THE MAGNETIC OBSESSION

Wilt Chamberlain, who has scored 66 points in two NCAA tournament games thus far, hypnotizes opposing teams
March 25, 1957

Wilton Chamberlain, a tall, curiously withdrawn 19-year-old Negro, is very close now as a sophomore to being the best college basketball player in the United States. Oddly enough, he has some glaring faults—he cannot defend adequately against a hook shot for one thing and he has an effective range of only about eight feet from the basket on offense. He may, once in a while, hit some whirling jump shots from farther out than that, but he does not do it consistently, and no team that plays Kansas ever worries about Chamberlain when he is that far away from the target.

Yet Kansas won the Western Regional NCAA basketball championship in Dallas entirely on Chamberlain's ability to intimidate an opponent. The tournament was won in the first game against a Southern Methodist team armed with everything which a basketball team needs and armed particularly for this tournament with three years of tournament play which should have made it immune to pressure jitters.

Doc Hayes, the bald, gentle man who coaches SMU, devised an intelligent attack against the Kansas zone defense, and, more important, he gave his team a two-three zone defense which allowed it to detach strength from the Kansas weaknesses and detail it to guarding Chamberlain. On offense, early, he sent Jim Krebs, the very fine SMU center, out into the corner of the court for long, one-hand set shots, and Krebs, who all of this season has been extraordinarily accurate from that terrain, missed. The strategy was to draw the 7-foot Chamberlain out of his station under the basket to harry Krebs, and it might have worked had Krebs hit. But, conscious always of the threat of a blocked shot, and shooting with only half an eye on the basket, Krebs missed time and again and Chamberlain, climbing effortlessly high above the ruck under the backboard, took away the rebounds and passed the ball out quickly, and Kansas moved away to a 15-4 lead.

The SMU defense, in this taut, exciting opening phase of the game, suffered even more than the attack from a Chamberlain complex. The two-three zone, which stretched a three-man picket fence under the basket, was designed to prevent 1) a pass to Chamberlain in the narrow area in which he is a deadly shot and 2) to block Chamberlain off the backboard so that SMU might have a chance at the rebound. Krebs had the major responsibility for Chamberlain in this zone and he handled it well, moving with his deliberate grace to maintain defensive position between Chamberlain and the basket. He was helped by another player sagging back on Chamberlain from the fringes of the defense.

Unfortunately, the SMU players, sandwiching Chamberlain tightly, left an alley open. Gene Elstun slipped through it twice for goals, and Ronnie Loneski, a talented sophomore, sifted through for three more, and suddenly the Kansas Jayhawks were a long way out in front.

Southern Methodist adjusted then, giving Krebs nearly the whole responsibility for Chamberlain and closing the alley they had left open before. Krebs, fighting hard for rebounds and guarding Chamberlain closely, fouled him three times, but SMU gradually closed the wide gap.

On attack Krebs moved in from the corner and lifted hooks over Chamberlain effectively, feinting with his head and shoulders one way, taking a long step away in the other direction and lofting the shot high over Chamberlain's 12½-foot reach. The score was 33-32 for Kansas at the half, and you had the feeling that Southern Methodist, working intelligently and calmly now and doing very well the things they had found they could do against Kansas, could win.

Indeed, as the second half opened, Kansas was the team which began to show signs of losing its composure. SMU took advantage of some bad passes to work into the lead. For 15 minutes SMU was the team in control of the game—in control by only the narrowest of margins, but still forcing the pace and making Kansas play off tempo. Then, with five minutes and eight seconds to play and SMU ahead by three points, Krebs fouled Chamberlain for the fifth time and left the game. SMU tried desperately to hoard its three-point lead by controlling the ball, but Kansas tied the game as the period ended and coasted through the five-minute overtime for an easy 73-65 victory.

SMU's early-game preoccupation with Chamberlain was responsible for the loss, obviously. Through the first half the team hit only 32% of its shots from the floor and not because of any tremendous pressure applied by the Kansas defense.

"I had all the good shots I needed to get my points but I just couldn't hit anything," Krebs said. "I must have shot a million times and it just wouldn't go in, would it? Chamberlain is a wonderful offensive player, but I could get all the shots I wanted off him."

But Krebs, like the rest of the SMU team, could blame much of his inaccuracy on the presence of Chamberlain.

A watching coach pinpointed the effect of the Chamberlain complex. "I watched Larry Showalter go up once for a jump shot," he said. "Chamberlain wasn't even very close to him. But he went up and took his eye off the basket, backboard and all."

In the finals, Oklahoma City University, an exceptionally tall team with more speed than most tall teams, clamped a rough, aggressive defense around Chamberlain for a half, and the Kansas outside shots—Elstun and King principally—were cold. They began to hit well in the second half, and the Oklahomans had to come out from under the basket after them and that left Chamberlain with room to move and shoot, and the game, very quickly, became a rout that ended 81-61 for Kansas.

