The preliminaries were over in major college basketball's NCAA tournament. Among the surprises along the way were Kentucky's embarrassment by Ohio U. in Minneapolis and Wichita's loss to Kansas State in Wichita. Awaiting the semifinals in Kansas City were Duke, Michigan, Kansas State and unbeaten UCLA (see page 18).
The National Invitation Tournament also was heading toward a hectic final round Saturday in New York's Madison Square Garden. While DUQUESNE and NEW MEXICO waited patiently for their opening quarter-final games Tuesday, second-seeded BRADLEY and unseeded NYU moved into the semifinals.
The biggest surprise was NYU. All season long the caliber of the Violets' performance had been up and down like an automated elevator. There were rumors of dissension on the squad and the players had been pilloried and taunted by a legion of critics. But last week NYU suddenly was the darling of the Garden galleries again. For once there was some semblance of order in the attack against Syracuse. After some typically bad moments with their old nemesis, the full-court press, and Syracuse sophomore Dave Bing's superb jump-shooting (he scored 31 points), the Violets got together. They moved the ball purposefully, Happy Hairston and Barry Kramer teamed up for 49 points, and NYU won 77-68.
Two nights later NYU was its old confused self for a while against top-seeded De Paul. Coach Ray Meyer, who coyly admitted that he had "heard about their troubles with a press," went at the Violets from the start with a smothering all-over defense. NYU fumbled, bumbled and threw the ball away, and the fast-breaking Blue Demons, led by Guards Jim Murphy and Dennis Freund, were ahead 43-37 at half time. It was time for a desperate measure, and NYU Coach Lou Rossini took it. He benched Guard Gene Fisch for sophomore Carlton Rooks, a less seasoned but more stable ball handler, moved Kramer to backcourt and Bob Patton up front. Almost immediately the Violets began to bloom. Hairston snatched rebounds away from De Paul's 6-foot-10 Dave Mills, Kramer broke the press with his dribbling, and eight straight points put the New Yorkers back in the ball game. After that all the Violets played like old friends. Hairston scored 28 points, Kramer 23 and De Paul went down 79-66.
For a while ST. JOSEPH'S looked like a team that could give the favorites big trouble. Miami, despite its hot-shooting and free-running reputation, never once got its fast break off the ground against the hustling Hawks. Slick Rick Barry, the pride of the Hurricanes and an excellent shooter, managed 35 points, but Steve Courtin, a bull-necked little guy with a flair for the jump shot, poured in 30, and St. Joe's romped 86-76.
St. Joseph's, however, stumbled over a good BRADLEY team 83-81 Saturday night in the quarter-finals. Courtin got 31 points but, while the Hawks busied themselves moving in and out of a variety of zone and man-to-man defenses, Levern Tart and Ernie Thompson concentrated on their shooting to force a 79-79 tie with 1:33 to go. Then Coach Chuck Orsborn put Joe Strawder, a 6-foot-9 stringbean who had languished on the bench with four fouls for 14½ minutes of the second half, back in the game. It was a good move. Strawder dropped in a free throw and, with eight seconds left, tipped in a rebound for the winning basket.
Army and DRAKE also scored first-round victories. The young but ambitious Cadets, all fired up for the NIT, took St. Bonaventure right down to the wire and then upset the shocked Bonnies 64-62 when Joe Kosciusko, a tough 6-foot-1 backcourt man, muscled his way up to bat in a rebound at the buzzer. That wasn't the only shock the Bonnies got. They were appalled when sophomore Dick Murray held Fred Crawford to a mere six points in the first half. Not even Miles Aiken's 30 points could make up for that lapse. Army was shaken a bit when the Bonnies went to a full-court press to build a 56-47 lead, but Mike Silliman, a smooth 6-foot-6 soph from Louisville who got away from Kentucky's Adolph Rupp, rallied the West Pointers into a tie in the closing minutes. Then came Kosciusko's big field goal.
Drake, the Missouri Valley co-champion, took Pitt 87-82, but the Bulldogs rarely have had it tougher, not even in their own bruising conference. They had to survive 30 points by Pitt's Brian Generalovich, a 6-foot-4 burly boy who slammed around the court like a bull in a china shop, pulling down rebounds and firing in jump shots. Only some expert foul shooting (13 for 14) and 27 points by Gene West, and some strong board work by McCoy McLemore saved the day for Drake.
THE SMALL COLLEGES
Just as enthusiastic about their own postseason honors, the smaller colleges were busy settling claims in championship tournaments in Evansville and Kansas City. In Evansville 31,915, a tournament record, jammed handsome Roberts Memorial Stadium for the three-night NCAA college division playoffs. They applauded everybody else politely but raised the roof when their home-town EVANSVILLE Aces, a hard-driving, tough-defending team that was ranked No. 1 among small colleges this season, drubbed Cal Poly of Pomona 95-73 and State College of Iowa 82-67.
That brought the Aces to a showdown with Akron, which had beaten Hofstra 77-58 and North Carolina A&T 57-48 on the way to the finals. The Zips, as they are called back in Ohio, were rangy enough to give Evansville a tussle off the boards, and they played a tight zone defense that troubled most other teams. But it was no trouble at all for the Aces. Buster Briley, a hot-handed shooter, scattered Akron's zone with four baskets in the first two minutes, and then Jerry Sloan, a deft ball-handling guard, dazzled the Zips with his fancy moves. Evansville won 72-59 for its 21st straight and third championship in eight years.
At Kansas City 10,000 home-towners were hopeful but not overly optimistic when their ROCKHURST team went up against Pan American in the NAIA final. Pan Am's Lucious Jackson, a 6-foot-9 center with a habit of scoring points in streaks and snapping up every rebound in sight, had been terrorizing the field. Rockhurst Coach Joe Brehmer, whose team had managed to squeeze past four opponents with the help of some skintight guarding, knew that defense was his only weapon against Pan Am's jumping jacks. So he planned accordingly. First, Jim Selzer, a defensive specialist, had a go at Jackson and he managed him quite well for 12 minutes. Then regular center Pat Caldwell, a rugged 6-foot-6, came in to finish the job. Jackson, who had averaged 28 points, got only one field goal in the second half, a mere 11 points in the game, and Rockhurst won its first title, 66-56.