CLIMAX ON THE COURT

A year of exciting basketball culminates in the NCAA tournament, with the big question being whether form—which has held true all season—will also decide the national champion
March 18, 1957

On the night of Feb. 11 Nebraska and Missouri were playing a close, ball-control game at Lincoln. At the start of the second half, Missouri grabbed the tip-off and all five Nebraskans hustled downcourt and conscientiously set up their zone defense. Missouri thereupon scored possibly the easiest two points in all basketball history—for Nebraska had surrounded the wrong basket.

This may have been the only truly startling surprise of the whole 1956-57 season. In just about every section of the country, form held true.

Even Iowa State's last-second defeat of Kansas could have been—indeed, was—predicted. Long before the season started, and especially after Kansas' opening game, in which Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 52 points, rival coaches were hip-deep in assorted plans to stop the big man. It was inevitable that the right coaching and personnel would catch Kansas on a night when the whole team seemed unable to adapt to a new defense—which is not to minimize Iowa State's achievement. In the same vein, however, it is to Kansas Coach Dick Harp's credit that his team recovered quickly and won its conference title easily. That goes also for North Carolina, San Francisco, West Virginia, SMU and St. Louis—among others—all of whom held firm under the season-long pressure of being their league's title favorite. Kentucky, too, despite Coach Rupp's early estimate that this was his "weakest team in years," was no exception. No one, including the members of his squad, believed Rupp.

The closest approach to a conference upset was Michigan State's showing in the Big Ten—10 straight victories and an NCAA bid after three straight losses. Coach Forddy Anderson, however, is no stranger to winning basketball, as witness his series of great teams at Bradley. And Big Ten conference battles are always close affairs, regardless of the particular sport. This year, loss of players through scholastic ineligibility (especially at Illinois) made the race even tighter and Michigan State's strong bench and high morale (see p. 61) were the deciding factors.

Speaking of coaches, the old master, Hank Iba—in his 23rd year at Oklahoma A&M—continued to demonstrate his skill in the one area of the game where a coach's ability to teach is incontrovertibly evident: defense. A&M again led the nation in team efficiency in this department. That defense alone does not always win ball games (A&M's record was 17-9) is beside the point.

In a year, finally, in which consistency appeared to be the keynote, little Lawrence College of Appleton, Wis. has, sadly, clear title to some kind of award. Its record of 0-16 in the Midwest Conference and 0-20 for the season was consistency with a vengeance, though, surely, involuntary.

If form continues to hold, next weekend will find these four teams playing for the national championship in Kansas City—California, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. No team in the eastern draw seems capable of stopping Carolina and the same is true of California in the Far West. In the Southwest the key game is Kansas vs. SMU on March 15 in Dallas. Here will be staged the keenly anticipated duel between All-Americas Jim Krebs and Chamberlain, but a reasonably sound prediction is that the result of this personal combat will not decide the winner. On the fair assumption that these two giants cancel each other out, the game will hinge on whether the outside shooting of SMU's Mills and Showalter can score faster than the driving of Kansas' Loneski and King. SMU's Coach Doc Hayes may have one tactical surprise up his sleeve: he may pull Krebs out of the post and anchor him in a corner. Then Kansas Coach Harp will have to decide whether to forgo Chamberlain's incalculable value as a rebounder by sending him out after Krebs.

In the midwestern draw, Kentucky will have its hands full with Morehead State if State, as it should, beats Pittsburgh in the opening round. But tournament victory has long been a habit with Kentucky and a loss would be a definite upset.

Dark horses? There are two: St. Louis and Brigham Young.

THE COUNTRY'S TOP TWENTY TEAMS

Here are statistics and capsule comments on conference champions and some standout independents, most of whom play in either the NCAA or NIT tournaments this week

IDAHO STATE

Rocky Mountain
Season: 23-3
Conference: 11-1
Coach: John Grayson

Field goal percentage: 45.1
Free throw percentage: 69.1
Total points: 1,966; against: 1,647
Per game: 75.6; against: 63.3

Screen-type offense, four outside men cut and split off post; strictly man-toman defense; weak bench since recent loss of two starters through injuries.

TEXAS WESTERN

Border
Season: 15-8
Conference: 8-2
Coach: George McCarty

Field goal percentage: 38.9
Free throw percentage: 66.4
Total points: 1,569; against: 1,499
Per game: 68.2; against: 65.2

Withdrew from NCAA tournament after losing four starters through ineligibility; strength is team speed, weakness is lack of height; Brown is league's top scorer.

