The Wildcats have 16 lettermen returning from a 24-9 team that won the Western Athletic Conference and gave UCLA a scare in the NCAA Western Regional finals. In addition, the Fox has a stunning junior-college transfer in Kenny Davis, the 1976 JUCO Player of the Year at Southern Idaho. No wonder the coach is telling people his team ought to be No. 1.
Snowden is the master of the suave sell, a mesmerizing recruiter replete with gold jewelry, silver Thunderbird and glib tongue who can go into a neighborhood filled with cracked windows and leave with a diamond. His detractors, however, whisper that he is a lackluster sideline coach, a charge that rankles. "How can you argue with success?" asks Bob Elliott. "He's won 71% of his games."
How can you argue with Bob Elliott, 6'10" and soon to become the leading scorer in school history? Elliott is so motivated that occasionally he even elbows his wife Beverely for rebounds, but only when he is dreaming of winning the national title. "We got a little taste last year," he says. "This year we could take it all. We've been down too many roads and always taken too many wrong turns. This year we're going to follow the yellow brick road."
Snowden had chalk dust on his hands during preseason drills as he instituted a few changes for Operation Optimism. The primary shift will be to move Elliott from center to forward, where he will be too quick for the big men and too large for the small forwards.
Elliott is only one reason why the Wildcats' front line is awesome. Phil Taylor and Larry Demic are two other big, strong types, and Jerome Gladney can spring off the bench to throw his weight around.
The backcourt could be a problem as the team searches for a leader to replace Jim Rappis, who graduated. Gary Harrison is the likeliest candidate. Gilbert Myles, a starter as a freshman two years ago, is another possibility. The other guard is Herman Harris, the master of the pigeon-toed jump shot and the cuckoo pass. Harris is an exciting player who leaves third-degree burns on the man trying to guard him. Now more mature as a senior, his rambunctious style is sufficiently polished so that Snowden won't have to watch it through hands over his eyes.
Check Arizona by midseason. If the move of Elliott to a wing is working, if Davis has adapted to the big college game and if someone is directing the offense, the Fox might just be drinking champagne made from those NCAA grapes.
Cincinnati: Home of Champions. Better believe it. "People don't realize what we've done," says Gale Catlett, the country slicker who coaches basketball at the University of Cincinnati. "Two years ago we had a team full of freshmen that won 23 games. Last year we won 25. Our top six players are back and we've got at least two good freshmen. I think we match up well with any team in the country." As if to prove his point, Catlett and his Bearcats are taking their 46-game home winning streak, longest in the nation, into Riverfront Coliseum, hard by the home of the Reds.
On paper, everything Catlett says makes sense. His double post consists of Pat Cummings, a 56% shooter who, Catlett believes, is the most underrated player in the country, and 6'10" Bob Miller, who led the team with 15 points and 11 rebounds a game. Sag on them and Mike Jones, Gary Yoder, Brian Williams and sixth man Steve Collier can all beat you from outside. "I plan to be undefeated," says Williams. "I don't want to lose six games, one game, no game."