THE BUCKS FOR THE TITLE

Basketball's championship is at stake again, and the choice has to be Jerry Lucas and company
March 12, 1962

It has been nearly a year since that memorable night in Kansas City when Ohio State Basketball Coach Fred Taylor lay miserable and distraught in the bathtub of his suite at the Hotel Muehlebach as if trying to soak away disaster.

Taylor had just seen his fine basketball team, the defending national champion and winner of 32 straight games, lose its title in an overtime to Cincinnati. The defeat had been doubly telling, coming as it did at the hands of a rival Ohio school with which relations are sportingly strained at best and quietly bitter at worst. Fred Taylor does a lot of thinking in the bathtub, and what he was primarily thinking that night, once the shock had worn off, was that it would be so very nice to have another chance at Cincinnati in the finals of a national championship. But it was still awesomely coincidental this week, as the NCAA tournament opened with regional games that will lead to the finals at Louisville, that once again Ohio State has an excellent chance to reach the finals, once again it will be favored, and once again the most likely opponent is the team that plunged Fred Taylor into a tubful of hot water, the University of Cincinnati.

If these teams should reach the finals—and, indeed, Cincinnati is not even sure of getting into the tournament at all yet, for it must beat a stubborn Bradley team in a conference playoff—they will both be stronger than they were a year ago. Until last Saturday's upset by Wisconsin, Ohio State was the only undefeated major team in the country. It had won 22 straight games without being severely tested. Never had its winning margin been below eight points. Only once had it been behind at half time. Its success had become so routine that fans around Columbus were almost bored by game results.

In Jerry Lucas, the wonder man of college basketball, the Buckeyes have the country's best shot. He is sinking 65% of his field-goal attempts, a figure no other player even approaches. He is the second leading rebounder in the country, and Ohio State is the national leader in team rebounding. The shooting average of the whole team is a withering 50%, and one reason for this is the rebounding. "When those fellows shoot they are relaxed," said UCLA Coach John Wooden last week. "You'd be relaxed, too, if you knew Lucas was there to throw the rebound into the basket if you happen to miss."

Lucas is having his best year, and so are the other two returning starters, John Havlicek and Mel Nowell. Havlicek is a bounding 6-foot-5 forward who regularly guards the opposition's best shooter and consistently harasses that poor unfortunate into inept submission. Nowell, a guard, continues to be a streaky scorer, as he was last year, but his bad nights are no longer quite so bad and his good ones are even better. The big change in the Ohio State team, however, is the development of a strong bench. OSU's little-known and much overshadowed sophomores played significant roles in games the Buckeyes might well have lost. There are five of them on the squad, all between 6 feet 4 and 6 feet 8, and they are the second best group of sophomores the school has ever had. (Lucas' class was the best.) One of them, sharp-elbowed Gary Bradds, is a capable substitute for Lucas, something the team needed badly last year. He has, incidentally, made 35 of the 48 shots he has attempted. "They are a lot more than mop-up crew," says Taylor of his new reserve strength.

In spite of its traditionally fast and high-scoring offense, defense and depth are the strengths of this team. If it is to be beaten in the NCAA, it will lose on a night when its offense fails to move and cut with the verve it normally displays. This happens occasionally, sometimes for two or three games in a row. "Ginning around," Fred Taylor calls it with dismay.

Ohio State had best limit its ginning around in the NCAA or it won't make the finals, for it is seeded in the eastern half of the NCAA draw (see chart on page 25) where the overall level of competition looks toughest. It should have no trouble with the winner of the Western Kentucky-Detroit game, which will most likely be Western. Detroit has won only three road games this season. In the quarter-finals, however, the Buckeyes may well meet Kentucky, a team that would present a tougher problem.

Rupp, Nash and trouble

Runner-up in the SEC to Mississippi State, whose policy of not competing against Negroes forced it to pass up the tournament, Kentucky is an unexpectedly good team. It has three stars: Cotton Nash, a sophomore who plays any position and handles the ball like an NBA guard; Larry Pursiful, a major threat from outside if he recovers from a wrenched shoulder; and Adolph Rupp, the canny coach who almost seems to make points himself when his players can't. Kentucky has a 20-2 record, even though Nash, who is under 6 feet 6, is the team's biggest man. Bowling Green, a likely victor over a beautifully disciplined but too-small Butler team, is expected to use its height to give Kentucky a tussle in the second round before succumbing to its own defensive weaknesses. That would set up the Kentucky-OSU match, a glamorous battle of traditional powers, though the realities don't give Kentucky much hope. "Ohic State has a one-two-three punch," says Adolph Rupp. "We are lucky to have a one-two punch." Still, Rupp is just the man to take advantage of the slightest failure in the OSU offense. If there is no such failure. State should sweep the backboards and go on into the semifinals at Louisville.