Chamberlain, who draws an inordinate number of fouls, took a tremendous amount of booing from the crowd with considerable grace for a 19-year-old. He plays with a serene assurance unusual in a sophomore, and he does the things he can do so very well that he often appears cocky. He is not easy to talk to and is very careful about what he says, which never includes anything critical about an opponent. Of Krebs he said, "He is a wonderful player, isn't he? That hook shot is great—I've had trouble stopping hooks all year and I certainly didn't stop his."

In the finals against Oklahoma he had even more trouble stopping the hook shots of Hubert Reed, OCU 6-foot-10 center, and after that game he said, with more obvious sincerity than had gone into his praise of Krebs, "Reed is a wonderful player. I guess he's the best center I ever played against."

Southern Methodist won the third-place game from St. Louis University. The score was 78-68 and SMU played beautiful basketball, moving the ball easily and well and shooting with its usual confidence. SMU looked, actually, like a better team than Kansas, which it might well be under ordinary circumstances. But SMU was the first important victim of a malady which will affect quite a few teams in the next two years—the Chamberlain complex.

MICHIGAN STATE SURPRISES

No account of this year's tournament should omit the superb achievement of Michigan State, regardless of what happens in Kansas City this week. And it is no slight to the Spartans' talents to say that their greatest asset is a competitive spirit which asserted itself after three straight conference defeats at the start of the season. Their defeat of Notre Dame, at Lexington, may not have been much of a surprise but victory over Kentucky the following night was a spectacular upset. And they did it the hardest way possible—behind 47-35 at the half, they stormed back to rout the nation's third-ranked team, 80-68.

The other quarter-final game, at Corvallis, was a classic of defensive basketball engineered by two masters of the art, gum-chewing Coach Phil Woolpert of San Francisco and towel-chewing Coach Pete Newell of California. Both teams used full-and mid-court presses, and guarding was so tenacious that clear shots were almost impossible. As he has most of the season, Gene Brown led the Dons in both offense and defense, scoring 20 points and playing a flawless defensive game. In the game's last 19 minutes, the lead changed hands nine times and the score was tied three times before San Francisco finally won, 50-46. Thus, the Dons' hopes of winning the national championship for a third successive year were kept alive. Their first opponent in Kansas City will be Wilt Chamberlain.

CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: THE LAST FOUR

KANSAS

RON LONESKI, F.
6'4½", 210, SOPH.

JOHN PARKER. G.
6'0", 173, SR.

W. CHAMBERLAIN, C.
7'0", 214, SOPH.

MAURICE KING, G.
6'2½", 190, SR.

GENE ELSTUN, F.
6'3 14", 175, SR.

DICK HARP
COACH

SAN FRANCISCO

MIKE PREASEAU, F.
6'5", 185, JR.

GENE BROWN, G.
6'2½", 175, JR.

AL DUNBAR, G.
5'11", 155, JR.

ART DAY, C.
6'9", 200, SOPH.

MIKE FARMER, F.
6'7", 215, JR.

PHIL WOOLPERT
COACH

NORTH CAROLINA

TOMMY KEARNS. G.
5'11", 188, JR.

R. CUNNINGHAM, G.
6'4", 190, JR.

JOE QUIGG, C.
6'9", 205, JR.

PETE BRENNAN. F.
6'6", 190, JR.

LEN ROSENBLUTH. F.
6'6", 180, SR.

FRANK McGUIRE
COACH

MICHIGAN STATE

PAT WILSON, G.
6'0", 186, SR.

JACK QUIGGLE, G.
6'3", 190, JR.

LARRY HEDDEN, F.
6'5", 185, JR.

JOHNNY GREEN. C.
6'5", 215, SOPH.

G. FERGUSON. F.
6'3", 190, SR.

FORREST ANDERSON
COACH

REBOUNDING
Kansas must be given the edge only because of Chamberlain, who is the nation's percentage leader. Aside from Wilt, Kansas is in last place in height, with Carolina and San Francisco in a tie for first and Michigan State third. Carolina's comparative weakness here—their only serious flaw as a team—is the more surprising when the height of their front line is considered. Rosenbluth, Quigg and Brennan average 6 feet 6½ inches, but Yale's Robinson and Canisius' Nowak (both 6 foot 3) were able to outmaneuver and outjump them under the boards. In a Kansas-Carolina final, Carolina would seldom get more than one shot at the basket. Against Michigan State in the semifinal, Carolina will have an edge in height but, again, a tough battle for the free ball. State's Green (6 foot 5) did not join the team until January, and he is their best rebounder, so season statistics are no indication of their real strength here. In the other semifinal, San Francisco's chances against Chamberlain are also nil, despite their front-line average of 6 feet 7. At that height Farmer is the better rebounder than Day, the 6-foot-9 center, but certainly not in Wilt's class. Farmer, however, hooks well with either hand, and San Francisco may try to lure Chamberlain out from under the boards, using Farmer as decoy, though this tactic, admittedly, has not been successful in the past. A San Francisco-Michigan State or San Francisco-Carolina final would be a close affair in this department.

