Despite Michigan's presence as the favorite, the NCAA tournament was full of hopeful challengers for the national championship (page 24). Defending champion UCLA, Oklahoma State and St. Joseph's were most likely to join the Wolverines in Portland, Ore. for the semifinals.
New York's NIT, meanwhile, had an impressive 14-team field for the tournament that begins Thursday in Madison Square Garden. If there was a favorite it was Villanova (21-4), seeded No. 1 ahead of New Mexico (19-7), but almost everybody else had a chance to win. The first-round pairings: Thursday—Texas Western (17-8) vs. Manhattan (12-8) and Boston College (21-6) vs. St. John's (17-8); Saturday—Western Kentucky (17-8) vs. Fordham (15-11), Army (18-7) vs. St. Louis (18-8), Detroit (19-7) vs. La Salle (15-7) and Bradley (18-8) vs. NYU (14-8).
The small colleges, too, were poised for championship tournaments. Thirty-two teams were in Kansas City for six days of play that will decide the NAIA title, while the NCAA college division, down to eight teams after regional playoffs, was ready for the showdown in Evansville, Ind. The survivors: Evansville (26-0), Philadelphia Textile (24-3), St. Michael's of Vermont (19-5), North Dakota (24-4), Akron (20-6), Southern Illinois (18-5), Washington of St. Louis (18-5) and Seattle Pacific (22-6).
THE TOP THREE:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (25-1)
2. VILLANOVA (21-4)
3. PROVIDENCE (22-1)
It was like old times in New York's Madison Square Garden last week as 18,178 jammed the place to watch the city's Big Four in a doubleheader. FORDHAM, the hottest team in town, went at a slick passing and shooting Manhattan bunch with the same aggressive 2-3 zone defense that had brought it nine wins in its last 11 games, and that stopped the Jaspers. Len Zandy flipped in three points with 17 seconds to go to win for the Rams 67-65. ST. JOHN'S, eight points behind NYU with 13 minutes to play, got its lift from Kenny McIntyre. He poured in 24 points in the second half, six in a row at the end, and the Redmen won 70-66.
The East's other tournament teams were also busy sharpening their games, ST. JOSEPH'S beat St. Bonaventure 95-87; VILLANOVA routed Seton Hall 84-63 and then sneaked past Marquette 73-69; PROVIDENCE swamped Massachusetts 102-75 and Brown 90-65; PENN STATE completed its best season ever by defeating Rutgers 88-75; BOSTON COLLEGE outlasted Northeastern's slowdown 56-51 and then outran Holy Cross 111-89; CONNECTICUT rolled over Colgate 101-66 and Rhode Island 88-73 for its 15th straight; PRINCETON'S Ivy League champions beat Penn 81-71.
THE TOP THREE:
1. VANDERBILT (22-3)
2. N. CAROLINA STATE (20-4)
3. DAVIDSON (24-2)
North Carolina State's Press Maravich, by nature an effusive man, was nearly delirious with joy after his team, which finished second in the regular season, upset first-place Duke 91-85 in the Atlantic Coast tournament final at Raleigh. He was especially happy with Larry Worsley, a lanky 6-foot-5 junior who came off the bench to shoot the Blue Devils silly. Duke tried to stop him with a box-and-one, a 1-3-1 zone and even a pressure man-to-man, but Worsley, whirling skillfully away from his tormentors, scored 30 points. How would Maravich describe his team? "Dobro, dobro," he said in his best Serbian. English translation: "Excellent, excellent."
Vanderbilt was home free in the Southeastern after FLORIDA upset Tennessee 58-56. Vandy simply throttled Auburn 79-64 and Tulane 85-62 to win the title.
THE TOP THREE:
1. MICHIGAN (21-2)
2. MINNESOTA (18-5)
3. ILLINOIS (17-6)
For a long time MICHIGAN had to be satisfied with an occasional piece of the Big Ten championship. Last week the showy Wolverines got it all for the first time in 17 years. But it was not easy. Minnesota kept coming at them relentlessly and even led by five points with 6½ minutes to go. It took a typical Michigan rally—big shots by Bill Buntin, Cazzie Russell and Oliver Darden—to fight off the second-place Gophers 88-85. "That was no place for a craven kid today," gushed Coach Dave Strack. "I'm just exuberant."
Some folks think that OKLAHOMA STATE'S patient Hank Iba invented deliberate basketball. If he did not, he must surely know more about how to play it than any other coach. Last Saturday his carefully disciplined Cowboys took only 37 shots against Kansas and made 20 of them and it earned Oklahoma State a 64-58 victory over the Jayhawks for Iba's first Big Eight title.
Wichita State's Missouri Valley champions played a control game, too, but more out of fear than anything else. The Shockers are just reluctant to trade shots with anyone these days. They got past Tulsa 59-48 and Drake 76-64 in overtime, but in between LOUISVILLE caught Wichita with its defenses lagging and beat the Shockers 79-70. It could be that BRADLEY is now the best team in the conference. Ernie Thompson's 25 points led the Braves on a 62% shooting tear as they edged St. Louis 94-91 in overtime to tie the Bills for second place.
Ohio U. routed Toledo 87-61 to tie Miami of Ohio for the Mid-American championship.
THE TOP THREE:
1. OKLAHOMA CITY (19-9)
2. HOUSTON (18-8)
3. TEXAS TECH (17-6)
Given a rare chance when Texas Tech, an unyielding leader for most of the season, withdrew from championship consideration after discovering that one of its players was ineligible, runner-up SMU had the Southwest Conference title in its grasp last week and then almost blew it. The jittery Ponies lost to TEXAS A&M 94-81 but recovered in time to beat Arkansas 88-75. TEXAS, meanwhile, took TCU 84-63 and Baylor 79-75 to finish in a tie with SMU for the "official" championship.
Texas Tech, despite its misfortune, went on to beat Arkansas 87-80 and Texas A&M 98-73 for a 12-2 league record. But all it got the frustrated Raiders was some hometown sympathy and a $300 trophy, presented to them by students and fans "for their fighting spirit." It was nice, but Tech's crestfallen players would have preferred the conference title.
THE TOP THREE:
1. UCLA (24-2)
2. BRIGHAM YOUNG (21-5)
3. SAN FRANCISCO (23-4)
Western scouts who infiltrated the jammed Los Angeles Sports Arena last weekend to watch UCLA'S fearsome zone press at work came away disappointed. Not once did Coach Johnny Wooden employ his favorite weapon. Without it, the Bruins bumbled their way past USC 77-71 Friday night before 14,571—the largest crowd ever to watch a college game in Los Angeles—then barely beat the Trojans 52-50 Saturday on Gail Goodrich's jump shot in the closing minutes. But Wooden was satisfied. "I just didn't want to give anyone the opportunity to personally analyze our press," he explained.
Brigham young's Stan Watts, who normally regards defense as a form of passive resistance, played it even looser than usual against New Mexico. His three big men just jammed the middle while his guards got on their marks for the break. It worked beautifully and BYU beat the Lobos 70-67. But the Cougars had already clinched the Western AC title the night before, smashing Wyoming 102-87, while UTAH was upsetting New Mexico 78-76 at Salt Lake City.
San Francisco, warming up for the NCAA regional at Provo, trounced Pepperdine 100-76 and Loyola of Los Angeles 100-72.