"This is hard to believe. I feel like I'm spinning in circles," gushed New Mexico's Marvin Johnson. Johnson was not nearly as dizzy as Colorado State after he had led the Lobos to a 111-88 win by connecting on 21 of 27 shots and eight free throws. With 1:15 to play and 18,101 fans in Albuquerque's University Arena on their feet chanting, "Marvin, Marvin," Johnson drilled in two foul shots for his 49th and 50th points, breaking the WAC single-game record held by a couple of old pros, Wyoming's Flynn Robinson (1964) and Utah's Jerry Chambers (1966). Two days later Johnson pumped in 32 points as New Mexico sank Wyoming 93-74 and clinched the WAC title. Johnson's shooting so impressed teammate Willie Howard that Howard crowed. "I want UCLA. Bring them on. We're ready to take on the world."
The WAC's second-place team, Utah, raised its record to 22-5 and earned an NCAA bid by whipping Brigham Young 81-74. Ute seniors Jeff Judkins and Buster Matheney scored 47 points, giving them a combined career total of 3,154 and making them the highest scoring duo in Ute history.
Also bid hunting was independent Utah State, which pushed its record to 21-6 by thrashing Montana 89-68 and St. Mary's 96-80. "I'm satisfied," said Coach Dutch Belnap, comforted by the fact that the Aggies had victories over two regular-season conference champions, Montana ( Big Sky) and Fresno State (PCAA). Not satisfied was the NCAA, which chose to overlook them.
They're called McCarthy's Kids because the coach is named Neil McCarthy and four of the starters are sophomores. Actually, they are the Weber State Wildcats, and going into the Big Sky championship game against Montana, McCarthy figured his kids' task was threefold: hold high-scoring Grizzly Guard Michael Ray Richardson closer to 20 points than 40, draw Montana out of its zone and neutralize the Grizzlies' home-court crowd. With Bruce Collins hawking Richardson and with a lot of crisp passing, the Wildcats managed to do all three. They also overcame an eight-point halftime deficit to beat Montana 62-55 in overtime. In the extra period the Grizzlies missed their first two shots, enabling Weber to take a 52-49 edge on baskets by Rob McKone and Collins. Thereafter it was a foul-shooting contest, and Weber won that, too, sinking nine of 10, four of them in the last minute by Forward Kurt Moore.
Fullerton State breezed by Long Beach State 64-53 to win the PCAA tournament, after regular-season co-champs San Diego State and Fresno State were subdued in the semis. The Aztecs were beaten 64-50 by the Titans, and Fresno fell 68-62 in overtime to Long Beach.
UCLA warmed up for the NCAAs by trouncing USC 91-78 and Michigan 96-70.
1. UCLA (24-2)
2. N. MEXICO (24-3)
3. SAN FRANCISCO (22-5)
Syracuse, Providence, Temple, and Rutgers, 20-game winners all, began the week with bright prospects for winning one of the area's regional and conference playoffs and thereby earning an NCAA tournament berth. At week's end they all had a third thing in common: upset losses, which prevented all but Syracuse and Providence from making the NCAAs.
St. Bonaventure upended Syracuse 70-69 in the ECAC Southern-Upstate Regional. Trailing 69-68 with 2:15 left, the Bonnies began holding the ball for a last shot, while Syracuse laid back in its 2-3 zone. With only :12 to play, Bonaventure got what it was waiting for when Delmar Harrod canned a short jumper. Syracuse's Marty Byrnes got off a 12-footer at the buzzer, but it fell short. However, the Oranges' 22-4 record in regular-season games was good enough to convince the NCAA that Syracuse deserved a bid, too. The Bonnies then nailed down their berth by nosing out Virginia Commonwealth 63-61 on a foul-line jumper by Center Tim Waterman, an infrequent and often inaccurate outside shooter, with one second left on the clock. The Rams had surged to the final by pulling an upset, too; they beat 17th-ranked Georgetown 88-75 as the Hoyas' top scorer, Derrick Jackson, sat out with a bleeding ulcer.