For the basketball fan there was no doubt that it was Christmastime. The wreaths were up the stores were filled, Arizona State was in Buffalo, Tennessee in El Paso and Iowa in Portland. The latter examples were evidence, of course, of the intersectional diversions that signal the holidays.

The situation was no better exemplified than in Philadelphia where Roman Catholic and Mormon battled for Quaker City Tournament honors. Paced by its newest starter, 6-foot Steve Courtin, St. Joseph's was a 76-64 winner over Brigham Young, a surprise finalist. The Main Line reception was somewhat different for favored Bowling Green, which arrived unbeaten and left with two losses and a virus.

To New York's Holiday Festival, Illinois Coach Harry Combes brought his bright-red socks and his perfect orange-and-blue record. The Mini got the record, anyway, cleanly back to Champaign. Illinois finished with a flourish, outscoring West Virginia 25-5 to come from behind and win 92-74. The semifinal opponent, NYU—and more specifically, Barry Kramer—gave Illinois the greatest trouble. Kramer, the tourney MVP, scored 42 in that loss, 49 more in two wins, to lead the Violets to third place.

Penn and Princeton, the class of the Ivies, both lost for the first time—Penn 66-98 to Illinois and Princeton 74-85 to Duke. Niagara, unbeaten and happy that way, took Christmas vacation to heart and took Christmas vacation. The top three:

1. ST. JOSEPH'S (8-2)
2. PRINCETON (7-1)
3. NYU (5-2)


For Dixie's proudest, the holidays were rugged first and festive second. Not only were there icicles in the orange groves, there was a rash of fratricidal upsets that cut the list of the major unbeaten to three—Auburn, Georgia Tech and Miami. And even though all three proved themselves with tournament victories, none exactly trampled the opposition. Auburn, for instance, needed overtime to squeak by Houston for the Sugar Bowl title (.sec page 46), while Tech won the Gator Bowl with a two-point conquest of Florida after a one-point defeat of Virginia Tech.

Miami, 8-0 and conqueror of Duke 71-69, avenged itself and the Chamber of Commerce by taking care of two other Yankee invaders, Cornell and Pitt, to win the Hurricane Classic. It wasn't easy, though. Miami had to make 28 of 31 from the foul line to beat the Panthers 86-85 in the finals. LSU, a pre-Christmas 74-73 victor over Houston, took third. At Greenville, S.C., Vanderbilt had only a three-point victory margin as it won the Poinsettia Classic, edging Clemson 60-58 and Furman 69-68.

Virginia Tech learned how the better half lives and loses. Masters of Mississippi State and Kentucky, it lost three straight. Also returning to reality was Davidson—Cinderella against Duke (72-69) but then pumpkin against Cincinnati (46-72).

Obviously, some of the southern elite had to be winning. One was Kentucky, which bounced back from a 68-66 loss to North Carolina to win its own Kentucky Invitational from West Virginia, a defeat that made the Mountaineers big Christmas bridesmaids—they finished second in two tournaments. Bah. Humbug. The top three:

1. AUBURN (8-0)
2. KENTUCKY (7-2)


It was one of those nights when Kansas beat Kansas State 90-88 in the Big Eight Tournament final; a game that was tied 22 times and went into four overtimes. Kansas Guard Nolen Ellison played all 60 minutes, totaled 32 points and twice scored overtime tying points, feats all the more impressive since he was getting married the next day. The winning basket was scored with three seconds left by Jay Roberts who was averaging 1.3 and was not supposed to shoot. "He's not our best player, but he can accommodate," Coach Dick Harp said.

In Oklahoma City, Loyola of Chicago didn't expect or get the stiffest of competition in the All-College Tournament, and Arkansas, Memphis State and Wyoming recorded no more than moral victories in holding Loyola under 100 points. Like good hosts, Marquette lost the Marquette Classic to Wisconsin 70-56 and Detroit the Motor City Tournament to DePaul 82-77.

Big Ten contender Michigan took four straight over the scattered likes of San Jose, Houston, Texas A&M and Yale, but Ohio State tumbled 71-54 at Wichita.

Cincinnati won three more, of course. The top three:

2. ILLINOIS (8-0)
3. WICHITA (9-2)


Arizona State rallied against both Rhode Island and previously unbeaten Canisius to carry home the Queen City Invitational championship from Buffalo. With Houston losing close ones and most of the Southwest teams losing them all, the Buffalo victory was a big one.

Texas remained the biggest disappointment. The Longhorns lost to California and Stanford on the Coast, beat Denver, then fell 45-40 to Texas Western in the Sun Carnival final. Texas A&M gained some measure of intersectional pride by edging Virginia 60-59 in the Arkansas State Tournament.

Among surprises were New Mexico's 56-46 bombing of Colorado State and Southern Methodist's form reversal that suddenly produced five straight wins, including a 73-71 victory over Tulsa. The top three:

2. HOUSTON (7-4)
3. TEXAS A&M (7-2)


In the two big Coast tournaments, simply named the Far West Classic and the Los Angeles Classic (in supposedly more sedate regions it would be something like the City of Angels Carnival), Oregon State and UCLA just as simply triumphed on the basis of all-round ability. Making up for an earlier loss to Colorado State, UCLA beat the Rams in the LA finals 68-64, outrunning, outrebounding (58-42) and—thanks to Walt Hazzard—outpassing them. "I think he has eyes on all sides," said Colorado State Coach Jim Williams, whose own star, tourney MVP Bill Green, received just as much acclaim. Third place was a foreign affair, St. Louis over Northwestern, as previously undefeated Stanford and Southern California each lost twice.

Oregon State won in Portland over Iowa 64-57. These two teams are like a vaudeville act, touring the country. The week before they were tangling for third place in the Kentucky Invitational. The Beavers won that one, too, 61-55. Back in Oregon, Mel Counts was the story in the final with 35 points and 24 rebounds. But on the way to OSU's seventh straight Far West title, Counts was no more than a decoy against Idaho. Terry Baker {see pane 16) stole the show against California, eventual third-place finisher. He ran off 10 straight to break the game open, and held dangerous Don Lauer scoreless.

In the West Coast Athletic Conference Tourney, San Jose held Steve Gray to four field goals and beat St. Mary's 55-51. The top three:

1. UCLA (10-2)