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THE TOP 20 TEAMS
December 01, 1969
Not in four years has anybody dared pick against UCLA. Even with Lew Alcindor gone, to do so now is still chancy. John Wooden's teams have always been good and this year's edition is no exception. But the Gamecocks of South Carolina, an almost all-New York team, and the Aggies of New Mexico State, not to mention Purdue with Rick Mount, may have enough finesse and—most of all—enough desire to unseat college basketball's biggest winner
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December 01, 1969

The Top 20 Teams

Not in four years has anybody dared pick against UCLA. Even with Lew Alcindor gone, to do so now is still chancy. John Wooden's teams have always been good and this year's edition is no exception. But the Gamecocks of South Carolina, an almost all-New York team, and the Aggies of New Mexico State, not to mention Purdue with Rick Mount, may have enough finesse and—most of all—enough desire to unseat college basketball's biggest winner

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Sophomores could wilt under pressure like that, but 6'4" Guard Paul Westphal is likely to bloom. He scored 1,042 points in 31 games his senior year in high school, and one black player who saw him in pickup games last summer reported to his coach, "That Westphal is great even if he is white."

The other backcourt starter will be either junior Dana Pagett or Dennis (Mo) Layton, one of the Newark products and a JC All-America. A fourth guard, 6'5" Monroe Nash, might be red-shirted. Best shooter on the team is 6'6" sophomore Forward Joe Mackey from Arizona, who has done 6'10" in the high jump. Junior Forward Don Crenshaw, 6'4", scored 20 points in the UCLA upset and perhaps can pass on some of his rebounding ability to Mackey, who is not aggressive enough. Center will be 6'8" Ron Riley or 6'10" Bill Taylor, both off that freshman team. The Trojans are so deep in the frontcourt that Jerseyites George Watson and Leroy Cobb are not likely to be starters.

USC has won more national championships in more sports than any other school but never one in basketball. Maybe that day is coming.

19 UTAH

Disaster has courted Utah's new 15,000-seat special-events arena almost from the moment the $10.5 million athletic complex was started 2� years ago. Once, construction was halted when three workers fell to their deaths off a scaffold. Later, glaziers went on strike for four months. Finally, just a few days after practice for the 1969-70 season began in October, a pipe in the women's rest room self-destructed and water flooded down through the aisles and wrecked the court. If all this wasn't hardship enough, on the same day the floor snapped, so did star Forward Kenny Gardner's knee. The floor is retrievable—the arena should be ready for opening night—the lives are not, and Gardner (no relation to Coach Jack Gardner) will have trouble finding a new knee.

"I didn't dare go to the arena the next day," says the coach, who popularized the drinking of milk during games to silence ulcers. "I could have filled it again...with tears. We may have had a basketball court and a season washed away in 24 hours."

Not quite. Two weeks after Gardner's accident in a one-on-one drill, he was back running hard in practice scrimmage and attempting to rehabilitate his knee as quickly as possible. If it heals properly, he conceivably can play as well as he did last year, when he was one of three sophomores who came out of nowhere to make the Runnin' Redskins a potent force in the West all season long. Mike Newlin, a 6'4" guard with the body of Adonis, led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring with a 24-point average and was Player of the Year; 6'10" Jim Mahler, out of Sandy, Utah, improved rapidly and used brawn, if not quickness, to become an adequate post man. Gardner himself, Utah's most complete player, scored, played defense and led the league in rebounding up to the final two games—yeoman work considering he is only 6'4".

Bob Martin, a stockily built playmaker, returns in backcourt alongside Newlin, but there is not much help for them on the bench. In the corners, Walt Hawkins is only 6'3", but his jumping ability puts him ahead of two taller and stronger men, Early (Peaches) Laster and Ken Reynolds. Laster, a football player, still is not as solid as Reynolds. Both will play a lot if Gardner's knee does not come around.

Coach Gardner has an early season schedule to envy—11 of his first 12 games are in the new arena. His most important early game, however, is the guessing kind: whether to play the Namath-kneed Gardner this season or red-shirt him. The Fox, as the coach is called, may need more than milk while he ponders that one.

20 WESTERN KENTUCKY

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