Though 11 of the top 12 players return from the team that went 18-8, many of the personnel problems that came with divided playing time now seem solved, for Boyd has a more settled lineup. Paul Westphal, who became the best guard in the Pacific Eight after midseason, and Dennis (Mo) Layton will direct the offense, while Dana Pagett, who lacks speed but is a deft passer, will enter the lineup should the offense begin to bog down. The Trojans need muscle though 6'8" junior Center Ron Riley, a skinny 195 pounds, was second in the conference in rebounding and should improve.
Since George Watson, 6'8", and Joe Mackey, Chris Schrobilgen and Leroy Cobb, all 6'6", do not give Riley much help on the boards, Boyd is hoping for a quick recovery from 6'8" rookie Bruce Clark, who had a bone tumor removed from his shin early in the summer. Stronger and more aggressive than the others, Clark is able to score and rebound. He may be fully ready when conference play begins in January, but USC will find out how good it is before that. The Trojans open at Utah and play Florida State in the Sun Bowl in mid-December. "And I can't keep saying wait until next year," says Boyd. He can't even wait for his 6'7" son, Billy, a much-recruited forward who graduates from high school this June. "If Coach Wooden gets him for UCLA," says Dad, "I'll know I'm in trouble."
14 FLORIDA STATE
Coach Hugh Durham has dealt himself another winning hand. When the Seminoles compiled a 23-3 record with a blend of four superb black starters and Center Dave Cowens, the formerly bored fans in Tallahassee exuberantly nicknamed their team "The Busted Flush." The two best seniors in that lineup, Cowens and Willie Williams, have moved up to the Boston Celtics, but Durham has drawn a dandy pair of sophomores to replace them, 6'4" Ron King and 6'11" Reggie Royals. They will make FSU the first major college in the South to start an all-black lineup, and they give Durham and the university a chance to pick up lots of chips.
In fact, only two things can keep Florida State from having a good chance at the national championship: rebounding and the NCAA. Cowens and Williams pulled down an average of 28 rebounds a game. On the strength of that alone FSU could have challenged for any sort of national championship that was hanging around, but an NCAA probation resulting from FSU recruiting violations kept the school out of postseason tournaments. The ban is on again but this time it probably won't hurt as much as it did last year, for the Seminoles don't have quite the rebounding a No. 1 team needs. Among the likely regulars, only Royals stands taller than 6'6" and he stretches his 6'11" over an unintimidating 195-pound frame. Mean-looking and meaner-playing Vernell Ellzy, who switches from wing to low post in Durham's 1-3-1 offense, may end up being the team's top rebounder, even though he is a mere 6'4".
Speed in depth will permit Durham to compensate for FSU's lack of height by allowing him to employ the pressure defenses he prefers. The Seminoles, who had to travel fast to average 91.7 points a game last season, will be even faster on offense now, and there are more shooters available. Senior Skip Young returns to the point position to run the offense after a season on the wing. Two players, Ron Harris and Rowlande Garrett, who have started occasionally, will battle for one wing spot, backed up by sophomore Larry Gay. Gay averaged 21.9 points a game, but was only the third best scorer on the freshman team. Royals, an exceptionally rangy shooter for a big man, averaged 23.3 points a game, while King, an all-purpose offensive threat who is Coach Durham's second big steal out of the state of Kentucky (Cowers was the other), averaged 35.7.
Durham will mix all this together with a fast riffle. "Last year we usually used 10 men in the first half," he says. "We will try the same thing again. Using that number of players allows us to press more and run more on offense. Besides, a kid who gets into a game in the first half knows he's an important part of the team. He wants to play harder." Durham sounds like a man who has two hands to play.
Harv Schmidt is well liked around Champaign and Urbana, Ill. He is something of a local boy, hailing from up the road in Kankakee, and he came down to play basketball at Illinois in the mid-1950s instead of permitting himself to be wooed out of state after the Sweet Sixteen tournament. Schmidt was captain of the Illini and the team's best player, and then he went off to try AAU ball and serve his coaching apprenticeship. After the slush-fund scandal of 1967, Illinois decided it was time to call Schmidt back. He was straight and he knew every court and corncrib from Moline to Mattoon.
The new arrangement has worked out nicely. Schmidt quickly found the barber who used to give him painstaking, 45-minute crewcuts when he was a student, and then he went out and found a few players, too, though not all so well barbered. The result was a 19-5 record two seasons ago and 15-9 last year, which is not a reincarnation of the Whiz Kids of the early '40s, but certainly respectable.