With most teams settled clown to battling for conference championships, some semblance of form finally was visible in major-college basketball. Davidson, for one, threatened to turn the Southern Conference race into a runaway. Michigan was leading in the Big Ten, and Wichita State in the Missouri Valley. UCLA's powerful game was overwhelming the AAWU, and San Francisco had a piece of the lead in the West Coast AC. But there were surprises, too: North Carolina State was tied with Duke in the Atlantic Coast, Auburn led the Southeastern, and Oklahoma State was first in the Big Eight. Even more startling, SMU shared the lead with Texas Tech in the Southwest Conference.
THE TOP THREE:
1. PROVIDENCE (11-0)
2. ST. JOHN'S (11-2)
3. ST. JOSEPH'S (14-1)
While unbeaten Providence took time off for midyear exams, its most persistent rivals in the East were busy adding to their already impressive records. ST. JOHN'S, determined to make Coach Joe Lapchick's last year a memorable one, demonstrated its resourcefulness against Creighton and Seton Hall. When Creighton's 1-3-1 zone defense threatened to stop the Redmen, they forced the ball in to 6-foot-6 Bob McIntyre in a corner, and he blithely shot over the zone for 26 points. St. John's won 72-66. Five nights later the Redmen, helped along by Ken McIntyre's 26 points, dropped in 24 of 29 free throws and beat Seton Hall 76-69 for their seventh straight and Coach Lapchick's 325th victory.
St. Joseph's, beaten only by Providence, fattened up meanwhile on easy foes. The hustling Hawks, with Cliff Anderson shooting in 29 points and Billy Oakes 24, smashed Seton Hall 115-81 for a team and Palestra record and then routed Lafayette 82-68.
Philadelphia's fratricidal Big Five continued its intracity warfare. Almost nobody gave Coach Harry Litwack's erratic TEMPLE team a chance against Villanova, especially when the Owls were down by 13 points in the first half. Then Temple's Billy Kelley, a slick little backcourter, found his touch. He tossed in jumpers, drove through the Wildcats for layups and calmly sank foul shots. Kelly scored 18 points, and the Owls upset Villanova 73-59.
La Salle, a somewhat less distinguished member of the Philadelphia order, had no difficulty beating Duquesne 83-69 but ran into trouble away from home. SYRACUSE, slowly recovering from a disastrous start, thwarted the Explorers with a tidy 2-3 zone and whacked them 104-81 as Dave Bing scored 33 points.
Georgetown, another slow starter, was beginning to look as good as Coach Tommy O'Keefe thought it would. With Owen Gillen and Jim Brown back in good graces, Jim Barry's operated knee behaving and big Frank Hollendoner playing like a 6-foot-11 should, the Hoyas beat George Washington 81-73 and Fordham 69-67 in overtime for their seventh in a row. ST. BONAVENTURE held off rallying Niagara to win 71-66, while ARMY hammered Pitt 88-63. The baskets fairly smoked when BOSTON COLLEGE and Rhode Island got together at Kingston. The Rams shot 64% and Coach Bob Cousy's BC gunners fired away at a mere 60% clip but won the defenseless game anyway, 107-105.
Princeton's Bill Bradley had a magnificent weekend, even for him, but all it earned the Tigers was a tie for second in the Ivy League. Bradley threw in 41 points (to become the first Ivy Leaguer to score more than 2,000) as Princeton beat Columbia 78-68. The next night Bradley got 40 more against CORNELL, but the Big Red, which had already beaten Penn 76-65, won the game 70-69—and the Ivy lead—on Blaine Aston's shot with three seconds to go.