Surely somebody is going to stop UCLA—a greedy gaggle of Bruins if ever there was one—from taking home its seventh national title in eight years. Brigham Young, maybe, with a center who could make both All-Yugoslavia and All-America. Or Western Kentucky, with a seven-footer who shoots from the corners. Or Pennsylvania, an Ivy League team that is so tough it beat Duquesne last weekend despite a hostile bottle-and-can-tossing crowd and a guerrilla-warfare defense.
Just a few weeks ago the prospects of an early Bruin demise seemed reasonably favorable. Notre Dame had actually beaten them once and USC had them on the ropes before collapsing in the last nine minutes. Washington lost to them by only two points. Maybe that was when the Bruins decided it was time to ditch the hibernating bit. Whatever the cause, they woke up with a bang, smothered California and Stanford by more than 30 points apiece and last Saturday afternoon absolutely anesthetized USC 73-62—and the score could have been much worse. Notice was served. UCLA intends to fight its way to the final in Houston's Astrodome, it intends to win again—and are there any demurs?
Well, yes. Forget that front line of 6'8" Sidney Wicks, 6'7" Curtis Rowe and 6'9" Steve Patterson, rulers of the backboards at both ends. Forget the steadily improving guards and the very tough defense. Pennsylvania is in the market for an upset. Marquette would like to try. Kansas and Notre Dame are capable of playing a superb game.
This week the 16 survivors of league races and qualifying rounds battle each other in regional tournaments at Raleigh, N.C., Athens, Ga., Wichita, Kans. and Salt Lake City. The four winners meet the following weekend in Houston. For those who get close enough to the action, it should be something.
There is, to begin with, Penn. It should represent the East, provided, of course, it can get past South Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion. The Quaker task is made difficult since the game will be in Raleigh, an ACC stronghold. In beating North Carolina last week for the right to meet Penn, the Gamecocks were, with the exception of rebounder Tom Owens, singularly unimpressive. Only North Carolina, at the end, was even less impressive. N.C. missed eight of 11 free throws in the final five minutes, and in the last six seconds Center Lee Dedmon, in a jump-ball situation against a man seven inches shorter, tipped the ball back toward S.C.'s basket, instead of toward his own. Not entirely with reluctance Owens dropped in the winning goal.
But this may be the way with Frank McGuire-coached teams. It was only the second time in 15 tries that a club of his survived the ACC tournament. The last time it happened—at North Carolina in 1957—he won the national championship by beating Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in a triple overtime.
Penn, which has won 45 of its last 46 games, qualified for the regional round by beating Duquesne 70-65. The Quakers play excellent defense (especially Guard Dave Wohl and Forward Corky Calhoun) and can score well from five positions when substitute frontcourt man Phil Hankinson is in the lineup.
"I don't think we can lose," said Wohl. "It's not a cocky or boasting attitude, it's a realistic look at ourselves. We will have to be beaten."
In the other bracket, Fordham, which smashed inept Furman 105-74 in the qualifying round, will play Villanova. Mainly because of a swarming full-court press installed by its rookie coach, Digger Phelps, tiny Fordham (25-2) should be able to cope with Villanova's 6'8" Howard Porter. The Rams had no height to cope with Marquette a few weeks ago, either, yet they forced the Warriors into overtime. The pick is Fordham on a jump shot by Charlie Yelverton—strictly routine.
That could set up an internecine match between the Rams and Penn—internecine because Phelps was an assistant at Penn for four years. He and Penn Coach Dick Harter are close friends who would prefer not to meet on the basketball court. If they happen to, Penn should make short work of the Rams.