The preliminaries were over in the NCAA tournament, and the four regional survivors—UCLA in the West, Houston in the Midwest, North Carolina in the East and Dayton in the Mideast—were ready for the national championship round this weekend in Louisville (page 14). UCLA, everybody's favorite, had it easy beating Wyoming 109—60 and Pacific 80-64 in Corvallis, while HOUSTON surprised Kansas 66-53 and then SMU 83-75 in Lawrence. NORTH CAROLINA defeated Princeton 78-70 in overtime and Boston College 96-80 in College Park, and DAYTON edged Tennessee 53-52 and Virginia Tech 71-66 in Evanston.
It was like a mob scene in an old Cecil B. DeMille spectacular. Hundreds of screaming fans poured out of the stands at New York's Madison Square Garden and raised the weary but unprotesting SOUTHERN ILLINOIS players to their shoulders for the standard winners' parade. Then came the inevitable chant, "We're No. 1, we're No. 1."
The Salukis had just beaten Marquette 71-56 before a sellout crowd of 18,499, almost as many people as in all of Carbon-dale, to win the National Invitation Tournament championship. It was easily the greatest athletic triumph ever for Southern Illinois—officially a "small college" but with major ambitions—which had passed up an almost certain college-division title for a chance to play with the big schools in the NIT. It was a calculated risk, and the Salukis had calculated well.
Before the NIT, Southern Illinois had a 20-2 record and victories over Texas Western and Louisville. The team featured a Little All-America, Walt Frazier, a broad-shouldered 6'3" guard with all the moves and shots of a pro. Ed Zastrow and Roger Bechtold, both excellent playmakers, alternated at the other guard. The forwards were Dick Garrett, a skinny, hot-shooting sophomore, and 6'4" Clarence Smith, a wriggly leaper. At center, 6'7" Ralph Johnson was unspectacular but had the knack of coming up with a basket or a rebound at precisely the right moment. Coach Jack Hartman, a tough, no-nonsense man, had taught them to play his disciplined offense and defense, and they did it extremely well.
Still, it looked as if Southern Illinois would never make it past Duke in the quarterfinals, especially when the teams were tied 37-37 at the half. But the Salukis continued to attack Duke's zone defenses diligently and actually outrebounded the bigger Blue Devils 47-41 to cut off their fast break. Bob Verga kept Duke in the game with 24 points, but Garrett scored 18, Frazier and Johnson 17 apiece and Southern won out 72-63.
Rutgers was next for Southern Illinois in the semifinals, and the Scarlet Knights, well-coached by Bill Foster, had been the biggest surprise of the tournament. They had upset New Mexico 65-60 with a superb game. Rutgers kept the ball away from 6'9" Mel Daniels with a 1-2-2 zone, and Bobby Lloyd's 23 points gave the Knights a 13-point lead with 2:39 to go. The desperate Lobos went to a press, but Rutgers managed to survive.
That put Rutgers in with Southern Illinois, and even Coach Foster was amazed. "I really don't know what we're doing here," he said, "but I'm grateful. Our kids have been just fantastic." They were even more fantastic, for a while, against the Salukis. Little Jimmy Valvano put in his first eight shots, missed one and then made his 10th, Lloyd scored 16 points, Bob Greacen grabbed off rebounds and the Knights led 44-36 at the half. But Southern soon put an end to Rutgers' hopes. The Salukis shut off Valvano and Lloyd with a slick 2-3 zone, got control of the boards and Frazier and Garrett began hitting. Rutgers' lead soon disappeared, but the Knights kept it close until the last two minutes. Southern Illinois finally won 79-70 as Frazier scored 26 points and Garrett 22. "We just stayed in closer touch with them in the second half," explained Hartman. There was some consolation for Rutgers, though. They later trounced Marshall 93-76 for third place as Lloyd had his best game of the year. He scored 44 points to set a new NIT record of 129 and boosted his career total to 2,045. Bobby also finished the season with 255 free throws in 277 attempts for a .921 percentage, the best in the nation.
Marquette, meanwhile, was pulling off a few surprises also, and it was beginning to look like old home week for Coach Al McGuire, a former New Yorker. The Warriors got caught up in a real wingding with Providence and won it 81-80 in overtime. The big problem for Marquette, of course, was Jimmy Walker, and McGuire alternated Jim Burke, Brad Luchini and Blanton Simmons on him. But Walker still scored 36 points,' and the teams were tied 74-74 at the end of regulation time. The strategy in overtime was fierce. McGuire and Providence's Joe Mullaney platooned substitutes on offense and defense, called for time-outs and raced up and down the sidelines shouting instructions to their players. At one point they met at midcourt. McGuire stuck out his hand, Mullaney shook it and then they went back to work. Marquette squeezed out the victory when Walker's last-second shot bounced off the rim.
