Although the books were closed for most of the nation's teams, the ball was still bouncing merrily in all directions for some as they set out for bigger game in the NCAA and NIT tournaments.
The NCAA picked up its normal complement of conference champions, some making it the hard way, and moved toward this weekend's regional finals at Charlotte, N.C., Evanston, Ill., Lawrence, Kans. and San Francisco (see page 49). Meanwhile, the NIT prepared to open in New York's Madison Square Garden Thursday with a field composed of Fordham (17-7), Butler (18-8), St. John's (16-6), Villanova (18-5), Manhattan (15-5), Providence (18-5), NYU (12-7), Denver (14-9), St. Bonaventure (20-2), St. Louis (20-4), Oklahoma City (20-6) and either Bradley (23-3) or Cincinnati (22-3).
The small colleges were also having their innings. Evansville (Ind.), Los Angeles State, Southwest Missouri State, Hope, South Dakota State, St. Michael's (Vt.), American U. and North Carolina A&T survived district playoffs to fight it out for the NCAA college division title at Evansville. Tennessee A&I, the defending champion, and 31 other teams invaded Kansas City and were busy eliminating each other in the NAIA competition.
All season long Dartmouth and Princeton were as close as two peas in a pod. And things were no different when they met in a playoff at Yale's Payne Whitney Gym last Saturday night. The Indians, operating out of a tight 3-2 zone and with agile 6-foot 7-inch Rudy LaRusso controlling the boards, stormed ahead early in the game, then found themselves scrambling for their very lives as Carl Belz and his Tiger teammates fought back. With three seconds to go, Dartmouth set up an out-of-bounds play and got the ball to LaRusso, who drove in for the layup which gave Coach Doggie Julian's boys a 69-68 victory, the Ivy League title and an NCAA berth.
Slumping Connecticut picked itself up in time to beat Rhode Island 87-63 for its 11th Yankee crown in 12 years. St. John's recovered its early-season poise and slickness and overhauled NYU 57-55 on Sophomore Tony Jackson's jump shot; Boston U. trounced NIT-bound Providence 64-48 to earn an NCAA bid; scrappy Manhattan cut Fordham down to size 73-64; St. Francis (Pa.), uninvited and squawking, took out its disappointment on Duquesne 75-63 for a 20-5 record.
Cincinnati suddenly found its path to the Missouri Valley title filled with speculation. The Bearcats visited Peoria, where practically no one beats Bradley, and lost 84-66. The Braves, trailing 37-29 at half time, switched from zone to man-to-man, blanketed every Bearcat but Oscar Robertson (who scored 25) and got some hot shooting from Mike Owens and Dan Smith to thrash bewildered Cincinnati.
Bowling Green backed into a tie for Mid-American honors when Miami went sour and lost to Marshall 90-79, then ran fast and often to scalp the weary Redskins 76-63 for an NCAA invitation.