1. PROVIDENCE (17-2)
2. ST. JOSEPH'S (17-4)
3. ST. JOHN'S (14-4)
Little Fairfield, a Jesuit school which sits neatly on 200 acres in Connecticut overlooking Long Island Sound, thought it had a real chance to beat PROVIDENCE—and maybe even a shot at the NIT. Coach George Bisacca's best team in eight years had won 13 in a row before losing and had a 14-2 record. But Providence's Joe Mullaney knew the Stags loved to run, and he figured they would use a rotating offense against his Friars. So, the afternoon of the game, Mullaney came up with a hasty antidote—a 2-3 zone defense rotating against the flow of the offense instead of with it, to keep Fairfield's good shooters and rebounders at long range. It worked beautifully. The defense kept the Stags outside, they shot badly and their fast break never did get going. Providence, meanwhile, attacked deliberately with Jimmy Walker directing the traffic. Dribbling and passing off skillfully, he fed Jim Benedict for 25 points and Bill Blair for 15, scored 17 himself, mostly on his familiar twisting jumpers, and the Friars won easily 74-62.
Providence was even better against St. Bonaventure in Buffalo. Walker scored 26 points, Benedict 18 and the Friars coasted 83-62. "That Walker," marveled Bonnies' Coach Larry Weise. "If we helped out on him he found the open man; if we played him man-to-man he scored. There's nothing you can do but applaud."
February 21, 1966
St. Joseph's, too, never looked so good. The Hawks flew past Seton Hall 110-64 and put down streaking Georgetown 111-73 as Cliff Anderson gave Palestrans an eyeful with a 62-foot shot at the half-time buzzer. ST. JOHN'S had to work harder for its victories. The Redmen edged Temple 75-72 on Bobby McIntyre's jump shot and Hank Cluess' two fouls in overtime and then barely beat tough Army 53-51 when McIntyre swished in a 25-footer in the last second.
Some other tournament hopefuls were also doing well. SYRACUSE'S Dave Bing, switched to front court, picked up 25 rebounds and got 39 points in a 102-85 pasting of Cornell and scored 31 more as the Orange swamped Niagara 103-76. BOSTON COLLEGE beat Massachusetts 101-80 and Fordham 96-86, PENN STATE defeated Kent Slate 94-71 and Navy 66-59 while NYU surprised North Carolina 83-78. But Manhattan lost two squeakers, to HOLY CROSS 68-66 and CANISIUS 87-85.
Rhode Island, a 97-77 winner over Vermont, was out in front in the Yankee Conference, but PRINCETON, COLUMBIA and PENN were all still tied for the Ivy lead.
1. KENTUCKY (19-0)
2. DUKE (17-2)
3. VANDERBILT (17-3)
"It's crazy," admitted Bucky Waters, WEST VIRGINIA'S rookie coach, "but I say we can win." That was just before his young Mountaineers played Duke at Charleston. Most people figured that Waters, who used to be Vic Bubas' assistant at Duke, was simply the victim of his own enthusiasm, and it looked that way when the running Blue Devils, pressing hard, shot ahead 31-12. But sophomores Ron Williams and Bill Ryczaj got West Virginia back in the game by half time. Then Waters sent his quick little "gangbusters"—John Cavacini, Gary Shaffer and Williams—after Duke with a full-court press. The rusty Blue Devils began to make errors, Johnny Lesher fired away until he had 28 points, and the Mountaineers broke Duke's 13-game streak 94-90.
The rest of West Virginia's week was even crazier. The Mountaineers were upset by RICHMOND 84-82 in the last seconds and by MARYLAND 107-92 on the road. That gave the Southern Conference regular-season title to DAVIDSON, which earlier beat Richmond 80-74 and then trampled NYU 75-59. DUKE, however, came back strong. Although playing without their quarterback, Steve Vacendak, who was out with a bruised heel, the Blue Devils managed to get away from North Carolina State's "junto" press—a combination zone and man-to-man—to win 78-74. Two nights later, with starters Bob Verga and Bob Reidy benched for violating curfew, Duke smashed Virginia 81-55.
Kentucky's wily old Adolph Rupp was enjoying himself immensely. His unbeaten Wildcats, playing their fifth game in 10 nights, took taller Florida 85-75 and then whipped Auburn 77-64. What tickled The Baron most was the superb shooting of Pat Riley, Louie Dampier and Thad Jaracz. "It's a pleasure just to watch these guys," he chortled. "They have been sensational, fantastic."
The rest of the SEC was merely hopeful. GEORGIA knocked Mississippi State out of the race 83-71, while second-place VANDERBILT had trouble beating Alabama 71-63. TENNESSEE, also out of it but looking better, trounced Georgia 100-71 and Tulane 90-70 for its eighth straight.
Western Kentucky was all alone in the Ohio Valley, too. The smart Hilltoppers licked Austin Peay 94-67 and East Tennessee 96-79. VIRGINIA TECH, now 16-4 and pushing hard for a tournament bid, beat Wake Forest 110-85 and North Carolina 81-75.
