The NCAA picked up five shiny new conference champions—UCLA (Big Six), Kentucky (Southeastern), San Francisco (West Coast AC), VMI (Southern) and Murray ( Ohio Valley)—and had 16 of its 25 teams in the fold.
New York's NIT, forced to forage among the independents and some conference also-rans, still had four spots open after taking in Army (16-6), Miami (20-6) and St. Joseph's (17-8). Other possibilities: Syracuse (15-7), Penn State (14-7), La Salle (16-8), Xavier of Ohio (16-8) and the runners-up in the Missouri Valley and Western AC.
THE TOP THREE:
1. VILLANOVA (21-3)
2. NYU (14-6)
3. DUQUESNE (15-6)
It was a dismal week for most eastern tournament teams. NCAA-bound Providence could not find shooting room against ST. JOSEPH'S alternating 1-2-2 zone and tight man-to-man. What's more, the Friars were unable to handle St. Joe's pesky Steve Courtin. He threw in 23 points and the Hawks upset Providence 67-62. It did not help the Friars' morale either when VILLANOVA, their first-round opponent in the East regionals, beat Marquette 87-64 and Temple 67-60.
NIT teams had their troubles, too. Just when St. Bonaventure was about to catch DUQUESNE, stubby Willie Somerset stole the ball away from the Bonnies' Fred Crawford. Then he stole the game away with nine points in less than two minutes. Duquesne won 86-80. The Dukes, however, tried their luck in the Midwest and got themselves trampled by DE PAUL'S fast break 84-65.
NYU was another victim. The hot-and-cold Violets, leading CREIGHTON by 11 points with 5:33 to go, fell apart as usual when the Blue Jays hit them with a zone press. Chuck Officer threw in 12 points in the last four minutes, including the basket that beat NYU 88-86. Pitt also stumbled, PENN STATE caught the Panthers with their long-range defenses lagging and Pitt went down 78-63.
Army, giving young (27) Coach Tates Locke its best effort of the year, won its way into the NIT by clobbering old rival Navy 74-55. LA SALLE, although beaten by WESTERN KENTUCKY 107-95, was still hoping for an NIT bid after coming back to outgun Utah State 90-85. So was SYRACUSE, which has not had it so good since 1957. The revived Orangemen rattled past Cornell 89-85, Colgate 99-78 and Canisius 81-64.