individualists led by Hank South and Walt Esdaile.
In New England all three top teams will come from Massachusetts. The best should be Holy Cross, where Coach Jack Donahue has his tallest club ever. Senior Ed Siudut, who has scored 1,045 points in two seasons, heads a forecourt roster that lists five players at 6'7" or taller. The other four big men are all sophomores, and two of them may start even though Gerry Foley, a regular forward last season, is still available. The best big newcomer is Bob Kissane, who averaged 16.4 points for the freshmen and blocked six shots a game. Another sophomore, Jack Admas—a slick ball handler and a 22.3 scorer as a freshman—will open in the backcourt.
"This will be the first time since I've been coaching that we'll face Holy Cross as the underdog," says Boston College Coach (and Holy Cross alumnus) Bob Cousy. True, Cooz must do some building after losing seven seniors, but he has a solid foundation in 6'7" Center Terry Driscoll, ball-handling Guard Billy Evans and junior Forward Bob Dukiet. Five sophomores will try for the other starting spots, with Frank Fitzgerald, a cornerman who averaged 20.2 for the freshmen, and swift ball handler Jim O'Brien the best of the bunch.
Massachusetts has the edge on Rhode Island in the Yankee Conference, but the Rams should be more intriguing to watch when 5'5" sophomore Ed (The Flea) Molloy gets into the lineup. There is no chance that Molloy will be the East's biggest, or even most exciting, little man because Calvin Murphy is still at Niagara. While everything collapsed around him last year—defenses, team morale, the school administration and his very mediocre teammates—5'10" Murphy pumped in 38.2 points a game, handled the ball a good part of the time, made an occasional steal on defense and even twirled the baton at football games. This year he will be even busier. The Purple Eagles will be weaker overall and Murphy will have to outdo his performance of 1967-68 in everything but twirling if Niagara is to match last year's .500 record.
A .500 record is something that Coach Lou Carnesecca of St. John's has never had. Since taking over the Red-men from Joe Lapchick three years ago, he has always done better. His disciplined teams have appeared in three postseason tournaments—once in the NIT and twice as at-large representatives in the NCAA Eastern Regionals. With only one starter missing from last year's 19-8 team, Carnesecca has a strong chance of making it four for four. St. John's will have the same problem it had a year ago, getting a good game out of a big man. Starting Center Dan Cornelius (6'9") scored just 6.7 points and averaged only 5.2 rebounds a game. If he fails to improve this season he may lose his spot to 6'10" junior college transfer Bill Paultz. Otherwise, the Redmen are set with returning starters Joe DePre and Carmine Calzonetti at guard and the leading scorer (15.7 points a game), senior John Warren, at forward.
Columbia and St. John's will not go it alone in the battle to decide which is New York City's best because Brooklyn-based Long Island University has returned to major-college status for the first time since the basketball scandals of the early '50s. Little All-America Guard Larry Newbold, who led the Blackbirds to a 22-2 record and a No. 1 small-college ranking last season, is gone, but 6'7" Center Luther Green, an outstanding rebounder and a 17.1 scorer, is back.