The NCAA filled its last at-large berth with Oklahoma City (14-9), then sat back to wait for conference champions. UCLA and San Francisco were almost sure winners in the Big Six and West Coast AC, while the Southern and Atlantic Coast champions will be decided in tournaments this weekend and next, but everywhere else the situation was uncertain. Princeton (Ivy), Connecticut (Yankee), Kentucky (Southeastern), Murray (Ohio Valley), Kansas State (Big Eight), Ohio U. (Mid-American), Texas A&M (Southwest) and Arizona State (Western AC) all led their conferences by slim margins; Michigan and Ohio State were tied for first in the Big Ten, as were Drake and Wichita in the Missouri Valley.
New York's NIT picked up St. Bonaventure (15-5) and Duquesne (14-5), still had seven places to fill in its 12-team field.
THE TOP THREE:
1. KENTUCKY (20-2)
2. DUKE (18-4)
3. DAVIDSON (21-3)
A hassle was boiling up in the touchy Southeastern Conference. Georgia Tech's normally calm Whack Hyder, whose Jackets were tied with Kentucky for the SEC lead, blew up when he learned that Auburn had moved its game with Adolph Rupp's Wildcats out of its own Volkswagen-size gym into more spacious quarters at Montgomery where 9,000 fans could pay to watch, thereby giving up its traditional home court advantage. They didn't do it for us, complained Hyder. Retorted Auburn Athletic Director Jeff Beard, "We can draw a big crowd with Kentucky. We don't need a big gym when we play Georgia Tech."
Kentucky, as it turned out, did not need a big gym, either. The Wildcats, who earlier had knocked Vanderbilt out of the race, 104-73, ran shuffling Auburn ragged, 99-79, as Cotton Nash fired in 33 points for a new Kentucky one-season record (586). GEORGIA TECH, meanwhile, after edging Tennessee 47-45, got caught up in the dedication of GEORGIA'S new Coliseum. The usually docile Bulldogs, excited by the largest crowd (13,200) ever to watch a basketball game in Georgia, upset the Jackets 81-68.
As far as the NCAA tournament goes, the regular season play does not count in the Southern or Atlantic Coast conferences—admittedly a silly way to run a basketball season. Now DAVIDSON, which whipped The Citadel 86-78 to finish first in the Southern Conference, will have to do it all over again in the championship tournament beginning Thursday in Charlotte to qualify for the NCAA playoffs. Worse luck, Davidson will have to reckon with a WEST VIRGINIA team that is on the rise. The Mountaineers edged Virginia Tech 79-77 for second place.
Wake Forest's annual late-blooming skills were showing in the ACC. The Deacons took on "unbeatable" Duke at Winston-Salem and shocked the Blue Devils 72-71. Wake Forest also beat Clemson 75-73, while DUKE recovered to whomp Maryland 84-63. All of this, of course, is merely a preliminary to the championship tournament in Raleigh March 5-7.
THE TOP THREE:
1. VILLANOVA (19-3)
2. ST. BONAVENTURE (15-5)
3. NYU (13-5)
Nowhere is a favorite held so lightly as in Philadelphia's rowdydow Big Five. Last week Villanova, sadly, learned this truth again. ST. JOSEPH'S went at the Wildcats with a penetrating attack and a man-to-man to inhibit their shooting. It worked just fine. Steve Courtin, a ball-stealing little whirly-bird, pestered Villanova with 23 points, 5-foot-10 sophomore Billy Oakes held Wally Jones to 10 points, and St. Joe's won 69-63.
St. Bonaventure, beaten by DEPAUL 81-76 in Chicago, did better against Providence in Buffalo. After scrambling from 15 points behind to force a tic, the Bonnies just gave the ball to hustling Fred Crawford in overtime. He eluded the Friars for 10 points to break their 13-game winning streak 79-75.
NYU, Pitt and Duquesne warmed up for the NIT with victories. NYU's free-lancers, led by Happy Hairston and Barry Kramer, trounced Memphis State 95-71 and St. Francis 70-54; Pitt outscored Temple 78-67 and Westminster 92-73; Duquesne clobbered Toledo 98-66 and then overcame Seton Hall 79-77 on Dennis Cuff's two foul shots.
Penn State, feeling 10 feet tall after beating West Virginia, 86-76, for the first time in seven years, was brought up short by ARMY. The Cadets, playing deliberately, put down the Lions 46-37. PRINCETON, with silky-smooth Bill Bradley adding 62 points to his one-season school record (now 757 points), defeated Yale 81-72 and Brown 75-48 and took the Ivy League lead when the Elis turned on Penn 74-64. Another record breaker: BOSTON COLLEGE sophomore John Austin, who flipped in 49 points as the Eagles upset Georgetown 107-92.
