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The jockeying between the NCAA and New York's NIT for independent teams for their postseason tournaments was over almost before it began. The NCAA got defending national champion Texas Western (19-5), Houston (21-3), Boston College (17-2), St. John's (20-3), Dayton (21-4), Virginia Tech (17-5), Seattle (17-6) and New Mexico State (14-10). Five conference champions—UCLA (23-0) in the Pacific Eight, Louisville (23-3) in the Missouri Valley, Western Kentucky (21-2) in the Ohio Valley, SMU (17-5) in the Southwest and Connecticut (16-5) in the Yankee—also qualified, and 10 more will get automatic bids.
The NIT, meanwhile, landed 10 attractive teams for its field of 14 independents: Southern Illinois (19-2), St. Peter's (18-3), Syracuse (19-4), Utah State (18-5), Providence (18-6), Rutgers (17-6), Marquette (17-8), Villanova (16-8) and the Missouri Valley's Tulsa (18-6) and Memphis State (17-8). Other candidates were independents DePaul (16-7), Holy Cross (15-8), Army (13-8) and the best of the also-rans in the Atlantic Coast (possibly Duke), Big Eight ( Kansas, Nebraska or Colorado), MidAmerican ( Marshall) and Western AC ( New Mexico).
One disquieting note: 11 of the 21 NCAA and NIT teams were beaten last week after they accepted invitations.
Just about the only PRINCETON man who did not think the world had come to an end when the Tigers lost at Cornell was Coach Butch van Breda Kolff. He simply got ready for the rematch at Princeton last Saturday and said, "It should be fun." It really was, too, for Princeton. John Haarlow, playing with a grotesque face mask to protect a broken nose, and Joe Heiser scored 25 and 17 points, respectively, while the big rebounders—6'9" Chris Thomforde and Robby Brown and 6'7" Ed Hummer and Haarlow—overwhelmed Cornell on the boards. Princeton won easily 81-66, and all the Tigers needed was a victory over Penn on Wednesday to win the Ivy League title and a place in the NCAA East Regional.
Syracuse's Fred Lewis thought his fast break and free-lance press would stop patient ST. JOHN'S, and they almost did. The Orange had a seven-point lead with 10 minutes left. Then Sonny Dove got going. He slammed in three straight stuffs, went on to score 27 points and the Redmen won 71-64. Dove got 28 more as St. John's trimmed Miami of Florida 97-70, but Syracuse lost to CANISIUS 68-64 in Buffalo.
Boston College rolled over Boston U. 74-66 and Georgetown 103-91, but VILLANOVA surprised Providence 55-52. Jimmy Walker had the worst shooting night of his career—two for 20 and only five points. Walker's slump, happily, was only temporary. He spent 90 minutes shooting by himself in the gym and that night got 46 points as the Friars drubbed Rhode Island 99-73. Then Walker topped that with 47, and Providence beat Holy Cross 88-75. Villanova also trounced Memphis State 66-48 to earn an NIT bid, while ARMY, another hopeful, took Navy 64-54.
Temple, however, had its sights set on the NCAA tournament. The Owls licked Pitt 87-49 and NYU 77-61 and will compete with St. Joseph's, La Salle and American U. in the Middle Atlantic playoffs this weekend. ST. JOSEPH'S, in a preview, outscored American 94-68 and La Salle 96-83.