All normal methods having failed, resigned opponents were prepared to invoke extraterrestrial assistance last week as the only remaining hope of stopping the University of San Francisco before it won another national basketball championship. But as Coach Phil Woolpert's Dons wrapped up their 39th consecutive victory, equalling an alltime record, a man-made body arose to threaten their domination. San Francisco Guard K. C. Jones, said the National Collegiate Athletic Association, will be ineligible for postseason competition.
Basis of the ruling was one game which Jones played back in 1953 before being laid low the rest of the year by an attack of appendicitis. His own conference, the California Basketball Association, wrote the game off the books and voted to allow Jones a fifth varsity season. Not so the NCAA, the august ruling body of college sport, which is concerned only with dispensing justice and maintains admirable disinterest in the face of such mundane matters as won-lost records or ailing appendices. K. C. Jones, said the NCAA with the detachment of a local draft board, will sit out the NCAA tournament—and no back talk allowed.
The question of whether San Francisco will be present for the Far West regional playoffs at Corvallis, Ore. next March appears academic. Barring a semicentennial revisitation of the 1906 earthquake or Bill Russell jumping all the way out of a gymnasium while chasing a rebound, the Dons will be there. With Jones eligible throughout the regular season, no one in the CBA is even considered good warmup competition for the defending NCAA champions, and the two remaining Pacific Coast Conference teams on the schedule, California (Jan. 28) and Stanford (Feb. 4), are expected to enter the record merely as victims No. 40 and 43 on the Don victory string.
But once the playoffs start, San Francisco will face a steady succession of good teams, and it is then the loss of Jones will be felt. It is a loss which would surely cripple any other team in the country. Although overshadowed by Russell (SI, Jan. 9), Jones is still recognized as All-America timber in his own right by those inside the game. With his brilliant speed, deadly set shot from outside and dogged defensive ability, he has been the perfect foil for the elongated Russell, who operates entirely from close under the basket. In addition, Jones is also captain of the Dons, their play-maker and spark, and the friend as well as teammate upon whom the sometimes diffident Russell leans for support.
K. C.'s value to the Dons becomes even more evident when one considers that in these days of the sagging defense and three-on-one tactics, it is necessary for a team with championship aspirations to have not one but two players of all-star caliber. Last year Tom Gola was easily the greatest college basketball player east of the Oakland Bay Bridge, but when La Salle ran into other teams with two great players (Dick Ricketts and Si Green of Duquesne, Russell and Jones of San Francisco), Gola wasn't enough. The same was true for Duquesne when it was forced, because of ailments and injuries, to play once without Green and twice with a subpar Ricketts; the Dukes lost all three. This year, with Ricketts gone, Green has been even better but Duquesne is just another basketball team. Meanwhile unbeaten Dayton has a brilliant one-two punch in Bill Uhl and Jim Paxson, and North Carolina State remained undefeated as long as tall Ron Shavlik and the incomparable guard Vic Molodet were able to work their magic together; the night two weeks ago that Molodet remained on the sidelines with a virus attack, the Wolfpack lost to Duke.
There are those, of course, who say that San Francisco is so blessed with reserve strength that even the loss of Jones can't stop them from winning the NCAA title again. Both Joe Lapchick of the New York Knickerbockers and Dudey Moore of Duquesne consider this the finest team in the history of college basketball, Kentucky of the Beard-Groza-Jones era notwithstanding. Moore, with an envious eye on the sidelines, adds: "San Francisco has the two best teams in the country—one on the floor and one on the bench."
Phil Woolpert himself, although not exactly overjoyed with the NCAA ruling, refuses to be drawn into the argument, preferring to worry about the playoffs if and when the Dons get there. "We'll miss Jones," the San Francisco coach admits, "but we have a fine replacement in Eugene Brown." He is undoubtedly right since Brown, a sophomore, was once pointed out as the best substitute in America. "He'd be a star on any other team," the man said.
But the playoffs are still months away and last week most teams across the country weren't planning that far ahead. It was enough if they could just keep moving in the right direction in the face of heavy conference schedules and build up a respectful record before taking a break for midyear exams this week.
