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Eddie Sutton-coach of SWC co-champion Arkansas, arrived at the conference tournament in Houston carrying a proposal for a change in the playoff procedure. In essence, Sutton wanted the rules modified to give both the first- and second-place teams—instead of just the league champ—byes into the semifinals. It was understandable that such a suggestion should come from Sutton, because a technicality prevented his team from getting the bye this season. "I have two plans—Plan A and Plan B." Sutton announced to the press.
"Wrong, Eddie," interrupted SWC official Bill Morgan. "We've got Plan A. You have Plan Band Plan C."
Maybe Sutton knew something. Two games into the tournament Arkansas was upset by Houston 70-69. (Nonetheless, the 28-3 Hogs were awarded an NCAA at-large berth.) The Cougars trailed by one with :08 to play, when Arkansas' Ron Brewer was fouled and went to the line for a one-and-one. But Brewer, an 86% free-throw shooter, bounced his shot hard off the rim. Houston got the rebound and whisked the ball upcourt, where Cecile Rose fired in the game-winning shot. "We lost five games by one point," said Cougar Coach Guy Lewis. "But this makes up for all of them."
The next day Houston used its superior bench and board strength to win the tournament with a 92-90 victory over 22-4 Texas, which had gotten the bye to the finals. The Cougars' front line of Rose, Mike Schultz, Chet Thompson and George Walker drew 12 personals from three Texas centers and won the rebounding battle 52-38. And reserves Walker, Mark Trammell and Cedric Fears chipped in with 29 points. In contrast, Texas got only 13 points from its bench. Houston led most of the way and held a 92-86 edge with six seconds to go. Only the Longhorns' last-second ball hawking, which led to a field goal and two free throws by Texas Guard John Moore, made the score close. The victory was Houston's 10th in the last 11 games. "Playing at home gave them a slight edge." said losing Coach Abe Lemons. "But Eddie Sutton will come up with some proposal to fix that. He'll come up with a plan that will have us all playing at Fayetteville."
Missouri (14-15) will be the sole NCAA playoff team with a losing record. The Tigers earned the honor by upsetting Iowa State, Nebraska and Kansas State en route to winning the Big-Eight tournament championship. In the finals, Missouri beat Kansas State in overtime when Center Stan Ray hit six of six free throws for a 71-68 victory. "We wound up playing hogs in the corn," said an elated Missouri Coach Norm Stewart. "That's when you forget everything and do whatever you can think of to try to win." After conducting his postgame interview outside the Tiger locker room, Stewart invited the press inside, hollering to his players, "Hold onto your stuff, here come the journalists."
Creighton won the Missouri Valley postseason championship by defeating Indiana State 54-52 as Rick Apke scored with two seconds left. En route to the finals, State dumped West Texas 90-71 and Bradley 88-81. After each game, the losing coach (Ron Ekker and Joe Stowell) got fired.