"Step right up and hear all the latest complaints. Listen to the raucous boos. See a coach get fired." That might well have been the pitch for the Metro Conference tournament in Memphis. It was there that Louisville Coach Denny Crum, whose team had won the regular-season title, argued that it was unfair to force his squad to prove itself again. Crum's worst fears came true when his Cardinals were jolted in the semifinals by Georgia Tech 56-55. "We don't need the Metro tournament," Crum yelped after the loss. "NIT, hell! We might still go to the NCAA." (They will—and meet UCLA in the first round.) Spouting off, too, was Cincinnati Coach Gale Catlett, who said he would do all he could to yank his school out of the conference if it does not host next year's tournament. At least Catlett was able to smile after his games. That was more than could be said for Randy Albrecht of St. Louis, who was fired after an opening-round 76-68 loss to the Bearcats. And it was more than could be said for many local fans when Cincinnati beat Memphis State 68-67 on Gary Yoder's pair of free throws with four seconds remaining. The Bearcats then beat Georgia Tech in the finale 74-61. Despite being winners, Cincinnati was booed by the fans and absorbed one last shot from Tech Guard Ray Schnitzer, who predicted they would not do well in the NCAAs because, "They have no class."
"What kind of game is it that makes idiots out of grown men and causes them to act foolish in front of thousands?" asked Kansas State Coach Jack Hartman after the Big Eight's first playoff tournament. Well, in a semifinal 80-67 loss to the Wildcats, Kansas Coach Ted Owens became so upset with the officiating that he pounded the timer's table and knocked out the activator for the scoreboard foul recorder. In the finale, Hartman and Missouri Coach Norm Stewart stood jaw to jaw during a timeout and had to be restrained by the officials. The Tigers blew an 18-point lead and lost to the Wildcats 72-67 in overtime as Mike Evans gunned in most of his 27 points on long-range shots.
"In basketball, unlike football, defensive players aren't given the credit they deserve. Jim Counce is one of the greatest defensive players in the country." So said Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton after the 6'7" Counce had clamped down on Houston's Otis Birdsong in the wrap-up game of the Southwest Conference playoffs. Birdsong, who had been averaging 30 points a game, had only 21 against the Razorbacks, missing 13 of 22 field-goal tries. Houston, down by 13 points after eight minutes, led by six early in the second half. Then Guard Ron Brewer got busy, scoring 19 of his game-high 29 points in the last 13 minutes as Arkansas won 80-74. There were further indications that basketball was flourishing in the SWC. For the first time in memory, tickets to a league game were scalped: $25 apiece for the showdown in Houston, which drew the largest crowd ever to see an SWC game: 15,262.
March 14, 1977
Even before facing West Texas State in the finals of the Missouri Valley playoffs, Southern Illinois knew it would represent the conference at the NCAAs because the Buffaloes are on probation. Still, the Salukis didn't want to back into the national tournament. With Gary Wilson tossing in 28 points and Mike Glenn 24, SIU breezed in 82-69.
Loyola of Chicago pulled off a 79-71 upset of Detroit, which shot only 32%, 19% below its average.
Marquette won twice on the road, 63-44 at Tulane and 72-60 at Creighton. Bo Ellis had 26 points for the Warriors against the Green Wave, which scored just nine points in the first half, a performance Tulane Coach Roy Danforth said "set basketball back 25 years." Against the Bluejays, who had trailed the Warriors only 38-34 at halftime, Marquette used a zone in the second half. Said Coach Al McGuire, "They could beat us man-to-man because they run the back door so well."
Indiana State sophomore Larry Bird finished strong. He scored 47 points (19 of 30 from the floor, nine of 10 from the foul line) and grabbed 18 rebounds as the Sycamores set back Butler 80-65. Bird had 34 points and 13 rebounds as the Sycamores (25-2) beat Valparaiso 77-70 to bolster their hopes of getting a tournament bid.
