As the college season moved into its climactic period, most conference races were far from settled. Only defending NCAA champion UCLA in the AAWU and Wichita State in the Missouri Valley held leads of any consequence. Michigan, Vanderbilt, Duke, Davidson and San Francisco, all preseason favorites, were still nervous front-runners.
THE TOP THREE:
1. PROVIDENCE (16-0)
2. ST. JOSEPH'S (19-1)
3. ST. JOHN'S (13-4)
Providence's Joe Mullaney, coach of the only unbeaten major-college team, was saying the other day what his team lacks is height—it is just not big enough to dominate the boards. But what his Friars do have is an amazing flexibility on defense, the kind that permits Mullaney to shift in and out of a variety of zones and presses, his unique combinations and man-to-man. They also have Jimmy Walker, a talented sophomore backcourt star who depresses opponents with his deft ball handling and artful jump shooting. Both skills were impressive last week, as a gluey man-to-man defense shut off DePaul when the Blue Demons threatened near the end. Sophomore Mike Riordan's two foul shots won for the Friars 72-70. Then Walker threw in 32 points as Providence rolled over Niagara 74-55.
St. John's had just come out of the Midwest with a fine 92-87 win over Loyola of Chicago—the Ramblers' first home loss in four years—when ARMY caught the Redmen at West Point. The aggressive Cadets upset them 58-56 on Don Schrage's basket and Dick Murray's two free throws in the last minute.
Philadelphia's Big Five were flexing their muscles, ST. JOSEPH'S turned loose its octopus press and a blistering fast break to beat Georgetown 80-72; VILLANOVA throttled Canisius 89-78 and DePaul 85-57; TEMPLE swamped Virginia 84-59, but then lost to LA SALLE, one of its own, 81-74. Even PENN'S Ivy Leaguers won a couple, over Yale 80-68 and Brown 66-52.
NCAA and NIT tournament scouts would do well to take a hard look at PENN STATE. The Nittany Lions pushed over West Virginia 89-72 and Navy 84-56 and are now 13-3 for the season, BOSTON COLLEGE was winning again, too. The Eagles outran Massachusetts 109-97 and Northeastern 101-90. SYRACUSE took two out of three, beating Niagara 83-76 and Georgetown 95-81 and losing to MANHATTAN 94-80.
The Ivy League race was down to two teams. CORNELL, the leader, beat Dartmouth 110-84 and Harvard 78-66 for its 11th in succession. PRINCETON, a game behind, got the usual wondrous performances from Bill Bradley (54 points) while beating Brown 69-49 and Yale 67-62. COLUMBIA surprised Harvard 86-77 and then gave poor Dartmouth its 27th straight Ivy loss 108-87.
THE TOP THREE:
1. DAVIDSON (18-1)
2. DUKE (13-2)
3. VANDERBILT (15-2)
Whatever illusions North Carolina State's Press Maravich may have had about the Atlantic Coast race dwindled to nothing last week. Maravich's team, unbeaten in 11 games since he took over for retired Coach Ev Case, fell to DUKE 84-74 in Raleigh. The Blue Devils, who expected State to press, had experimented for the first time with a full-court press of their own in an easy 82-64 victory over upstart Maryland. Then Duke tried it on the Wolfpack. The press suffocated State and some superb shooting (14 of 17 for 32 points) by 6-foot-6 junior Jack Marin did the rest. Three nights later Marin again shot in 32 points, and the Blue Devils trounced West Virginia 109-89.
Eastern opponents invaded the ACC and came away with half a loaf. ST. JOSEPH'S, a quick, slick-shooting band of Philadelphia hustlers, routed Wake Forest 117-91, but NORTH CAROLINA preserved the honor of the South. Billy Cunningham and sophomore Bob Lewis led the Tarheels past NYU 100-78.
Vanderbilt and Tennessee, heading for an SEC showdown Saturday at Knoxville, Tenn., both won handily. Vandy, undefeated in the conference so far, battered Tulane 85-67 while Tennessee, beaten only by the Commodores, rode a stifling zone defense and the excellent shooting of A. W. Davis and sophomore Ron Widby to wins over Florida 76-43 and Mississippi State 77-57. KENTUCKY, going nowhere but undoubtedly stirred by Adolph Rupp's solemn pronouncement that it was "the worst team I've had in 35 years," beat Georgia 96-64 and Mississippi 102-65.
Davidson, meanwhile, was busy smashing down would-be challengers in the Southern Conference. The Wildcats, with Fred Hetzel, Don Davidson and Dick Snyder firing in shots like guided missiles, took VMI 84-78 and George Washington 119-83 for their 17th in a row. But VIRGINIA TECH, a Johnny-come-lately in the race, was beginning to look like a team that might bother Davidson in the conference tournament at the end of the month. The young Gobblers had a modest streak of their own—eight straight—after routing Richmond 94-74, Furman 102-82 and George Washington 92-74.
The Florida MIAMI stood up at home last week. Even though gunner Rick Barry was ailing with a bruised foot (he only scored 29), the Hurricanes shrugged off 41 points by Miami of Ohio's gifted Charley Coles and bombed their bracketed friends, 100-85.
THE TOP THREE:
1. MICHIGAN (13-2)
2. WICHITA STATE (14-3)
3. ILLINOIS (12-3)
Just when everyone in the Missouri Valley thought that WICHITA STATE, playing without Dave Stallworth and Nate Bowman for the first time, was ripe to be taken, the Shockers acted as if they had just received a shot of adrenalin. They threw their tough multiple defenses at cold-shooting St.Louis, got the ball to sophomore cornerman Jamie Thompson for 21 points and the Bills succumbed 72-64. It was discouraging, but Louisville and Bradley continued the chase. LOUISVILLE flattened Tulsa 73-67 and North Texas 98-72; BRADLEY whaled Drake 73-52.
