The postseason tournaments were filling up. Seven more conference winners—defending champion UCLA (24-1) in the Pacific Eight, Kentucky (21-4) in the Southeastern, Davidson (22-4) in the Southern, New- Mexico (23-3) in the Western AC, La Salle (20-7) in the Mid-Atlantic, TCU (14-10) in the Southwest and Weber State (20-5) in the Big Sky—made it into the NCAAs. That left six to come, and the Atlantic Coast, Ivy League, Big Ten, Big Eight, Ohio Valley and West Coast AC champions will be decided this week.
New York's NIT, impressed by the quality—and number—of the independents and conference also-rans available, decided to expand from 14 to 16 teams. It had 13 set after adding independents LIU (21-1), St. Peter's (21-2), Dayton (17-9) and Villanova (17-8), plus the Mid-American's Marshall (17-7), the Mid-Atlantic's Temple (19-8), the Missouri Valley's Bradley (19-8) and the Western AC's Wyoming (18-8). The remaining three berths probably will go to runners-up in the Atlantic Coast, Big Eight and Southern conferences, with the Ivy second-place team a possibility if league officials give their consent.
1. ST. BONAVENTURE (21-0)
2. COLUMBIA (20-4)
3. ARMY (20-4)
Even before his team got to Princeton for the Ivy League showdown Columbia's Jack Rohan was apprehensive. Dave Newmark, his 7' center, was out with a badly sprained ankle, and the Lions, who had won 16 in a row, had no one to hold off the Tigers' huge front line—6'9" Chris Thomforde and John Hummer and John Haarlow, both 6'7". It looked as if the game would be a rout as Hummer, a fine sophomore, got 15 of Princeton's first 18 points (he scored 27 in all) and the Tigers, with their tall men controlling the boards, led 28-17 at half time. But sophomores Jim McMillian and Heyward Dotson stirred Columbia in the second half and the Lions battled back to a 44-44 tie. Then Jeff Petrie, another sophomore, threw in three clutch baskets for Princeton, and the Tigers pulled away to win 68-57, forcing a playoff for the Ivy title Tuesday at St. John's.
La Salle won the Mid-Atlantic playoff, rolling over American U. 84-57 and then Temple 87-69. The Explorers, defending fiercely out of a 2-1-2 zone and fast breaking, blew the Owls off the court as Larry Cannon got 28 points. Villanova, which may be Philadelphia's best team, beat Toledo 71-69 and Providence 58-42.
For more than a week unbeaten LIU, the nation's No. 1 small-college team, and St. Peter's had suffered while the NIT procrastinated. When the two teams met Wednesday night in Jersey City they bumbled through a sloppy first half. Then NIT Chairman Johnny Bach told them they were both in. With the pressure off, St. Peter's won 70-59. "It's the only time I've smiled when we lost," said LIU Coach Roy Rubin.
Other tournament teams continued to win. Army battered Rochester 75-55 while Fordham held off NYU 79-73, St. John's smothered Holy Cross 83-67 and NYU 77-57, and Boston College beat Duquesne 104-88 and Holy Cross 90-87. Rutgers, an NIT hit last year, bombed Penn State 97-83 for its seventh straight while Syracuse stopped Niagara's Calvin Murphy—he scored only 15 points—with a stall and won 50-49.