While most of the nation's leading college teams were still maneuvering for conference titles, three major independents—Villanova (16-1), Dayton (16-3) and Detroit (15-3)—jumped the gun, announced that they would play in New York's season-end National Invitation Tournament. This is the earliest signing in NIT history and is a direct outgrowth of the struggle between NIT and NCAA tournament sponsors for the top-rated clubs. The NCAA, which will not make its selections until the regular season is over, has one big advantage—major conference champions must play in the NCAA tournament, or none at all.
A sure bellwether of St. John's fortunes is the state of Coach Joe Lapchick's sensitive stomach. Last week Lapchick had that wrought-up feeling. The Redmen again were among the best in the East. Tony Jackson was back on target with his jump shot, sophomore Center Leroy Ellis had learned to make the most of his 6 feet 9 inches underneath the boards and sophomore Playmaker Ivan Kovacs was proving to be a skillful ball handler and shooter. St. John's overwhelmed Syracuse 85-68 in Madison Square Garden, outhustled Niagara 79-71 for its sixth straight.
Villanova, giving New York fans a preview of its many talents, overcame harassment by Manhattan and rioting by its overenthusiastic fans, beat the Jaspers 62-55 for Coach Al Severance's 400th victory. But it wasn't easy. Little Guard Jimmy Huggard found a hole in the Manhattan defense, saved the Wildcats from possible embarrassment by scoring 22 points, six of them in the last few minutes. Two nights later Villanova beat Siena 63-38.
Hardly showing the effects of a two-week layoff, NYU had its fast break in good working order, defeated Duquesne 67-58, Pitt 77-66. Providence romped over Niagara 68-43, Brown 65-54, Colby 60-37 to run its winning streak to 10. Holy Cross's Jack Foley, who can—and does—shoot with anyone, led the Crusaders past Villa Madonna 99-78, Boston College 80-68. LaSalle's crafty Coach Dudey Moore pulled off the week's biggest surprise when his Explorers caught St. Joseph's with its defenses drooping, upset the Hawks 80-73 to take over the Mid-Atlantic Conference lead.
Harvard gave Dartmouth's Ivy League chances a boost by upsetting Cornell 79-78, then the Indians helped themselves by outrunning the Big Red 83-79. But Coach Doggy Julian began to worry about Princeton, which beat Yale 69-60 and moved into second place.
Navy rallied to beat Temple 84-72 but lost to Duke 58-48; Manhattan edged Syracuse 62-61; Seton Hall walloped Lafayette 93-68 to give Coach Honey Russell his 300th win; unbeaten Maine (13-0) beat Connecticut 65-64, led Yankee Conference. The top three:
1. VILLANOVA (16-1)
2. NYU (11-2)
3. ST. JOHN'S (12-5)
Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson may not be the most exuberant college player of his time, but last week he became the most prolific. Serenely aloof to the excitement around him, Oscar piled up 36 points while leading the Bearcats past Drake 96-61 to break Frank Selvy's three-year major-college record (2,538), then hoisted in 29 more in a 67-55 win over Houston to snap the four-year mark (2,587) held by Wake Forest's Dickie Hemric. After 76 games and 2,600 points in less than three years, Robertson permitted himself a subdued puff: "I'm glad I did it."