The NCAA picked up five shiny new conference champions—UCLA (Big Six), Kentucky (Southeastern), San Francisco (West Coast AC), VMI (Southern) and Murray (Ohio Valley)—and had 16 of its 25 teams in the fold.
New York's NIT, forced to forage among the independents and some conference also-rans, still had four spots open after taking in Army (16-6), Miami (20-6) and St. Joseph's (17-8). Other possibilities: Syracuse (15-7), Penn State (14-7), La Salle (16-8), Xavier of Ohio (16-8) and the runners-up in the Missouri Valley and Western AC.
THE TOP THREE:
1. VILLANOVA (21-3)
2. NYU (14-6)
3. DUQUESNE (15-6)
It was a dismal week for most eastern tournament teams. NCAA-bound Providence could not find shooting room against ST. JOSEPH'S alternating 1-2-2 zone and tight man-to-man. What's more, the Friars were unable to handle St. Joe's pesky Steve Courtin. He threw in 23 points and the Hawks upset Providence 67-62. It did not help the Friars' morale either when VILLANOVA, their first-round opponent in the East regionals, beat Marquette 87-64 and Temple 67-60.
NIT teams had their troubles, too. Just when St. Bonaventure was about to catch DUQUESNE, stubby Willie Somerset stole the ball away from the Bonnies' Fred Crawford. Then he stole the game away with nine points in less than two minutes. Duquesne won 86-80. The Dukes, however, tried their luck in the Midwest and got themselves trampled by DE PAUL'S fast break 84-65.
NYU was another victim. The hot-and-cold Violets, leading CREIGHTON by 11 points with 5:33 to go, fell apart as usual when the Blue Jays hit them with a zone press. Chuck Officer threw in 12 points in the last four minutes, including the basket that beat NYU 88-86. Pitt also stumbled, PENN STATE caught the Panthers with their long-range defenses lagging and Pitt went down 78-63.
Army, giving young (27) Coach Tates Locke its best effort of the year, won its way into the NIT by clobbering old rival Navy 74-55. LA SALLE, although beaten by WESTERN KENTUCKY 107-95, was still hoping for an NIT bid after coming back to outgun Utah State 90-85. So was SYRACUSE, which has not had it so good since 1957. The revived Orangemen rattled past Cornell 89-85, Colgate 99-78 and Canisius 81-64.
Princeton's magnificent Bill Bradley gave the Tigers a certain tie in the Ivy League. He scored 64 points (for a new Ivy record) as Princeton took Columbia 78-59 and Cornell 61-55. RHODE ISLAND beat Connecticut 54-53 to force a tie for the Yankee Conference title and a playoff for an NCAA berth.
THE TOP THREE:
1. KENTUCKY (21-3)
2. DUKE (20-4)
3. DAVIDSON (22-4)
A funny thing happened to Davidson on its way to Kansas City. The precocious Wildcats, who had bludgeoned their way through the Southern Conference regular-season schedule, were suddenly nowhere. Instead, VMI, 9-11 going into the conference tournament at Charlotte, won its first championship ever and will represent the Southern in the NCAA East regional. The hustling Keydets were full of surprises. First they beat Furman 77-73, then they shocked Davidson 82-81 on sophomore Charlie Schmauss's basket with 13 seconds to go. This put VMI into the final against GEORGE WASHINGTON, another spoilsport. The Colonials had shocked Virginia Tech 64-62 and West Virginia 88-80. Then with Noodles Blair, a clever little backcourter who was unable to raise his arm to shoot after he injured a back muscle early in the game, directing the traffic, and 6-foot-2 Schmauss zipping in and around weary GW for 19 points and 17 rebounds, VMI beat the Colonials 61-56 for its first winning season in 21 years. "It's the greatest," gushed Coach Weenie Miller.
It was enough to make DUKE a wary bunch of Blue Devils after they thrashed Wake Forest 98-83 and North Carolina 104-69 to finish far ahead of the pack in the Atlantic Coast. But now Duke will have to do it all over again in the conference tournament that begins Thursday in Raleigh.
A man has to get up early in the day to outsmart KENTUCKY'S cagy old Adolph Rupp. After ALABAMA upset his Wildcats 65-59 with a zone defense. The Baron, quite correctly, figured that Tennessee would try to win with a slowdown and a box-and-one on Cotton Nash. So he had Nash act as a decoy. The Vols went for it hook, line and box-and-one. While they chased Nash, who took only one shot and made only five free throws, sharpshooter Tommy Korn bombed them for 17 points. It gave Kentucky a close 42-38 victory and Rupp his 21st Southeastern Conference title. Said Rupp later,"Had Tennessee decided to play basketball, it might have won."
The black magic finally paid off for TULANE, everybody's patsy in the SEC. After 22 straight losses, the Greenies beat LSU 80-68 as Bob Davidson flipped in 29 points and made off with 19 rebounds.