RATING

1. KANSAS
2. MICHIGAN STATE
3. NORTH CAROLINA
4. SAN FRANCISCO

SHOOTING
In cold statistics for the regular season, Carolina (43.3) led Kansas by 4 percentage points, Michigan State by 4½ and San Francisco by close to 9 in accuracy from the floor. In free throws, they led San Francisco by 1½, Kansas by 7 and State by 7. Such figures, however, are unreliable guides to a single-game performance under championship tournament pressure, and this factor should, oddly, work both for and against Carolina. The Tarheels are unquestionably the most experienced and poised of the four teams. Pressure of the situation, therefore, should hurt them least. (Against Syracuse in the quarter-finals, for example, Carolina took only 47 shots to Syracuse's 75, but were never in trouble.) Pressure of the opposing team's defense may be another matter. Whichever team Carolina meets in the final will harry their fine shooters severely. Against Kansas, the mere presence of Chamberlain on the court will be extremely distracting, as it has been for rivals all season. Against San Francisco, Carolina will be rushed by one of the most tenacious and press-minded teams in the country. They will have to get their shots off faster than ever—which may affect their accuracy. The semifinal with Michigan State should be somewhat easier. Here it will be a scoring race between Carolina's accuracy and State's effective fast break. Carolina's Kearns appears to be their only man who can run in the same class with the Spartans, but the Tarheels still should win.

RATING

1. NORTH CAROLINA
2. KANSAS
3. MICHIGAN STATE
4. SAN FRANCISCO

DEFENSE
Here statistics are a great deal more dependable than in shooting, for a team which has not done well all season on defense simply cannot develop this skill overnight. Defense is learned, not suddenly inspired. Logic, therefore, demands that San Francisco be accorded top ranking, since they have limited the opposition to 55 points per game this year. Kansas, also, has held its rivals to a low average (58 points) and must be placed on the same level with the Dons. Their defensive success begins and ends, of course, with Chamberlain. The rest of the Kansas team does a lot of scrambling, but this is not to be considered even the frosting on the cake. The whole cake is Wilt—his speed, his jumping ability, his timing, which improves with every game, his enormous height and arm spread. San Francisco's aggressive defense tactics—man-to-man—and their effectiveness are a tribute to Coach Woolpert's ability to teach. In the last two games of the regular season Brown himself intercepted 14 passes and turned 11 of them into baskets. Neither Michigan State nor Carolina is in the same class as Kansas and San Francisco in this area. Both play the zone or man-to-man, depending on the opposition. In the semifinal, State will not be able to cope with Rosenbluth's fine variety of shots from close in and Brennan's accuracy from the corner. The biggest defense problem for both State and Kansas, finally, is likely to be the driving speed of Carolina's Kearns.

RATING

1. SAN FRANCISCO, KANSAS
3. NORTH CAROLINA
4. MICHIGAN STATE

THE SUM-UP
Any reasonable estimate must reach the following two conclusions: 1) Kansas and Carolina will meet in the finals. 2) The outcome will hinge on whether the Tarheels can maintain their poise or whether Chamberlain will continue his psychological and physical mastery over five rival players. When a team walks out on the court and gets its first glimpse of Wilt, the visual impact is stunning. If Kansas gets the ball on the opening jump and passes in to Chamberlain for a quick dunk, that impact is increased enormously. After Chamberlain blocks the first rival shot, the shock treatment is complete. Many good teams simply fall apart at this point; a great team is no longer great. Against this must be placed the clear evidence that, all season, Carolina has played as well as was needed to win. The team that was stopped in its tracks for three-quarters of a game by Yale is the same team that beat strong Wake Forest four times and finally ran away from stubborn Canisius. To pick Carolina, one must argue that the Tarheels will not be intimidated by Chamberlain. It must also follow that Wilt has an off night on offense, and this would be a remarkable coincidence. Carolina's one chance is to keep the ball away from Wilt Chamberlain. And their defensive record to date suggests this is an unlikely feat. The contest for third place should pit the irresistible force (Michigan State) against the immovable object (San Francisco). Our pick: the object.

RATING

1. KANSAS
2. NORTH CAROLINA
3. SAN FRANCISCO
4. MICHIGAN STATE

PHOTOCHAMBERLAIN DEFLECTION OF KREBS SHOT SYMBOLIZES DALLAS DUEL ILLUSTRATION"Never mind wrapping it, we'll portage right from here." TWENTY FOUR PHOTOS
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)