NORTH CAROLINA

Atlantic Coast
Season: 24-0
Conference: 14-0
Coach: Frank McGuire

Field goal percentage: 43.3
Free throw percentage: 70.7
Total points: 1,928; against: 1,573
Per game: 80.3; against: 65.5

Only discernible weakness is recent loss of some reserves; excellent height, accuracy, fair rebounding; Kearns fine play-maker, Rosenbluth really great shot.

MOREHEAD STATE

Ohio Valley
Season: 19-7
Conference: 9-1
Coach: Bob Laughlin

Field goal percentage: 42.0
Free throw percentage: 68.0
Total points: 2,216; against: 1,976
Per game: 85.2; against: 76.0

Above average height, great speed, tops in rebounding; fast break offense, zone defense; Guard Harland Tolle is quarterback, Hamilton top scorer; weak bench.

SMU

Southwest
Season: 21-3
Conference: 11-1
Coach: E. O. (Doc) Hayes

Field goal percentage: 43.7
Free throw percentage: 73.3
Total points: 1,875; against: 1,528
Per game: 78.1; against: 63.7

Simple offense puts Krebs in post with plenty of shooting room; Mills, Showalter good outside shots; prefer man-toman defense; weakness is shallow bench.

BRIGHAM YOUNG

Skyline
Season: 18-8
Conference: 11-3
Coach: Stan Watts

Field goal percentage: 35.0
Free throw percentage: 74.0
Total points: 1,861; against: 1,748
Per game: 71.6; against: 67.2

Wins close games with excellent foul shooting; fast break, middle open on offense; man-to-man defense; strength is speed, weakness is lack of height.

SEATTLE

Independent
Season: 22-2
Coach: John Castellani

Field goal percentage: 45.7
Free throw percentage: 70.9
Total points: 1,931; against: 1,681
Per game: 80.4; against: 70.0

Strong rebounding team, with Baylor second in nation; offense built around Baylor, Stricklin or Humphries in post; good over-all height, strong bench.

CONNECTICUT

Yankee
Season: 17-7
Conference: 8-0
Coach: Hugh Greer

Field goal percentage: 41.6
Free throw percentage: 63.6
Total points: 2,107; against: 1,819
Per game: 87.8; against: 75.8

Fast breaking, shooting club, nation's leader in team offense; middle kept open; man-to-man defense; great speed and rebounding; bench lacks experience.

KENTUCKY

Southeastern
Season: 22-4
Conference: 12-2
Coach: Adolph Rupp

Field goal percentage: 40.6
Free throw percentage: 69.7
Total points: 2,191; against: 1,781
Per game: 84.2; against: 68.5

Fast break offense; man-to-man defense; fifth in nation in rebounds despite only fair height; strength is overall speed; weakness is lack of depth.

LOUISVILLE

Independent
Season: 21-5
Coach: Bernard Hickman

Field goal percentage: 40.0
Free throw percentage: 74.0
Total points: 2,149; against: 1,770
Per game: 82.7; against: 68.1

Excellent rebounding, Tyra near top in nation; man-to-man defense, pattern offense around single post; only fair speed; shallow bench; lacks one great shot.

ST. LOUIS

Missouri Valley
Season: 19-7
Conference: 12-2
Coach: Ed Hickey

Field goal percentage: 41.0
Free throw percentage: 70.0
Total points: 2,031; against: 1,858
Per game: 78.1; against: 71.5

Three-lane fast break offense or three-out, two-in-corner pattern with middle open; man-to-man defense; strong rebounding; shallow bench; good speed.

MICHIGAN STATE

Big Ten
Season: 14-8
Conference: 10-4
Coach: Forrest Anderson

Field goal percentage: 38.8
Free throw percentage: 63.8
Total points: 1,634; against: 1,531
Per game: 74.3; against: 69.5

Late-season surge emphasizes key strength—team spirit; weakness is lack of big man; driving offense, man-to-man defense; balanced first five, good bench.

DAYTON

Independent
Season: 18-8
Coach: Tom Blackburn

Field goal percentage: 38.4
Free throw percentage: 61.6
Total points: 1,880; against: 1,567
Per game: 72.3; against: 60.3

One of top 10 in nation in rebounding; offense run off single pivot, rarely fast break; both zone and man-to-man defense; lacks consistency and depth.

KANSAS

Big Seven
Season: 21-2
Conference: 11-1
Coach: Dick Harp

Field goal percentage: 39.6
Free throw percentage: 64.0
Total points: 1,658; against: 1,347
Per game: 72.1; against: 58.6

Fifth in team defense; Loneski relieving pressure on Chamberlain on offense; Elstun fine outside shot; only weakness is tendency to lose poise.