THE TOP THREE:
1. MICHIGAN (19-3)
2. WICHITA (20-5)
3. LOYOLA (19-5)
NCAA teams can take warning. Defending champion LOYOLA (see page 50), warming up for the tournament, was winning big. The quick Ramblers, running, gunning and swarming the boards, rubbed out St. Louis 79-66 and Marshall 117-63.
For a while it was touch and go for Big Ten co-leaders MICHIGAN and OHIO STATE. Illinois was hot on the Wolverines' heels until sophomore Cazzie Russell bailed them out with three deft steals, a timely layup and 28 points in all. Michigan won 89-83. Indiana's Tom Van Arsdale stuck to Ohio State's Gary Bradds like a long-lost brother and held him to 15 points. But Dick Ricketts and Don Devoe got away for 16 points apiece and OSU squeezed through 73-69.
Kansas State, however, was beginning to see daylight in the Big Eight. The Wildcats matched their fast break against Oklahoma's quick break and, with pop-shooter Willie Murrell firing in 23 points, K-State easily won the race 99-70. Second-place Colorado, outmuscled by MISSOURI 89-84, fell two games behind.
Drake's fairy-tale rise from the bottom to the top in the Missouri Valley was complete. The Bulldogs defeated Tulsa 72-63 and St. Louis 56-50 to clinch a tie for first. But WICHITA was still alive, too. The Shockers had trouble when Tulsa cracked their zone in the second half, but Dave Stallworth's 32 points helped them win 98-79. Too late, CINCINNATI was flexing its muscles. Big George Wilson, wheeling and dealing like never before, rattled in 25 points and the 'Cats upset Bradley 64-62. Then they beat North Texas 104-91.
The Mid-American race was down to its last game. OHIO U., an 88-79 winner over Louisville, must beat Toledo on Saturday to avoid a tie with Miami of Ohio.
THE TOP THREE:
1. TEXAS WESTERN (23-2)
2. TEXAS A&M (16-6)
3. TEXAS TECH (14-7)
There is just no place like home in the hurly-burly Southwest Conference. TEXAS A & M, beaten by Texas Tech at Lubbock earlier in the season, made the Raiders pay for that at College Station. With their exuberant cadets raising a frightful din, the Aggies turned Bennie Lennox loose for 21 points and drubbed Tech 82-70. Three nights later, when SMU's 2-1-2 zone defense tied up Lennox, skinny Bill Robinette shot over the Mustangs for 17 points and the Aggies won 75-70 to clinch a tie for the championship.
NCAA tournament teams were finding the going sticky. TEXAS WESTERN bombed New Mexico State 90-54, but the Miners had to beat a late, nagging press to hold off North Texas State 62-56. OKLAHOMA CITY, extremely bearish in a 105-80 romp over Centenary, was surprised by hot-shooting WEST TEXAS STATE and lost 89-80. Houston, too, ended its season on a discouraging and all too familiar note. LOYOLA of New Orleans flushed out the reluctant Cougars with a strong rebounding game and whipped them 64-54. After that, Houston Coach Guy Lewis went right out to recruit a tall boy.
THE TOP THREE:
1. UCLA (24-0)
2. OREGON STATE (25-3)
3. SAN FRANCISCO (19-4)
There was never really any doubt about it, but unbeaten UCLA finally got around to winning the Big Six championship. Washington held the Bruins scoreless for the first 4½ minutes and gave them only a single field goal in the last eight minutes. But in between UCLA worked up enough steam to win 78-64. Then, just when Washington State was beguiled into thinking that the Bruins could at last be had, they were off and running again. Walt Hazzard outslicked the defenseless Cougars with his passes and fakes, he and backcourt sidekick Gail Goodrich shot in 35 points, and UCLA breezed to its 24th straight victory, 93-56.
UCLA'S NCAA rivals, meanwhile, were sharpening their skills. OREGON STATE, puzzled by Oregon's zone, still got the ball to 7-foot Mel Counts often enough for him to score 31 points and the Beavers won at Corvallis 71-68. The next night at Eugene, State came up with a zone of its own in the second half, Counts got 34, and Oregon went down again 85-71. SAN FRANCISCO'S West Coast AC champions scrambled past San Jose State 48-46 and California at Santa Barbara 75-66 for their 15th in a row. SEATTLE, surprised by MONTANA STATE 98-85, recovered to edge Portland 101-99 on Greg Vermillion's last-second shot in overtime.
"I've never had a team 'up' for a game like we are for this one," said Arizona State's Ned Wulk last week. So BRIGHAM YOUNG whacked his Sun Devils 106-90. Said Wulk the next night, "The kids are tired. We're down." So ARIZONA STATE ran over Utah 103-78 to regain the Western AC lead. Concluded Wulk, "My coaching certainly improved overnight."