Maybe it had been done before. If so, the statistician for a Missouri newspaper had never heard about it and the more he wondered the more entranced he became with the subject. After all, it was basketball season again and they counted everything else: the number of baskets, the number of fouls, the number of shots which missed, the number of time-outs. It was about time somebody counted how many times a basketball bounced during a game.
So Buddy Spillman of the St. Joseph Gazette kept his eye on the ball throughout the full 40 minutes of a game between Trenton (Mo.) and Highland (Kan.) in the St. Joseph junior college tournament—and discovered a new and slightly startling statistic: counting all dribbles, bounce passes and rebounds, the ball hit the floor 1,442 times.
Well, now we know. Last week, across the land, uncounted thousands of basketballs bounced uncounted thousands of times as the nation's colleges wound up their second big week of play. But few people bothered to count anything but the scores—the really important thing—as it neared time for the big holiday tournaments or as teams prepared to move into conference play. And the scores, in themselves, were interesting enough.
The West. There was no reason for anyone on the Coast to revise an earlier estimate: the University of San Francisco appeared unbeatable. Phil Woolpert's NCAA champions brushed aside San Francisco State 72-47, with Bill Russell scoring 20 points and hogging 17 rebounds during the 22 minutes he was in action. The losing coach, Dan Farmer, found solace in a statistic: "Nobody else," he said, "has scored that many points on USF this season."
December 19, 1955
A little farther east, in a conference almost unanimously renamed the Skyline Two, Utah and Brigham Young appeared to be heading for a showdown. With artful Art Bunte scoring 50 points in the two games, Utah beat Arizona 119-45 and 93-63 and earned a rather startling bit of praise. "Our defense," said Coach Jack Gardner, "was great." Brigham Young, a team with dazzling speed and a 5-foot 8-inch magician named Terrible Terry Tebbs, repeated its opening double over strong UCLA by beating Oregon twice 72-61 and 83-52.
The South. Kentucky's 73-61 loss to Temple was the big shocker, but it only confirmed the impression left by the shaky opening win over LSU: until Bob Burrow gets back solidly on two uninjured feet—and perhaps even after that—Adolph Rupp's Wildcats are going to have trouble. Alabama continued to be very impressive by winning the Birmingham Classic behind the sharp shooting of George Linn. The Southern Conference saw a battle of unbeaten giants: George Washington, with towering Joe Holup scoring at a 30-point clip, against West Virginia, whose Hot Rod Hundley was averaging 27.
The Midwest. Iowa, the Big Ten favorite, rolled along unbeaten and had little trouble stopping SMU's victory streak 80-62. Second-ranked Illinois got off to a flying start by routing Butler 107-75—then fell flat in a 74-73 upset at the hands of Missouri. Independents Cincinnati and Dayton continued unbeaten toward their big battle Friday night in Cincinnati, and St. Louis convinced a New York audience of its strength by stopping St. John's of Brooklyn 88-80. But the big news in the sprawling Midwest was the return to form of Ohio State's fabulous shooter, Robin Freeman. Sidelined along with his 31.5 scoring average at midseason last year because of illness, the 5-foot 11-inch Buckeye had 40 points in a losing cause against Vanderbilt, then improved on that with 43 more in a 90-72 victory over Loyola of Chicago.
The East. This section's two big preseason hopes for national prominence were Duquesne, last year's NIT champ, and Holy Cross. Both came through. The Dukes won the Steel Bowl by slipping past little Geneva 65-61 and then knocked over Pittsburgh in the title game 71-49. All-America Si Green scored 22 points against Pitt and covered the court like a heavy snowfall. But Tom Heinsohn, the graceful 6-foot—7 star from Holy Cross, had an even more magnificent night: 44 points as the Crusaders beat Yale 99-84 for their third straight.
The Southwest. Southern Methodist proved maligned Southwest basketball might not be so bad after all—even though the Ponies did lose to Iowa. They won three straight before that happened, then bounced back for an 82-81 conquest of Minnesota in which tall Jim Krebs scored 36 points. And Temple Tucker, the 6-foot-10 sophomore, indeed appeared ready for varsity competition as he led Rice to five straight victories, including convincing ones over Oklahoma and Tulane, neither considered a soft touch.