YALE

Ivy
Season: 18-7
Conference: 12-2
Coach: Joe Vancisin

Field goal percentage: 33.6
Free throw percentage: 61.3
Total points: 1,730; against: 1,616
Per game: 69.2; against: 64.6

Two excellent shots in Lee and Downs; Robinson good off boards; lacks height and replacement for Robinson; over-all speed poor; 10th in nation in rebounding.

SAN FRANCISCO

California
Season: 18-6
Conference: 12-2
Coach: Phil Woolpert

Field goal percentage: 34.7
Free throw percentage: 69.1
Total points: 1,516; against: 1,323
Per game: 63.2; against: 55.1

Key strength is pressing man-to-man defense; single-post offense, weaves, double screens; fair speed, height; lacks experience; Brown is play-makers.

WEST VIRGINIA

Southern
Season: 22-4
Conference: 12-0
Coach: Fred Schaus

Field goal percentage: 41.4
Free throw percentage: 70.2
Total points: 2,247; against: 1,915
Per game: 86.4; against: 73.7

Excellent speed allows running offense, some plays around single pivot; varied defenses; sound experience, good depth, adequate height; no glaring weaknesses.

MIAMI (OHIO)

Mid-American
Season: 17-7
Conference: 11-1
Coach: Bill Rohr

Field goal percentage: 36.4
Free throw percentage: 61.6
Total points: 1,928; against: 1,759
Per game: 80.3; against: 73.3

Good height, strong rebounding; offense, built around Embry in post; both zone and man-to-man defense; strong bench; weaknesses are lack of speed, accuracy.

MEMPHIS STATE

Independent
Season: 21-5
Coach: Bob Vanatta

Field goal percentage: 43.5
Free throw percentage: 74.0
Total points: 2,237; against: 2,038
Per game: 86.0; against: 78.4

Near top in accuracy and team offense; uses fast break and patterns; man-to-man defense; Jack Butcher is play-maker; lacks height, real speed and reserves.

CALIFORNIA

Pacific Coast
Season: 20-4
Conference: 14-2
Coach: Pete Newell

Field goal percentage: 39.3
Free throw percentage: 68.3
Total points: 1,632; against: 1,375
Per game: 68.0; against: 57.3

Pressing man-to-man defense, Newell specialty, is key characteristic; well-balanced pattern offense; Robinson is quarterback; only fair rebounding.

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CHART PHOTOJACK ALLAIN PHOTOCHARLES BROWN PHOTOLEN ROSENBLUTH PHOTOSTEVE HAMILTON PHOTOJIM KREBS PHOTOTOM STEINKE PHOTOELGIN BAYLOR PHOTOFRAN QUINN PHOTOVERNON HATTON PHOTOCHARLIE TYRA PHOTOHAROLD ALCORN PHOTOJOHNNY GREEN PHOTOAL SICKING PHOTOWILT CHAMBERLAIN PHOTOJOHNNY LEE PHOTOGENE BROWN PHOTOROD HUNDLEY PHOTOWAYNE EMBRY PHOTOWIN WILFONG PHOTOEARL ROBINSON

CONNECTICUT
March 12, N.Y. City
SYRACUSE

March 15, Phila.

March 16,
Phila.

March 22, Kansas City
EAST CHAMPION

NATIONAL CHAMPION

LAFAYETTE

W. VIRGINIA
March 12, N.Y. City
CANISIUS

March 15, Phila.

N. CAROLINA
March 12, N. V. City
YALE

MOREHEAD STATE
March 12, Columbus, O.
PITTSBURGH

March 15, Lexingion

March 16, Lexington

KENTUCKY

MIAMI. O.
March 12, Columbus, O.
NOTRE DAME

March 15, Lexington

MICHIGAN STATE

NATIONAL THIRD PLACE March 23, Kansas City

OKLAHOMA CITY
March 12, Okla. City
LOYOLA, N. ORLEANS

March 15, Dallas

March 16, Dallas

March 22, Kansas City
WEST CHAMPION

ST. LOUIS

KANSAS
March 15, Dallas
SOUTHERN METHODIST

BRIGHAM YOUNG
March 15, Corvallis
CALIFORNIA

March 16, Corvallis

IDAHO STATE
March 11, Pocatello
HARDIN-SIMMONS

March 15, Corvallis

SAN FRANCISCO

FOUR-WAY BRACKET shown here ultimately will produce the intercollegiate champion. The speculative reader may enjoy indicating his choices in each bracket and comparing them with the results. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S staff consensus pick is Kansas.

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)