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Original Issue


College basketball's title tournament begins with everyone convinced that the winner will have to beat Michigan at some point. The team with the best chance bears a close resemblance to previous champions

There are 23 teams in the NCAA tournament, all of them listed neatly in the little boxes on the chart on the opposite page. To paraphrase an old line, you could say, "Twenty-two skid-doo!" and accurately reflect the overwhelming opinion of the public and the polls, which have established a field of teams and a team to beat. The team to beat is Michigan.

Michigan has not lost since January 2, when it was upset 75-74 by St. John's in Madison Square Garden, although many of its victories since then have appeared to be hairbreadth escapes from defeat. Close or not, they were victories, and against strong opposition. The Wolverines have earned the role of favorite.

If beating Michigan is a requisite for winning the title, seven of the 22 teams in the field have the personnel and the playing style to become champion: St. Joseph's, Miami of Ohio, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Brigham Young, San Francisco and UCLA. Most compare favorably—as does Michigan—with the picture of the composite NCAA title-holder that emerges from a study of the tournaments since 1951, when the field was expanded from eight to 16 teams and became essentially the kind of competition it is today. Here is that ideal team:

The team has seniors on it but is not dominated by them. It has, in fact, nearly as many sophomores as seniors, and more juniors than either.

The team has a good bench, but not a deep one. Seldom does an NCAA champ depend on more than seven regulars. It is marked by superior teamwork and is well-balanced, but it is led by an All-America, most often at center. He plays his best in the tournament, but he is not a superstar, nor is he one of the nation's highest scorers. He is an All-America in large measure because his talents fit so well with those of the other players on his team, rather than because he overshadows them. The collegiate superstars, contrarily, usually have carried their teams to a level just short of the championship. Only Bill Russell, of those acknowledged to be superstars in the pros, led his team to a title. The others—Pettit, Chamberlain, Baylor, Robertson and West—lost in the finals or semifinals, while such players as Schlundt, Rosenbluth, Hatton, Imhoff and Harkness led their teams to victory.

(Coincidentally, it has been true since 1954 that the team among the NCAA's final four that boasts the highest individual scorer does not win. This could jinx Michigan, for Cazzie Russell is the ninth highest scorer in the country, and only one of the other eight has steered his team into the tournament—Bill Bradley of Princeton, who is No. 3. Presumably, the only thing that can save Michigan is for Princeton also to go to the finals in Portland.)

The team, if not staffed by highly experienced players, is led by a coach with many years of college competition behind him. Ohio State's Fred Taylor and Cincinnati's Ed Jucker brought home winners early in their careers, but they are the exceptions, THE TEAM'S coach has masterminded at least 250 games and won two-thirds of them.

The team is among the nation's leaders in either offense or defense. It does not seem to matter which, only that it be superior in one of the extremes of playing styles. It is, however, better at rebounding than shooting, whether it specializes in offense or defense.

The team is no surprise. It has been ranked prominently by the wire-service polls—almost always in the top three, and nearly half the time as No. 1.

The team supports the theory that a champion is a good road club, but only because it wins everywhere. It does not lose more than three games during the season, and it almost never loses at home. (In 166 games over 14 years, the champion has lost twice at home.) Perhaps even more important, it has almost as much success on neutral courts, where NCAA tournament games are played.

The team wins a holiday tournament at Christmas. It is in a conference and wins that race rather easily, without a pressure-packed struggle. ("My team's pretty courageous," says Michigan Coach Dave Strack. "It didn't win all the close ones, but most of them. That's the mark of a good team. It's an old adage but true." It is an old adage, but it does not apply to NCAA champions, who seldom get involved in close games on the way to the tournament. Michigan, on the other hand, has played in seven games that were decided by three points or less. Its only two losses were by one point, and the Wolverines won a bunch of tight ones.)

The team has the killer instinct, preferring to kick hell out of a rival when it gets a few points ahead rather than merely win. It outscores opponents by an average of at least 12 points a game, and is not the least bit ashamed to win a couple by 30 or 40.

These are the qualities that have turned up most often in the 14 champions, and only one—Kentucky's Fiddling Five of 1958—had less than half of them. By these standards, which admittedly do not include such occasionally decisive happenstances as uncommonly hot-shooting nights and common colds, this year's St. Joseph's team stands out impressively. The Hawks lack seniors (but Indiana won in 1954 without any). Also Cliff Anderson does not have the stature of the past top centers on championship teams. A 6-foot-4 sophomore, he leads the team's balanced scoring, is ninth in the country in rebounds and has almost as much potential as Matt Guokas, the 6-foot-5 sophomore guard who is starting to make All-America teams. Otherwise St. Joe matches the composite champion in every way, from coach (Dr. Jack Ramsey, 209-65) to record (25-1, no losses at home or on neutral courts) to average margin of victory (17.6). It ranks third in both major polls, is 12th nationally in offense, was undefeated in its conference and won the Quaker City Christmas tournament.

