The early-season tournaments and tune-ups are out of the way, and now the conference races begin Phase II. As for Phase I, it revealed in each region at least one unusually strong team and one that was surprisingly weak. In the West, for instance, UCLA seemed a misfit. Maybe it belongs in the NBA and should leave the college scene to Long Beach, Hawaii and UTEP. New Mexico State, by contrast, appeared more like a team on its way down to the little leagues, beset as it was by the kind of player/coach difficulties that also plagued Providence and Columbia in the East. There the best teams appeared to be Penn, Princeton and Villanova; the disappointments were St. John's and Harvard, which seemed to be outcoached at times. In the South the biggest letdown hit Jacksonville, although no one has yet figured out Maryland, which is proving to be a bad team away from home. The Carolinas, North and South, are formidable, and so are Southwestern Louisiana and Virginia, with their true tests yet to come. Marshall was tried, by good Marquette, and was not found wanting, even in defeat. Meanwhile, an old in-state rival, West Virginia, remained undefeated. Houston was the Midwest stumbler, Louisville and Ohio State predictably steady, Illinois and Missouri unexpected heroes and Northern Illinois the stuff of folktales.
Phase III? It is championship time and what the season is all about.