Michigan had a week off, but its Big Ten challengers were busy sharpening their skills for the big push. MINNESOTA won twice, over Northwestern 70-66 and Michigan State 88-79; IOWA squeezed past Northwestern 78-72; ILLINOIS, despite 41 points by Purdue's Dave Schellhase, poured it on the Boilermakers 121-93; INDIANA thrashed Loyola of Chicago 109-82.
The Big Eight had a race again, too. Oklahoma State, unhappily, found a team that could match its patience and that cost the Cowboys their first league loss. MISSOURI worked the ball methodically until it got the good shots. Then it made enough of them to win 49-42—good news to second-place COLORADO, which beat Nebraska 62-52.
It has been a long time since Loyola's George Ireland has had such a devastating week. After losing to St. John's and Indiana, his Ramblers were further embarrassed by MIAMI of Ohio 79-74, as Jeff Gehring got 27 points. DAYTON, making a real pitch for a post-season tournament, walloped Xavier 112-81 and Stetson 93-55. DETROIT also was hopeful after putting down Western Michigan 96-87 and Notre Dame 77-74.
THE TOP THREE:
1. HOUSTON (15-6)
2. BAYLOR (11-5)
3. TEXAS TECH (10-5)
Only a week ago Texas Tech looked good enough to run off with the Southwest Conference title. Then along came BAYLOR. On the record, the Bears should not have had a chance in Lubbock Coliseum, where Tech had won 18 straight. But Baylor belabored the Raiders with a smothering zone press that held Tech star Dub Malaise, a 24.1-point scorer, to a mere five points and the Bears won 77-74. TEXAS TECH came back to crush Rice 102-69, but Baylor was only a game behind after edging TCU 87-85 on Winston Moore's layup at the buzzer.
Texas Tech's troubles were mounting, as SMU and TEXAS moved up to tie Baylor for second place. The revitalized Ponies beat TCU 110-94 and Arkansas 84-76 while Texas whipped Rice 76-63 and then upset Texas A&M 65-63 at College Station, usually another outpost of home-court invincibility. There was, however, some comic relief for distressed Aggie fans. Midway in the second half, "Old Sarge," a bulldog who serves as A&M's assistant mascot, wandered onto the court and began nipping casually at an official's pants leg. "That pup was just free-lancing," joked Coach Shelby Metcalf. "He was only begging the officials for a little help."
Oklahoma City's Abe Lemons was not joking about the officials after his team, beaten by ST. LOUIS 77-75 earlier in the week, also lost to CREIGHTON 87-72. "They let the game get out of hand," he fumed. "Why, the only time they called a foul was when somebody's nose bled."
Two other independents had better luck. TEXAS WESTERN'S helping man-to-man defense swarmed all over Arizona and harried the Wildcats to distraction as the cautious Miners won 51-39. HOUSTON, with its sights set on a post-season tournament bid, routed Loyola of New Orleans 104-80. It tickled Coach Guy Lewis, who more than once has been criticized for his deliberate offense. "That's pretty good for a ball-control team, isn't it?" gushed Lewis.
THE TOP THREE:
1. UCLA (16-2)
2. ARIZONA (15-5)
3. SAN FRANCISCO (15-3)
"It's like trying to beat a Thoroughbred with a plowhorse—there's just no way to win." That was the considered opinion of Washington State's shocked Marv Harsh-man after UCLA got through with his Cougars. The Bruins' fiery press forced WSU into 31 turnovers, Gail Goodrich led the fast break with 18 points and UCLA overwhelmed its AAWU rivals 93-41. The next night Washington was determined to run with the Bruins, and in the second half the Huskies actually had a nine-point lead. Then sixth man Kenny Washington came off the bench for UCLA. The press exploded like a delayed cherry bomb, and suddenly the Bruins had the game 78-75.
The rest of the AAWU, meanwhile, was barely staying alive. USC lost to WASHINGTON 78-77 and beat Washington State 88-65 while California was beaten by OREGON STATE 74-57 and OREGON 83-71. Only STANFORD showed any real enterprise. The Indians edged Oregon 77-75 on Gary Loveridge's last-second basket and then outlasted Oregon State 51-48.
San Francisco, stung by TULSA 59-53 on the road, found life more reasonable back home. The Dons whacked WCAC co-leader Pacific 104-64 as Ollie Johnson scored 20 points and snatched 24 rebounds away from the Tigers' Keith Swagerty, the nation's No. 2 rebounder. Then while PACIFIC recovered to beat Santa Clara 64-62 for second place San Francisco routed St. Mary's 83-60.
Western AC teams were busy with non-conference foes. Some, like Arizona State and Arizona, enjoyed it no end. First ARIZONA STATE surprised visiting Bradley 92-81, then ARIZONA edged the Braves 85-83 in triple overtime, BRIGHAM YOUNG just did manage to beat Utah State 89-80 while NEW MEXICO took touring Hawaii twice, 76-39 and 89-59. But Wyoming lost to COLORADO STATE 82-77. UTAH outran Montana 109-92 and Denver 94-84, accomplishments that drew only cautious praise from Coach Jack Gardner. "I can't say I was too pleased with our defense," he muttered unhappily.