While most of the nation's major-college teams sadly contemplated their failures, a fortunate few looked forward to competing in postseason tournaments. The NCAA, with 11 new conference champions and five at-large teams already in the fold (see page 45), still had room for eight more. The NIT, too, was busy filling out its field. The New York tournament acquired Missouri Valley runner-up Bradley (21-5), hoped to get the Skyline also-ran (Colorado State U. or Utah) and, after considerable soul-searching, announced that its last spot would be filled by Holy Cross (18-4).
Duquesne, hard-pressed for able bodies in a frustrating season, used only five of them to stop St. Bonaventure. The cocky Dukes gambled on giving 6-foot-9 Bob McCully shooting room underneath, double-teamed Tom Stith with burly Bob Slobodnik and Clyde Arnold and hoped for the best. It worked. While Captain Ned Twyman flipped in 31 points and rebounded superbly, Duquesne "held" Stith to 19 points, scrambled from behind to upset the shocked Bonnies 79-74 in overtime. At week's end weary St. Bonaventure pulled itself together to fight off Canisius 84-72; Duquesne beat Fordham 75-66.
St. John's defeated Yankee champion Rhode Island 86-74 and Manhattan 87-68; Georgetown surprised suddenly inept NYU 92-69; Holy Cross beat Providence 77-72; Princeton put down Dartmouth 68-54 and Harvard 71-59, tucked away the Ivy title. The top three:
March 13, 1961
1. ST. BONAVENTURE (22-3)
2. ST. JOHN'S (19-4)
3. ST. JOSEPHS (21-4)
George Washington, beaten 16 times and in the Southern Conference championship tournament try the bare skin of its teeth, suddenly turned on its most persistent tormentors. First, the Colonials upset Virginia Tech 84-83, then they turned back The Citadel 94-87. Meanwhile, favored West Virginia's zone press failed against William and Mary, and the Mountaineers were knocked out 88-76. In the final, little Jon Feldman peppered W&M for 45 points, outclassed the Indians' rugged Jeff Cohen, who scored 38, and George Washington won 93-82.
Wake Forest moved big Len Chappell outside to help riddle Duke's zone defense, sent him driving in when the Blue Devils switched to man to man, and the result was just perfect—for the Deacons. Chappell scored 33 points, and Wake Forest won the ACC tournament 96-81.
With Mississippi State's SEC champions out of the NCAA tournament, the honor will go to Kentucky or Vanderbilt, who play off a second-place tie Thursday at Knoxville. The top three:
1. NORTH CAROLINA (19-4)
2. WEST VIRGINIA (23-4)
3. DUKE (22-6)
Michigan State gave Ohio State some anxious moments with a pressing man-to-man defense, but the marvelous Buckeyes eventually ran the Spartans dizzy with a calculating fast break, moved methodically to a 91-83 victory and their second straight Big Ten title.
Kansas State, after beating Nebraska twice, 77-67 and 75-56, was only a game away from the Big Eight prize. One more Wildcat victory—or a Kansas defeat—will clinch it. But Bradley, with a chance to tie Cincinnati for the Missouri Valley crown, tightened up perceptibly against St. Louis' careful defense and lost to the Bills 70-63. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (23-0)
2. CINCINNATI (23-3)
3. KANSAS STATE (20-4)
USC knew it had to beat UCLA to win the Big Five title. But it didn't seem possible after 6-foot-8 John Berberich (who scored 33 points) boffed them again and again with tantalizing hooks, layups and jumpers to put the Bruins ahead 72-59 with 4:35 to go. USC, led by John Rudometkin, sniped away, caught UCLA at 77-77 and beat them 86-85 in overtime on Ken Stanley's six free throws. Next night, the Trojans whipped Stanford 79-61, UCLA beat Washington 84-68, and it was all over.
The West Coast AC, as formless as a milkman's horse, was closer to decision. St. Mary's, hooted, railed at and potted with rotten eggs by churlish Santa Clara fans, lost to the Broncs 60-53, then got muddled up in its own zone defense and was beaten by San Jose State 74-72. With the Gaels (now 7-4) out of contention, the fight was between Loyola (9-2) and San Francisco (7-3).
Like every other Skyline coach, Colorado State U.'s Jim Williams figured to beat Utah by forcing Billy McGill to foul out. But, unlike any other Skyline coach, Williams saw his plan succeed. The collapsing Ram defenders boxed McGill effectively, got him out of the game on fouls, and CSU edged the Utes 50-49 to set up a playoff for the title Saturday at Provo. The top three:
1. USC (19-5)
2. UTAH (20-6)
3. LOYOLA (18-6)
For a while it appeared that the SWC championship would elude Texas Tech. The Raiders, weakened by the temporary absence of injured Del Ray Mounts, fell before Rice 95-91 in overtime. Then, as 10,380, the largest crowd ever to see a SWC game, whooped it up in Lubbock, Tech fell behind tough Texas twice, finally rallied to beat the Longhorns 63-60 for the title.
New Mexico State was still running hard in the Border Conference. The Aggies tumbled Hardin-Simmons 78-59 and West Texas State 71-51, needed only a win over fifth-place Hardin-Simmons to tie Arizona State. The top three:
1. HOUSTON (16-9)
2. TEXAS TECH (15-9)
3. ARIZONA STATE (20-5)