Apart from Wilt Chamberlain of Kansas, the best all-star quintet in the country might be made up from players such as Charlie Tyra of Louisville, Len Rosenbluth of North Carolina, Rod Hundley of West Virginia, Vernon Hatton of Kentucky. Certainly the teams these men play for look like the best in their leagues. West Virginia should breeze to its third straight Southern Conference title. North Carolina, with a roster rich in New York City high school products, should have slight trouble with N.C. State in the Atlantic Coast Conference but with no one else. Kentucky's Crying Colonel Rupp to the contrary ("This should be our worst team in 15 years"), the Wildcats have no one to fear in the Southeastern Conference but Alabama. In their first two games they scored 208 points, a record for Kentucky teams. In their third, they beat Temple 73-58. Coach Peck Hickman of the independent Louisvilles puts it bluntly: "Offhand, I can't see anybody on our schedule better than we are." He's right, too.
There remains the Ohio Valley Conference which, this season, belongs to Western Kentucky.
This was supposed to be the year that the champions of the Southwest Conference would demonstrate this area's recent heavy concentration on basketball by winning the NCAA tournament—until it was learned that the SWC's first NCAA opponent probably will be Wilt Chamberlain and Co. At that, especially if SMU takes its third straight conference title, that first tournament game, sometime in March, may be the most interesting all season. It would pit SMU's Jim Krebs (6 feet 8) against Chamberlain. Krebs is the young man who scored 24 points on Bill Russell last year and held Russell to 17. Krebs hit for 42 in two games so far as SMU crushed McMurry 113-36 and threw a tight zone defense against a really good Oklahoma City team to win 78-62.
Rice, of course, has other plans and, with probably the tallest college team in the nation, could edge SMU for the crown. Rice's Owls have also won, their first two games, with a lineup that includes Temple Tucker (6 feet 10), Tom Robitaille (6 feet 9) and Gary Griffin and W. A. Preston (both 6 feet 6). After SMU and Rice come Texas, with last season's starting five intact and the league's top scorer in Ray Downs; and TCU whose Dick O'Neal (6 feet 7) helps make the Horned Frogs a solid contender. The rest of the conference will be scrambling to avoid the cellar.
It's another story in the Border Conference. Picking the best at this stage of a seven-team dogfight requires a crystal ball. Just as a guess: Arizona.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
As any horse opera fan knows, most of the fighting in the far West took place between the cowboys and Indians. In basketball it's still going on—between the Cowboys of Wyoming and the Redskins of Utah, and this year the winner should also be Skyline Conference champion. Wyoming Coach Ev Shelton was conducting clinics for Service teams in Germany three years ago when his eyes fell upon Tony Windis and Phil Mulkey, two smooth-as-glass ball handlers. Guess what? They're now sophomores at Wyoming and running the Cowboys from the backcourt. Teamed with another sophomore, Kent Bryan (6 feet 8), they were giving powerful Oregon State (see below) a lot of trouble the other night when a final-quarter lapse, not uncommon to young teams, cost them the game 68-65.
The Utah Redskins, meanwhile, were running their home-floor winning streak to a record 33 straight, beating Montana State once and Hawaii and Arizona twice each. As usual, Utah has great speed but needs at least one big man who can score. Likely candidates are Pearl Pollard (6 feet 8), Jack Mannion (6 feet 6) and Milt Kane (6 feet 5). Until one comes through, such backcourt small men as Curt Jenson and Gary Hall must carry the burden.