1. ARKANSAS (26-1)
2. CINCINNATI (25-4)
3. LOUISVILLE (21-6)
"This is not a realistic profession," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "It's a dreamworld where everybody thinks they're going to be an All-America and win every game." Nonetheless, Holland's team was on the verge of making another dream come true by winning all its games at the Atlantic Coast Conference playoffs in Greensboro, N.C. The Cavaliers, who had never been to any of the ACC's previous 22 finals until last year and who then stunned North Carolina State, Maryland and North Carolina to take the title, made it to the championship game again this time. They got there by upsetting Wake Forest 59-57 on a turnaround jumper by Marc Iavaroni with two seconds left and by surprising Clemson 72-60. North Carolina, the regular-season titlist, received a bye into the semifinals where it cruised past North Carolina State 70-56. In the finals, Virginia led by eight points with 7:08 to go. But then the Cavaliers wore down, missed shots and lost 75-69. At the game's end, the Tar Heels had just one regular on the floor, Phil Ford and Mike O'Koren having fouled out after teaming up for 47 points; Walter Davis was nursing a broken finger and Tommy LaGarde was on crutches. That lone regular, Guard John Kuester, was named the tournament MVP for holding the Tar Heels together and for scoring 27 points in the two games. North Carolina had begun the week with a 96-89 win over Louisville, as Ford and O'Koren each scored 26 points.
Even though high-scoring Lew Massey was out with an ankle injury. North Carolina-Charlotte beat Creighton 85-67, Marshall 84-80 and Virginia Commonwealth 87-72. Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell amassed 75 points for the Forty Niners, who then accepted an NCAA bid.
With its relentless defense doing its job and with Frank Sowinski averaging 22 points, Princeton locked up the Ivy League title. The Tigers had little trouble beating Columbia 66-49, Cornell 69-56, Brown 63-40 and Yale 61-39. Penn dropped out of a tie for first place when Cornell rallied for an 82-68 verdict. The Quakers then stopped Columbia 61-56, Yale 105-59 and Brown 78-77 but finished a game behind the NCAA-bound Tigers.
In the last regular-season game for both teams, St. John's upset Holy Cross 62-61. Both then earned NCAA berths. The Redmen prevailed at the ECAC Metropolitan New York playoffs, MVP George Johnson notching 26 of his 28 points in the second half to down Seton Hall 83-73. St. John's thus gained its 13th straight post-season tournament bid and a record 32nd in all. Holy Cross, which beat Providence in December on a last-ditch shot by Chris Potter, jarred the Friars again. And once again it was Potter who sank the winning basket, this time on an 18-foot jumper with five seconds left for a 68-67 victory in the New England playoffs.
Syracuse took the ECAC Upstate New York title by polishing off St. Bonaventure 85-72. Old Dominion won the ECAC Southern playoffs by zapping Georgetown 80-58. Then, in a showdown to determine which of those two would advance to the NCAAs, Old Dominion had its 22-game winning streak ended by Syracuse 67-64.
Also making it to the NCAAs were Hofstra, VMI and Duquesne. Rich Laurel, who averaged 30.1 points a game for the Flying Dutchmen this season, scored 33 as Hofstra bumped off LaSalle for the East Coast Conference title. Teammate John Irving, who led the nation in rebounding with a 16.3 average, had 11 rebounds and 24 points. VMI had to go into overtime to beat Appalachian State 69-67 for the Southern Conference championship. Dave Montgomery paced the Keydets, sinking 10 of 12 floor shots and topping off a 28-point performance with two foul shots with 18 seconds remaining. Duquesne stopped Villanova 57-54 for Eastern Collegiate Basketball League honors.
1. NORTH CAROLINA (25-4)
2. HOLY CROSS (23-5)
3. PROV. (24-4)
With Michigan's Rickey Green sidelined with a bruised hip suffered in an 87-72 win at Illinois, junior Guard Dave Baxter started at Purdue. Baxter responded superbly with 20 points and 10 assists as the Wolverines won 84-79. Better yet was Phil Hubbard, who contributed 31 points and 16 rebounds. While Hubbard was on the bench with four fouls, the Boilermakers scored seven consecutive points to cut Michigan's lead to 66-63. So Hubbard came off the bench to score six straight points. And when Purdue pulled to within 74-73, Hubbard tossed in four more. Purdue, which finished three games behind Big Ten champion Michigan, also earned an NCAA spot for having a 19-8 record while playing a schedule that included seven 20-game winners. A day later the Wolverines edged Marquette 69-68 in Ann Arbor. Second-place Minnesota bumped off Wisconsin 64-61 and Northwestern 105-82.