Matching Michigan on form, however, may be easier than on the court. The Wolverines were always the heftiest and strongest team around, and now Coach Strack occasionally sends in 6-foot-10 sophomore sub Craig Dill and shifts 6-foot-8 Bill Buntin to the corner. George Pomey (6 feet 4 and 195 pounds) has been starting for the past two months in place of 6-foot 165-pound John Thompson, adding even more size to the regular lineup. Still, Pomey is the shrimp on this team. Michigan used seven men last Saturday in a close game with Minnesota, and every one but Pomey outweighed the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

Pomey's size is only an incidental benefit. The important thing about his move onto the first team is that he has made the Michigan half-court zone press work. Pomey is the point man on the press; on offense he is taking over the playmaking duties—which frees Cazzie Russell and lets him crash diagonally through the lane to a corner and back out to set up a low post. "George complements Cazzie, and he runs the offense," Strack says. "He sees things. He's always had a good knack for getting the ball into the low post when he played in the corner. That was one reason I didn't want to move him from a forward."

Pomey has added spark to a team that, even with a player of Russell's drive and talent, tended to relax and get overconfident. "We seem to be slow starters against teams we feel we can beat easily," Strack says. Six times Michigan has had to come back from half-time deficits to win, but this problem may now be solved.

Even with Pomey, Michigan's zone may not be as effective a weapon as it would have been a year ago. The press is being used so much this season that most teams are prepared—at least mentally—for it, and its value as a surprise move has diminished considerably. UCLA, which made the press so fashionable last year, is itself a bit more vulnerable now. Sophomore Edgar Lacey has yet to learn all the nuances of this gambit, and he and safety man Keith Erickson may have too much backcourt territory to cover. Last year the team's center helped out there, but this year the center moves up and guards the man making the inbound pass, leaving only two men back.

Fast-breaking Brigham Young, which knows how to get the ball in and up and has good guards, has an excellent chance to end UCLA's title defense Friday night. The game is on BYU's home court at Provo, Utah, and the Bruins, quick as they are, will have to be at their very best to stay alive. BYU may well get knocked off the next night by San Francisco. Nobody—including the players themselves—knows how good USF is. The Dons went through an easy schedule in desultory fashion, but they handle the boards well and take good shots, and if Ollie Johnson and Joe Ellis get help, San Francisco may control the tempo of the game and steal the regional.

This would be a prize with a bonus, because whoever wins in the Far West should have a clear road to the final game in Portland next Saturday. The Midwest teams are below par. Hank Iba kept the Olympic title for the U.S. and won the Big Eight for himself for the first time, but sentiment and James King are about all Oklahoma State can offer. King, says Iba, is the best defensive player in the country, but the Cowboys are too skinny and do not shoot as well as a ball-control team should. They could beat Wichita State, if it came to that, but Notre Dame, with its personality problems straightened out, is a dark horse on a hot streak riding out of the eastern time zone into the Midwest Regional this year.

Michigan's toughest battle in the Mideast Regional should be against Miami, if the Redskins can get that far. Center Charley Dinkins has recovered from pneumonia—which will give Miami some rebounds—but the Redskins still cannot match Michigan on the boards and need even better shooting than they have shown. Vanderbilt does not figure to offer too much trouble. Southeastern Conference teams made some of the other Commodores look like better players by ganging up on Center Clyde Lee, but Michigan would not have to resort to that. Each Wolverine is a one-man gang.

There are more good teams in the East, and St. Joe's will need luck. It is lucky at the start, playing Connecticut at the Palestra. To win after that, the Hawks must get by Providence, which gave them their only defeat, and probably North Carolina State. But Bill Bradley will be floating on adrenaline, and if Princeton's sophomores continue to support him as they have done recently, it is just possible that the Tigers will beat Penn State, N.C. State and, finally, St. Joe's.

Nobody has yet found a better way of beating Michigan than just by giving the ball to Bradley—as demonstrated in New York's Holiday Festival. Coaches who do not have Bradley on their teams are in sharp disagreement, naturally. Some swear the only way to play Michigan is with a control game. Others say just as adamantly that that is impossible—that the Wolverines must be run with and fought with on the boards. Obviously, Michigan has too much talent for anybody to come up with a magic catch-all formula. "Teams that try to change what they have done best haven't done well against us," Strack says. "Those are gimmicks, and I don't believe in gimmicks. The thing is just for a team to do the things it does best, but do them a little better against us."

