- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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No team ever deserved more to belong in the top 20, except.... The flaw is defense, and if Harvard (yes, Harvard, whose winter love story has always been hockey) decides finally to play defense, watch out. Potentially, the Crimson is the best of the non-ranked teams in the country. It might be better than that.
In a way the 1971 Crimson constitute a veritable miracle. They play in the attic (seating 1,400) of a building where the big splash is the pool. Even indoor tennis at Harvard has more modern facilities. But two more high school All-Americas, Tony Jenkins and Jim Fitzsimmons, join two others, juniors Floyd Lewis, a 6'7" forward, and James Brown, a 6'6" guard. Lewis led all New England scorers last winter in shooting percentage (52.3), and Brown was All- New England. Jenkins, 6'8", smashed his predecessors' freshman records, averaging 26.2 points a game and 17.3 rebounds. Fitzsimmons, a fearsome outside shooter for the freshmen at Duke, averaged 57% from the back-court before he transferred. There are plenty of scorers and height behind these four. Now, if somebody would just block a shot.
There is a revival going on in Greenville, S.C., but this time it has nothing to do with religion. The scene is Fur-man University and the scene setter is mod dresser Joe Williams, the son of a onetime Methodist circuit preacher who will never be mistaken for a man of the cloth. Last season, Williams' first since coming from Jacksonville (where he recruited Artis Gilmore), he took a strictly no-talent team and managed a 15-12 record. "It was satisfying," says Williams, "but this season I've got that old feeling." He should have. Back are 6'7" Russ Hunt and 5'10" Don Jackson, and with them are two excellent performers, 6'6" Bud Bierly and 6'8" Roy Simpson. Simpson played with North Carolina's Robert McAdoo at Vincennes JC and there were those around Vincennes who thought Simpson was better.
In a tactic that 100 years ago might have rewritten the history of the Plains, West Texas State Coach Dennis Walling is arming his Buffaloes with a shotgun—a four-plus-one shotgun offense to be exact. "I think we'll win 20 games," says Walling. He very well could. His schedule is the unrepresentative sort that a coach can love. He has an experienced team that beat four NCAA playoff clubs last winter. It is headed by Ray Golson (19.9 points a game) and Steve Davidson (18 points), both of New York. It also has a fine 6'8" junior-college transfer, Jon McCoy. And it has that interesting shotgun in which each player rotates to a new position on every pass. Buffaloes people.
Teams traveling to DeKalb, Ill. this winter had better think in terms of Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. That's the picture in which Cary Grant is strafed by a loaded crop duster. Northern Illinois, a major college for the last four years, has a 6'9" duster named Jim Bradley and everybody, but everybody, is saying he is the finest sophomore in the Midwest. In Northern's opening scrimmage Bradley snatched the first two defensive rebounds, dribbled behind his back to the center of the floor and, when the fast break stalled, drilled 15-footers. The Huskies were only 13-10 last year, despite finishing third in the nation in scoring (92.7). Coach Tom Jorgensen insists the problem was not defense but simply a lack of size. He has that now.
And so to Denver, which has gone to the NCAA final round nine times and won the championship five times in the last 13 years. The hockey team, that is. The basketball team, up to last season, usually split a couple with Regis and the local cowboys and went off to ski. Then Coach Jim Karabetsos and his 6'8" pivotman, Dave (Stretch) Bustion, a transfer from Northeastern JC in Sterling, Colo., came to town. The Pioneers' 13-game winning streak was finally halted by Loyola in the last game. The loss deprived NIT fans of a chance to watch the exciting Bustion reaching for the rims. Stretch, who averaged 19.5 points and 12 rebounds in 1970-71, has play director Bill Jones (brother of the NBA's Wally), high scorer Joe Wallace, another Northeastern transfer, and 6'7" Ura Sippial to help him. Beware of Greek coaches bearing Bustions.
North Carolina State was barely into a lackluster 13-14 season when Coach Norman Sloan looked longingly toward his freshman team, where 7'4" Tom Burleson was showing off tall potential. "I can hardly wait," Sloan sighed. Burleson is varsity now and he stands out among this year's garden of giant sophomores as the biggest and one of the best. Only 19 and still developing—State might have redshirted him were he not needed so much right now—he will form an imposing double post with 6'9" Paul Coder, the top returning scorer and rebounder. Unfortunately, Coder and 6'7" Bob Heuts may be distracted from their best games by recent charges of possessing marijuana. Virginia's Bill (Hoot) Gibson welcomes standout Guard Barry Parkhill and three others from a 15-11 team that could surprise everybody if it learns to win on the road. Last season's away record: 6-10. The rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference is either losing ground ( Duke), rebuilding ( Wake Forest) or trying very hard to get started (Clemson).
The Southeastern Conference expects its most competitive race in years. The new five-second front court rule will speed things up at Tennessee, which returns high-scoring Guard Mike Edwards from its 21-7 NIT team. LSU has a fruit basket full of talent in 6' 7" Al ( Apple) Sanders (21 points, 15 rebounds) and 6' 9" Bill (Fig) Newton (19, 12). Only the backcourt needs help. Georgia will rise from 10th place, probably to the first division, with transfers John Fraley and Tim Bassett and eagerly awaited sophomore Charles Anderson. Improving Alabama, which returns everyone, adds two high-scoring sophomores. Mississippi lost Johnny Neumann but the Rebs have their second straight outstanding freshman team coming in.
While Western Kentucky was slipping a little, Eastern Kentucky and Murray State did some catching up, which should make for an interesting race in the Ohio Valley Conference. Western has Guards Jerry Dunn and Rex Bailey back from its third-place NCAA team. In 1968 they played on a state championship club coached by Jim Richards, who succeeds the promoted John Oldham. Eastern returns four starters from a 16-8 team and one of them, 25-point scorer George Bryant, may be the league's best player. Murray State was 19-5 last winter. It has three starters returning, led by junior Les Taylor.