Breathing down the necks of the top 20 are five teams that may end up among them. Creighton is a for-instance; that's where Cyril Baptiste plays, and if you have not seen him lately, says a man who has, "You ain't seen nothing." It is hard to miss Baptiste, all 6'9", 230 pounds of him. After a full season under the Bluejays' personable young coach, Eddie Sutton, and a tour with the Olympic development team, Baptiste is quicker, smarter, more explosive inside and ready to dominate games the way Bob Gibson, once a fine Creighton basketball player, now controls rival batters. Sutton arrived on the small (2,600 undergraduates) Jesuit campus in Omaha from Southern Idaho College last season and impressed everybody with his first team, which wound up 16-10. Almost everyone is back, and the Blue-jays are already scaring people with their potential. Joe Bergman, 6'9", who was drafted by both pro leagues after last season but chose to stay around and play the first semester (19 games), and 6'6" Dennis Bresnahan will help with their excellent corner shooting while playmaker Mike Caruso and sophomore Al Lewis provide speed and savvy in the backcourt. Creighton missed a tournament bid on the final day last season by losing to Houston. It will not miss this year. A Baptiste among the Jesuits is too good a parlay.
In some ways Pacific comes into the new season with even better credentials than Creighton. It tied for the championship of the West Coast Athletic Conference but lost the playoff to Santa Clara, thus missing out on the NCAA Tournament. There was nothing for the frustrated Tigers to do with their 21-6 record but return to their quiet campus in Stockton, Calif. and sulk. Now they are cheerful again, mainly because of 6'10" hometown boy John Gianelli, who averaged 18.5 points and eight blocked shots a game as a sophomore. Coach Dick Edwards has back both starting guards, Bob Thomason and Robbie Sperring, and ample talent to fill the vacated forward spots. But Gianelli's presence alone should make Pacific's last campaign in the WCAC pleasant. Next year it switches to the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, where it is liable to be frustrated again, this time by Cal State Long Beach.
Teams on the University of Louisville's schedule had better be in shape. "We're going to run more than we ever have before," says Coach John Dromo and, for a club known for its fast breaks, that could be plenty. What hurt Louisville during the 1969-70 season was that dread disease known as sophomoritis. With four of the species in the lineup, the Cardinals made a whopping 481 turnovers. Says Dromo, ' "We'll have to cut that at least in half if we're going to have a championship club." The present team has the talent to cut down and then some. Guard Larry Carter is a deadeye outside shooter, and Forward Henry Bacon is a fine all-round player. Both are juniors, as are 6'9" Al Vilcheck and Jim Price. The fifth spot will be fought over by 6'6" JC transfers Ron Thomas and Ken Bradley, and John Studer and Mike Lawhon. "We should be improved," says Dromo, in something of an understatement.
Jarrett Durham—an ideal name for a Duke—led Duquesne in scoring the past two seasons and should do it again if the Nelson twins, Barry and Garry, continue their tag-team act underneath. Any math major knows that 6'10" and 240 pounds multiplied by two equals an infinite number of rebounds. Barry will be the center and Garry a forward, or is it Garry at center and Barry at forward? Usually, however, Coach Red Manning will start Barry and use Garry in relief unless he needs height, in which case opponents get both barrels. Mickey Davis, a 6'7" junior, finished behind Durham last year with a 15-point scoring rate. Manning has shooters and rebounders and 10 men to choose among as a replacement for playmaker Billy Zopf, a three-year starter who never tired of supplying Durham with the right ammunition.
University of Georgia students call it the North Avenue Trade School, but Georgia Tech could not care less as long as it has such tinkerers around as Rich Yunkus. At the top of his class in industrial management, the 6'10", 210-pound senior is programmed to score 30 points a game, but Coach Whack Hyder has one reservation about him. "Yunkus doesn't have the rebounding ability of Alcindor," he says. To make up for that drawback, adds Hyder, "Yunkus has quickness and an ability to get shots that some of the bigger ones don't have. He can shoot anywhere from 20 feet in."
Tech's strategy will be for its backcourt of Jim Thorne and John Hoggle to get the ball inside to Yunkus. Thorne, a senior, averaged 10.3 points last year and could be a factor if defenses collapse around Yunkus. Tommy Wilson will help with the rebounding, as should a good sophomore, Bruce Brown. Peanut Murphy, 6'2", will play in the frontcourt when more shooting is needed. The printout on this collection of trade schoolers should make lively reading by late winter.
Here is Southern Stereotype No. 1,861: lanky youth standing tall under a magnolia tree with a cool drink (mint julep?) in hand. Now, if the truth were known, bolted to the other side of that tree is a basketball hoop and 6'7" Beauregard is gulping Gatorade. Basketball-rich Dixie again has a wealth of talent—some of it so fresh that Kentucky, South Carolina and Davidson are no longer sure winners on the tournament Scrabble board. In the Southeastern Conference, for instance, Tennessee and Vanderbilt look especially capable and Mississippi has a player who not only can score like Pete Maravich, but, gasp, he plays defense. The lad's name is John Neumann and last year he averaged 38.4 points per game on the best freshman team in the conference.
The optimism at Tennessee springs from Coach Ray Mears' plan to speed up his cautious possession game with some old-fashioned run-and-gun. Freshmen scoring aces Mike Edwards and Greg Hawkins join two returning starters in the new-look attack. Vanderbilt's best is 6'7" Thorpe Weber, a 15.7 scorer who would do better if only ever-growing Steve Turner, the nation's tallest collegian, catches up with his 7'4" rebounding potential. Conference sleeper Alabama, with its top six men returning, will feature talented Wendell Hudson, the school's first black athlete. Auburn has 6'2" John Mengelt, the SEC's most offensive returnee. He averaged 26.8 points a game in 1969-70. Without Maravich, LSU will count nothing more than the days to Mardi Gras.