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Basketball's title tournament begins, and the goal is San Francisco's Cow Palace

If California and Ohio State meet in the final round of the national college basketball championships the night of March 19—an entirely reasonable prospect—one of the classic patterns in sport will be on display once again. It will be Tunney against Dempsey all over, Riggs against Budge, the White Sox "Hitless Wonders" against the Cubs. In other words, boxer versus slugger, great defense opposed to great offense.

California leads the nation in containing rival scoring, and Ohio State leads in points per game. Logically enough, their playing styles are completely different. California uses its rebounding power to upset its rivals by forcing them to play at California's deliberate tempo. Ohio State uses its superb control of the backboards to fast-break endlessly, destroying the opposition's defense by simply running away from it. Both teams have individual stars—Darrall Imhoff at Cal, Jerry Lucas at Ohio State—but their court styles place great reliance on team play. For this reason, skill and confidence run deep in both squads, which is not true of teams whose main burden is carried by one man—Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson, West Virginia's Jerry West. California is a veteran crew, coached by that wily old hand, Pete Newell. Ohio State is largely a sophomore team, coached by youthful Fred Taylor, in his sophomore year in the big time. From every angle, and whoever won, this would be a fascinating final contest (if it took place). Who would win? Precedent provides few clues. Slugger Budge beat boxer Riggs in most of their matches. But Tunney beat Dempsey in both bouts, of course, and the White Sox beat the Cubs, in their World Series 4-2. The vast majority of expert opinion would undoubtedly favor California, first because Cal has a great stake in the outcome as defending champion and second because Pete Newell has a genius for instilling self-discipline in his players—this is an especially valuable asset in the pressure of tournament basketball. But California might indeed be the better of the two and still lose this one game. And the plausibility of such an "upset" adds savor to this possible championship final.

What might prevent the meeting? What interloper will eliminate either Cal or State—or both—before the final round? As the official NCAA draw (following page) shows, Cal should have little trouble in its first two games, against Idaho State and the West Coast Conference champion, both apparently out of their class. Then, in Seattle, Cal should face Utah or USC. It has already beaten USC three out of four times, but Utah would cause considerably more trouble. Jack Gardner's Utah teams have made three trips to the NCAA in the past five years, and each time they have been unlucky enough to meet the eventual champion in an early round. Utah was humiliated by Cal in the tournament last year; it is a much better team now, though its defense is still erratic. Cal plays deliberately for the good shot and will very likely force Utah into costly defensive errors. That alone should decide the issue.

The final hurdle for Newell's men will come in San Francisco's Cow Palace in the semifinal round—likely a game with Cincinnati—and this is another probable highlight of the tournament. The same two teams met in the semifinals at Louisville last year and Cal put on one of the finest displays of defensive skill in the history of college ball. Cincinnati played the first nine minutes of the second half without scoring a field goal; Robertson got just one in the whole second half. Cincinnati finished with 58 points, 26 below its season's average.

One big difference in Cincinnati this year is the presence of a center, 6-foot-9 Paul Hogue, just about the size of Cal's Imhoff. But in no other way does Hogue yet measure up to Imhoff. He is far less quick afoot and, even more critically, his hands are slower. This is why he often gets into foul trouble early in a game. The feeling here is that it will require much more of a team effort, offensively, than Cincinnati can offer to beat California.

In its half of the draw, Ohio State should also encounter little difficulty in the first few games. Neither Miami nor Western Kentucky has the offensive power to match it point for point even if State throws up the feeblest of defenses. Two of the possible opponents in the next round-Ohio U. and Notre Dame—have been beaten by teams that Ohio State has whipped decisively. The last is Georgia Tech, which has nowhere near the speed to keep up with Lucas & Co. and has only two players of the caliber of State's regulars—Roger Kaiser and Dave Denton. So the rub for Ohio State, as for California, comes in the semifinals in San Francisco.

Reason dictates that the team to face State in the Cow Palace will be either West Virginia or Duke, with all the others falling by the wayside in the most evenly matched of regional playoffs. Only NYU appears to have a chance of pulling an upset here, and it has already lost to West Virginia by 29 points. Though this game was played in Morgantown, still the margin of West Virginia's superiority was too great to be laid to a home-court advantage.

