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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--La Salle (26-4; coached by Ken Loeffler/fifth of six seasons with Explorers).
NIT Champion--Holy Cross (26-2; coached by Buster Sheary/sixth of seven seasons with Crusaders).
New Conference--Atlantic Coast.
New Rule--The Tuesday-Wednesday format for the NCAA Tournament semifinals and final changes to Friday-Saturday.
NCAA Probation--Arizona State.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Tom Gola, C-F, Jr., La Salle (23 ppg, 21.7 rpg); Cliff Hagan, F, Sr., Kentucky (24 ppg, 13.5 rpg); Bob Pettit, C, Sr., Louisiana State (31.4 ppg, 17.3 rpg); Don Schlundt, C, Jr., Indiana (24.3 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 50 FG%); Frank Selvy, F, Sr., Furman (41.7 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 80 FT%).
The Southern Conference wound up on center stage although seven members left the league to form the nucleus of the acclaimed Atlantic Coast Conference. Furman forward Frank Selvy was the principal reason the Southern Conference was in the limelight.
Selvy scored 100 points vs. Newberry (S.C.) on his way to becoming the first three-year player to reach 2,000 points, finishing with 2,538. Selvy (41.7 ppg) and teammate Darrell Floyd (24.3) combined for 66 points per game during the season and are the highest-scoring duo in major-college history. Selvy scored 50 or more in seven games en route to becoming the first player to score 1,000 points in a single season (1,209) and average 30 or more for a career (32.5 ppg). He eventually would coach his alma mater for four seasons from 1966-67 through 1969-70.
Making Selvy's 100-point outburst even more amazing was the fact that his mother, watching her son play for the initial time, was among several hundred fans from his hometown of Corbin, Ky., who made the trip to Greenville, S.C., to watch the game. An early indication that something special was in the offing came less than three minutes into the game when Newberry's Bobby Bailey, who helped hold Selvy to a season-low 25 points two weeks earlier, fouled out (see accompanying box).
Selvy's last three field goals came in the game's closing 30 seconds, and the crowning moment was his final basket. "It (the 100-point game) was something that was just meant to be," Selvy said. "My last basket was from past halfcourt just before the final buzzer." Selvy hit 41 of 66 shots from the floor and 18 of 22 from the free-throw line. He played every minute of every game his senior season to help Furman finish with a 20-9 record after the Paladins lost six of their first seven outings.
Selvy set a school single-season record for highest scoring average. Despite Selvy's Southern Conference-record scoring average, scoring decreased nationally for the first time in 19 years from 138.1 the previous season to 137.9. . . . George Washington, unbeaten in Southern Conference regular-season competition including a 102-97 victory at Furman, also won the league's postseason tournament to advance to the NCAA playoffs.
San Francisco's Bill Russell collected 23 points and 13 blocked shots in his varsity debut, a 51-33 victory over California. . . . Teammates Joe Holup (57.2 percent) and Elliott Karver (56.1) finished one-two in the country in field-goal accuracy to help George Washington lead the nation in that category. It is the only time in NCAA history that a pair of teammates claimed the top two spots nationally. . . . A pair of four-game losing streaks led to St. John's incurring its first losing record (9-11) in 32 years.
Undefeated Kentucky (25-0/coached by Adolph Rupp) finished among the top 10 in team offense and won at least 25 games for the eighth consecutive season that it participated in (barred from playing in 1952-53 as the result of an NCAA ruling regarding improper payments to players). Cliff Hagan and Frank Ramsey combined for 43.6 points per game and either one or both of them led the Wildcats in scoring in each of their 25 contests. "I am the leader of my team," Rupp said. "I know how to win. The players will do it my way, or they won't do it for me." Bill Bibb, a backup forward for UK, eventually transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan before coaching Mercer to the NCAA playoffs in 1981 and 1985. . . . LSU tied Kentucky for the SEC championship by going undefeated in league competition for the second straight season. Two years later, LSU lost its season opener to obscure visitor Louisiana College, 84-79.