A 41-15 rebounding advantage, plus 36 points by Bernard King, enabled Tennessee to topple Kentucky 81-79. For the Vols, who had trailed 55-44, it was the fifth time in a row that they had beaten the Wildcats in three seasons. Tennessee thus tied for first place with Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference, with each having one game to play before both enter the NCAA's 32-team tournament. Kentucky had earlier stopped Mississippi State 77-64, establishing a school record by sinking 15 of 18 field-goal tries (83%) in the second half.
In the Ohio Valley Conference playoffs, Middle Tennessee upset the regular-season titlist, Austin Peay, 77-65.
Central Michigan, which had only two starters back from last season's team that was 8-8 in the Mid-American Conference, took over second place. Those returnees—Guard Leonard Drake and Center Ben Poquette—carried the Chippewas to a pair of road wins. At Northern Illinois, Drake had 18 points as Central won 80-78 in overtime despite 30 points and 18 rebounds by Matt Hicks. Drake then pumped in 34 points and Poquette 23 as the Chippewas overcame Bowling Green 94-91. Central can clinch the league title and an NCAA berth if it can win this week at Ohio U. Should the Chippewas lose, Miami of Ohio will finish first and get the bid.
Anthony Roberts of Oral Roberts netted 50 points against Florida State. It was not enough; Carlton Byrd had 30 and the Seminoles won 91-87.
1. MICHIGAN (24-3)
2. TENNESSEE (21-5)
3. KENTUCKY (23-3)
When Utah Center Buster Matheney was ejected after seven minutes of play for slugging BYU's Jay Cheesman, the Utes were afraid they might be the ones to come up with a black eye. They were tied with Arizona for the Western AC lead, and when they fell behind the Cougars 26-16 in their final league game, things did not look good. But Jeff Jonas came through with 18 points, nine assists and six rebounds as the Utes rallied for a 67-54 decision. Jonas wound up four years of regular-season play with 756 assists in 107 games. What pleased him most, however, was that Arizona lost at Arizona State 95-89 in overtime, thus giving Utah a ticket to the NCAAs. With Bob Elliott of the Wildcats hampered by a bad knee and able to play only 26 minutes, the Sun Devils knocked off Arizona for the seventh year in a row in Tempe. Helping State win were James Holliman, who knotted the score at 74-all with a basket 15 seconds before the end of regulation time; Mark Landsberger, who muscled his way to 22 rebounds and 17 points; and Tony Zeno, who came off the bench to score 20 points.
By controlling the tempo and effectively working its zone defense, USC built a 27-17 advantage over UCLA. But with Jimmy Spillane hitting from outside and Marques Johnson from inside, the Bruins won 78-69. Spillane finished with 14 points; Johnson connected for 25 as he made 11 of 14 floor shots and all three of his foul shots; he also latched on to 18 rebounds. Two days before. UCLA had been assured of the Pac-8 title when Oregon State toppled runnerup Oregon 78-73 in overtime. Greg Ballard netted 40 points and helped the Ducks take a 19-3 lead. Igniting the Beavers' comeback was Rocky Smith, who, after failing to score during the first 13 minutes, poured in 32 points.
With the memory of last season's shocking 93-91 loss at Pepperdine still on his mind, Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian said, "It's like a carnival every time we come here. A lot of friends, relatives, girls, neighbors and cousins. We locked the players in their rooms this year. We wanted no more carnivals." Once the game began, though, his Rebels put on a show of their own. For the 20th time this season they exceeded 100 points, winning 117-94 as Eddie Owens popped in 29. In an earlier contest at home against Hawaii, Owens had 25 points in a 124-84 laugher.
Idaho State, which had finished in first place in the Big Sky Conference, captured the league tournament by defeating Montana State 93-77 and Weber State 61-55.
Long Beach State won the Pacific Coast AA tournament by subduing San Jose State 76-63.
1. UCLA (23-4)
2. SAN FRAN. (29-1)
3. LAS VEGAS (25-2)