Of these two possible opponents, Ohio State would likely have more trouble with West Virginia, which would give it the tougher battle on the boards. If State cannot get a big share of the rebounds its most potent offensive weapon, the fast break, becomes ineffective. State would, of course, have its hands full trying to contain Jerry West. He is college basketball's Sugar Ray Robinson—inch for inch (at 6 feet 3) the best player in the land. But he is at the end of a long regular season (and the Southern Conference tournament) during which he has played a great deal of every game, his nose has now been broken twice and he must cover it with a mask on the court, and West Virginia does not appear to have the bench or the balance to beat Ohio State at its best.

Duke, the other possibility, is riding the crest of a late-season drive but has no adequate reserves for the six men who have played most of its games—a major handicap in tournament basketball.

Not all the best teams in the U.S.—SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's top 16 are listed on these pages—will play in the NCAA tournament, of course, since only the winning team in each major conference is eligible. Thus, Cincinnati represents the Missouri Valley in the NCAA, but Bradley and St. Louis will play in the National Invitational Tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden. The same applies to the Skyline's second-place team, Utah State, and to independent St. John's.

One feature of this year's NCAA tournament that has already caused considerable critical comment in coaching circles—and does appear to be unfair—is the fact that three former members of the defunct Pacific Coast Conference have been invited—California, USC and Oregon State. No one disputes Cal's right to appear, but the inclusion of the other two can be logically attacked. Oregon State has been invited as an at-large member because it has been functioning this season as an independent. USC has been part of a loose association of former PCC members who call themselves the Big Five. But since a conference must have at least six schools in order to be recognized officially by the NCAA, USC has also been invited as an at-large team. Obviously, as far as basketball is concerned, it is to the advantage of all three schools never to join a recognized conference and continue to be eligible for at-large berths in the championship tournament. It would appear that the proper solution for the NCAA would be to cut down on West Coast at-large entries and simply have fewer teams in the western half of the draw.

Despite this minor disturbance, the tournament cannot fail to be a success artistically and financially. All four regional championships cities—Charlotte (N.C.), Louisville, Manhattan (Kan.) and Seattle—have already demonstrated in previous tournaments that local basketball interest is as high as anywhere, and certainly the Cow Palace will be sold out well in advance of the final two nights.

The sport has grown tremendously in the past few years. Many proofs can be offered to support this—increased attendance (from 10 million to 15 million in the last five years), the flock of new, magnificent stadiums, the number of coaching and player clinics. But surest of all is the fact that today the competition among 1,000-odd colleges for good high school players matches the mad scramble for football players. Hardly a school has still to discover that winning basketball pays off in prestige and in cold cash. Basketball is now a major sport at more schools than any other activity.


OFFICIAL PAIRING for the 22nd annual NCCA tournament lists 14 conference champions, 11 at-large entries competing for title. Try to keep your own record, insert scores.


Henry Hart


Mike Owens


Darrall Imhoff


Oscar Robertson


Roger Kaiser


Walt Bellamy


Wayne Hightower


Tom Sanders


Lee Shaffer


Jerry Lucas


Tony Jackson


Bob Nordmann


Billy McGill


Jerry Schofield


Len Chappell


Jerry West



W 19, L 3
Coach Eaves

No height, no real bench, little versatility, but a perfect example of how far precise execution of a few plays can take a team. Best shooting percentage in nation because excellent discipline prohibits all but good attempts.


Missouri Valley
W 24, L 2
Coach Orsborn

Would surely have tied for Valley title if Guard Bobby Mason hadn't used up eligibility by midseason. Varied offense based on balanced fire power, but oddly weak at the free-throw line. Starters free-lance well if offense stalls.


Big Five
W 24, L 1
Coach Newell

Overwhelming board control by Imhoff and Bill McClintock plus traditionally tight Newell defense limits rivals to a minimum of shots. Deliberate offense works so well because scoring power is spread through squad.


