Even with Furman getting all that attention in the Southern Conference, Davidson, which has won the regular season title the last four years, should not be dismissed. Forward Joe Sutter, who led the team in scoring last season, is one of three returning lettermen. If gifted Guard Bryan Adrian is able to play after two knee operations, he and sophomore John Falconi could make the Wildcats tough again.
Tougher yet could be Southwestern Louisiana, going big college with Dwight Lamar, who averages 36 points, often firing from midcourt. Lamar and SWL are ambitious.
Oregon State was threatening to become a power in the Pacific Eight under Coach Ralph Miller last year, when an auto accident took the life of one player and disabled another. The Beavers are recovering only now, with three starters returning and an outstanding 6'11" forward coming up from the freshman team. The forward, Steve Ericksen, averaged 23 points a game last year and promises to be an outside shooter of the Mel Counts mold. He will ably complement versatile Guard Freddie Boyd, who averaged 18 points. At Washington the outlook is brightening, too. New Coach Marv Harshman will be even cheerier if 6'10" Steve Hawes' knee proves sound again. He averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds. Oregon has Penn's old coach, Dick Harter, but not its players, and Stanford has shooter Claude Terry.
Long Beach State is not exactly alone in its own conference, the PCAA. To begin with, there is last year's second-place finisher, UC-Santa Barbara, which is missing only one starter from a 20-6 team. Then there is Pacific, newly arrived from the WCAC, where it won the title a year ago. The Tigers are built around 6'10" Center John Gianelli, who scored 21 points a game and grabbed 18 rebounds in 1970-71, and sophomore Guard John Errecart.
Seattle, taking Pacific's place in the WCAC, will contend with Santa Clara, another veteran team, for the league championship. Both are coming off rare losing seasons, and the road back is going to be complicated by exceptional sophomores on three other clubs. Pepperdine's William (Bird) Averitt and Nevada-Las Vegas' Robert Florence each scored 36 points a game as a freshman, and 6'9�" Kevin Restani broke the freshman scoring and rebounding records of Bill Russell and Ollie Johnson at San Francisco.
The favorite seldom wins the Western Athletic Conference title, and that augurs well for Arizona State and Texas-El Paso, giving chase to Brigham Young. High-scoring State returns its "Iron Eight" from a 16-10 team, led by top scorer and rebounder Paul Stovall. He is a solid 225-pounder whose willingness to play rough inside has caught the attention of pro football scouts. UTEP is another team that will use its depth at forward and guard to advantage because "we couldn't recruit a center," says Coach Don Haskins. But 6' 6" Scott English can high-jump 7'2", and there is an outstanding sophomore in 6' 8" James Forbes, another of those comparative unknowns who played on the Pan Am team.
Weber State should continue its three-year domination of the Big Sky Conference despite the loss of Willie Sojourner. And once again, the Southwest Conference race is as wide open as it is meaningless. For the record, Texas, with newcomer Larry Robinson, is a slender favorite.
One of the West's better independents is Hawaii. The Rainbows return everyone from a 23-5 team that was among the national leaders in both scoring and rebounding but blew its NIT chance. Explosive Portland State has a fine brother act in Willie and Charlie Stoudamire; Utah State, suffering from the departures of Marv Roberts and Nate Williams, has no act.