There it will meet the winner of the eastern regionals. Wake Forest has one of the poorest records of the seven eastern teams (18-8) but has built up tremendous momentum while winning 11 of its last 12. All-America Len Chappell, a 6-foot-8 strongman with an incongruously delicate shooting touch, is being used primarily at forward, while 6-foot-11 Bob Woollard plays center. Guard Billy Packer, who must score if Wake Forest is to succeed, is averaging 13 points per game by making 46% of his shots. His shooting has improved significantly in recent games. One of Wake's weaknesses is lack of speed, and midcourt pressure bothers this team. Both Villanova and West Virginia like to apply such pressure, but Villanova has tailed off badly in recent weeks and injuries are still hurting West Virginia's frantic, free-lance attack. Both NYU and St. Joseph's (if the latter wins its conference) could cause trouble, too, but Wake Forest is the best bet in the East.

A semifinal match between Ohio State and Wake Forest would be a replay of a December 9 contest that proved to be such a traumatic experience for the Southerners that it almost ruined their season. Trounced by 22 points on their own floor, they lost their next three, then four more on a January road trip. The Deacons would dearly love to redeem themselves, but the same Ohio State fast break which beat them before should do it again.

The western half of the tournament is ruled by no such prohibitive favorite. In the Midwest the Air Force, Creighton and Memphis State are outclassed, though the first brings prestige to the tournament, the second a likable underdog and the third a good record (15-6). Four of the big conference races are yet to be settled. A crucial one is the Missouri Valley, where Cincinnati is favored to beat a weakened Bradley team in a playoff at Evansville March 12. This could put the Bearcats into a quarterfinal game against Kansas State on that team's home floor on March 17, assuming that Kansas State, which has been ranked third or fourth nationally almost since the season began, can defeat Colorado in the Big Eight. Kansas State is the team most likely to give Cincinnati early tournament trouble, but the Bearcats beat them last year under much the same circumstances.

This year, like Ohio State, Ed Jucker's Cincinnati champions have improved. They have more height, thanks to two sophomore forwards, 6-foot-8 George Wilson and 6-foot-5 Ron Bonham. In addition, Bonham is a good outside shot who can break a game open. Center Paul Hogue, who played so well against Lucas last year, is showing a bit more finesse, though he has not scored well lately. The team's primary weakness is at one guard position, where Tom Thacker, a transplanted forward, is still not confident and at ease. Pressing defenses have bothered Cincinnati and sometimes have forced Coach Jucker to move Thacker back to forward and bring in a better ball handler at guard. It is worth remembering that Ohio State has an excellent press.

Even match in the West

Should Cincinnati get to the semifinals, it will meet the winner of a scintillating set of games in the West. The four best teams there, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State and Seattle, are similar and evenly matched. Each likes to run with all the determination of Little Eva crossing the ice, and each finds the going slippery if it gets slowed down. Utah State, the Skyline representative because conference winner Utah is ineligible, looks too dogged and slow to thwart Arizona State. Arizona State, in turn, must contend with the West's biggest surprise, UCLA, which impressively defeated three presumably better teams in the Big Five. The Bruins now have the momentum, and in a "take your choice" situation, momentum alone could take them past Arizona State and most likely Oregon State en route to Louisville, where Cincinnati would be a big semifinal hurdle. Too big, in fact.

Who, then, would win a dream game finale between Cincinnati and Ohio State? The two starting sophomores, Bonham and Wilson, detract just a shade from the Bearcat defense, and that little problem at guard is unsolved. Meanwhile, Ohio State has had a year to brood about its offensive difficulty against Cincinnati in the 1961 finals. It isn't likely to fall in with Cincinnati's slow-down style of play and lose that way again. Fred Taylor should be smiling in his bathtub after this one.

