USC drew ohs and ahs last year with an innovative attack variously described as a "vertical offense" and a "hi-lo passing game." It tied up the defense and freed the bustling Trojans for close-in, uncontested shots. Sometimes the team appeared not to be taking enough of these freebies, but it wound up setting school records for field-goal percentage and, more important, total baskets. The Trojans' shooting percentage went up seven points to 50.2, with Gus Williams increasing his accuracy by five points, John Lambert by 12 and Bob Trowbridge and Biff Burrell by 16 apiece. Even Clint Chapman, who had an awful season of bruised knees, weight problems and deficient scoring, shot better than he did the previous winter. Except for junior Trowbridge, this group is USC's terrific freshman class of 1971 all grown up. It defeated UCLA twice as frosh, but did not come close during the Walton years. Already it is being called "The Last Chance Club."
If the 6'10" Lambert, a handsome devil whom Boyd calls, "My North Carolina-type forward," can shake a tendency to follow good Friday performances with Saturday blahs, and 6'9" Chapman can play back to his sophomore level, USC will be solid and active in close to the basket. It will be better in backcourt where Burrell, recovered from a broken foot that kept him out of the last eight games a year ago, and the exciting Gus Williams complement each other well. Burrell is an inspirational sort and a terror on defense, while Williams handles scoring (16 points a game) and assists (a total of 141 last year).
Trowbridge will need his impressive muscles to beat off the challenge of 6'7" freshman Earl (The Whirl) Evans, who could start anywhere and just might here. But it is no disgrace to be a substitute at USC. Boyd wants to use 12 men in every game and he has the bench to do it, including 6'10" freshman Steve Malovic, who was Arizona's high school player of the year. The Trojans are deep, experienced and very dangerous. They know this is their last chance.
The "e" on the end of University of Detroit Coach Dick Vitale's name is silent. That is the only thing silent about Dick Vitale. During Titan practices he sounds off with his built-in-megaphone voice: "Come on. Come on. Keep your body low. Quick. Quick. Quick. Getta good angle. Getta piece of 'im."
His whistle blows. "Freeze," Vitale yells. The Titans instantly become statues, so that their coach can walk among them and point out the error that he has spotted. "Don't penetrate without the ball because you clog the lane you want to open," he tells the offender.
Forward John Long sinks a shot, races downcourt and blocks an opponent's try. Vitale bellows, "Hey. Hey. Hey! Did you see what I saw? Goin' like gangbusters. I don't care if you are a freshman, you keep playing like that and nobody'll keep you out of the lineup."
Whistle. "Freeze." Speaking to freshman Turono Anderson, Vitale snarls, "You're not thinking defense."
Titan captain Terry Thomas says, "The coach is such a savage, but he never jams things down your throat. I've gone to five or six banquets with him and he got a standing ovation at each one. He's the most fantastic thing that's ever happened to me."
"You're not supposed to yell at kids, but they accept it from me because I've established a good relationship with them," says Vitale. "We know we can't win without love, without pulling for each other."