BLACK SATURDAY

In college basketball, a week of balmy promise for some top tournament-hungry teams ended in confusion on BLACK SATURDAY
March 05, 1956

It all began peacefully enough, one of those nice pleasant weeks toward the end of any basketball season when the birds are singing, shots drop softly through the nets with a soothing swish and tournament bids float into the mailbox with a happy, spring-like flutter.

True, there existed a certain amount of confusion in the ranks of teams pointed toward the NIT. Louisville, for example, lost to Eastern Kentucky which then lost to Dayton which had beaten Xavier the week before just a few days after Xavier had defeated Louisville which, in turn, had just won over Dayton. Also, somewhere in there, Xavier beat Eastern Kentucky too, which brought up another point: what business was it of Eastern Kentucky's in the first place since no one had even invited them to the NIT?

But those things were hardly worth a second glance. Across the country, peace and promise prevailed. Southern Methodist, called the Southwest Conference's team of destiny, clinched a championship and moved serenely into the playoff brackets of the NCAA. Kansas State thumped two foes, including challenging Iowa State, and assumed a lead in the Big Seven. San Francisco remained undefeated and extended its consecutive victory record through 47 games. Utah disposed of Brigham Young for the second time, anchoring the Skyline Eight crown more firmly than ever on its head. And UCLA's Bruins, the last team to beat San Francisco (Dec. 11, 1954), continued to dine on Pacific Coast Conference opposition while licking their chops in anticipation of another crack at the defending NCAA champions in the first round of this year's playoffs.

Then, as it must each week, even to basketball coaches, came Saturday.

Illinois, No. 2 in the nation, unbeaten in the Big Ten, the beautifully balanced team which Midwesterners said could stop San Francisco, couldn't even stop Robin Freeman. Two weeks earlier Illinois humiliated Ohio State 111-64 and held Freeman to 12 points, his lowest in two years. Saturday night a vengeful Freeman confounded the Illini with 43 points, beat them 87-84 and dropped them back into a tie with Iowa for the Big Ten lead.

North Carolina State, pride of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the team which Southerners said could stop San Francisco, discovered it would probably never get the chance. The reason was Ron Shavlik, State's marvelous scorer and rebounder who seemed on his way to an All-America list as fast as his 6 feet 8 inches could carry him. But Saturday as State beat Wake Forest and, as favorite, prepared for the conference tournament, Shavlik broke his wrist. The prognosis: six weeks in a cast and no championship.

Kentucky, Southeastern Conference champion 11 times since 1943 and the team a coach named Adolph Rupp said would sure as heck stop San Francisco, faced a pleasant task—beat Alabama and then begin getting ready for the NCAA. But Coach Rupp proved a fallible prophet when Alabama walloped the Wildcats 101-77. This was nice for 'Bama since they remained unbeaten in conference play but it also posed another problem: Jerry Harper, who scored 37 points against Kentucky, and his four starting teammates played varsity basketball as freshmen and are thus ineligible in senior year for post-season competition under NCAA rules.

Tough? Well, there was lots of company. Columbia, leading in the Ivy League race, was bounced out of first place by also-ran Cornell. Houston, after cinching a tie for the Missouri Valley title, lost to Wichita and found itself facing a possible playoff for the NCAA bid it once had so securely wrapped up. George Washington and West Virginia, Southern Conference leaders, took a breather before tournament time—and both lost by nearly 20 points to nonconference foes. Temple, beaten only once all season and with a tournament gleam in its eye, lost to both St. Joseph's and Duquesne.

The birds were still singing but at week's end the baskets weren't swishing quite so smoothly.

Southwest. SMU, with an NCAA berth safely stowed away, hit 38 of 41 free throws to beat Arkansas 80-72 and run its conference record to 11-0. One more victory and the versatile Mustangs can become the first Southwest Conference team since Texas in 1947 to finish the season unbeaten in league play. The Border Conference, which will furnish SMU's first-round NCAA opponent, was in a three-way snarl involving erstwhile leader Texas Tech (beaten twice during the week), Texas Western and New Mexico A&M.

East. Dartmouth, preseason Ivy League favorite, finally made it to the top after a bumbling start by beating Brown and Penn while Columbia and Princeton were losing. Duquesne, defending NIT champ which has had its troubles most of the season, began to make noises like a possible two-straight winner by beating Fordham, Villanova and Temple. Seton Hall and Niagara, two other NIT entries, and NCAA-bound Holy Cross and Canisius scored easily, but St. Francis, unbeaten through its first 18 games, ran into trouble and lost two in a row before finally beating weak Siena by one point at week's end.

Far West. While others plotted how to overthrow San Francisco in the playoffs, the Dons kept breezing. Most recent victim was Santa Clara (80-44) as Bill Russell scored 29 points and on defense so befuddled the opposition that Santa Clara trailed 61-28 when he left the game. UCLA (12-0) and California (10-2) face a two-game showdown Friday and Saturday to settle the Pacific Coast Conference standings and there were few willing to bet the Northerners could turn the trick. UCLA's latest was a 108-89 victory over Oregon which set a conference scoring record. Utah's 82-77 victory over Brigham Young left the Utes with a 9-2 record and a comfortable lead for the final race to the wire. Idaho State won its fourth straight Rocky Mountain championship with two easy victories over Colorado College and also won an NCAA berth opposite independent Seattle. The latter, making a Midwest swing in celebration of the at-large invitation, was soundly trounced by Dayton but regained some prestige with a 70-63 victory over Oklahoma City, another NCAA entry.

