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Association of Mid-Continent universities is a mouthful in much the same way that Southwest Missouri State University is. That's why the conference goes by AMCU, and why SMSU (or should it be SWMSU?) coach Charlie Spoonhour lobbied hard to change the school's name to Missouri State. The state legislature balked, but Spoonhour, whose Bears have won the last two conference titles, is giving the school a reputation as more than just another compass point. "We used to be able to sneak up on people," he says. "But I think we've lost our sneaking license."
The BIG SKY is Division I's bus terminal. Every year a bevy of coaches and transfers, juco and otherwise, check in and out. With so little continuity, you're sometimes left to play one potato, two potato to settle on a favorite. Is it Idaho, with four returning starters but a callow coach in 28-year-old Kermit Davis? Or is it Boise State, where Bobby Dye has installed a successful half-court system but must make do with only two returnees? It may be neither: Montana has four starters back and the same coach.
By the end of the season La Salle should be, as it was last season, atop the METRO ATLANTIC, even though the Explorers must find shooters to keep defenses from collapsing on forward Lionel Simmons. With his 23.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, Simmons was the reason La Salle went unbeaten in conference play last season.
One-time ACC fixture Lefty Driesell has resurfaced in the COLONIAL to take over at James Madison. Driesell rightly claims he has no talent, but as Ed Tapscott, coach of conference favorite American University, says, "Lefty's a very good wolf-crier." Unlike James Madison, which is likely to finish at the conference bottom, American has seven players with starting experience, plus 6'8" juco transfer Ron Draper.
For two years running, Arkansas-Little Rock has been the dominant regular-season team in the TRANS AMERICA ATHLETIC, only to flop in the second round of the conference tournament and miss out on an NCAA bid. With four starters back, the Trojans should make the NCAAs this season.
He wears Bill Bradley's pro number, sinks his shots and even has his decidedly nonathletic carriage. Forward Jim Barton has always looked up to IVY demigod Bradley, only Barton turned down Princeton, Bradley's alma mater, to attend Dartmouth. Now a senior, Barton should celebrate his first Ivy title this season.
Once again the NORTHEAST will shrewdly keep Marist out of its postseason tournament. The Red Foxes are serving the latter half of a two-year probation, so if they were to win the tournament, the conference would lose its automatic NCAA bid. Look for Monmouth to go to the show instead.
Siena reached the cusp of national respectability last season, breezing through the ECAC NORTH ATLANTIC with a 16-2 record only to lose to horrendous New Hampshire (page 90) in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and miss out on the NCAAs. Of the four starters back to atone for that flameout, Marc Brown, a 5'11" assist-minded sophomore, is the best.
The SOUTHLAND is going through a sluggish period, much like the oil bidness of Louisiana and East Texas, where several of the conference's eight members are located. North Texas State will once again be the best, thanks to an experienced backcourt, center Doug Schindler and forward Ronnie Morgan.
The much-traveled Butch van Breda Kolff is still in the EAST COAST, but now the Dutchman is a Dutchman once again, having left defending regular-season champion Lafayette to take over at last-place Hofstra, where he coached from 1955 to '62. Unfortunately for V.B.K., the conference title is certain to go to Bucknell. The Bisons' first eight players are back, and they're as sure-shooting an octet as you'll find. Name the shooting skill—free throws, field goals, three-pointers—and Bucknell finished in the nation's top 15.