In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Lefty Driesell's first varsity squad at Maryland could have trouble beating the freshmen. Driesell got a late start in recruiting, but he and his assistants went on a crash catch-up program. The result: a team for another season. For now there are 6'7" Rod Horst and 6'5" Sparky Still.
At Wake Forest, Coach Jack McCloskey has Charlie Davis, who averaged 22.8 points last year as a sophomore and was fifth nationally with an .882 free-throw percentage. The Deacons lost 21 games two years ago but now—after a respectable 18-9 season—may be ready to challenge the ACC's Big Three.
Only Richmond and George Washington have any sort of chance against Davidson in the Southern Conference, and that is not saying much. In the Ohio Valley Conference, Murray State returns all five starters from last season's championship team, and Eastern Kentucky Coach Guy Strong has back four regulars—including smooth 6'5" Guard Toke Coleman.
When he went from West Virginia to Duke last spring, Bucky Waters left behind five sophomores who should reassure the folks in Morgantown that Waters is still a good old boy. They could, in fact, make the Mountaineers' new coach, Sonny Moran, one of the surprise winners among Southern independents and help their fans to forget the 13-14 record in 1968-69, the worst in 25 years. Virginia Tech Coach Howie Shannon feels his Gobblers may be "pretty good by Christmas," which could be just so much cold turkey.
With UCLA weakened, if only slightly, and almost every other Pacific Eight team improved, it is going to be an interesting fight in the league that has produced six of the last 11 NCAA champions. California, for instance, has four potential future All-Americas—6' junior Guard Charlie Johnson (fourth in the league in rebounding last season as a sophomore), 6'4�" Forward Jackie Ridgle from Arkansas (top sophomore scorer in Cal history) and two touted men from the freshmen, Phil Chenier and 6'9" Ansley Truitt. "We won't be doormats for anybody," says Coach Jim Padgett. But since there is always the possibility in Berkeley that the Third World Liberation Front will raise some kind of hell, pressuring the black players to join in, Cal's is not an atmosphere conducive to concentrating on UCLA, USC and the rest.
Take-your-sweet-time and defense-conscious Oregon State will no doubt run and shoot a little more because of all the talent Coach Paul Valenti has collected in Corvallis. Excellent shooter Vince Fritz is back after a year out with a back injury, but will move to forward, thanks to the presence of sophomore Guards Billy Nickleberry and Fred Boyd. The Beavers also have a 7' center, Vic Bartolome, who gave Lew Alcindor some of his toughest matches, and 6'9" Forward Gary Freeman, who can shoot with Fritz. Washington Coach Tex Winter has all five starters back, plus 6'9�" Steve Hawes from Mercer Island, just a floating bridge away from Seattle. "At this stage, he is the finest prospect for a big man I've had," says Winter.
Texas at El Paso Coach Don Haskins has a 160-50 record for his eight years in El Paso and he has 6'7" JC transfer Dick Gibbs and quick Nate Archibald to help him keep up his percentage. Defending WAC co-champion Wyoming has 6'6" Carl Ashley (21.0 average) in the pivot and 6'4" Forward Stan Dodds, which does not seem to be enough height to go far nationally. The other co-champ, Brigham Young, has one of the league's better guards, 6'3" Doug Howard, and 6'9" Paul Ruffner to grab a few rebounds.
However, the best team in the high country might be independent Utah State, especially now that the great nickname fuss has subsided. An elaborate campaign to turn the Aggies into Highlanders or Scotsmen failed, perhaps because of the banner unfurled by one group of coeds: "Highlander is faggy, we love Aggie." The Aggie most beloved is Marvin Roberts, a 6'8" forward who averaged 27.6 points a game last year as a sophomore. Utah State also has a sophomore guard, Nate Williams, who can invent three new passes while he's up in the air, select one and hit the open man with it.
San Jose State has left the West Coast Athletic Conference to join the new Pacific Coast Athletic Association, where it might have been a contender had not 6'7�" Center Darnell Hillman been drafted. The Spartans still have 6'11" Coby Dietrick but probably will not be able to cope with Cal State Long Beach. When San Jose and UC Santa Barbara left the WCAC they were replaced by Nevada Las Vegas and Nevada Reno. Reno has one outstanding player, Forward Alex Boyd, and Las Vegas has a good team led by Guard Lou Small, a transfer from Kansas State. Santa Clara's chief opposition in the league should come from Pacific, where Coach Dick Edwards has collected some giant redwoods, 6'8" Bill Strieker, 6'8" Pete Jensen, 6'9" Tom Jones and 6'9" sophomore John Gianelli.