Then came Marshall in the semifinals. The free-wheeling Thundering Herd had just bombed Nebraska 119-88 in a shooting match with George Stone, a 6'7" gunner, scoring 46 points. "They could blow us right out of the gym," worried McGuire. He put George Thompson, a 6'2" forward who jumps like a 7-footer, on Stone, and the pair had a merry old time muscling each other. Thompson came away with a mouse under his eye, but he outscored Stone 28 to 24, Bob Wolf had 21 points and Marquette won 83-78.
Both coaches were apprehensive before the final. Hartman was concerned about Thompson. "He doesn't know how tall he is," the Saluki coach said. "That whole Marquette bunch jumps right out of the place." McGuire wondered if he could disrupt the Salukis' even pace. "They don't look like a club that can be shaken," he said.
But Marquette almost shook Southern right at the start. Wolf flipped in five long jumpers, Thompson twisted in a few layups, Burke shot a couple of two-hand sets and the Warriors led 34-23 at the half. But the Salukis did not panic. They tightened up their defense in the second half, nibbled away slowly at the Marquette lead and suddenly broke loose. Johnson, Frazier, Bechtold, Garrett and Clarence Smith began throwing in baskets, and they outscored the Warriors 25-4 in the next eight minutes to go ahead 59-46. The game was over. Frazier had 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Hartman broke out in a big smile, but he blanched a little when someone asked if he wanted to play UCLA. "You sure got a nasty sense of humor," he replied. "I think we want to set around and tooth this victory for a while." Over in the Marquette dressing room, McGuire said wearily, "We lost our poise. They didn't." He was right.
THE SMALL COLLEGES
With Southern Illinois out of the NCAA college division tournament by choice, eight hopeful regional winners gathered in Evansville. Kentucky Wesleyan, the defending champion, was the favorite, but WINSTON-SALEM, a team that had been overlooked in the national rankings all year despite a 28-1 record, was determined to make the most of its first shot at the championship.
Winston-Salem Coach Clarence (Big House) Gaines, a jolly 290-pounder with a soft voice, liked his Rams to run and gun, and his game plan was simple. He told his players, "When you need it give it to the money man." The money man is Earl Monroe, a slick 6'4" shooter who had scored 1,236 points for a 42.6 average and had pro scouts tripping over themselves trying to get to him. Monroe scored 29 points as Winston-Salem beat Long Island University 62-54 in a slowdown and 24 more in a racehorse 82-73 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan in the semifinal. But he was at his best in the final against SOUTHWEST MISSOURI, which had beaten Valparaiso 86-72 and Illinois State 93-76 in earlier games. The Bears shut off Winston-Salem's fast break with some tough rebounding and tried to shackle Monroe with a 1-2-2 zone. But Earl, firing away unconcernedly, poured in 40 points (to increase his alltime college one-season record to 1,329), including two free throws with 25 seconds left to put the Rams ahead 77-74. Then Monroe put on a show. He dribbled the ball between his legs, behind his back and, finally, through three opposing players as Coach Gaines watched admiringly. "He makes coaching pretty easy," said Big House happily.
The six-day NAIA tournament in Kansas City seemed to go on continuously. It started with 32 teams, all district champions, and the sound of basketballs thumping loudly on the hardwood floor in Municipal Auditorium filled the air from early morning until late at night for the first three days. By Saturday the tournament was down to two teams—St. Benedict's of Atchison, Kans. and Oklahoma Baptist.
Top-seeded ST. BENEDICT'S had reached the finals by beating Linfield (Ore.) 80-75, Southern State (Ark.) 67-56, St. Mary's of San Antonio, 88-73 and Morris Harvey (W. Va.) 73-70. OKLAHOMA BAPTIST, seeded No. 3, had beaten Alcorn A&M (Miss.) 55-52, Valdosta State (Ga.) 70-62, Southwestern Louisiana 66-65 and Central Washington 78-68.
The big problem for St. Benedict's was Al Tucker, skinny and 6'8", who had scored 117 points in four previous games. Coach Ralph Nolan figured he had to keep Tucker away from the basket and started off playing him man-to-man. But Tucker beat that strategy. When he was not firing in long-range jumpers he shuffled inside for hooks, drives, reverse layups and stuffs. Tucker jammed in 47 points to earn acclaim as the tournament's MVP, but not quite enough to give the Baptists a victory. St. Benedict's had better balance. Darryl Jones, a nifty feeder, and Bill Wewers each scored 20 points and led the Ravens to a 71-65 win for the championship.
On a slightly lower level but with as much action, MOBERLY, Mo. won the National Junior College title in Hutchinson, Kans. Moberly edged San Jacinto of Pasadena, Texas 56-55 on Harrison Stepter's free throw with 10 seconds to play.
TRIUMPHANT RIDE was earned by Saluki Frazier, NIT's Most Valuable Player.
MONEY MAN MONROE got the points for Winston-Salem, set a scoring record.