It is almost time for the NCAA championship tournament again, and coaches from Corvallis, Ore. to Durham, N.C. are trying to convince themselves that the name of this event should not be changed to the Missouri Valley Waltz. The teams that will get a chance to try to keep Cincinnati from dancing away with its third consecutive national title have almost all been chosen (see page 25). Only the Big Ten, Big Eight, Big Six, Ohio Valley, West Coast and Ivy League have not settled their championships. The other 19 are ready, and they make up about as strong a field as ever set out with the single objective of beating one basketball team.
Meanwhile, New York's National Invitation Tournament, resigned to getting largely leftovers in the competition for tournament teams, rounded out its field with St. Francis of Brooklyn (16-6), Fordham (16-7), La Salle (16-7), DePaul (14-7), Villanova (16-8) and St. Louis (15-10). But the NIT has at least one showcase item. Wichita (19-7), which has beaten four NCAA choices (Cincinnati, Loyola of Chicago, Arizona State and Texas Western), is among its four seeded clubs. The others are Providence (19-4), Canisius (17-5) and Marquette (17-7).
NYU Coach Lou Rossini sounded silly last week when he warned some highly skeptical listeners that anything can happen when New York City schools play each other. But he was right—awfully. First, Manhattan's young ball handlers dashed in and out among NYU's bigger Violets and almost upset what had been considered the East's best team. Fortunately, Barry Kramer and Happy Hairston scored 55 points between them and NYU pulled it out, 78-72. But then Fordham got an early jump on NYU and made it stick. The Rams couldn't quite handle Kramer, who put in 35 points, but they grabbed the key rebounds, made the most of Bill Sheridan's 20-point shooting and upset the NCAA-bound Violets, 71-68.
Manhattan, too, had unexpected trouble. The St. John's waiting game was backed up with some decent shooting for a change, and the Redmen beat the Jaspers, 76-63, in a fist-swinging battle. St. Francis, up in the air after its selection for the NIT, was shocked back to reality by a 71-62 loss to Seton Hall.
Although Providence led St. Joseph's by 12 points at half time, Coach Joe Mullaney decided to change his defensive strategy. Fearful that his Friars would lose their hot hand and the taller Hawks might be able to capitalize on mismatches under the basket, Mullaney shifted from a scrambling zone to a man-to-man. The change worked just fine. St. Joe's never could get around to setting up an offense and, with big John Thompson shooting in 20 points and Jim Stone 18, Providence won easily, 83-64. But the Friars went back to the zone to beat Holy Cross 85-67. In the meantime, St. Joseph's regained its respectability against Dayton, downing the Flyers 70-63. La Salle, however, was the picture of utter futility against Villanova. The Wildcats immobilized La Salle's big men by shifting in and out of a variety of zone defenses, and Wally Jones, a deft guard, passed and shot the Explorers dizzy as Villanova ran off with the game, 63-47. Canisius, another NIT team, had an easy time beating St. Bonaventure 88-72.
Here it was March and the Ivy League race, supposedly between Princeton and Penn, was still in doubt, though Penn wasn't in it. Columbia, surprisingly, knocked the Quakers out of the running, 70-66. Princeton finished with an 11-3 record when sophomore Bill Bradley scored 72 points to lead the Tigers past Cornell 78-65 and Columbia 64-55. Yale, the defending champion but an unlikely contender in December, was only a half game behind Princeton after beating Dartmouth 80-55 and Harvard 56-52. Yale had only to beat Harvard again to force an Ivy League playoff. The Yankee Conference title was settled when Connecticut defeated Rhode Island 88-73. The top three:
1. PROVIDENCE (19-4)
2. NYU (16-3)
3. ST. JOSEPHS (21-4)
Georgia Tech had its hotel reservations at East Lansing, Mich., but Mississippi State broke its color-line policy (no games against Negroes), cinched its third straight Southeastern Conference title by beating Tulane, 78-67, and announced it would accept its rightful place in the NCAA regional playoff up north. Just hours later. State had to play its slowdown game for all it was worth to hold off old rival Mississippi at Oxford. But Joe Dan Gold and Red Stroud finally put together enough points (43) to beat last-place Ole Miss 75-73.
Second-place Tech got word of Mississippi State's unexpected decision just before the Vanderbilt game in Nashville. Disheartened, Tech's offense sputtered, and it lost to Vandy 75-74. Auburn, after losing to Tennessee 55-47, beat Alabama 74-67 in overtime to tie Georgia Tech for second.
