For the basketball fan there was no doubt that it was Christmastime. The wreaths were up the stores were filled, Arizona State was in Buffalo, Tennessee in El Paso and Iowa in Portland. The latter examples were evidence, of course, of the intersectional diversions that signal the holidays.
The situation was no better exemplified than in Philadelphia where Roman Catholic and Mormon battled for Quaker City Tournament honors. Paced by its newest starter, 6-foot Steve Courtin, St. Joseph's was a 76-64 winner over Brigham Young, a surprise finalist. The Main Line reception was somewhat different for favored Bowling Green, which arrived unbeaten and left with two losses and a virus.
To New York's Holiday Festival, Illinois Coach Harry Combes brought his bright-red socks and his perfect orange-and-blue record. The Mini got the record, anyway, cleanly back to Champaign. Illinois finished with a flourish, outscoring West Virginia 25-5 to come from behind and win 92-74. The semifinal opponent, NYU—and more specifically, Barry Kramer—gave Illinois the greatest trouble. Kramer, the tourney MVP, scored 42 in that loss, 49 more in two wins, to lead the Violets to third place.
Penn and Princeton, the class of the Ivies, both lost for the first time—Penn 66-98 to Illinois and Princeton 74-85 to Duke. Niagara, unbeaten and happy that way, took Christmas vacation to heart and took Christmas vacation. The top three:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (8-2)
2. PRINCETON (7-1)
3. NYU (5-2)
For Dixie's proudest, the holidays were rugged first and festive second. Not only were there icicles in the orange groves, there was a rash of fratricidal upsets that cut the list of the major unbeaten to three—Auburn, Georgia Tech and Miami. And even though all three proved themselves with tournament victories, none exactly trampled the opposition. Auburn, for instance, needed overtime to squeak by Houston for the Sugar Bowl title (.sec page 46), while Tech won the Gator Bowl with a two-point conquest of Florida after a one-point defeat of Virginia Tech.
Miami, 8-0 and conqueror of Duke 71-69, avenged itself and the Chamber of Commerce by taking care of two other Yankee invaders, Cornell and Pitt, to win the Hurricane Classic. It wasn't easy, though. Miami had to make 28 of 31 from the foul line to beat the Panthers 86-85 in the finals. LSU, a pre-Christmas 74-73 victor over Houston, took third. At Greenville, S.C., Vanderbilt had only a three-point victory margin as it won the Poinsettia Classic, edging Clemson 60-58 and Furman 69-68.
Virginia Tech learned how the better half lives and loses. Masters of Mississippi State and Kentucky, it lost three straight. Also returning to reality was Davidson—Cinderella against Duke (72-69) but then pumpkin against Cincinnati (46-72).