The postseason tournaments were filling up. Seven more conference winners—defending champion UCLA (24-1) in the Pacific Eight, Kentucky (21-4) in the Southeastern, Davidson (22-4) in the Southern, New-Mexico (23-3) in the Western AC, La Salle (20-7) in the Mid-Atlantic, TCU (14-10) in the Southwest and Weber State (20-5) in the Big Sky—made it into the NCAAs. That left six to come, and the Atlantic Coast, Ivy League, Big Ten, Big Eight, Ohio Valley and West Coast AC champions will be decided this week.
New York's NIT, impressed by the quality—and number—of the independents and conference also-rans available, decided to expand from 14 to 16 teams. It had 13 set after adding independents LIU (21-1), St. Peter's (21-2), Dayton (17-9) and Villanova (17-8), plus the Mid-American's Marshall (17-7), the Mid-Atlantic's Temple (19-8), the Missouri Valley's Bradley (19-8) and the Western AC's Wyoming (18-8). The remaining three berths probably will go to runners-up in the Atlantic Coast, Big Eight and Southern conferences, with the Ivy second-place team a possibility if league officials give their consent.
March 11, 1968
1. ST. BONAVENTURE (21-0)
2. COLUMBIA (20-4)
3. ARMY (20-4)
Even before his team got to Princeton for the Ivy League showdown Columbia's Jack Rohan was apprehensive. Dave Newmark, his 7' center, was out with a badly sprained ankle, and the Lions, who had won 16 in a row, had no one to hold off the Tigers' huge front line—6'9" Chris Thomforde and John Hummer and John Haarlow, both 6'7". It looked as if the game would be a rout as Hummer, a fine sophomore, got 15 of Princeton's first 18 points (he scored 27 in all) and the Tigers, with their tall men controlling the boards, led 28-17 at half time. But sophomores Jim McMillian and Heyward Dotson stirred Columbia in the second half and the Lions battled back to a 44-44 tie. Then Jeff Petrie, another sophomore, threw in three clutch baskets for Princeton, and the Tigers pulled away to win 68-57, forcing a playoff for the Ivy title Tuesday at St. John's.
La Salle won the Mid-Atlantic playoff, rolling over American U. 84-57 and then Temple 87-69. The Explorers, defending fiercely out of a 2-1-2 zone and fast breaking, blew the Owls off the court as Larry Cannon got 28 points. Villanova, which may be Philadelphia's best team, beat Toledo 71-69 and Providence 58-42.
For more than a week unbeaten LIU, the nation's No. 1 small-college team, and St. Peter's had suffered while the NIT procrastinated. When the two teams met Wednesday night in Jersey City they bumbled through a sloppy first half. Then NIT Chairman Johnny Bach told them they were both in. With the pressure off, St. Peter's won 70-59. "It's the only time I've smiled when we lost," said LIU Coach Roy Rubin.
Other tournament teams continued to win. Army battered Rochester 75-55 while Fordham held off NYU 79-73, St. John's smothered Holy Cross 83-67 and NYU 77-57, and Boston College beat Duquesne 104-88 and Holy Cross 90-87. Rutgers, an NIT hit last year, bombed Penn State 97-83 for its seventh straight while Syracuse stopped Niagara's Calvin Murphy—he scored only 15 points—with a stall and won 50-49.
1. LOUISVILLE (19-6)
2. MARQUETTE (21-5)
3. KANSAS STATE (17-7)
"We've got the inside track now," rasped flu-ridden but happy Kansas State Coach Tex Winter. That was after his Wildcats had beaten Missouri 70-63 to go ahead in the bitter Big Eight race. Then, when Colorado surprised Iowa State 91-76, Winter began to worry about the Buffs. "If their outside shooters [Pat Frink and Chuck Williams] have a hot hand, they'll blast us," he said fearfully. Frink and Williams did shoot successfully over K-State's zone, but 7'1" Nick Pino, Steve Honeycutt and Earl Seyfert led the Wildcats to a 67-56 victory. That put K-State a game ahead of Kansas—which lost to Nebraska 76-69 and beat Oklahoma State 70-58—and Iowa State—a 93-92 winner over Nebraska in overtime—with two to go.
The Big Ten had its own cliffhanger (page 60), with Iowa leading the pack going into the last week. With the Missouri Valley title clinched, Louisville Coach John Dromo decided to experiment. He gave Mike Grosso, the celebrated 6'9" transfer from South Carolina who was both ineligible and recovering from a knee operation earlier in the season, some playing time at center and moved Westley Unseld to the corner against Memphis State as Louisville won 76-52. Bradley, meanwhile, won the fight for second in the MVC, edging St. Louis 100-99 in double overtime, while Cincinnati beat Memphis State 72-63 to finish third. In another second-place battle Marshall won out in the Mid-American, clobbering Kent State 90-75 as Ohio U. upset Toledo 74-72.
It was a bad week for some NCAA teams. Bowling Green, the MAC champion, lost to Virginia Tech 77-71 while Marquette was licked twice, by Xavier 88-83 in overtime and Western Michigan 73-66. Loyola of Chicago dropped a shooting match to Wichita State 95-92. But Dayton, assuring itself an NIT bid, beat St. Joseph's of Indiana 99-66 and Miami of Ohio 63-51 for its 10th straight.
1. NORTH CAROLINA (22-3)
2. KENTUCKY (21-4)
3. DAVIDSON (22-4)
On their way to the Atlantic Coast tournament the North Carolina Tar Heels were taken, twice. First, South Carolina broke their 20-game winning streak 87-86, when Bob Cremins dropped in five free throws in the last 45 seconds. "I don't know how we did it," said Coach Frank McGuire, "but it was beautiful." Then Duke did it, 87-86 in triple overtime on Steve Vandenberg's shot. Though North Carolina was still the team to beat in Charlotte this weekend, Duke's Vic Bubas was hopeful. "I always figure it's a street fight for three days," he said.
West Virginia's Bucky Waters had his own thoughts on postseason conference tournaments. "We play three months to eliminate one team," he said, "and then eliminate seven in three days. Even the Bolsheviks weren't that brutal." In Bucky's Southern Conference playoffs Davidson was the winner. The Wildcats trampled William and Mary 107-68, Furman 79-63 and West Virginia 87-70 to get into the NCAA tournament.
Putting away Coach Adolph Rupp's 23rd SEC championship in 35 years was easy for Kentucky. The bold young Wildcats simply overpowered Auburn 89-57 and then beat Vanderbilt 85-80. LSU's Pete Maravich had his troubles with Tennessee. He got only 17 points—his lowest total ever—before he fouled out as the Vols won 74-71.
1. HOUSTON (27-0)
2. NEW MEXICO STATE (21-5)
3. OKLAHOMA CITY (20-6)
For weeks Houston had been beating the daylights out of everybody. Little Hardin-Simmons in Abilene figured to be another breeze for the unbeaten Cougars but, with 15:20 to play, Houston led the brash Cowboys only 62-59 and Coach Guy Lewis was wringing his red-and-white polka-dot towel frantically. Then Elvin Hayes and his friends got going. Elvin scored 40 points and the Cougars won 105-82. Things were sticky for a while, too, when Houston played Virginia Tech. Someone, alas, forgot the record player that the Cougars use to inspire themselves with their favorite soul music. Houston let Tech make a game of it for about 10 minutes. But once Hayes began stuffing in baskets it was all over for the visitors. The Big E finished with 51 points to become the fifth player to score more than 1,000 in a season and the Cougars took their 28th straight 120-79. "We just can't go without that soul," reflected Guard George Reynolds.
Later Hardin-Simmons, after losing to New Mexico State 73-60, came back to upset the Aggies 91-89 in double overtime.
The hurly-burly Southwest Conference came down to the very last night with TCU, Baylor and Texas all tied for first. TCU was leading Baylor 59-51 with 5:37 to go in Waco when the news was announced—Arkansas had beaten Texas 74-73. Baylor reacted with five straight points, but the ambitious Frogs, led by James Cash's 25 points, held on to win 72-65 for their first league title in nine years. How did first-year Coach Johnny Swaim feel about it? "Everything's just lovely," he said.
1. UCLA (24-1)
2. NEW MEXICO (23-3)
3. SANTA CLARA (19-3)
All season long UCLA Coach John Wooden kept insisting that winning in the Pacific Eight was the big thing, nonconference games were really not all that important. How else would the Bruins get to defend their national championship? So last week UCLA, with Lew Alcindor scoring a total of 83 points, routed Washington State 101-70, Stanford 100-62 and California 115-71 to win its sixth championship in seven years. The Bruins also had 31 straight in the Pacific Eight. Now Wooden figures it is time to think about the NCAAs.
For whatever it was worth, USC clinched second place behind UCLA. The Trojans, after beating Washington 76-68 and losing only their second league game to California—91-90 in overtime—took Stanford 72-60.
It was all over in the Western AC, too. New Mexico had the title, but the Lobos had to sweat it out against Wyoming in Laramie. Down nine points at the half, New Mexico went to its old reliable zone press and it worked again. Ron Nelson shot in 29 points and Wyoming fell 75-62. But the Lobos' luck ran out against independent Denver. Harry Hollines' two free throws with two seconds to go beat them 70-68. Utah, in trouble on the road all year, was ambushed in Arizona and had to settle for a second-place tie with Wyoming. First, Arizona upset the Utes 87-79, then Arizona State beat them 83-82.
Weber State, beaten by Montana State 70-63, came back to whip the Bobcats 85-50 to win the Big Sky title. Santa Clara, which beat St. Mary's 72-56 and Pacific 72-68, led Loyola by a game in the West Coast AC after San Jose State upset the Lions 86-80. They meet next Saturday.