Midwest. Illinois's startling loss to Ohio State and Iowa's overtime victory over Minnesota the same night left the two tied at 10-1 for the Big Ten lead and placed the issue squarely on the line in a nationally televised Saturday afternoon (March 3) game between the two at Iowa City. Kansas State, 8-2 after victories over Nebraska and dangerous Iowa State, now had to worry only about Colorado (5-3). Houston, its Missouri Valley season completed with a 9-3 record, faces a playoff with St. Louis (8-3) if the latter can get past Oklahoma A&M Saturday night.

South. Alabama's victory over Kentucky, after Kentucky had first disposed of Vanderbilt, just about wound up the Southeastern Conference race. But two other major conferences, the Atlantic Coast and Southern, were just getting ready to start playing basketball. Ignoring the results of a long season, each league prepared for an eight-team tournament March 1 to 3 to settle its champion. In the ACC the favorite was North Carolina (11-3) after North Carolina State (11-3) lost Ron Shavlik. In the Southern, George Washington and West Virginia (each 10-2) expected to fight it out for the title.

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RESULTS OF 100 LEADING COLLEGE BASKETBALL GAMES

EAST

Canisius 89—Villa. 81
Canisius 96—Detroit 75
Colgate 73—Syracuse 67
Columbia 78—Harvard 55
Cornell 63—Columbia 58
Dartmouth 93—Brown 48
Dartmouth 74—Penn 60
Duquesne 87—Fordham 65
Duquesne 80—Villa. 61
Duquesne 66—Temple 64
Fordham 82—St. John's 59
Holy Cross 69—Prov. 60
Iona 97—St. Fran. (N.Y.) 86
Mass. 87—Connecticut 85
NYU 78—CCNY 65
Niagara 86—Syracuse 80
Niagara 83—St. Bon. 72
Penn 88—Harvard 73
Penn 90—Brown 79
Penn St. 70—Army 66
Princeton 79—Yale 77
St. Fran. (N.Y.) 71—Siena 70
St. John's(N.Y.) 81—Pitt 76
St. Jos. (Pa.) 77—Temple 68
St. Jos. (Pa.) 72—Va. 69
Seton H. 79—Muhl. 66
Yale 81—Princeton 66

SOUTH

Alabama 77—LSU 59
Alabama 101—Kentucky 77
Duke 92—Virginia 58
Duke 90—Geo. Wash. 71
East Ky. 86—Louisville 84
G. Wash. 70—Georgetown 67
Kentucky 76—Vand. 55
Louisville 83—Murray 70
Maryland 72—Georgetown 61
Md. St. 75—Va. Union 64
Md. St. 87—NC A&T 66
Md. St. 106—Win. Salem 76
Navy 72—Frank-Marsh. 54
North Carolina 73—Duke 65
NX. State 79—N.C. 73
N.C. State 80—Wake F. 78
Pitt. 94—W. Va. 77
Vanderbilt 80—Fla. 75
Virginia 73—Maryland 60
Wake F. 76—Maryland 60
W. Kentucky 85—Cin. 74
W. Virginia 97—Wm. & M.88

MIDWEST

Bradley 46—Okla. A&M 43
Cincinnati 87—W&L 57
Colorado 61—Okla. 53
Dayton 80—Seattle 48
Dayton 90—E. Ky. 76
De Paul 80—Notre D. 74
Illinois 102—Pur. 77
Indiana 84—N'western 82
Iowa 87—Indiana 83
Iowa 83—Minnesota 73
Kansas 60—Nebraska 56
Kan. St. 73—Nebraska 50
Kan. St. 82—Iowa St. 62
Marq. 80—Loy. (Chi.) 73
Michigan 78—Wis. 68
Missouri 73—Iowa St. 66
Missouri 86—Okla. 64
Notre Dame 88—Marq. 85
Ohio St. 79—Wis. 71
Ohio St. 87—Illinois 84
Okla. A&M 52—Tulsa 41
Purdue 63—Mich. State 56
St. Louis 73—Tulsa 62
Seattle 70—Okla. C. 63
Wichita 82—Houston 72
Xavier (O.) 93—E. Ky. 72

SOUTHWEST

Houston 68—Bradley 53
Okla. City 93—Loy.(N.O.) 78
Rice 85—Texas A&M 61
SMU 89—Baylor 68
SMU 80—Arkansas 72
Texas 94—Rice 82
Texas 101—Baylor 95
TCU 91—Texas A&M 67

FAR WEST

Brig. Young 95—Mont. 73
Calif. 74—Wash. 62
Calif. 63—Wash. 60
Col. A&M 75—N. Mex. 67
Denver 80—Wyoming 74
Denver 68—Col. A&M 65
Idaho 58—Oregon St. 55
Oregon St. 69—Idaho 59
San Fran. 80—S. Clara 44
Stanford 81—Wash. St. 76
UCLA 95—Oregon 71
UCLA 108—Oregon 89
Utah 82—BYU 77
Utah 75—Utah St. 68
Utah St. 73—Mont. 67
Wash. St. 69—Stan. 67
Wyoming 60—New Mex. 36

BASKETBALL'S TOP TEN
(Verdict of the Associated Press writers' poll) Team standings this week (first-place votes in parentheses):

Points

1--San Francisco (66)

1,018

2--Illinois (5)

746

3--Dayton (6)

684

4--Alabama (18)

659

5--North Carolina State (1)

582

6--Louisville (7)

559

7--Vanderbilt (3)

306

8--North Carolina (1)

277

9--Southern Methodist (2)

267

10--Iowa (3)

235

RUNNERS-UP: 11, Duke 160; 12, Kentucky 133; 13, UCLA (1) 128; 14, Temple 66; 15, Holy Cross 57.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)