The Atlantic Coast tournament at Raleigh went almost as expected. Duke defeated Virginia 89-70 and North Carolina State 82-65, but Wake Forest, after battering Maryland 80-41, just did survive against North Carolina. The Deacons won 56-55. Wake, beaten by a total of 70 points in three games with Duke, tried to brazen it out with a ball-control game in the final. For a while it worked. Dave Wiedeman fired in 13 points, and Wake led, 35-31, at the half. Then Duke switched to a diamond-and-one zone with Buzzy Harrison hounding Wiedeman, and the Blue Devils began to catch up. With the score 39-39, Art Hey-man began to hit. He scored 15 of Duke's next 20 points, finished with 24, and the Blue Devils won their 18th in a row, 68-57.
West Virginia got by Richmond 75-46 and Furman 81-69 easily enough in the Southern Conference tournament at Richmond, but then the Mountaineers had to contend with Davidson's youngsters, who had beaten VMI 108-71 and Virginia Tech 75-67. With Bill Jarman and Fred Hetzel matching West Virginia's Rod Thorn and Tom Lowry point for point, the brash Wildcats led 72-70 with about three minutes to go. But West Virginia, which made 23 of its 25 foul shots in the second half, finally won, 79-74. The top three:
1. DUKE (24-2)
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE (21-5)
3. WEST VIRGINIA (21-7)
Cincinnati was preparing to defend its national championship by winning, as usual. True, the Bearcats caused some concern when they fell behind Xavier of Ohio early in that game. But Cincy's defense took its toll, and Xavier was beaten 72-61. St. Louis was easier. The Bills fell behind quickly and stayed there as Ron Bonham scored 32 points in a 66-52 victory.
But there were signs that the pace was beginning to tell on Loyola of Chicago. The Ramblers had a hard time getting past Ohio, 114-94, then they slipped against Wichita. The Shockers, who had just defeated Texas Western 60-58 on a last-second goaltending call, came from eight points behind in the last nine minutes to beat Loyola 73-72. The same night, Bradley defeated Notre Dame 72-66.
The Big Ten had a familiar look since Ohio State led the pack again. Gary Bradds, a whirling All-America with the fastest elbows in the Midwest, got the Bucks past Northwestern 50-45. Then, while Illinois stumbled over Michigan and lost, 84-81, he teamed with Dick Reasbeck, who scored 32 points, to bury Purdue 95-75.
The Big Eight race was down to Kansas State and Colorado. K-State was a full game ahead of the Buffs after beating Kansas 74-60 and Oklahoma State 56-54, but Colorado still has a slim chance, if you care to call it that. It has a game against K-State at Manhattan, Kans., where State hasn't lost since the invention of the reaper. It was all over in the Mid-American, as Western Michigan upset Toledo 69-64 and gave the title to Bowling Green. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (23-1)
2. OHIO STATE (19-3)
3. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (24-2)
There wasn't anybody who could stop Texas, though Rice thought, for a time, that it had the Longhorns down. With Kendall Rhine wheeling freely in the pivot (for 13 points), the Owls took a 34-29 lead at the half. But Texas clamped a tougher defense on Rhine, and he scored only five more points. Meanwhile, Jimmy Gilbert and Jimmy Clark began to shoot and the Long-horns won easily, 77-59. Arkansas foolishly tried to match the Texas speed, only to lose the race and the game, 99-86. It was the 13th straight Texas win, the best SWC mark in 39 years.
Arizona State figured to have it easy against Creighton, but it turned out to be a test in Tempe, especially after the Sun Devils lost Art Becker with an ankle sprain in the first half and Joe Caldwell on fouls with six minutes to go. ASU won, but just, 73-70. Houston, beaten by almost everybody lately, suddenly turned on Oklahoma City and edged the Chiefs, 75-73. The top three:
1. ARIZONA STATE (23-2)
2. TEXAS (18-5)
3. TEXAS WESTERN (19-6)
Utah State's Ladell Andersen likes to call Colorado State's Jim Williams his "big brother." They grew up in the same Idaho town and both of them learned their basketball at Utah State. Last week Coach Andersen had a surprise ready for big brother—a most unlikely zone defense. But the CSU guards shot over the zone and, when the Aggies went to a man-to-man, Bill Green got away for 27 points to lead Colorado State to a 67-60 win.
Stanford, 7-3 with two games to go, had a sure tie in the Big Six after edging USC 60-58. UCLA (5-5) was still hopeful, however. The Bruins hurt their cause seriously by losing to USC 62-60, but then came back to beat Washington 80-52. In the West Coast AC three teams—San Francisco, Santa Clara and St. Mary's—were all still in contention.
Oregon State and Seattle, who meet in the NCAA tournament March 11, kept winning. The Beavers defeated Washington State twice, 79-56 and 74-65; Seattle out-scored Portland 69-61 and Oregon 78-71. Idaho ran its record to 20-4, beating Gonzaga 87-81 and Montana State 106-79. The top three:
1. COLORADO STATE (18-4)
2. STANFORD (16-6)
3. SEATTLE (20-5)