Western Kentucky won 21 consecutive games, an Ohio Valley Conference record, en route to Ed Diddle becoming the first coach to reach the 600-win plateau. The Hilltoppers (29-3), setting an OVC standard for most victories in a single season, posted at least 25 triumphs for the sixth time in seven years. They finished among the Top 20 in five of the first six end-of-season wire-service polls. . . . Eastern Kentucky (7-16 under coach Paul McBrayer) sustained its first losing mark after 17 consecutive winning seasons (did not compete in 1943-44 because of World War II).
Virginia junior guard Buzz Wilkinson set ACC Tournament records for most field-goal attempts (13 of 44) and free-throw attempts (16 of 22) when he scored 42 points in a 76-68 first-round defeat against Duke. . . . The ACC's inaugural season marked the only time North Carolina finished fifth or worse in league standings in the 20th Century. The ACC's first game took place on December 3, 1953, when Maryland traveled to South Carolina. Incredibly, only three ACC starters were listed as tall as 6-7. . . . Coach Everett Case and his staff for ACC Tournament champion North Carolina State produced quite possibly the first ever all-color highlight film. N.C. State finished in fourth place in the regular season before winning its first of three straight ACC Tournament titles. . . . Maryland started a 13-game winning streak in its series with nearby rival Georgetown. Terrapins leading scorer Gene Shue, a senior forward who led the ACC in field-goal shooting (50.5 percent), went on to become a longtime NBA coach. . . . Duke backups Lefty Driesell and Fred Shabel combined for 8.7 points per game before eventually coaching teams in the NCAA Tournament--Driesell (Davidson, Maryland, James Madison and Georgia State) and Shabel (Connecticut).
Marshall's Charlie Slack became one of four major-college players in history to grab at least 40 rebounds in a single game when he retrieved 43 missed shots against Morris Harvey. . . . Bradley's Dick Estergard, a 6-4, 192-pound forward referred to as "Mr. Rebound," finished his career with an average of 16.1 rebounds per game. . . . Colorado became the third different Big Seven Conference member in seven years to capture at least a share of the league title after finishing in last place the previous season.
St. Louis' Jerry Koch (38 vs. Bradley), VMI's Bill Ralph (31 vs. Hampden-Sydney), Western Kentucky's Tom Marshall (29 at Louisville), St. Mary's Mike Wadsworth (26 vs. California Aggies) and Nebraska's Bill Johnson (26 vs. Iowa State) set school single-game rebounding records.
Wichita compiled a 27-4 mark under coach Ralph Miller just two years after incurring its sixth consecutive losing season and one year after finishing in last place in the Missouri Valley Conference. Three-year starting guard Gary Thompson would go on to succeed Miller and guide the Shockers to the 1965 Final Four. . . . Seattle (26-2/coached by Al Brightman), Duquesne (26-3/Dudey Moore) and St. Francis, N.Y. (23-5/Daniel Lynch) had their winningest seasons in school history. . . . NIT runner-up Duquesne won its first 23 games and was ranked No. 1 before bowing on back-to-back days at Cincinnati, 66-52, and Dayton, 64-54. One of the Dukes' regulars was Sid Dambrot, whose son, Keith, coached Akron to the NCAA playoffs after coaching LeBron James in high school. . . . Rice, coached by Don Suman, made its lone appearance in the Top 20 of a final wire-service poll. . . . St. Louis sustained its only losing Missouri Valley Conference record (4-6) in the first 16 years after World War II from 1945-46 through 1960-61. . . . Middle Tennessee State guard Ken Trickey, a two-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection who averaged 14.8 points per game as a senior, went on to coach his alma mater for four seasons in the late 1960s before guiding Oral Roberts to the 1974 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional final. . . . Floyd Sagely led the SWC in pass receptions before averaging 5.4 ppg for Arkansas' basketball squad. He subsequently played several years in the NFL as a defensive back. . . . Bob Schoonmaker, after leading Missouri's football team in scoring (six touchdowns) and interceptions (three), averaged 5.3 ppg for the school's basketball squad.
Wade "Swede" Halbrook, a 7-3, 245-pound sophomore, averaged 21.2 points and 11.9 rebounds per game for Oregon State. He was called "the largest man in basketball history" by the NCAA Basketball Guide. . . . Washington compiled an 8-18 mark after finishing among the top 15 the previous three seasons in final wire-service polls. The Huskies, a Final Four team the previous year when they were 30-3, lost their first nine games and 14 of their first 15. . . . Guard Ron Livingston, UCLA's leading scorer with 12.5 points per game, won the NCAA Doubles title in tennis and advanced to the finals in the singles division. He was the first outstanding two-fisted tennis player in college. . . . San Francisco lost 14 of its first 16 games decided by fewer than four points under coach Phil Woolpert prior to capturing back-to-back NCAA titles the next two seasons.
Colorado State's 22-7 record under coach Bill Strannigan marked the first winning season in eight years for the Rams. . . . NIT champion Holy Cross compiled its highest winning percentage in school history (.929) although the Crusaders' 43-game homecourt winning streak was snapped by Connecticut, 78-77. . . . Defending NIT champion Seton Hall failed to advance to the NIT for the only time in a seven-year span from 1951 through 1957. The Pirates' school-record 46-game homecourt winning streak was snapped by William & Mary, 57-55, two games after the Tribe was trounced at Duke by 65 points, 109-44. William & Mary finished the season with a 9-14 record. . . . Rhode Island junior guard Dave Stenhouse, an All-Yankee Conference first-team selection, went on to become an American League All-Star pitcher as a rookie with the Washington Senators in 1962. His son, Mike, played basketball for Harvard before becoming a first-round pick in the 1979 amateur draft and playing five major-league seasons from 1982 through 1986 as a first baseman-outfielder. . . . Dick Dietrick, after leading Pittsburgh's football squad in pass receptions, finished runner-up in rebounding average (8 rpg).
Notre Dame defeated Purdue for the 15th time in their last 17 meetings, 78-58. . . . Don Donoher, averaging 12.1 ppg and 5.6 rpg, was named MVP for NIT quarterfinalist Dayton before becoming his alma mater's all-time winningest coach. . . . Three-time All-MAC second-team selection Ron Jackson, Western Michigan's leading scorer as a junior center, went on to become a first baseman with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox for seven seasons from 1954 through 1960. . . . Ohio's Dick Murphy, an honorable mention All-MAC guard, appeared in six games with the Cincinnati Reds later in the year.
1954 NCAA Tournament
Summary: After a one-year schedule boycott, Kentucky's undefeated squad declined a bid to the NCAA playoffs because its three fifth-year (postgraduate) stars--Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos--were ineligible. The Wildcats defeated national champion-to-be La Salle by 13 points in the UK Invitation Tournament final on their way to being ranked 1st by AP and 2nd by UPI. UK had just two games tighter than a 12-point decision (77-71 over Xavier and 63-56 over LSU). Sandwiched between those two contests were 16 victories by an average margin of 33.7 points. Without UK, La Salle's achievement lost some of its significance. In the opening round, the Explorers trailed Fordham by two points in the closing seconds of regulation when All-American Tom Gola passed to Fran O'Malley for the tying layup, and they won in overtime (76-74).
Outcome for Defending Champion: Big Ten champion Indiana (20-4) lost its tourney opener to Notre Dame, 65-64. Former Notre Dame athletic director Dick Rosenthal collected 25 points and 15 rebounds for the Irish and helped limit Hoosiers All-American Don Schlundt to one field goal. Indiana's first three defeats were by a total of 44 points, including a 10-point overtime setback at Northwestern (9-13) when the Hoosiers were ranked No. 1 in the country.
Star Gazing: Tom Gola is the only individual to be named both NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player and NIT Most Valuable Player in his career. Gola led La Salle to the NCAA crown with a 23-point average. Two years earlier as a freshman when the Explorers won the NIT, he shared the MVP award with teammate Norm Grekin.
Biggest Upset: Penn State, supposedly the final team selected for the NCAA playoffs, reached the Final Four by winning its first three tourney games by at least eight points--knocking off Toledo and Bob Pettit-led LSU before snapping Notre Dame's 18-game winning streak. The Nittany Lions' 62-50 triumph over Toledo came despite 4 of 19 field-goal shooting by star Jesse Arnelle. Phil Martin scored more than half of Toledo's points (26) in a losing effort.
One and Only: The worst composite winning percentage when four teams arrived at the national semifinals was this year as La Salle (24-4), Bradley (18-12), Penn State (17-5) and Southern California (19-12) combined for a 78-33 record (.703). Southern California lost both of its Final Four games (against Bradley and Penn State) to become the only national semifinalist with as many as 14 defeats. Bradley lost the championship game against La Salle to become one of only three Final Four squads to finish a season with more than a dozen defeats.
Celebrity Status: Jack Sherry, the second-leading scorer for Penn State's national third-place team, held the school single-season football record at the time with eight interceptions in 1952. The two-way performer tied for the team lead in pass receptions later that year.
Numbers Game: Of the more than 40 different players to score more than 225 points in the playoffs and/or average over 25 points per tournament game (minimum of six games), Pettit is the only one to score more than 22 points in every postseason contest (six games in 1953 and 1954). He is the only player from that select group to have a single-digit differential between his high game (36 points) and his low game (27). . . . La Salle's output in a 92-76 victory over Bradley in the final represented the most points by a team in a championship game until UCLA's first national crown in 1964. . . . Navy's Jack Clune collected a tourney-high 42 points in an 85-80 opening-game victory over Connecticut. . . . Bradley's Bob Carney became the only player ever to make at least 50 free throws in a single tourney. He was 55 of 70 from the foul line in five games, including a 23 of 26 effort from the charity stripe against Colorado in the Midwest Regional semifinals. . . . The first championship game was televised nationally for a broadcast rights fee of $7,500. . . . The starters for Notre Dame and Toledo played the entire game in the opening round of the East Regional.
What Might Haven Been: San Francisco (14-7) could have represented the California Basketball Association instead of Santa Clara if USF guard K.C. Jones didn't miss the majority of the season after undergoing an appendectomy.
Putting Things in Perspective: Niagara (24-6) defeated La Salle twice by a total of 27 points before finishing in third place in the NIT.
NCAA Champion Defeats: At Niagara (8-point margin), at Kentucky (13), neutral court vs. Niagara at Madison Square Garden (19), and Temple (1). The highest-scoring output by an individual opponent against La Salle was 40 points by Frank Selvy of visiting Furman one week before he erupted for a national-record 100 against Newberry.
Scoring Leader: Tom Gola, La Salle (114 points, 22.8 ppg).
Highest Scoring Average: Bob Pettit, LSU (61 points, 30.5 ppg).
Jesse Arnelle, C, Jr., Penn State (43 points in final two games)
Bob Carney, G, Sr., Bradley (37 points)
*Tom Gola, C-F, Jr., La Salle (38 points)
Roy Irvin, C, Jr., Southern California (35 points)
Charles Singley, F, Soph., La Salle (33 points)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
First Round: La Salle 76 (Gola team-high 28 points), Fordham 74 (Conlin 26)*
Regional Semifinal: La Salle 88 (Gola/Singley 26), North Carolina State 81 (Shavlik 24)
Regional Final: La Salle 64 (Gola 22), Navy 48 (Clune 16)
National Semifinal: La Salle 69 (Blatcher/Gola 19), Penn State 54 (Arnelle 18)
Championship Game: La Salle 92 (Blatcher/Singley 23), Bradley 76 (Carney/Estergard 17)