Still, those who want to see more of Knight and Suttle appearing together had better plan on going to the film. After platooning them for two years, Coach Ted Owens toyed with the notion that he had enough swifties at other positions to accommodate two lumbering big men in the lineup at once. But he has changed his mind. The luxury of being able to keep a player like Suttle on the bench indicates that Owens could lend three or four men to Kansas State and still win the Big Eight again.
Besides Knight and Suttle, three other double-figure scorers return: 6'6" Roger Morningstar, 6'8"Norman Cook and 6'3" Dale Greenlee. Morningstar is the forward with the baby face and the Indian name who turns on in pressure situations; Cook is the one who made 10 out of 10 shots in his college debut last year; Greenlee is a mid-America boy-next-door who makes A's in the classroom and would not dream of missing a free throw or an open jump shot.
Hot after the other backcourt job is Rick Bussard, once Morningstar's junior-college teammate. Where that leaves 6-foot freshman Milt Gibson, the outstanding high school player in the Southwest from Roswell, N.M., is a good question. Owens is also excited about two other freshmen guards, Marc Fletcher and Clint Johnson. Eight of his top 12 players hail from Illinois, which may explain why the Illini won only five games last season.
Owens' 10-year record at Kansas is a handsome 191-83, including six postseason tournaments, and last season's Jayhawk team made it to the NCAA semifinals. But all those successes cannot overcome the humiliation Owens still feels about the 78-61 NCAA consolation game loss to UCLA's second team after the Jayhawks led Walton & Co. by seven at the half.
"I decided right there and then that when we came back to the NCAA's the next time, we would be better prepared," says Owens. "And I think we are. The other day I heard Morningstar and Greenlee talking about winning them all. They've already figured out that would make us 30-0, so I know I've got a job of coaching ahead of me." If he pulls it off, it will be a show even the most staid Kansans will love to watch.
Alabama basketball has come a long way in six years, as Evelyn Newton, wife of Coach C. M. Newton, was reminded the other day when she made a trip to the cleaners. "Oh, you mean you're Mrs. Newton, the basketball coach's wife?" she was asked by the young woman behind the counter. "Well then, I've got to put tissue paper in the sleeves of these jackets before you can take them home. We've always done that for Coach Bryant, so I've got to start doing it for you, too."
Bear Bryant is also the Alabama athletic director and intensely interested in basketball, particularly now that Newton has made Alabama a power in the Southeast Conference and helped it capture the last two SEC all-sports trophies.
That represents a big change from 1968-69, Newton's first year as coach, when the Crimson Tide won only one conference game and set up C. M. for an almost perfect growth curve. From that 4-20 starting point Alabama grew to 22-4 last year. Bama finished 10-9-8 in the SEC during Newton's first three seasons and has been 3-2-1 the last three.
Unfortunately, last year's 15-3 conference mark was not good enough to win the title outright, and that cost Alabama its first NCAA bid. Vanderbilt, also 15-3, was the conference representative at the tournament as a result of its two close victories over Alabama during the season. And as host of the Mideast regionals, Alabama was obliged by NCAA rules to stay home and pass out ham sandwiches while the Commissioners Tournament and the NIT filled their draws with lesser teams. With Alabama out of action, the tournament crowds missed seeing an exciting team whose fast break and bruising board game had defeated Louisville and South Carolina on consecutive nights.