For the first time in eight years the defending champion was not in the NCAA tournament. UCLA was out of it and Kentucky was the favorite (page 32), but nearly every other team had a chance to get to the semifinals in College Park, Md.
New York's NIT also had a well-balanced group for the tournament that begins Thursday in Madison Square Garden. Brigham Young (17-5) was seeded No. 1, Wichita State (17-9) No. 2, and everybody else was hopeful. The first-round pairings: Thursday—Temple (20-6) vs. Virginia Tech (19-4), and NYU (15-9) vs. DePaul (19-7); Saturday—Penn State (18-5) vs. San Francisco (21-5), St. John's (18-7) vs. Villanova (15-10), Army (16-6) vs. Manhattan (13-8) and Boston College (20-4) vs. Louisville (16-9).
The small colleges were ready to decide their national championships, too. Thirty-two teams were gathered in Kansas City for the six days of eliminations that will settle the NAIA title, while the NCAA college division, down to eight teams after regional playoffs, was set for the showdown in Evansville, Ind.
March 14, 1966
1. KANSAS (21-3)
2. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (22-2)
3. MICHIGAN (17-6)
Cazzie Russell, who jiggles around a basketball court like a nervous discoth√®que dancer, was talking about tension in the locker room in MICHIGAN'S musty old Yost Field House before the game with Northwestern last Saturday afternoon. The Wolves had beaten Iowa 103-88 earlier in the week and were only a game ahead of surprising Michigan State in the Big Ten race. "It wasn't even this bad playing for the NCAA championship," said Cazzie. "I woke up at 6 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. So I shined my shoes." Then came word that INDIANA had upset Michigan State 86-76 at Bloomington. Cazzie—now as loose as a bowl of strawberry jelly—and his snazzy Michigan friends polished off Northwestern 105-92 to win the conference title. Whirling in spectacular jumpers, hooks and layups Russell scored 48 points for a new Michigan record.
Michigan State's run, while it lasted, was superb. The Spartans, playing Coach John Benington's style—precise, controlled offense and tough, grasping defense—came up from the cellar to clinch a tie for second by beating Ohio State 98-79. Only ILLINOIS, which outshot Purdue 98-81 and Iowa 106-90, had a chance to catch State. About all last-place Purdue had left to cheer was the shooting of Dave Schellhase, the nation's scoring leader with 32.6 points a game. Schellhase got 38 against Illinois and 29 as the Boilermakers lost to WISCONSIN 69-68.
With a game to go, KANSAS was sitting pretty in the Big Eight. NEBRASKA had drawn even with the Jayhawkers after whipping Kansas State 79-69, but COLORADO caught the Huskers at Boulder and upset them 95-88 as Chuck Gardner threw in 42 points. Kansas, however, suffered some anxious moments at Manhattan. Kansas State, spreading its offense wide to fight off the Jayhawkers' smothering half-court press, led Kansas after 15 minutes. Then all at once the Wildcat defenses broke down. Walt Wesley, Al Lopes, Jo-Jo White and Rodger Bohnenstiehl got away for easy shots, and the Jayhawkers won 68-55.
Cincinnati, the Missouri Valley champ, squeezed past Xavier 67-62, but the fight for second ended in a tie when BRADLEY tumbled St. Louis 72-68 and WICHITA STATE beat North Texas 112-79 and Tulsa 81-79 in double overtime. Some independents, meanwhile, were busy sharpening their skills for tournaments, LOYOLA OF CHICAGO crushed Bowling Green 109-70, and DAYTON hammered Detroit 109-80. But DePaul lost to VILLANOVA 76-73.
1. OREGON STATE (20-6)
2. UTAH (21-6)
3. PACIFIC (20-4)
The king was dead in the AAWU, but UCLA expired with one last hurrah—a double drubbing of crosstown rival Southern California 94-79 and 99-62. OREGON STATE was the new champion. The disciplined Beavers, who tantalize opponents with their deliberate offense and close man-to-man defense, clinched a tie by downing Washington 54-43, and then they whipped Oregon twice, 49-42 and 68-54, to put away the big prize.
Pacific got caught up in a barn-burner before it took the West Coast AC title away from San Francisco. San Jose State thought it had the Tigers licked 63-61, when John Keating calmly plopped in two foul shots with one second to go. But Dave Fox threw an inbounds pass the length of the court and Bob Krulish deflected it to teammate Keith Swagerty, who whirled and banked in a jumper at the buzzer. That tied the score, and San Francisco's Pete Peletta, listening to the game at home, smashed his radio with one kick. He never even heard the overtime in which Pacific won the game 77-73. But it didn't really matter. San Francisco lost to LOYOLA OF LOS ANGELES 78-68, and it was all over.
Utah's Jack Gardner really appreciated NEW MEXICO'S 83-69 thumping of Arizona. As it turned out, that gave his Redskins the Western AC title because the next night second-place BRIGHAM YOUNG outran and outshot Utah 115-100 at Provo, despite 48 points by Jerry Chambers. Texas Western, however, had nothing to be grateful for. The unbeaten Miners, in a screamer with SEATTLE, came away empty-handed for the first time this year. Tom Workman's jump shot, with 53 seconds to go, beat Western 74-72.
