FIVE TO WATCH
Duke won as many games last season (14) as it had in any year since 1972. At one point the Blue Devils were 11-3, but then senior Guard Tate Armstrong was injured and Duke lost 10 of its last 13. That is not likely to happen again, what with two accomplished regulars on hand, as well as a freshman with uncommon ability and soaring ambitions. Mike Gminski, a 6'11" 247-pounder, averaged 15.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and will be the best big man in the ACC. Guard Jim Spanarkel led the Blue Devils in scoring (19.3), assists and steals and is tall enough (6'5") to double as a forward. Then there is Eugene Banks, the ballyhooed Philadelphia high-schooler who does not want to be known merely for his slam dunks. "The people of America are looking for an idol," says Banks, a 6'6" power forward who feels he might be able to fill the bill. "I'd also like to be governor of Pennsylvania." In the meantime, Banks can concentrate on becoming ACC Rookie of the Year, a title bestowed on Gminski last season and Spanarkel the year before.
The man getting the headlines at Michigan State is 6'8" freshman Earvin Johnson, who played at Lansing Everett High five miles from the MSU campus. While finishing up a prep career in which he scored 54 points one night and had 16 assists the next, Johnson sifted through 300 college offers before narrowing his choices to Michigan and Michigan State. On the day he announced his decision, he stepped to a cluster of 15 microphones and said, " Michigan will be good with or without me. But Michigan State will be better with me." It sure will, because Johnson's teammates include the Big Ten's No. 3 and No. 4 returning scorers, Greg Kelser (21.7 points) and Bob Chapman (19.6).
Colorado is on the rise now that Bill Blair, late of VMI, is the coach. Blair grabbed a handful of high school All-Americas, including Dave Netherton, a graceful 6'10" center from Pueblo, Colo. Big Eight scoring leader Emmett Lewis (19.6 points) should keep his starting spot, but the four other holdovers' jobs are less safe. "We'll dunk it one time and kick it away the next," says Blair, "but we'll be exciting."
Iona vaulted into prominence when 6'10" Long Islander Jeff Ruland decided he would attend the small commuter school located in New Rochelle, N.Y.—only Forty-five Minutes from Broadway, as George M. Cohan wrote in his 1905 song about the town. Iona had already made a move toward the bright lights by signing Glenn Vickers (above), a blue-chip guard who as a freshman was the leading scorer (17.9) on last year's 15-10 team. One scouting service considered Ruland the best high school player in the country—ahead of Albert King, Banks and Johnson. He visited six high-powered colleges from North Carolina to Kentucky, but simply dropped in unannounced at Iona practices. Apparently he liked what he saw.
Instead of taking advantage of John Wooden's departure from UCLA in 1975, USC fell flat on its face. The Trojans have finished in the Pac-8 cellar twice in a row, losing 15 straight games at one point and finishing 6-20 last season. Against all odds, Coach Bob Boyd has weathered the storm and brought in almost every California prepster on UCLA's most-wanted list. Purvis Miller, Cliff Robinson and George Ratkovich are a few names to remember. It is a long way back from 6-20 and near unemployment, but the Trojans and Boyd appear to be on the track.
If North Carolina, Maryland and Duke get caught napping in the ACC, sleeper Virginia could give them a rude awakening. Cavalier newcomers Jeff Lamp, Lee Raker and Tommy Hicks join a nucleus led by 6'8" Marc Iavaroni. Coach Terry Holland recruited Lamp and Raker from Louisville's Ballard High. He also hired Richard Schmidt as an assistant. Guess which high school team Schmidt used to coach? To insure productivity from muscular Forward Rod Griffin, Wake Forest Coach Carl Tacy imported Fran (White Magic) McCaffery from Philly to pass Griffin the ball.
The Southern Conference is a toss-up among VMI, Furman and Appalachian State. Ron Carter of VMI is as good as they come, but the Keydets will miss the scoring and leadership of Will Bynum and John Krovic. Furman has a hot shooter in Bruce Grimm, who averaged 24 points last season, and a solid post combination in Jonathan Moore and Rick McKinney, both 6'8". Appalachian relies on Guards Walter Anderson and Darryl Robinson and the inside game of Tony Searcy and Mel Hubbard.
In the Ivy League, Penn or Columbia could surpass Princeton. Steady Keven McDonald and New Yorkers Tony Price and Bobby Willis lead Penn, and fast-improving Columbia (8-17 in 1974-75, 16-10 last season) has 5'8" Alton Byrd to get the ball to Forwards Ricky Free and Juan Mitchell. Rutgers won the Eastern Athletic Association's Eastern Division title last year (when the conference was known as the ECBL) only to be upset by Massachusetts in the playoffs. The Scarlet Knights lack backcourt consistency, but the front line is major league with Jammin' James Bailey, Hollis Copeland and Abdel Anderson. Villanova should be Rutgers' toughest rival in the division as senior Keith Herron is joined by freshman stickout Alex Bradley. Duquesne, last year's EAA tournament winner, will not triumph again now that Norm Nixon is a pro. Maurice Robinson makes West Virginia a contender.