Before Providence met Rhode Island for the New England Regional championship, the Rhode Island senate unanimously passed a resolution wishing the Friars "much success and prosperity." So much for abusing the state university. In a game in which there were 15 lead changes and four ties, the Rams defeated the Friars 65-62, ending almost 20 years of playing second banana to Providence in the Ocean State. With his team ahead 50-49 midway through the second half, Rhody's Irv Chatman blocked a shot that led to a layup by Stan Wright. Then Sly Williams made a steal and fed Wright for another basket and a five-point lead that Providence never overcame. The Friars did overcome any reluctance that loss may have engendered in NCAA selectors. They got an at-large bid to the Mideast Regionals.
"My pregame talk came right out of Star Wars," said La Salle Coach Paul Westhead. "I told them the Force is with you. And it was with Darryl Gladden at the end." It sure was. With his team trailing Temple, which had a 22-3 regular-season record, by one point and :02 to play, Gladden popped in a 25-footer that propelled the Explorers to a 73-72 win and the East Coast Conference tournament title. "It looked four feet short," West-head said. "I thought the basket came out and sucked the ball in." Earlier, La Salle had knocked off Delaware 97-85 and St. Joe's (Pa.) 89-82, behind 63 points and 35 rebounds by Forward Michael Brooks.
Furman trounced Marshall 69-53 to win the Southern Conference tournament, getting 20 points from Guard Bruce Grimm, a transfer from Providence. In the semifinals, Marshall's Harley Davidson Major had scored 26 points in a 76-71 upset of VMI, the conference champion in 1976 and 1977.
Villanova won the Eastern Eight championship, surviving a furious second-half rally to beat West Virginia 63-59. The Wildcats led by 17 points with 10 minutes to go, but the Mountaineers whittled the lead to four with :55 left. Then Wildcat freshman Alex Bradley sank two free throws, and West Virginia was finished. Earlier, West Virginia, 10-15 during the season, rocked Duquesne 59-57 and regular-season champion Rutgers 81-74. It was the second straight year in which the Scarlet Knights finished on top and were knocked off in the tournament by a regular-season also-ran. "That's why they have these great playoffs—I guess," said glum Rutgers Coach Tom Young.
St. John's slid past Iona 83-80 and Army 65-63 to win the ECAC Metro championship, but it was Cadet Gary Winton who set Nassau Coliseum abuzzing. Playing with a pulled calf muscle in the semis, Winton scored Army's first six points in overtime as the Cadets edged Seton Hall 81-79. Against St. John's, Winton rang up 25 points and kept Army alive until he fouled out, with the Red-men nursing a 61-57 lead and 1:28 to play. Winton's fifth personal came on a controversial play. He leaped into the air to block a drive by Gordon Thomas, had second thoughts and then hung on the rim to avoid landing on Thomas. Referees charged him with a personal and a technical, fouls that so riled Army Coach Mike Krzyzewski that he drew a technical, too. Thomas sank four of the five free throws, putting the game out of reach. "Winton's the strongest guy I've ever seen," said St. John's Forward George Johnson. "If there's a war, I want him up front."
Penn clinched the Ivy title, routing Cornell 98-74, but needed help from archrival Princeton to do it. The day before winning at Ithaca, N.Y., the Quakers were upset 88-84 by Columbia, which put the Lions into a tie with Penn. Princeton then clobbered Columbia 59-44 to seal the championship for Penn.
1. DUKE (23-6)
2. N. CAROLINA (23-7)
3. ST. BONA. (21-7)
One of these days Minnesota will learn about holding halftime ceremonies to retire a player's number. Leading Michigan State 38-34 at the intermission, the Gophers performed the rites on Center Mychal Thompson's jersey—and Michigan State rallied to win 71-70. Five years ago Minnesota retired Jim Brewer's shirt at halftime, and Iowa overcame a big deficit to win. Not that Thompson's No. 43 did not deserve to be honored. Early in the game Thompson scored his 1,477th point to break the Big Ten career-scoring record held by Purdue's Rick Mount. He went on to pump in 20 points, but that was not enough as a last-second free throw by Earvin Johnson gave Michigan State the victory. Johnson scored 24 points and Greg Kelser added 27 when the Spartans drubbed Wisconsin 89-75 to clinch the Big Ten title.
By beating Illinois 77-66 and Iowa 71-55, Indiana leaped over Purdue—which lost to Northwestern 80-71 and the Illini 67-66—into a second-place tie with Minnesota in the Big Ten. The victories, Indiana's eighth and ninth in 10 games, ran its record to 20-7, good enough for an NCAA at-large bid.