The casualty list of beaten favorites in one week was startling. While conference championships—and postseason tournament bids—awaited decision, Duke, Kansas State, USC, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech, among others, fell with a disturbing thud. But Ohio U., the new Mid-American Conference champion, automatically moved into the NCAA while the NIT hungrily snatched up Miami ( Fla.), Army and Dayton. The NCAA, too, began to fill its field for the small-college regional tournaments. Already picked: Cape Girardeau (Mo.) State, Fairfield ( Conn.), South Carolina State, Southern Illinois, Wabash, Chicago, and Youngstown.
It seemed that at long last the jig was up for unbeaten Ohio State. For more than 36 minutes Iowa, patched up like an old inner tube after losing four regulars through academic deficiencies, had outrebounded, outshot and outhustled the supposedly invincible Buckeyes while 13,500 feet-stamping Hawkeye supporters howled for the kill at Iowa City. Don Nelson, Iowa's sharpshooting forward who scored 27 points, had been more than a match for OSU's superb Jerry Lucas, who scored 25. But Ohio State never lost its poise—or its great talent—even when it was behind 59-52 with 3:36 to go. The obstinate Buckeyes turned to their half-court press, pulled off four quick steals for 10 straight points, the last four by Larry Siegfried and sub Gary Gearhart, and subdued the Hawk-eyes 62-61. OSU's Fred Taylor, shaken by the close call, had only one simple explanation: "They just grabbed us off our feet."
Colorado, playing at Boulder, where it is dangerous as a cobra, almost brought off an improbable parlay. The Buffs surprised Kansas State with a bustling press in the first half to go ahead by 15 points, then fought off the surging Wildcats and knocked them out of the Big Eight lead, 81-80. But the same tactics didn't work against Kansas, the new leader. The tricky Jayhawks moved 6-foot-9 Wayne Hightower to the post, and he filled the baskets with 36 points and plucked off 21 rebounds as Kansas won easily, 90-62.
The Missouri Valley fight was strictly between Cincinnati and Bradley, but the streaking Bearcats held the upper hand. While Bradley tuned up on nonconference rivals Notre Dame, 84-81, and Houston, 90-74, and beat last-place North Texas State 105-70, Cincinnati pushed its record to 9-2 by beating Wichita 67-64 and Tulsa 81-52 and needed only one more win to clinch a tie. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (20-0)
2. CINCINNATI (19-3)
3. BRADLEY (19-4)
While Atlantic Coast politicos split hairs in executive session (see page 41) strange things were happening on the basketball court. Duke, after losing to Wake Forest 103-89, was stripped of sophomore star Art Heyman for its remaining conference games. Then the Blue Devils lost to Maryland 76-71 without him and just did beat Navy 75-73 with him. Wake Forest, in turn, found Villanova's cautious offense too much and lost to the Wildcats 60-56. Meanwhile, North Carolina, playing without Guards Larry Brown and Don Walsh, beat North Carolina State 62-56, South Carolina 92-68 and Clemson 61-55 to assume first place.
Mississippi State was running into trouble in the SEC despite Coach Babe McCarthy's frantic improvisations. Kentucky, spurred on by Adolph Rupp's "feud" with McCarthy (and perhaps by the dead skunk which State students placed under the Wildcats' bench), beat the Maroons 68-62 at Starksville. Then, Florida, which had earlier beaten Auburn 78-60, squeezed past State 59-57 on Cliff Luyk's basket with four seconds left. Vanderbilt, upset by LSU's outside shooting, 65-61, came back to win over Tennessee 76-70 and, along with Florida, was only a game behind State.
West Virginia, marking time for the Southern Conference playoffs, used its stifling press to overtake Penn State 80-78 and Pitt 92-84. The top three: