Second-place Tech got word of Mississippi State's unexpected decision just before the Vanderbilt game in Nashville. Disheartened, Tech's offense sputtered, and it lost to Vandy 75-74. Auburn, after losing to Tennessee 55-47, beat Alabama 74-67 in overtime to tie Georgia Tech for second.
The Atlantic Coast tournament at Raleigh went almost as expected. Duke defeated Virginia 89-70 and North Carolina State 82-65, but Wake Forest, after battering Maryland 80-41, just did survive against North Carolina. The Deacons won 56-55. Wake, beaten by a total of 70 points in three games with Duke, tried to brazen it out with a ball-control game in the final. For a while it worked. Dave Wiedeman fired in 13 points, and Wake led, 35-31, at the half. Then Duke switched to a diamond-and-one zone with Buzzy Harrison hounding Wiedeman, and the Blue Devils began to catch up. With the score 39-39, Art Hey-man began to hit. He scored 15 of Duke's next 20 points, finished with 24, and the Blue Devils won their 18th in a row, 68-57.
West Virginia got by Richmond 75-46 and Furman 81-69 easily enough in the Southern Conference tournament at Richmond, but then the Mountaineers had to contend with Davidson's youngsters, who had beaten VMI 108-71 and Virginia Tech 75-67. With Bill Jarman and Fred Hetzel matching West Virginia's Rod Thorn and Tom Lowry point for point, the brash Wildcats led 72-70 with about three minutes to go. But West Virginia, which made 23 of its 25 foul shots in the second half, finally won, 79-74. The top three:
1. DUKE (24-2)
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE (21-5)
3. WEST VIRGINIA (21-7)
Cincinnati was preparing to defend its national championship by winning, as usual. True, the Bearcats caused some concern when they fell behind Xavier of Ohio early in that game. But Cincy's defense took its toll, and Xavier was beaten 72-61. St. Louis was easier. The Bills fell behind quickly and stayed there as Ron Bonham scored 32 points in a 66-52 victory.
But there were signs that the pace was beginning to tell on Loyola of Chicago. The Ramblers had a hard time getting past Ohio, 114-94, then they slipped against Wichita. The Shockers, who had just defeated Texas Western 60-58 on a last-second goaltending call, came from eight points behind in the last nine minutes to beat Loyola 73-72. The same night, Bradley defeated Notre Dame 72-66.
The Big Ten had a familiar look since Ohio State led the pack again. Gary Bradds, a whirling All-America with the fastest elbows in the Midwest, got the Bucks past Northwestern 50-45. Then, while Illinois stumbled over Michigan and lost, 84-81, he teamed with Dick Reasbeck, who scored 32 points, to bury Purdue 95-75.
The Big Eight race was down to Kansas State and Colorado. K-State was a full game ahead of the Buffs after beating Kansas 74-60 and Oklahoma State 56-54, but Colorado still has a slim chance, if you care to call it that. It has a game against K-State at Manhattan, Kans., where State hasn't lost since the invention of the reaper. It was all over in the Mid-American, as Western Michigan upset Toledo 69-64 and gave the title to Bowling Green. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (23-1)
2. OHIO STATE (19-3)
3. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (24-2)