The annual jousting between the NCAA and New York's NIT for participants in their postseason tournaments was resolved early. The NCAA snapped up independents Houston (25-0), St. Bonaventure (21-0), Marquette (20-3), New Mexico State (19-4), Florida State (18-6), St. John's (17-7), Boston College (15-7) and Loyola of Chicago (13-7). Two conference champions—Louisville (18-6) in the Missouri Valley and Bowling Green (17-5) in the Mid-American—were also in, and 13 more will get automatic bids.
The NIT, with 14 places to fill, took its time, operating on the theory that teams ought to play their way into the tournament. Only five teams were picked in the first week—Army (19-4), Oklahoma City (18-6), Fordham (15-7), Duquesne (17-4) and Notre Dame (16-8). The leading candidates were: independents LIU (20-0), St. Peter's (19-2), Holy Cross (15-6), Villanova (15-8), Dayton (15-9) and the best of the also-rans in the Missouri Valley (Bradley or Cincinnati), Mid-American (Toledo or Marshall), Atlantic Coast, Southern, Big Eight, Middle Atlantic, Western AC, West Coast AC and, maybe, the Ivy League.
March 4, 1968
1. ST. BONAVENTURE (21-0)
2. COLUMBIA (19-3)
3. ARMY (19-4)
It was a week for fun and games in Allegany, N.Y. After undefeated St. Bonaventure beat Creighton 97-84, pranksters took down some of the 19 dummies—one for each victim—on the Bona hanging tree and burned them. Since Canisius was the next opponent, naturally its rooters were suspect. Canisius' players, however, were less resourceful. They lost to the Bonnies 79-62. Then came Niagara, with Calvin Murphy, who had rolled up 50 points as his team defeated Buffalo 99-82. St. Bonaventure prepared for a bombing, but Murphy turned feeder and scored only 24 points. Big Bob Lanier got 30, Billy Butler 29 and the Bonnies won their 21st game, 97-84.
Marquette Coach Al McGuire, an old St. John's player, was in rare fettle when his team played the Redmen. He matched wits defensively with St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca, prowled the sidelines nervously and even screamed at the official timer, an old Brooklyn school chum. But McGuire calmed down when substitute Blanton Simmons dropped in two long shots in the last 26 seconds to win for Marquette 57-56.
It was a good week for most tournament teams. Army, enjoying its best season in years, walloped Navy 66-44, Boston College smashed Seton Hall 99-65 and Syracuse 97-74, and Notre Dame earned its way into the NIT by beating NYU 70-67. Only Fordham lost, to Temple 80-70, but there was some consolation for Coach Johnny Bach. He was named to the coaching job at Penn State for next year.
Some other teams, meanwhile, were trying to impress NIT selectors. Unbeaten LIU defeated Bridgeport 68-52 and Connecticut 64-47, Holy Cross took Connecticut 86-85 and Providence 64-62, St. Peter's beat Stonehill 123-86 and Villanova edged Duquesne 77-76 and whipped La Salle 64-56.
Columbia, playing without ailing 7' Dave Newmark, was up to its ears in trouble against Yale. But Jim McMillian, who scored 32 points, ran off 13 straight in the second half and the Lions pulled through 67-61. They also had the Ivy lead to themselves when Dartmouth upset Princeton 62-60.
1. NORTH CAROLINA (22-1)
2. KENTUCKY (19-4)
3. DAVIDSON (19-4)
Adolph Rupp's problem has never been one of communication with his players. After all, what is there to puzzle over when The Baron barges off the bench, stomps, pounds his fist into his palm and tongue-lashes erring Wildcats? His timing was perfect last Saturday night. Alabama's Mike Nordholz had just gotten away for two easy layups to cut Kentucky's lead to a single point when Rupp, scowling darkly, got up and did his bit. Sophomores Dan Issel, Mike Casey and Mike Pratt responded. They scored 28, 22 and 19 points, respectively, to lead the Wildcats to a 96-83 victory that probably ended the SEC race.
The win assured Kentucky of at least a tie for the title. Georgia, which had lost earlier to the Wildcats 106-87, upset Vanderbilt 91-77, and Auburn shocked Tennessee 53-52 at Knoxville, where the Big Orange had won 33 in a row. It was a typical week for LSU's Pete Maravich (page 22). He scored 34 as LSU beat Mississippi State 94-83, 55 more in a 99-92 win over Tulane to become the first sophomore to get more than 1,000 points in a season, and 40 while his team was losing to Mississippi 87-85.
To nobody's surprise, North Carolina rolled over Maryland 83-60 and Virginia 92-74—for its 20th straight—to win the regular-season championship in the ACC. Duke, however, ran into trouble. The Blue Devils survived a 10½-minute stall by Wake Forest to win 50-41, and then two nights later South Carolina started off with the same tactics at Durham. Duke quickly moved out of its 1-2-2 zone into a pressing man-to-man to stir up the action, but the Gamecocks, led by Jack Thompson's 22 points, won 56-50.
Davidson pounded Richmond 106-89—and beat independent Tulane 76-68—to win the Southern Conference title, but the Wildcats will have to do it all over again in the conference tournament at Charlotte this weekend to get to the NCAA tournament. Runner-up West Virginia polished off Pitt 87-76 and George Washington 90-72, while East Tennessee took over the Ohio Valley lead when Western Kentucky beat Murray State 86-83.
1. MARQUETTE (20-3)
2. LOUISVILLE (18-6)
3. KANSAS (16-6)
Louisville's John Dromo breathed a sigh of relief last Saturday night and said, "I'll sleep tonight for the first time in two months." His Cards, who had slumped horribly at the start of the season and then given him fits even when they began to win, had just taken Wichita State 98-88 to win the Missouri Valley title.
The Mid-American race also was decided when Bowling Green edged Kent State 65-63 and ran over Ohio U. 84-63. But the Big Ten and Big Eight were still up in the air. Purdue, now that Coach George King has settled on his offense—"give the ball to Rick Mount and let him shoot"—was making its move in the Big Ten. With Mount scoring 38 points, Purdue beat Iowa 86-73 to knock the Hawks out of the lead and then did the same thing to Ohio State 93-72 as Mount gunned for 34. That put Purdue in first place, along with Iowa, which bounced back into a tie by defeating Indiana 78-70.
The Big Eight had a triple tie—Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State—after K-State surprised Kansas 64-61 in overtime. Coach Tex Winter gambled on using a zone against the Jayhawks and it worked.
Loyola of Chicago beat Bowling Green 83-74 but then the Ramblers ran into red-hot Dayton. They could not handle Donnie May, who scored 33 points, and the Flyers won 91-75. Dayton trounced Canisius, too, 82-64 for its eighth straight win.
1. HOUSTON (25-0)
2. NEW MEXICO STATE (19-4)
3. OKLAHOMA CITY (18-6)
Unbeaten Houston, which has been blithely battering second-raters the past few weeks, finally figured out what to do for excitement. Set some records, that's what. The Cougars bombed poor little Texas at Arlington 130-75 and Valparaiso 158-81, breaking the major-college scoring mark in the second game. Elvin Hayes, naturally, got in on the fun, too. He scored 44 against Arlington, 62 more against Valparaiso, to become the second-highest three-year college scorer. Hayes now has 2,587 points, second only to Oscar Robertson's 2,973.
New Mexico State, in a fond farewell to the Las Cruces high school gym it has been using (the Aggies get their own place next year), beat Texas at El Paso 68-63. And that was only the beginning of UTEP's troubles. The Miners also lost to West Texas State 65-63. Oklahoma City put down Hardin-Simmons 78-74 as Rich Travis scored 32 points.
Even Texans, who have become used to the shenanigans in the rowdy Southwest Conference, could hardly believe what happened last week. Baylor, which appeared to have a lock on the SWC title not too long ago, was suddenly out of the lead after losing four straight, the last two to SMU 70-63 and Texas Tech 65-63. Texas, meanwhile, took over first place. The Longhorns beat Texas Tech 79-60 and SMU 83-72.
1. UCLA (21-1)
2. NEW MEXICO (22-2)
3. SANTA CLARA (17-3)
UCLA Coach John Wooden has an answer for everything, it seems. Lew Alcindor was having all kinds of trouble with Washington's sagging defense. He was held to one field goal in the first half and UCLA led only 38-31. So Wooden moved a forward up to a high post and the Bruins began hitting Alcindor cutting across the lane. That scattered the Huskies. Alcindor finished with 23 points and UCLA won 84-67.
Still hoping to catch UCLA, the Trojans of USC beat Washington State 73-58 and were just a game behind the Bruins. What's new at California? Well, Bob Presley and Russ Critchfield were passing off to each other, and Cal beat Oregon 76-64 and Oregon State 71-58.
All season long New Mexico had saved its half-court press for the second half, usually when the Lobos were behind. Against Arizona and Arizona State, New Mexico began pressing from the start and it was a revelation. Ron Sanford scored 34 points and Arizona fell 102-74; Howard Grimes got 26 and Arizona State lost 105-83.
Utah Coach Jack Gardner's stomach was churning after what happened to his team in Provo. The Utes had just cut Brigham Young's 19-point lead to one with 29 seconds to go. Then Randy Schouten dribbled the length of the court for a layup and BYU won 93-90 to drop Utah 1½ games behind New Mexico in the Western AC.
Santa Clara, even after beating San Jose State 86-66 for its 10th straight, was still tied with Loyola for first in the West Coast AC. But Weber State, with three games to go, had a tie clinched in the Big Sky.