PHOTOJERRY LUCAS PHOTOLEN CHAPPELL PHOTOJOHN GREEN PHOTOCOTTON NASH PHOTOMEL COUNTS PHOTOLARRY ARMSTRONG PHOTOROD THORN PHOTONATE THURMOND PHOTO CHART

EIGHT OF THE TOURNAMENT'S BEST

OHIO STATE

Big Ten
W 22 L 1
Coach: Fred Taylor

Ranked No. 1 in the country all season, OSU combines a fast offense with excellent defense. It will break if permitted. Otherwise it quickly sets up plays around Lucas, who would rather feed teammates than shoot. This can hurt team when rest of the attack is off.

WAKE FOREST

Atlantic Coast
W 18 L8
Coach: Bones McKinney

A big team, averaging 6 feet 8 in the forecourt, the Deacons prefer to use a deliberate offense that lets its tall men get set for rebounds. Chappell, a very strong forward, is averaging 31 points a game. The team uses a variety of defenses, but leans to the man-to-man.

UCLA

AAWCU
W 15 L 8
Coach:John Wooden

Consistent scoring from Green at one guard and excellent passing and floor leadership from Walt Hazzard at other guard give UCLAwell-balancedfast-break attack. Determined rebounding by the whole team makes up for lack of height. The biggest problem is a weak bench.

KENTUCKY

Southeastern
W 20 L 2
Coach: Adolph Rupp

Wildcat strength lies in the team's ability to execute Rupp's simple but disciplined patterns. Offense is built around high-scoring Nash in pivot, while Larry Pursiful adds good outside shooting. Defense is not o verwhelming and team can be upset by slowdown tactics.

OREGON STATE

Independent
W 20 L 4
Coach: Slats Gill

Team likes to break fast, with Counts, a 7-footer, getting rebounds that permit running offense. Guards, especially football star Terry Baker, who quarterbacks offense, try to drive up the middle. Outside shooting is poor and defenses which clog the middle cause trouble.

ARIZONA STATE

Border
W 23 L 3
Coach: Ned Wulk

With an explosive fast break, led by Armstrong, the Sun Devils have averaged 90.8 points per game, second highest in the country. Their greatest asset is depth, which wears down opponents. Defense sometimes falters, but sturdy rebounding makes up for lapses.

WEST VIRGINIA

Southern
W 24 L 5
Coach: George King

Injuries have hampered this team. Thorn, the key man in attack, is healthy again, but fellow Guard Jim McCormick may not be ready. Both a fast break and a tight man-to-man defense are used to tire foes. Will go to a full-court press, even when a head, as surprise weapon.

BOWLING GREEN

Mid-American
W 22 L 3
Coach: Harold Anderson

The conference's strongest entry in years, BG uses a pattern offense to set up screens for outside set shots by its accurate guard, Howard Komives, and closer jump shots by Thurmond, a 6-foot-9 center who rebounds well. Team speed is only average, and bench is weak.

NCAA Championship Pairings

EAST REGIONALS

WAKE FOREST
YALE
Philadelphia, March 12

MASSACHUSETTS
NYU
Philadelphia, March 12

WEST VIRGINIA
VILLANOVA
Philadelphia, March 12

MID-ATLANTIC CHAMPION
College Park, Md., March 16

College Park, Md., March 16

College Park, March 17

MIDEAST REGIONALS

BOWLING GREEN
BUTLER
Lexington, Ky., March 12.

WESTERN KENTUCKY
DETROIT
Lexington, Ky., March 12

KENTUCKY
Iowa City, March 16

Iowa City, March 16
OHIO STATE

Iowa City, March 17

MIDWEST REGIONALS

SOUTHWEST CHAMPION
AIR FORCE
Dallas, March 12

CREIGHTON
MEMPHIS STATE
Dallas, March 12

BIG EIGHT CHAMPION
Manhattan, Kans., March 16

Manhattan, Kans., March 16
MISSOURI VALLEY CHAMPION

Manhattan, March 17

WEST REGIONALS

OREGON STATE
SEATTLE
Corvallis, Ore., March 13

ARIZONA STATE
UTAH STATE
Corvallis, Ore., March 13

PEPPERDINE
Provo, Utah, March 16

Provo, Utah, March 16
UCLA

Provo, March 17

Semifinals
Louisville, March 23

Semifinals
Louisville, March 23

FINALS
Louisville, March 24

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)