That appears to be the hard, simple truth. It is no easy job, but St. Joe's can derive confidence from the fact that it has some history on its side.


Now a starter, Michigan's George Pomey vastly improves the team's once erratic defense.


Goodrich drives in for a left-handed layup.



"Bruins" is in star-gold letters across his chest, the number "25" is on the front and back of his uniform, and the look of southern California vivifies his face. His eyes twinkle. His teeth show bright whenever he breaks into a smile. He wears his basketball drawers slung a little low, over legs that are slightly bowed. He really has brown hair, but people think of it as blond. They remember it as blond because all these kids in southern California are blond and this one is the embodiment of southern California. Maybe his hair is darker because of the smog.

This is Gail Goodrich of North Hollywood, the All-America, the high scorer of the champion UCLA team—and he does not look the part. As a matter of fact, what he looks like is the kid in the war movie who thinks maybe he will be shaving soon, though everybody else knows he will get killed in the next-to-last reel.

At 6 feet 1, Goodrich is also a bit short for All-America casting, and some people say he is All-America simply because he is the best-known player and the highest scorer (23.3) on the team that is defending champion and very possibly will win again. It is more likely that UCLA is what it is because of Goodrich's talent. He plays a lot taller than he is.

Goodrich, a left-hander, is UCLA's only outstanding shooter. Kenny Washington, the top sub, can be a phenomenal shot, but he is erratic. Goodrich is hitting at a 54% pace, which is almost 10 percentage points better than anyone else on the squad. Other members of the team could slump for a night and UCLA would still win, but if Goodrich were off target UCLA would certainly be beaten. He is not, however, the typical small gunner type. Indeed, most of his points come from inside. Goodrich moves in under the basket almost every time after he has brought the ball upcourt. He moves a lot, with the outstanding and rare ability to work well without the ball. Underneath, he bounces on the balls of his feet, ready to cut out for a pass or maneuver for a rebound, though it looks as if he is just doing all that jumping up and down to see over the heads of the bigger people all around him.

Despite his limited height, Goodrich has a real instinct for the rebound. He seems to anticipate the fluke bounces and be in the right spot to scoop up balls and toss them in for those "garbage" baskets. He also has quick hands, and many of his rebounds are actually balls he has swiped from bigger opponents, after they have brought the ball down to Goodrich's level.

Goodrich grew late. He was 5 feet 4 and 99 pounds as a high school sophomore; by the time he led L.A. Poly to the Los Angeles city championship as a senior, he had shot up to 5 feet 9 and 135. UCLA Coach John Wooden had been the only coach interested in Goodrich, so when Southern Cal entered the recruiting lists late it did not have a chance, even though Gail's father had been a star guard at USC.

Goodrich led the UCLA frosh to a 20-0 record, but as a sophomore he was moody and depressed, chiefly because Wooden used him as a 6-foot forward, a position he did not enjoy. He admits now, however, that the experience he had as a forward helps him greatly when he takes the man guarding him inside. With All-America Walt Hazzard on the team last year, Goodrich's skill as a ball handler was almost overlooked. This year it is plentifully evident. He dribbles the ball so low that it looks as if he is rolling it along. Goodrich's jumper adds an inch or two to his height; he gets his hands very high over his head before he releases the ball. At UCLA, defense is a team affair, and none of the players—even Goodrich—is particularly outstanding in this department once the team's tough zone press breaks down.

Gail Goodrich is a dedicated and complete college player, and he is a winner. The kid who looks like the all-American boy is a true All-America athlete. You would almost swear that he also is a blond.

NCAA Championship Pairings


Philadelphia, March 8

College Park, Md., March 12

College Park, Md., March 13

Philadelphia, March 8

College Park, Md., March 12

Philadelphia, March 8

Portland, Ore., March 19


Bowling Green, Ky., March 9

Lexington, Ky., March 12

Bowling Green, Ky., March 9

Lexington, Ky., March 13

Lexington, Ky., March 12


Lubbock, Texas, March 8

Manhattan, Kans., March 12

Manhattan, Kans., March 13

Manhattan, Kans., March 12

Portland, Ore., March 19


Lubbock, Texas, March 8

Provo, Utah, March 12

Provo, Utah, March 13

Provo, Utah, March 12

Portland, Ore., March 20