1. KENTUCKY (23-1)
2. DUKE (23-3)
3. VANDERBILT (22-4)
Duke was 12-2 in the ACC during the season and won the title by three games. But then came the silly, hazardous postseason tournament that determined the NCAA representative, and everybody was eager for another shot at the champ. The Blue Devils were ready for everything. And they got it. Wake Forest ran and lost 103-73. North Carolina walked—well, almost—and lost 21-20 when Mike Lewis scored a free throw with four seconds left. Then North Carolina State, the team that had upset Duke in last year's final, stepped up to challenge. Possibly shaken by the previous night's fiasco, Duke had trouble with the State press, was off in its shooting and trailed 62-56 with seven minutes to go. But then the muscle came through. Steve Vacendak hit two clutch baskets, Lewis and Jack Marin cleared all rebounds and Duke skimmed by 71-66. "Never has a team deserved this championship more," said Vic Bubas.
Kentucky possibly had the monkey off its back when TENNESSEE, with fine efforts from Ron Widby and Red Robbins, stopped the Wildcats' bid for an undefeated season. Widby got 22 points from outside, Robbins 18 inside and Tennessee won 69-62. In Nashville, the mayor made Vanderbilt's Clyde Lee an official city ambassador, the school retired his number and everyone forgot about MISSISSIPPI STATE. Which the Bulldogs liked just fine. They upset Vandy 92-90, celebrant Lee getting 18 points and 21 rebounds. In victories over Middle Tennessee, 81-47, and Austin Peay, 76-63 WESTERN KENTUCKY rested its regulars for NCAA play.
1. TEXAS WESTERN (23-1)
2. HOUSTON (21-5)
3. OKLAHOMA CITY (24-4)
Not even a loyal alumnus would have given a plugged nickel for SOUTHERN METHODIST'S chances in the Southwest Conference in January. The Mustangs had lost three of their first four league games. Then, led by Charlie Beasley, a slick shooter, SMU won 10 in a row to tie Texas A&M for first. But the wins were coming harder lately. Only last Monday the Mustangs barely beat Texas Christian 100-96 in overtime. Thursday night they were muddling along three points behind Texas Tech in Dallas' jam-packed Moody Coliseum when Baseball Coach Bob Finley, the public-address announcer, thoughtfully blared out the news that ARKANSAS had just blistered A&M 94-71 in Fayetteville. That did it. The crowd of 9,500 went wild, and SMU came alive. The Mustangs rattled in seven points in the next 50 seconds to go ahead, and Beasley, who scored 28, led them to a 99-89 victory and the SWC title. "How sweet it is," gushed Coach Doc Hayes.
Houston and Oklahoma City, meanwhile, warmed up for the NCAA playoffs. Houston buried Loyola of New Orleans 103-77, and the Chiefs ran over Centenary 121-90.
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (22-4)
2. SYRACUSE (21-5)
3. PROVIDENCE (22-4)
While ST. JOSEPH'S loyal partisans filled the Palestra with an eerie chant—"revenge, revenge, revenge"—the Hawks went after Providence with just about everything in Coach Jack Ramsay's book. They shifted in and out of a zone press, man-to-man, 3-2 zone and 1-3 zone with a chaser. Husky Tom Duff and leaper Cliff Anderson crashed the boards for 29 rebounds, and St. Joe's had the Friars on the run early. Providence's Jimmy Walker tried to crack the Hawk defenses by passing off to the open man, but the Friars missed their shots. When he moved inside to rebound his team had trouble getting the ball to him. Walker managed 23 points, but Matt Guokas got 21, Anderson 19, and St. Joe's won 86-67. "They played volleyball on the boards," complained Providence's Joe Mullaney. "A quality performance," said Ramsay.
Two nights later Brown threw a tight zone at Providence, and the Friars were jittery. They got only 39 shots, made 19 and squeaked through 51-47.
Syracuse had PENN STATE by 11 points at half time in University Park, and it looked like a breeze. But the Nittany Lions, who have not lost at home in three years, nibbled away at the Orange and finally beat them 80-79 on sophomore Jeff Persson's twisting jumper at the buzzer. Then Penn State lost to RUTGERS on the road 71-61 as Bob Lloyd raided its defense for 40 points. SYRACUSE came back to throttle Niagara 93-78 and Colgate 122-88, with Dave Bing scoring 58 points. "Two more wins," said Coach Fred Lewis, "and we could be playing for the national championship."
Penn, unfortunately, will not get the same chance. The Quakers put down Princeton 56-48 for their first Ivy League title in 13 years, but the NCAA, after first declaring Penn eligible for the tournament, ruled the Quakers out for failing to comply with the controversial 1.6 academic standard. RHODE ISLAND, however, fulfilled all its commitments—including a 67-62 victory over Connecticut in a playoff and the necessary NCAA compliance—and will represent the Yankee Conference.
Boston College lost John Austin (broken foot), but sophomore Steve Adelman took up the slack and the Eagles beat Northeastern 85-78 in the Beanpot final and Holy Cross 87-83 in their annual holy war. New York teams, as usual, bounced each other around in the final week. NYU, finishing fast, battered Fordham 82-70 and then beat St. John's 67-58. It was the second shocker of the week for the Redmen. HOLY CROSS beat them 63-60. MANHATTAN outslicked St. Francis 75-64 but lost to FORDHAM 82-72.
Three NIT hopefuls finished big but got nary a call. FAIRFIELD (19-5) beat Rider 75-72 and Bridgeport 111-60, GEORGETOWN (16-8) walloped Canisius 83-69 for its best season in 20 years, and ST. BONAVENTURE (16-7) took Kent State 65-56 and Canisius 66-61.