Coach Jim Snyder is not exaggerating when he says his OHIO UNIVERSITY team "could have been a fine one, but the loss of Howard Jolliff to the pros cost us that opportunity." When Jolliff, a 6-foot-7 rebounder, chose to sign a no-cut contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ohio became just one of six teams deserving championship consideration. Thus, after winning their first title in the 14-year-old conference, the Bobcats now face 1961 as a team with serious problems. Chief of these is whether a 6-foot-8 sophomore, Stacy Bunton, can discharge his responsibility as key man in a single-pivot offense. Snyder can rely on three of last year's four top shooters, Forwards Bunk Adams and Larry Kruger and Guard Bill Whaley, to provide plenty of speed and scoring. But there is a lack of height and reserves, the best of whom are Loren Wilcox, Dave Katz and Mike Schuler. Of the five teams equipped to wrest Ohio's crown, TOLEDO is most likely to succeed. Coach Eddie Melvin produced a powerhouse last winter, and things look even better this time. Four starters return, led by Center George Patterson. The others are Guards Bob Pawlak and Jim Miller and Forward Jerry Galicki. The fifth starter, Larry Jones, averaged 27.6 points per game as a freshman. Ralph Lewis and Paul Macy are the other lettermen on a team lacking experienced reserves, WESTERN MICHIGAN is the most improved team in the league. Third-year Coach Don Boven has 10 lettermen, including the entire starting lineup, back from last winter, the school's first winning season in four years. Center Bob Bolton, 6 feet 9, tall Forwards Ron Robinson and Ron Emerick and Guards Sam Key, Earl McNeil and Tom Woodruff are returning starters. There is ample size among the reserves, supplied by Steve Holmes, Keith Sterk, Ernie Scott and Tom Dreier. Another rugged crew is MARSHALL, which failed last year to reach the .500 level for the first time in a quarter century. But four returning starters, five other lettermen, two transfer students and some fine sophomores make the Big Green a genuine contender. Driving the run-and-shoot offense is 5-foot-9 Guard Lou Mott, who will be passing in to 6-foot-8 Center Bob Burgess, senior Forwards Tex Williams and Bruce Moody or soph Phil Carter, who replaces the graduated John Milhoan. Coach Jule Rivlin has a team of lettermen on the bench, including Jim Gallion, Ron Lambert, Charlie Moore, Dave Pugh and Harry Roberts. Transfers Gene Slater and Mickey Sydenstricker bolster an inexperienced team which has speed and a balanced offense, BOWLING GREEN has lost All-America Guard Jimmy Darrow and his 29-point average. Although starters Jim Routson, Bob Dawson and Dennis Reed are back, Coach Harold Anderson will look to sophomores for most of his lineup. Several of them are good enough to make the Bee Gees a title contender. Nate Thurmond, at 6 feet 10, will be the key to the single-pivot fast break, aided by soph Guards Elijah Chatman and Pat Haley. Two springy newcomers who become eligible at midyear are Wavey Junior and Bob Carbaugh. Five others from last year's freshman team which won 15 of 18 games, plus veteran Jim Zak, give Bowling Green a strong bench, MIAMI maintains an ambitious nonconference schedule. Coach Dick Shrider had a much better team than the 8-16 mark of last year indicated, and a strong returning nucleus is anxious to prove it. Forward Vern Lawson, a 16-point scorer, is back in the starting lineup with Guard Dave Zeller and Center Ted Garrison. Returning reserves Dave Mack and Lavern Benson averaged 13 points between them last year, and some sophomores should help. Lack of size is the Redskins' chief problem, KENT STATE has been crippled by the loss of all-conference Forward Oliver Wallace and high-scoring Guard Charlie Boykin, both of whom dropped out of school last spring. Coach Bill Bertka retains starters Chet Thomas and Hal Estis, plus regulars Jim Maddox, Pete Baltic and Harvey Hunt. Sophomores Jerry Cleland, Tom Simmons and Dennis Klug are top candidates in the search for a new scoring combination on this big but inexperienced team.
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