THE TOP THREE:
1. MICHIGAN (18-3)
2. WICHITA (19-5)
3. LOYOLA (17-5)
Ohio State, waiting patiently for someone to beat Michigan in the Big Ten, got help from a most unlikely source. MINNESOTA caught the muscular Wolverines flat and whipped them, 89-75. The Gophers got theirs later—from ILLINOIS 86-78—but Ohio State, even without the usual super show from Gary Bradds, downed Iowa 99-82 and Northwestern 72-61 to tie Michigan for first. The Wolverines will probably go to the NCAA tournament anyway. Under Big Ten rules, in the event of a tie the team more recently in the NCAA does not go again. Ohio State last went in 1962, Michigan in 1948.
Just when CINCINNATI rooters were about to give up on the Bearcats, the strangest thing happened. Ron Krick, a disappointing sophomore, came off the bench to score 20 points and Cincy upset Drake 61-55. It threw the surprised Bulldogs into a tie for first in the Missouri Valley with WICHITA, an easy 86-71 winner over St. Louis.
Kansas State won its fifth straight squeaker, over Nebraska 50-48, and grabbed the Big Eight lead when Colorado got upset by IOWA STATE 60-58. Then old rival Kansas succumbed 70-46 to Willie Murrell's hot shooting and strong rebounding.
Loyola, getting ready to defend its championship, was running and scrambling as of last year. Bowling Green's Howie Komives, the nation's leading scorer, rattled in 40 points, but the Ramblers quieted the rest of the Falcons and won 92-83. They also bombed Marquette 99-81. Komives, in a head-to-head match with No. 2 scorer Manny Newsome of Western Michigan, outshot his rival 49-27 in a 101-81 rout.
THE TOP THREE:
1. TEXAS WESTERN (21-2)
2. TEXAS TECH (13-6)
3. TEXAS A&M (14-6)
Oklahoma City, which has been playing poorly (it lost to CREIGHTON 94-77), suddenly hit North Texas State with everything but Coach Abe Lemons' folksy drawl. Bud Koper shot in 50 points as the Chiefs romped 125-88. "We just decided to get more points," explained Lemons, "and Koper kept shooting it a mile."
Trying to stop TEXAS WESTERN'S 6-foot-8 Jim (Bad News) Barnes is not a rewarding task. New Mexico State tried to keep the ball away from him and he scored 35 points as the Miners won 59-42. Five nights later Barnes and Pan-American's celebrated 6-foot-9 Lucious Jackson played each other so closely that they collided and hit the floor together midway in the second half. But Barnes still scored 34 points, and Western won again, 68-57. HOUSTON, pressing hard for an NIT invitation, clobbered Texas Wesleyan 105-77.
The Southwest Conference was down to a two-team race—TEXAS A&M and TEXAS TECH—but neither was scaring anyone. First-place A&M was forced to swallow its pride and go to a late stall to make it past seventh-place Baylor 77-71. Arkansas, too, extended the Aggies before losing 60-57. Tech, only a game behind, fought off last-place TCU 101-94 and SMU 94-83.
THE TOP THREE:
1. UCLA (22-0)
2. OREGON STATE (23-3)
3. SEATTLE (19-4)
Stanford, rolling along smartly ahead of unbeaten UCLA, suddenly found itself fighting for survival. The quick Bruins squeezed their full-court zone press tight and, led by Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, lit into the rattled Indians for 20 points in 2½ minutes. They won going away, 100-88. But there was a message for future UCLA opponents. Stanford's 6-foot-8 Tom Dose shot over 6-foot-5 Fred Slaughter for 38 points.
Oregon State, given the best chance to beat UCLA to Kansas City, had an easy week. With Frank Peters bombing away from outside for 26 points, the Beavers broke Idaho's bothersome zone to win 72-46. The next night Oregon State experimented with a full-court press, and it strangled the Vandals 11 2-62. SEATTLE, State's opponent in the NCAA Western Regionals, hammered Gonzaga 108-88, barely escaped Idaho State 83-82 and won the big one against Utah State 96-94 at Logan, SAN FRANCISCO, another team with UCLA on its mind, led the West Coast AC by three full games after thrashing Pacific 80-59 and St. Mary's 57-49.
New Mexico, disheartened by the news that four transfers, including big Ira Harge, would be ineligible for the NCAA tournament if it won the Western AC title, lost to ARIZONA STATE 47-45 and ARIZONA 54-46. Arizona State, despite 48 points by Wyoming's Flynn Robinson, also beat the Cowboys, 89-80, to take the WAC lead.
Utah was leading BRIGHAM YOUNG by a point when Coach Jack Gardner called time out to warn his team, "Don't foul anybody, but if you do, don't foul Mike Gardner." So the Utes promptly fouled BYU's Gardner three times, he put in six free throws, and the Cougars won 75-72. Milk-guzzling Coach Gardner was so upset he broke his jug of cow juice.