1. KANSAS (16-3)
2. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (17-2)
3. MICHIGAN (13-5)
Michigan's Dave Strack sent his Wolves out to press and run from the start against Wisconsin, and the poor Badgers got trampled in the rush. Cazzie Russell, who scored 36 points, and his fast friends buried Wisconsin 120-102. What made it even nicer was that Michigan's closest challengers fell, leaving the Wolves alone in the Big Ten lead. MINNESOTA upset Michigan State 81-77 while Illinois was shocked by NORTHWESTERN 80-77 and INDIANA 81-77, and at Champaign, too.
Life in the Missouri Valley was just a series of surprises. For example, when Loyola of Chicago got to WICHITA STATE, the Ramblers expected to be hit with the Shockers' usual aggressive zone press. Instead, Wichita State retreated into a cozy zone to take advantage of Loyola's weakened backcourt. It was so effective, along with Warren Armstrong's 25-point shooting, that the Shockers won 92-84. But Wichita State fell apart at CINCINNATI. Roland West and Don Rolfes shot the Shockers dizzy and Cincy won 93-76. Back home again, Wichita State perked up to beat Louisville 102-87.
Cincinnati took over the MVC lead when TULSA upset Bradley 84-79—at Tulsa, of course—and the Bearcats defeated Drake 60-47. But ST. LOUIS, only a game behind, was coming on fast. The Bills, with 6-foot-7 sophomore Gene Moore blocking shots and rebounding like Bill Russell, won twice on the road, over Tulsa 69-63 and North Texas State 94-92.
The Big Eight was ready for the stretch run. KANSAS had Jo-Jo White, KANSAS STATE was going without 7-foot-1 Nick Pino and NEBRASKA, the leader, was just worried. Kansas swarmed Oklahoma State when the cautious Cowboys got to midcourt, and they panicked. Jo-Jo hit his first shot, made eight steals, and the Jayhawks won 59-38. K-State, with sophomore Earl Seyfert replacing Pino at center, beat Oklahoma State 50-44 and Colorado 65-55. Nebraska won twice, over Oklahoma 85-81 and Iowa State 81-70.
The Mid-American race was down to two teams—MIAMI of Ohio, 9-1, and TOLEDO, 6-1—after they took turns whipping Ohio U. and Western Michigan, DAYTON, with big Henry Finkel and sophomore Donnie May scoring heavily, beat Murray State 99-86, Xavier 76-73 and Memphis State 90-77. But DETROIT, after edging St. Bonaventure 89-84, suffered a true indignity, NOTRE DAME, coming off a 13-game losing streak, humiliated the Titans 76-67.
1. TEXAS WESTERN (18-0)
2. HOUSTON (17-4)
3. OKLAHOMA CITY (18-3)
"Being ranked No. 4 has the kids awful tight," remarked TEXAS WESTERN'S Don Haskins. And just to prove it, the unbeaten Miners got carried into overtime by both Arizona and New Mexico. They beat Arizona 81-72 but New Mexico, ahead by 20 points with only 13 minutes to go at Albuquerque, was tougher. Somehow, Western pulled through. Its helping man-to-man defense forced the Lobos into errors, little Bobby Joe Hill drove past them for 10 points and, finally, lanky Nevil Shed tied the score. Hill put in six more points in overtime and Texas Western won it 67-64. "We had our 'gut check,' " said Haskins proudly.
Houston had a breeze, belting Centenary 125-96 and Southwestern 140-87. Against Southwestern big Elvin Hayes scored 55 points and grabbed 30 rebounds. But OKLAHOMA CITY had to work overtime to beat Nebraska 85-81, going ahead on Jerry Lee Wells's 25-foot jumper with four seconds to go. "If he'd missed that shot I would have killed him," said Coach Abe Lemons.
Texas A&M, coasting serenely along atop the SWC heap after beating Texas Tech 77-71, suddenly got bombed by TEXAS 110—82. Now SMU, which clobbered Baylor 95-65 and Rice 99-79, had a chance at the title.
1. SAN FRANCISCO (16-3)
2. BRIGHAM YOUNG (14-3)
3. UTAH (17-4)
For UCLA it all comes down to Friday night, when the Bruins meet AAWU leader Oregon State in Corvallis. They are a game behind the Beavers, and a loss would eliminate any chance for a third national title. Prepping for the showdown, UCLA won impressively 89-67 at Washington, 88-61 back home against Washington State and 100-71 over Washington again. OREGON STATE defeated California 63-50 and Stanford 63-57 and, according to rival coaches, is not just playing top banana for laughs. Though embarrassed by UCLA earlier 79-35, the Beavers will be tough this time. Southern California, although going nowhere, had the AAWU's top scorer in 6-foot-9 John Block. He got 45 points in a 76-73 loss to WASHINGTON and 30 more as the Trojans beat Washington State 75-72.
The WCAC thought it had a sure winner when Pacific was knocked off by SANTA CLARA 78-72, leaving San Francisco alone at the top. But the Dons were not equal to catching PACIFIC on the rebound in Stockton. Joe Ellis scored only 12 points, and Pacific broke San Francisco's 13-game winning streak 88-78.
Brigham Young rallied from nine points back to beat Utah State 96-88, then romped by Denver 102-76. UTAH, slowed momentarily by Hawaii, won 85-50. The Utes also humbled New Mexico State 131-94 and Utah State 127-88.