The South. Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Alabama, each unbeaten in three games, ended the week in a tie for the Southeastern Conference lead. Al Rochelle led Vanderbilt past Georgia Tech and Mississippi; Jerry Harper sparkled in two Alabama victories, and Bob Burrow had a field day against LSU with 50 points, just one short of Cliff Hagan's all-time Kentucky one-game scoring record. The Southern Conference race fell apart, and at week's end West Virginia was sailing along serenely on top with a 5-1 record. But the big news was the way Darrell Floyd answered the challenge of Ohio State's Robin Freeman in their battle for national scoring supremacy. The Furman sharpshooter scored 37 points against William & Mary but was then held to 22 by Richmond and 18 by Davidson, the first time in 38 games that Floyd has scored less than 20 points. Saturday night, however, in a 112-68 victory over The Citadel, he hit 62 points and ran his average back up to 33.6. Freeman had a 33.4 average after scoring 71 points in two games. Duke and North Carolina were tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead, with six wins and one loss apiece, after Maryland, which entered the week with the best record, fell to both North Carolina State and Duke. N.C. State, the nation's third-ranked team, was close behind at 4-1. The week's big scoring performances were 38 points by Ronnie Mayer of Duke against Maryland and Lennie Rosenbluth's series of 25, 30 and 45 points in three North Carolina wins, the last a 103-99 double-overtime affair with Clemson. Independent Louisville won twice for a 13-1 season record.
The Midwest. Illinois was the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten (3-0), but Purdue and Michigan remained in close pursuit (3-1) and the preseason favorite Iowa, after a slow start, flashed a warning by winning two straight. Included among the Hawk-eye victims was Ohio State, which went into the game ranked No. 7 nationally but couldn't muster adequate support for Robin Freeman's 37 points and lost its first conference game by an 88-73 score. Defending Champion Colorado led the Big Seven with a 2-0 record after Kansas knocked Kansas State out of the lead and left both teams tied for second at 2-1. St. Louis rolled along at the top of the Missouri Valley with a 4-0 record, while Houston, which opened the week with two convincing victories, fell before Oklahoma A&M, the new second place club (2-0). The best team in all the sprawling Midwest, however, continued to be independent Dayton, unbeaten in 12 games and second-ranked nationally. The Flyers scored an 82-73 victory over Canisius in their only game.
The West. San Francisco easily won victories No. 38 and 39 over Santa Clara and Fresno State, then prepared to take a break before going after a new national record against California Jan. 28. UCLA (4-0) won twice to remain the lone unbeaten team in the Pacific Coast Conference; Stanford, with one loss, was prepared to offer the only serious challenge. Utah and Brigham Young sailed along atop the Skyline Conference with 4-0 and 3-0 records, but the scoring prowess of Utah's Art Bunte and New Mexico's Toby Roybal hogged the headlines. Roybal scored 45 points against Montana to break Bunte's old conference record by two, then hit 30 the next night against the same team. Bunte, meanwhile, tossed in 38 against Denver and when the two shot-makers finally met in the last game of the week, he outscored Roybal 28 points to 27, Utah winning 87-73.
The Southwest. Southern Methodist, with wonderful balance and a red-hot outside shooter in Larry Showalter, continued to look like one of the better teams in Southwest Conference history. The Mustangs ran their season record to 13-2 and conference mark to 3-0 with a 97-68 victory over Texas A&M but discovered they still weren't out of the woods. Surprising Arkansas, which beat Rice and Texas during the week with a puzzling zone defense, was also tied for the lead at 3-0.
The East. Princeton played one conference game, beating preseason favorite Dartmouth 59-57, and continued to lead the Ivy League with a 3-0 record. Close behind, however, was Columbia at 2-0 and with the best season record (8-3). The East also boasted a major unbeaten team, Temple (10-0 after victories over Villanova and Manhattan). But two of the best in the area still appeared to be Holy Cross, which has lost only to San Francisco and Alabama, and Seton Hall, beaten once in 13 games.