Pan American not only lost Lemons to Texas but also four starters, including the nation's No. 1 scorer, Marshall Rogers. Their four returning lettermen averaged fewer than 12 points collectively on a team whose 95.6-point offense ranked third in the nation.
" Leon Douglas made a great coach out of me for four years," says Alabama's modest C.M. Newton, who had an 89-22 record over that span. With Douglas gone to the pros, Newton visited with such coaches as Bob Boyd, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight, and decided to switch to a passing and motion offense. "We've been piddlin' and messin' with it," he says. Starting Guards Anthony Murray and T.R. Dunn will play their usual tenacious defense, and Reggie King, Rickey Brown and Keith McCord will make opponents work for everything inside. The biggest problem is replacing Douglas, who averaged 20.6 points and 12.6 rebounds last season. Auburn, behind Guard Eddie Johnson, could make a strong run in the well-balanced SEC. In Mike Mitchell, Myles Patrick and Cedric Hordges, the Tigers have the muscle to keep the championship in the state. As always, Florida will upset one of the favorites at Gainesville. "Playing in Gator Alley," claims Gary Hooker of Mississippi State, "is like playing on a back street in New York City."
Among the independents, Notre Dame faces another killer schedule. Coach Digger Phelps lost Adrian Dantley to the pros and Bill Laimbeer to the textbooks but has four solid returning frontliners in Bill Paterno, Bruce Flowers, Dave Batton and Toby Knight. Duck Williams will do the scoring and either Ray Martin or California freshman Rich Branning will direct the offense. Detroit Coach Dick Vitale has high-scorers John Long and Terry Tyler returning, and offered a scholarship to Tiger Pitcher Mark (the Bird) Fidrych, who declined.
Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin will all be playing under new coaches. Jud Heathcote starts out at Michigan State with 6'9" transfer Jim Coutre and three returning starters. Eldon Miller, who comes to Ohio State after winning at Western Michigan, will depend upon freshman Kelvin Ransey, who reminds some people of Michigan's Rickey Green. The first black basketball coach in the Big Ten, Wisconsin's Bill Cofield, brought in 6'7" Joe Chrnelich, 6'4" Arnold Gaines and 6'8" James Gregory, and all three are likely to start. Northwestern's Billy McKinney, Illinois freshman Levi Cobb and Iowa's Bruce (Sky) King are ready to move their teams up if the favorites falter. Minnesota has the talent to play with anyone, but a three-year NCAA probation will keep Center Mike Thompson (25.9 points and 12.5 rebounds per game) and the rest of the Gophers from competing in postseason play.
There are four new coaches in the Mid-American Conference, including Ray Scott, the former Detroit Piston coach who takes over at Eastern Michigan. Miami of Ohio is the heavy favorite with four solid starters returning from last year's 18-8 team that counted seven of its losses to tournament teams. Northern Illinois' Matt Hicks (25 p.p.g.) is among the league's better players, as is Tom Cutter of Western Michigan. In the Ohio Valley, Austin Peay is the favorite, despite the loss of leading scorer Sammy Drummer, who transferred to a junior college. Otis Howard and Ralph Garner are tough underneath, and Calvin Garrett and Dennis Pagan are deadly shooters.
After winning 127 of his last 170 games at Syracuse and accepting six consecutive postseason bids, Coach Roy Dan-forth did a curious thing. He resigned and went to Tulane, leaving new Coach Jim Boeheim with four NCAA-seasoned starters. Aided by his ex-teammate Dave Bing, Boeheim then recruited a trio of blue-chippers, including 6'11" Roosevelt Bouie. "I plan no changes," Boeheim says. Not on offense, defense or postseason travel.
Virginia defends its first ACC title in history but, alas, Wally Walker, the tourney MVP, is no longer on hand. To win it, the Cavs upended three Top 20 foes—N.C. State, Maryland and North Carolina—in a span of 55 hours, an invaluable experience for its nine returning lettermen, among them Billy Langloh (14.1 p.p.g.) and Marc Iavaroni (12.7). N.C. State Coach Norm Sloan has been low-key about his Wolfpack team, but he landed three splendid recruits—Clyde (the Glide) Austin, Hawkeye Whitney and Brian Walker—to take pressure off Olympian Kenny Carr, the ACC's top scorer. Clemson won a school-record 18 games in 1975, and Coach Bill Foster welcomes back Forward Stan Rome, who quit football to help his indoor game, and 7'1" Tree Rollins, who thinks he belonged in the Olympics, too. Like Clemson, Duke has a coach named Bill Foster and a seven-footer in Mike Gminski. But unlike the Tigers, it hasn't had a winning season since 1971-72. Wake Forest has Guard Skip Brown (21 p.p.g.) and a penchant for midseason fizzles.
Even with Phil Sellers and Mike Dabney gone, Rutgers outclasses Villanova, Massachusetts and George Washington in the East Division of the newly formed Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League. Hollis Copeland and Ed Jordan will have to score more, but Jim Bailey and Abdel Anderson can only improve as sophs. The Wildcats will unite Reggie Herron, a 6'5" frosh, with his brothers Keith (16.1 p.p.g.) and Larry (13.8). Massachusetts still has Jim Town, named the top player in New England, but it will miss those pairs of games against Yankee Conference foes. In the West Division, Pittsburgh's second-year Coach Tim Grgurich will unleash a trio of highly touted recruits, most notably 6'11" Ed Scheuermann, the most highly sought schoolboy in the state.