It was all over for most of the nation's major college teams, but for those that had made it to the postseason tournaments it was really just beginning.
The NCAA, after waiting patiently for conference races to be decided, filled out its field with Kentucky (18-8), Loyola (19-6), Utah (21-6), Xavier (17-9), More-head State (18-10), Arizona State (21-5), Seattle (18-7) and Oregon (15-11), and prepared to open its traveling road show in New York, Louisville, Houston and Portland.
The embattled NIT, although shaken by Bradley's totally unexpected decision not to defend its title, regrouped quickly, replaced the reluctant Braves with St. Louis (18-8), and seeded Skyline runner-up Colorado State U. (17-8), Dayton (19-7), Memphis State (20-2) and Niagara (16-4) for the tournament, which begins Thursday in New York's Madison Square Garden. However, the favorites were far from a shoo-in even in the early rounds. They faced serious competition from De-Paul (17-7), Providence (20-5), Detroit (18-8), Army (17-6), Miami (19-6), Temple (19-7), Holy Cross (18-4) and St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the small colleges were already involved in their own postseason affairs. Favored Prairie View and Southern Illinois fell, but Austin Peay, Mount St. Mary's (Md.), Williams, Wittenberg, Chicago, Southeast Missouri, South Dakota State and California (at Santa Barbara) survived regional playoffs and moved on to Evansville to fight it out for the NCAA small-college championship. Equally enthusiastic—and no less hopeful—were the 32 NAIA district champions which gathered in Kansas City, where they will spend the next week eliminating each other on the way to Saturday's final.
Kentucky's crusty Adolph Rupp was beaming again. Grumpy and petulant when his Wildcats all but tumbled out of the SEC race back in January, the old Baron had the last chuckle. Last week in a playoff at Knoxville for second place and an NCAA berth, Kentucky smothered Vanderbilt with a tenacious defense while Larry Pursiful and Roger Newman flooded the baskets with eye-catching jumpers and layups, and the Wildcats beat Vandy 88-67 for their 10th in a row. "They buried us," chortled Rupp as he contemplated his 12th NCAA tournament. "We had to come back from the cemetery." Two days later, Kentucky reverted to its early-season mistakes and lost to Marquette 88-72.
The Ohio Valley finally had a champion. Morehead State squeezed past Eastern Kentucky 55-54, overtook Western Kentucky 80-72 in overtime to win a three-way playoff. The top three:
1. NORTH CAROLINA (19-4)
2. DUKE (22-6)
3. KENTUCKY (18-8)