While college basketball shuddered under the impact of its second major scandal in a decade (see page 18), some of the nation's leading teams went grimly about their business in the postseason tournaments. In the biggest and brightest one—the NCAA—the preliminaries were over. Defending champion Ohio State, Cincinnati, Utah and, surprisingly, St. Joseph's survived the regional eliminations and now all four teams head for Kansas City and the semifinals (see page 20).
The NIT, too, was bustling its way toward a weekend climax in New York's Madison Square Garden. While seeded Niagara and Dayton looked on with understandably growing concern, unseeded St. Louis, in the tournament only because defending champion Bradley elected not to compete, and Holy Cross moved convincingly into Thursday's semifinals.
St. Louis, demonstrating the fine ball-control and defense that had earned it the respect of the Missouri Valley Conference, squirmed past Miami 58-56 and Colorado State U. 59-53. The competent Billikens, annoyed no end by the ball-stealing, driving and playmaking of Miami's frisky little Dick Hickox, finally caught the Hurricanes when Tom Kieffer took a perfect lead pass from Don Reid and curled in a layup with three seconds to play. Overly cautious Colorado State U. was less troublesome. The conservative Rams spent most of the game fiddling around outside, shot sparingly and badly and couldn't stop the Bills' 6-foot-7 Bill Nordmann, who rebounded robustly and eluded the State defenders for 23 points.
March 27, 1961
Holy Cross, small, slick, and quite adjustable, was even more impressive as it worked its way past Detroit 86-82 and Memphis Slate 81-69. Against Detroit, Jack (The Shot) Foley's quickly flipped jumpers (he scored 30 points), a neatly timed switch to a compact zone and eight straight foul shots in the last two minutes by imperturbable Tim Shea pulled Holy Cross through to victory. Two nights later the Crusaders threw a pesky press at rugged Memphis State, maneuvered the Tigers' 6-foot-8 Wayne Yates and 6-foot-6 Frank Snyder and Gene Wilfong into early foul trouble and whipped their bigger rivals soundly. This time Foley scored 24 points and Shea added 17 more.
Providence and Temple also scored first-round victories. Spurred on by an extremely vocal band of rooters and a sweet-tootling band, Providence trapped DePaul in its scrambling zone and beat the Blue Demons 73-67. The Friars' flashy John Egan was rarely more brilliant. Passing off only infrequently, Egan faked, dribbled and drove through and around the gawking DePaul defenders for 34 points, clearly outshone sharpshooting little Howie Carl, who tried desperately to keep the losers alive with his 23 points.
Temple, going into the tournament with wistful memories of its first (and only) NIT championship in 1938, had visions of another title after overpowering Army 79-66. The Owls, defending tenaciously with a loose zone and attacking precisely under the direction of skillful playmaker Bruce Drysdale, got away to a 52-28 lead in the first half and had more than enough left to withstand the Cadets' late barrage. But Coach Harry Litwack had his fingers crossed. He still had to face Dayton Tuesday night.
THE SMALL COLLEGES
The concentration and enthusiasm was just as great in Evansville, Ind., where the NCAA small-college division title was at stake, and in Kansas City, where 32 teams fired away in the NAIA tournament.
Although the home-town favorite had been eliminated in the district playoffs, Evansville played the part of a perfect host. The townspeople turned out in respectable numbers as Wittenberg, a small Lutheran coed college (enrollment: 1,600) located in Springfield, Ohio moved efficiently, if not spectacularly, to the NCAA crown.
Wittenberg, which specializes in ball control and a tight zone defense, had an easy time disposing of Williams 64-51 and Mount St. Mary's 65-49, but Southeast Missouri was another matter in the final. The rangy Indians, who had beaten revitalized Chicago 67-41 and South Dakota State 81-69 in the early rounds, were every bit as miserly with their shots as Wittenberg. Both teams probed cautiously, shot carefully and defended stubbornly, but in the end Wittenberg prevailed 42-38 as Guard Don Wolfe quarterbacked the offense superbly and 6-foot-2 freshman Al Thrasher scored 14 points.
In Kansas City adaptable Grambling's tall and talented team ran when it found the way clear, squeezed the ball when it had to and won the NAIA championship. The swift Tigers from Louisiana shrugged off Linfield (Ore.) 107-85, Peru (Neb.) State 80-60 and Anderson (Ind.) 62-54, then beat top-seeded Westminster (Pa.) at its own game in the semifinals. Grambling slowed down its attack considerably, took only the good shots and beat the Titans 45-44 on Rex Tippitt's jump shot with two minutes to go. After that it was easy. The Tigers changed the tempo against Georgetown (Ky.) in the final, turned loose Herschel West for 25 points, 6-foot-9 Willis Reed and 6-foot-7 Charlie Hardnett for 21 apiece and Tippitt for 20, and won 95-75.