"Step right up and hear all the latest complaints. Listen to the raucous boos. See a coach get fired." That might well have been the pitch for the Metro Conference tournament in Memphis. It was there that Louisville Coach Denny Crum, whose team had won the regular-season title, argued that it was unfair to force his squad to prove itself again. Crum's worst fears came true when his Cardinals were jolted in the semifinals by Georgia Tech 56-55. "We don't need the Metro tournament," Crum yelped after the loss. "NIT, hell! We might still go to the NCAA." (They will—and meet UCLA in the first round.) Spouting off, too, was Cincinnati Coach Gale Catlett, who said he would do all he could to yank his school out of the conference if it does not host next year's tournament. At least Catlett was able to smile after his games. That was more than could be said for Randy Albrecht of St. Louis, who was fired after an opening-round 76-68 loss to the Bearcats. And it was more than could be said for many local fans when Cincinnati beat Memphis State 68-67 on Gary Yoder's pair of free throws with four seconds remaining. The Bearcats then beat Georgia Tech in the finale 74-61. Despite being winners, Cincinnati was booed by the fans and absorbed one last shot from Tech Guard Ray Schnitzer, who predicted they would not do well in the NCAAs because, "They have no class."
"What kind of game is it that makes idiots out of grown men and causes them to act foolish in front of thousands?" asked Kansas State Coach Jack Hartman after the Big Eight's first playoff tournament. Well, in a semifinal 80-67 loss to the Wildcats, Kansas Coach Ted Owens became so upset with the officiating that he pounded the timer's table and knocked out the activator for the scoreboard foul recorder. In the finale, Hartman and Missouri Coach Norm Stewart stood jaw to jaw during a timeout and had to be restrained by the officials. The Tigers blew an 18-point lead and lost to the Wildcats 72-67 in overtime as Mike Evans gunned in most of his 27 points on long-range shots.
"In basketball, unlike football, defensive players aren't given the credit they deserve. Jim Counce is one of the greatest defensive players in the country." So said Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton after the 6'7" Counce had clamped down on Houston's Otis Birdsong in the wrap-up game of the Southwest Conference playoffs. Birdsong, who had been averaging 30 points a game, had only 21 against the Razorbacks, missing 13 of 22 field-goal tries. Houston, down by 13 points after eight minutes, led by six early in the second half. Then Guard Ron Brewer got busy, scoring 19 of his game-high 29 points in the last 13 minutes as Arkansas won 80-74. There were further indications that basketball was flourishing in the SWC. For the first time in memory, tickets to a league game were scalped: $25 apiece for the showdown in Houston, which drew the largest crowd ever to see an SWC game: 15,262.
Even before facing West Texas State in the finals of the Missouri Valley playoffs, Southern Illinois knew it would represent the conference at the NCAAs because the Buffaloes are on probation. Still, the Salukis didn't want to back into the national tournament. With Gary Wilson tossing in 28 points and Mike Glenn 24, SIU breezed in 82-69.
Loyola of Chicago pulled off a 79-71 upset of Detroit, which shot only 32%, 19% below its average.
Marquette won twice on the road, 63-44 at Tulane and 72-60 at Creighton. Bo Ellis had 26 points for the Warriors against the Green Wave, which scored just nine points in the first half, a performance Tulane Coach Roy Danforth said "set basketball back 25 years." Against the Bluejays, who had trailed the Warriors only 38-34 at halftime, Marquette used a zone in the second half. Said Coach Al McGuire, "They could beat us man-to-man because they run the back door so well."
Indiana State sophomore Larry Bird finished strong. He scored 47 points (19 of 30 from the floor, nine of 10 from the foul line) and grabbed 18 rebounds as the Sycamores set back Butler 80-65. Bird had 34 points and 13 rebounds as the Sycamores (25-2) beat Valparaiso 77-70 to bolster their hopes of getting a tournament bid.
1. ARKANSAS (26-1)
2. CINCINNATI (25-4)
3. LOUISVILLE (21-6)