Before college basketball was scrubbed clean, it was easy for knowing gamblers and fixers to sit down in December, predict the results of games in February and be certain of a phenomenal degree of accuracy. That was 1951. Today it is a pleasure to report that no one has any idea what's going to happen this season. Gamblers and fixers are no longer part of the game.
There are at hand only theories and the usual supply of "can't miss" teams. La Salle should do pretty well. So should Iowa. So should UCLA.
And there are trends. Probably the best basketball will be played in the East, but the South is following tradition. It is rising again.
Mostly, though, there are stars, and the stars may make this basketball season the finest since scandal darkened the sport. To begin, we have an All-America five. To begin the five, we have Tom Gola of La Salle.
THE GREATEST IN HISTORY
Dispassionate men are saying that Gola is the greatest college basketball player in history. He passes brilliantly and shoots brilliantly and rebounds brilliantly and defends brilliantly. Last season he averaged 23 points a game. The average is an understatement of his team value. Gola is a six-foot-seven-inch senior, perfectly built and perfectly coordinated, who can play forward, center or guard. There is a theory that if Gola ever gets angry on a court he'll score 100 points, but Gola, like Stan Musial, plays without temperament or temper.
It's a short ride from La Salle in Philadelphia to Duquesne in Pittsburgh but it's a long step down from Gola to the Dukes' Dick Ricketts. No criticism of Ricketts; Gola is just the best.
In Ricketts, Duquesne has a forecourt man who plays in the pivot or out. He has been sporadically amazing throughout his career. This season he should be consistently amazing.
So should John Horan of Dayton. Horan is six feet eight inches and so lean that he's been nicknamed the Vertical Hyphen. But when Horan shoots he prompts exclamation points.
Shortest of the brightest stars is a 220-pound country boy from Jonesville, N.C. named Dick Hemric. The "runt" is six feet six inches, plays for Wake Forest. He sank 50% of his field goal attempts last year.