The Sooners will be playing in a well-balanced conference, one made even tougher with the introduction last season of a 30-second clock. But they are prime favorites unless, of course, Adams has his first two shots blocked.
19 LONG BEACH STATE
It seems fitting that freshman Clifton Pondexter wears No. 41 for Long Beach State, his older brother Roscoe wears No. 44, and Leonard Gray No. 50. The uniform numbers indicate fullback, fullback, middle linebacker, but the trio appears equally suited to helping out at a tug-of-war, building excavation or nuclear holocaust. It would not be too surprising this season to find that some teams take one look at the 6'8", 230-pound Cliff, the 6'6", 220-pound Roscoe and the 6'8", 235-pound Gray and immediately call out the National Guard. If they are not enough, transfers Carlos Mina, the 6'8" Mexican Jumping Bean, and Floyd Heaton, a 6'5" former tight end himself, should provide sufficient intimidation to enable the 49ers to lead college basketball in terror again this winter. "If we can get to hand-to-hand combat, it's all over," says new Coach Lute Olson.
Along with imposing size, veterans and a fine tradition, Jerry Tarkanian unfortunately also bequeathed Olson enough dirty linen to make NCAA probation a distinct possibility in the eyes of the local gentry. However much the former coach carried out his prolonged negotiations with Las Vegas in the newspapers and had both schools wallowing in fantastic (not to say outrageous) offers, community feelings have since calmed, and Olson, who was summoned from neighboring Long Beach City College, is in full command.
The Tark-to-Lute transformation includes a quieter atmosphere, concentration on technology rather than emotion and constant man-to-man extended defenses. Olson has instituted a mobile passing game which has the 49ers switching and weaving as never before, but when it counts. Long Beach will again go to its inside jam game. There Gray, who has lost 20 pounds and gained new hope (his clashes with Tarkanian assumed alarming proportions), and the Pondexters should excel. Roscoe had a terrific rookie year, leading the team in rebounds as a sixth man. The dominating Cliff, though unused to stiff competition, is a fast and willing learner and one of the best freshmen in the land. "I hope so," he says.
Though the backcourt will miss Ed Ratleff, senior Glenn McDonald is still around to provide good defense while newcomer Dave Leslie is a shooter of repute. Little Rick Aberegg runs the break, throws flashy passes and delivers comedy antics as well as his famous cough. "I think he has TB," says Olson. Opponents are more worried about the 49ers' GTP: Gray and two Pondexters.
Before he leaves his present position to try something easier—like prosecuting Watergate or selling lawn mowers to Eskimos—let tribute be paid to Bob Boyd of Southern Cal. Now and forever Boyd is hearing things like "too bad about last year" and "where does it hurt the most?" But, in truth, last year his Trojans finished second in the Pac Eight, won 18 games and went to the NIT. The trouble, of course, is that he just doesn't beat UCLA—at least not often enough.
So Boyd keeps beating his head against the UCLA wall and one place where it hurts the most is in attendance, which was down last season at the Sports Arena. Football Coach John McKay has promised to spearhead a season-ticket drive this time, but it may not be enough to keep Boyd in what he calls "the toughest coaching job in America"; next season he has an open ticket to Duke.
As frustrating as the situation on the West Coast is, Boyd had an especially trying time of it last winter. Injuries, suspensions, players quitting and criticism for playing his son Bill all had effect. The final frustration was a St. Patrick's Day massacre at the NIT in which USC out-scored Notre Dame by nine goals only to lose when the victors took 33 free throws to the Trojans' two. "Skill of the Irish," says Boyd, dripping sarcasm.