Missouri Valley
W 25, L 1
Coach Smith

Robertson an incalculable psychological hazard to rivals because of playmaking skill in addition to ability to score from any position on floor. Ralph Davis one of nation's best guards. Have trouble handling control style.


W 21, L 5
Coach Hyder

Defense key to team success because attack is two-man affair featuring Kaiser outside, Dave Denton inside. Spread offense sets up quick drives by Denton and Bobby Dews, and close work by Wayne Richards.


Big Ten
W 20, L 4
Coach McCracken

Great collection of talent that could not get untracked at season's start but finished with a rush. Excellent size, speed, shooting but weak defensively until it mastered a tight 2-3 zone. Bellamy a top pro prospect.


Big Eight
W 17, L 8
Coach Harp

After disappointing start, two regulars became ineligible but fine patching job by Harp led to strong finish. Inferior shooting balanced by good defense, boardwork of Hightower, Bill Bridges. Most key men back next year.


W 19, L 3
Coach Rossini

A tall, strong front court and a pair of elusive guards assure floor balance. Sanders very deceptive in close. Much firepower, but defense the key to success. Ray Paprocky and Russ Cunningham are quick ball hawks.


Atlantic Coast
W 18, L 6
Coach McGuire

Same lack of "killer instinct" that caused NCAA loss last year still plagues team. Otherwise, first-rate balance, depth and skill. Shaffer, Doug Moe work post area well, York Larese top outside shooter. Prefers 1-3-1 zone.


Big Ten
W 21, L 3
Coach Taylor

Big, fast, deep and deadeye shots, hitting close to 50% on field goals, the nation's top scorers. Powerful on boards, leading to fast breaks that stun rivals. Has 20-point-average margin over all opponents for year.


W 17, L 7
Coach Lapchick

Occasionally lapses into error-filled play because of inexperience of sophomores, has well-balanced personnel, good size, speed and deception. Key is improvement of center Leroy Ellis. May be the East's best next season.


Missouri Valley
W 19, L 7
Coach Benington

Probably tallest first-rank front line in nation, plays deliberate style, working ball into Nordmann in close. Lacks over-all speed but often slows opposition with fine defense. Not enough outside shooting to keep rivals spread.


W 24, L 2
Coach Gardner

A potentially great crew just beginning to learn its defensive lessons. Very deep and strong, with explosive firepower led by fine hooker Mc-Gill, expert freelancer Allen Holmes, outside shooters Joe Morton, Bill Cowan.


W 22, L 4
Coach Baker

Lack of depth a fatal weakness over long season, but first six form very smooth combination featuring crisp passing into close-in scoring positions. Only fair size compensated for by aggressive board-work of three men.


Atlantic Coast
W 21, L 7
Coach McKinney

Progress of sophomores key to fine stretchrun. Excellent size, rebounding and shooting accuracy. Center Chappell, Guard Billy Packer, Forward Dave Budd very consistent, others erratic. Real power in front line.


W 24, L 4
Coach Schaus

Lacks rebounding strength and bench of last year's NCAA finalists but still has West, an all-court, all-round marvel who can rout a rival club singlehanded. Guards Lee Patrone and Jim Warren now showing hot hands outside.


N.Y., March 8

N.Y., March 8

West Va
N.Y., March 8

Charlotte, March 11
St. Joseph's

Charlotte, March 11

Charlotte, March 12


Ohio U
Lexington, March 8
Notre Dame

W. Kentucky
Lexington, March 8
Miami (Fla.)

Louisville, March 11
Ga. Tech

Louisville, March 11
Ohio St.

Louisville, March 12


Chicago, March 7
Air Force

Man., Kans., Mar. 11
Big Eight Champion

Man., Kans., Mar. 11

Manhattan, March 12


San Francisco, Mar. 8
Idaho State

New Mexico St.
Corvallis, Ore., Mar. 9
Oregon U.

Provo, Utah, March 7

Seattle, March 11
W. Coast Conf. Champion

Seattle, March 11

Seattle, March 12

San Francisco

San Francisco, March 18

March 19