The annual jockeying for choice independents for college basketball's two postseason tournaments is about to begin. When invitations go out on February 24 both the NCAA—already assured of 15 conference champions and with 10 at-large places to fill—and New York's NIT, which has 14 spots this year, can pick from a shiny list of contenders. The best: Providence (18-0), Villanova (17-3), Penn State (15-3), St. John's (14-5), Boston College (16-6) and NYU (11-5) in the East; DePaul (15-6), Dayton (15-6), Detroit (15-6) and Notre Dame (12-9) in the Midwest; Florida State (14-7) in the South; Houston (17-6), Oklahoma City (16-8) and Texas Western (13-8) in the Southwest; Seattle (15-6), Colorado State (12-6) and Portland (12-9) in the West.
THE TOP THREE:
1. PROVIDENCE (18-0)
2. ST. JOSEPH'S (21-1)
3. VILLANOVA (17-3)
Providence was still the only major unbeaten team in the land, but so far as Philadelphia's rabid basketball fans were concerned that was just temporary. They were sure Villanova would take the Friars when they meet in Philly February 23. The only thing they could not agree on was whether St. Joseph's (already beaten by Providence) or Villanova was the best in the East. But that will be settled, too, next Saturday when the two teams play at the Palestra.
And just to keep the pot boiling, all three were winning, PROVIDENCE rolled over St. Francis of Loretto 88-69, but Duquesne treated Coach Joe Mullaney's combination defense with unusual disdain, and the Friars had to go to a press to win their 18th straight 83-75. ST. JOSEPH'S battered Albright 92-71 and Temple 73-59, while VILLANOVA caught St. John's without ailing Bobby McIntyre and clipped the Redmen 52-43. The Wildcats also beat St. Bonaventure 77-64. ST. JOHN'S, however, got Bobby Mac back for Niagara, and he scored 26 points as the Redmen won 82-62.
Penn State was still surprising folks. Army tried a delay game against the Lions' zone, and it got the Cadets a 21-19 lead early in the second half. Then Coach John Egli put State into a half-court press. Army fell apart, Jim Reed and Carver Clinton led a 12-point burst, and the Lions won 59-44. NYU beat Holy Cross 84-73 and St. Francis of N.Y. 88-68, while BOSTON COLLEGE out-scored Boston U. 94-86 and Fordham 89-78.
Connecticut clinched a tie for the Yankee Conference title with a 70-63 win over Massachusetts and then beat Holy Cross 87-76. CORNELL thumped Brown 90-60 to hold its Ivy lead, while second-place PRINCETON swamped Harvard 76-55 and Dartmouth 103-64.
THE TOP THREE: