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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--San Francisco (29-0; coached by Phil Woolpert/sixth of nine seasons with Dons; won WCAC by five games with a 14-0 record).
NIT Champion--Louisville (26-3; coached by Peck Hickman/12th of 23 seasons with Cardinals).
New Rules--The two-shot penalty in the last three minutes of a game is eliminated. The one-and-one is put in effect the entire game. . . . The NCAA Tournament went from two regionals to four.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Robin Freeman, G, Sr., Ohio State (32.9 ppg, 81 FT%); Si Green, G, Sr., Duquesne (24.5 ppg, 13.2 rpg); Tom Heinsohn, F, Sr., Holy Cross (27.4 ppg, 21.1 rpg); Bill Russell, C, Sr., San Francisco (20.6 ppg, 21 rpg, 51.3 FG%); Ronnie Shavlik, C, Sr., North Carolina State (18.2 ppg, 19.5 rpg).
National Player of the Year--Russell (UPI).
National Coach of the Year--Phil Woolpert, San Francisco (29-0/UPI).
Alabama (21-3) was ranked 5th by AP and UPI but didn't participate in the NCAA Tournament because of a rules technicality stemming from varsity participation as freshmen by several of the "Rocket 8" star players in 1953. Alabama's squad, dominated by Midwest recruits who didn't survive tryouts to receive scholarships from Notre Dame, became the first opponent to score 100 points against Kentucky. The 20-6 Wildcats, the SEC's representative to the NCAA Tournament, were whipped by 24 points (101-77 in the Massacre in Montgomery) as 'Bama went on a 27-2 second-half spurt en route to finishing the season with 16 consecutive victories. It was Alabama's lone victory over UK in a 23-game stretch of their series from 1943 through 1963.
The Crimson Tide's three defeats--at North Carolina and St. John's and against Notre Dame on a neutral court--were in a span of four games. As incredible as it might seem today, Johnny Dee left Alabama after such a splendid season to coach an amateur team sponsored by the Denver-Chicago Trucking Company. The school wound up failing to participate in the NCAA Tournament for the first time until 1975. Dee later coached at Notre Dame for seven seasons.
Jerry Harper, who set a conference record by averaging 21.5 rebounds per game, garnered 37 points and 26 rebounds for Alabama in its big win over Kentucky. Earlier, he collected 41 points and a school-record 33 rebounds in a 105-71 triumph over Louisiana College.
Alabama's last loss was to Notre Dame (86-80) in the semifinals of the Sugar Bowl Tournament at New Orleans. The Irish defeated Utah, a Top 20 team most of the season, the next evening. The Sugar Bowl was the high point of the campaign for Notre Dame, which absorbed its first losing record (9-15) in 33 years.
Ronnie Shavlik still owns 12 of the top 13 rebounding efforts in North Carolina State history. He cleaned the glass with 25 or more boards six times in his career en route to becoming the only ACC player ever to twice grab 500 or more rebounds in a season. His 19.5 rebounds per game average as a senior is still an ACC record. . . . N.C. State, coached by Everett Case, captured its sixth Dixie Classic title in the first seven years of the eight-team event. The original showcase of "Big Four" basketball was considered the No. 1 Christmas holiday tournament in the nation. During the Dixie Classic's heyday, the reams of copy moved nationally prompted Western Union officials to call it "the biggest sporting event in the South." The final year for the Classic was 1960. . . . Case won at least 24 games each of his first 10 seasons with the Wolfpack. "Case wasn't a man who was given to a lot of histrionics," future Wake Forest and South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "He looked like he was in total command of his team and himself. He was a man that, if looks could kill, then he was guilty a lot during a game because he could stare down an official or one of his players or even an opponent's player."
North Carolina ended its streak of at least 10 defeats in six consecutive seasons by compiling an 18-5 record. Forward Lennie Rosenbluth became the Tar Heels' first All-American in nine years. . . . Clemson lost its first 26 games in ACC regular-season play, a league record, before upending Virginia, 75-73. It was the only victory for the "toothless" Tigers in their first 42 meetings against ACC competition.
Ohio State's streak of consecutive non-winning seasons ended at five when the Buckeyes compiled a 16-6 record. They ended a 12-game losing streak to Illinois by outlasting the Illini, 87-84. . . . Ohio State guard Robin Freeman's only sub-20 point game all season (12 against Illinois) cost him the national scoring title in a battle with Furman's Darrell Floyd (33.8 points per game). Freeman, who finished at 32.9, was 34.3 in all contests except the mediocre contests against the Illini. Floyd poured in a national-high and Southern Conference-game record 62 points against The Citadel despite scoring only four points in the first 10 minutes. . . . The Citadel, however, had a bright moment when the Bulldogs snapped their NCAA-record 37-game losing streak by defeating Charleston.
In perhaps the biggest upset of the season, Big Ten runner-up Illinois bowed to Northwestern, 83-82, in the closing game of the season for both teams. Northwestern finished with a 2-20 record. . . . Jay Hook, Northwestern's third-leading scorer (10.7 ppg) as a sophomore, went on to pitch the initial game won by the expansion New York Mets and had 13 complete games in 1962. . . . Iowa, coached by Bucky O'Connor, finished among the Top 10 in a final wire-service national poll for the fourth time in five years. . . . Forward Joe Sexson, Purdue's leading scorer for the second straight season, went on to coach Butler for 12 years from 1977-78 through 1988-89. . . . Detroit, mired in the midst of a streak of nine straight seasons with more than 10 defeats, lost its first 24 meetings with Notre Dame until beating the Irish, 77-71. Notre Dame also incurred its lone defeat to Loyola of Chicago (71-65) in the first 26 games of their series from 1924 through 1993. . . . NIT runner-up Dayton (25-4), coached by Tom Blackburn, suffered its three regular-season defeats by a total of six points. . . . Loyola captain Jerry Lyne went on to coach his alma mater for six seasons from 1974-75 through 1979-80. . . . DePaul won all 81 of its home games in DePaul Auditorium from 1942-56. But DePaul lost 15 consecutive games to Kentucky in their series before edging the visiting Wildcats, 81-79. UK later handed Georgia its most lopsided loss in history (143-66). . . . The Air Force Academy competed in its inaugural season of basketball, compiling an 11-9 record against freshman teams as Bob Beckel led the way with a 28.1-point scoring average.
Wyoming's Joe Capua (51 points vs. Montana), Texas' Raymond Downs (tied with 49 at Baylor), Eastern Kentucky's Jack Adams (49 vs. Union) and George Washington's Joe Holup (49 vs. Furman) set school single-game scoring records. Downs, who finished ninth in the nation in free-throw accuracy (82.2 percent) and was a 78.5 percent career free-throw shooter, missed the front end of three one-and-one foul-shot opportunities in the final 46 seconds of the record-tying outburst. Any one of the charity tosses would have put him at the 50-point plateau. Holup had set GWU's standard the previous week with a 47-point spree against Richmond.
Ohio State's Freeman, Morehead State's Dan Swartz (28.6), Alabama's Harper (27.3), Texas' Downs (26.4), Toledo's Jim Ray (25.6), Louisville's Charlie Tyra (23.8) and Cornell's Chuck Rolles (23) set school records for highest scoring average in a single season. . . . Swartz (15 of 21) and teammate Donnie Gaunce (16 of 18) combined to convert 31 of 39 free throws when Morehead State and Cincinnati collaborated for an NCAA single-game standard of 88 successful foul shots (see accompanying box).
George Washington, coached by Bill Reinhart, led the nation's teams in field-goal shooting for the third consecutive season as Holup finished among the top two individuals in that category for the third straight year. He was eighth as a freshman in 1952-53. Holup also established a Southern Conference single-season standard by averaging 23.2 rebounds per game. . . . GWU and West Virginia shared the Southern Conference regular-season title as the league didn't have an undisputed champion for the only time in a 44-year span from 1933 through 1976. . . . Bill Matthews, the second-leading rebounder in Virginia Tech history (13.8 rpg) and the state's player of the year this campaign, went on to coach his alma mater for two seasons in the mid-1960s. . . . Marshall's Charlie Slack, 6-5, finished his career as the only major-college player to average more than 22 rebounds per game in three consecutive seasons. Marshall became the first major college to have at least three players average more than 20 points per game--Slack (22.5), Cebe Price (21.2) and Paul Underwood (20.2). Eventual NBA standout Hal Greer chipped in with 15.5 ppg.
Louisville's Charlie Tyra (38 at Canisius), Kentucky's Bob Burrow (34 in a loss to Temple), Yale's Ed Robinson (32 vs. Harvard), Bradley's Barney Cable (28 at Canisius) and Texas Tech's Jim Reed (27 vs. Eastern New Mexico and Texas) set school single-game rebounding records.
Norm Stewart, finishing 15th in the nation in scoring, averaged 24.1 points per game for Missouri. He would become his alma mater's all-time winningest coach and guide the Tigers to 16 appearances in the NCAA playoffs. . . . Oklahoma lost 14 consecutive games to Kansas State in their series until nipping the Wildcats, 67-64. . . . Texas posted its lone victory over Oklahoma A&M (59-56) in a 15-game stretch of their series from 1945 through 1964. . . . Rice's fourth-leading rebounder was King Hill, a quarterback who became the first selection overall in the 1958 NFL draft as a bonus pick after pacing the SWC in total offense and guiding the Owls to the Cotton Bowl. . . . TCU halfback Jim Swink, runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting after pacing the nation in football scoring with 125 points, averaged 5.8 points per game in 12 basketball contests for the Horned Frogs. TCU junior Dick O'Neal was held to a single-digit point total for the only time in his 72-game varsity career when he scored eight points against Alabama. The Horned Frogs, coached by Buster Brannon, were in the midst of winning 25 of 33 games decided by fewer than six points in a seven-year span from 1951-52 through 1957-58. . . . Tennessee Tech, coached by John Oldham, tied for the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title in its initial season at the major-college level.
The Philadelphia Big Five--an unsanctioned alliance including La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph's, Temple and Villanova--began annual round-robin competition at The Palestra. Villanova is the only one of the five schools to fail to rank among the top 10 nationally in winning percentage in a decade since the start of the Big Five--La Salle (4th in '50s), St. Joseph's (7th in '60s), Penn (3rd in '70s) and Temple (5th in '80s). Villanova's highest finish in a decade was 15th in the '60s.
Boston College bowed to Brandeis (90-64) and LeMoyne (92-76) for the fourth consecutive season. . . . St. Bonaventure lost its last five games to finish with its only losing record (11-12) in a 37-year span from 1947-48 through 1983-84. . . . Connecticut's 87-85 defeat at Massachusetts was the Huskies' only Yankee Conference loss in a five-year stretch from 1954 through 1958. . . . Niagara beat St. John's for the fifth straight time in a three-year span. . . . Guard John McCarthy became Canisius' only All-American in a 36-year span from 1938 through 1973. . . . Bo Roberson, Cornell's second-leading scorer (14.9 points per game) who finished among the national leaders in rebounding (15th with 17.6 per game) and field-goal shooting (sixth at 52.2 percent), went on to play flanker for seven seasons in the AFL after winning the silver medal in the broad jump at the 1960 Olympic Games. . . . Al Inniss of St. Francis (N.Y.) set an NIT and Madison Square Garden college record with 37 rebounds in an NIT first-round game vs. Lafayette. . . . Holy Cross finished in the Top 20 of a final wire-service national poll for the fifth consecutive campaign. . . . Colgate captain Milt Graham, finishing his career with 8.7 ppg and 9.9 rpg, competed in the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL All-Star in 1958 and member of Grey Cup championship team in 1960) before playing tackle with the Boston Patriots for three years from 1961 through 1963.
UCLA had a string of outstanding frontcourters during coach John Wooden's career. Surprisingly, the one establishing the school single-game record for most rebounds was Willie Naulls, who retrieved 28 missed shots against Arizona State. Naulls was the only individual in Wooden's first 16 seasons with the Bruins to play more than one year in the NBA. . . . California finished in a tie for third place in the PCC after posting the worst mark in league play the previous year. . . . There was a drought of sorts in the Arizona desert. Utah defeated Arizona in back-to-back games by a total of 104 points. A 119-45 setback to the Utes is the most lopsided defeat in Arizona history. Meanwhile, Arizona State also suffered its most lopsided loss (113-63 to Texas Tech). . . . One of Utah's standouts was captain Morris Buckwalter, who went on to coach Seattle in the 1969 NCAA playoffs. . . . Wyoming, after averaging 22 victories annually the previous 10 years, compiled a 7-19 mark to start a streak of nine consecutive losing records. New Mexico, sparked by Toby Roybal's 37 points, defeated Wyoming, 80-71, for the Lobos' lone victory over the Cowboys in their first 16 meetings from 1951 through 1958. Four nights later, Roybal poured in 45 points against Montana despite fouling out with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. Roybal died in 1962 at the age of 30 as a victim of cancer.
Kansas coach Phog Allen retired after 48 seasons with a 746-264 record. Said son Bob Allen: "I don't know what his highest salary was as a coach, but I don't think it was more than $11,000." Phog's final varsity squad lost a preseason game to the school's freshman team when Philadelphia product Wilt Chamberlain collected 42 points and 29 rebounds for the frosh. . . . Yale's Howard Hobson, who guided Oregon to a title in the first NCAA Tournament in 1939, retired after a 23-year coaching career with a 400-257 record.
1956 NCAA Tournament
Summary: San Francisco won the national championship by an average of 14 points after winning all but two of its regular-season games by double-digit margins. Marquette (13-11) came closest to USF in a 65-58 decision on a neutral court in the DePaul Invitational. Unanimous first-team All-America Bill Russell averaged 22.8 points in four tournament games as the Dons won each of them by more than 10 points. Their 86-68 victory over SMU in the national semifinals snapped the Mustangs' school-record 20-game winning streak. K.C. Jones was ineligible for the playoffs because he had played one game two years earlier before an appendectomy ended his season, but USF still became the first undefeated champion in NCAA history (29-0/coached by Phil Woolpert) after erasing an early 15-4 deficit against Iowa. It remains the winningest season in USF history although the Dons hit only 60.4 percent of their free throws, including a 49.5 percent mark by Russell (105 of 212). Russell went on to finish his basketball career with a 28-2 record in playoff elimination games in college and the NBA with the Boston Celtics.
Star Gazing: Lefthanded mighty mites Hal Lear (5-11) and backcourtmate Guy Rodgers (6-0) combined to score 73.5 percent of Temple's points in two Final Four games. Lear, who went on to become an administrator with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, manufactured 61.5 percent of Temple's offense by scoring 40 points in the Owls' 65-59 victory against Connecticut in the East Regional semifinals. He tallied a tourney-high 48 points in a 90-81 triumph over SMU in the national third-place game. Lear began a streak of four consecutive years and six of the next eight when the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award winner did not play for the national championship team. . . . Franklin Mieuli produced the games on radio for USF's back-to-back NCAA champions before becoming owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
Biggest Upset: North Carolina State, ranked No. 2 in the nation entering the tourney, was stunned in four overtimes in the first round by Canisius, 79-78, when Fran Corcoran hit a jumper--his only points of the game--with four seconds remaining.
One and Only: Russell became the only player to grab more than 41 rebounds at a Final Four (50) and more than 21 in a championship game (Final Four-record 27 against Iowa). . . . USF is the only school to be ranked No. 1 the entire season while having only one player finish with a double-digit scoring average (Russell 20.6).
Celebrity Status: Don Prohovich, who collected four points, eight rebounds and team-high five assists for Holy Cross in a 74-72 loss against Temple, went on to become a catcher in the White Sox's organziation. Prohovich was in the minors when he and $15,000 were traded to the Cubs for utilityman Earl Averill Jr. on August 13, 1960. It was the first swap of players between the two Chicago major league franchises.
Numbers Game: Russell (20.6 ppg, 21 rpg) is the only championship team member averaging more than 20 points per game to also post a rebounds-per-game average higher than his scoring. Excluding Russell, USF's back-to-back titlists shot 35% from the floor. . . . Six members of SMU's lone Final Four squad were from St. Louis. . . . The most rebounds in a playoff game were corralled by Temple's Fred Cohen when he grabbed a school-record 34 caroms in the victory against Connecticut. Cohen grabbed just five rebounds in the Owls' next contest, a 60-58 win over Canisius. . . . UCLA posted its only NCAA Tournament triumph in coach John Wooden's first 13 years as coach of the Bruins (94-70 over Seattle in the Far West Regional third-place game). . . . Connecticut coach Hugh Greer, in the midst of capturing 10 consecutive Yankee Conference championships, posted the only NCAA playoff victory of his career. . . . Wayne State (Mich.) led Kentucky at halftime before UK pulled away after intermission to prevail, 84-64, in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
What If: National runner-up Iowa might have been able to give San Francisco more of a frontcourt battle if sixth man Tom Payne didn't miss the tournament because of a leg ailment. Payne was leading the Hawkeyes in scoring and rebounding at the end of the first semester the next season as a junior when he was declared academically ineligible. Incidentally, Payne is the father of Michael Payne, a star for Iowa in the early 1980s. . . . Memphis State might not have blown an eight-point halftime lead in a first-round loss to Oklahoma City if the Tigers didn't have five players declared ineligible for the playoffs - two penalized for having played four years with the varsity, two for being freshmen and leading scorer Win Wilfong (22.1 ppg) idled because he was a transfer (from Missouri). Among the sidelined for the Tigers were senior Forest Arnold (21.2 ppg and 13.5 rpg) and freshman Orby Arnold (7.9 ppg and 5.7 rpg). They won at West Virginia, the Southern Conference kingpin, by 15 points the final month of the regular season.
Putting Things in Perspective: Iowa lost four consecutive games and five of six before reeling off 17 straight victories until bowing to San Francisco in the NCAA final, 83-71. Each of the Hawkeyes' starters compiled double-figure scoring averages as they became known as the "Fabulous Five" - Carl Cain (15.8 ppg), Bill Logan (17.7), Sharm Scheuerman (10.1), Bill Schoof (10.8) and Bill Seaberg (13.9). They were the only set of starters to achieve that double-digit distinction and reach the NCAA championship game until 1960 NCAA kingpin Ohio State. Logan was the only Hawkeye starter who didn't attend high school in Illinois.
Scoring Leader: Hal Lear, Temple (160 points, 32 ppg; Kentucky's Bob Burrow also averaged 32 ppg).
Carl Cain, F, Sr., Iowa (39 points, 27 rebounds in final two games)
*Hal Lear, G, Sr., Temple (80 points)
Bill Logan, C, Sr., Iowa (48 points, 23 rebounds)
Hal Perry, G, Sr., San Francisco (28 points)
Bill Russell, C, Sr., San Francisco (43 points, 50 rebounds)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
Regional Semifinal: San Francisco 72 (Brown team-high 23 points), UCLA 61 (Naulls/Taft 16)
Regional Final: San Francisco 92 (Russell 27), Utah 77 (Bunte 23)
National Semifinal: San Francisco 86 (Farmer 26), Southern Methodist 68 (Krebs 24)
Championship Game: San Francisco 83 (Russell 26), Iowa 71 (Cain/Seaberg 17)