The 1962-63 college basketball season has not been the year of the superstar: there is no Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain or Elgin Baylor. But this has been the year of the team--and the best three in the country will collide in Louisville, Ky., this weekend for the NCAA championship.
Tonight top-ranked Cincinnati, gunning for its third straight NCAA crown, meets surprising Oregon State, while Duke and Chicago Loyola lock horns for the privilege of meeting the Bearcats in the finals tomorrow.
The only thing which can be said with any conviction about the tourney is that Oregon State is going to lose. The Beavers played erratically all year, compiling an unimpressive 17-7 record during the regular season.
Although they have the sharpshooting Terry Baker and a big height advantage with 7 ft. Mel Counts and 6 ft. 7 in. Jim Kraus, the Beavers will probably lose to Cincinnati by 15 points.
The reason is simple: Cincinnati is great. The Bearcats do not have one outstanding player; they have five. Tony Yates is the best defensive player in the country. Tom Thacker is the tallest 6 ft. 2 in. man in the country. Ron Bonham is Cincinnati's best shooter since Oscar Robertson. With the starting five rounded out by brilliant ballhandler Larry Singleton ("He would rather eat sawdust than shoot," Sports Illustrated noted) and 6 ft. 8 in, center George Wilson, Cincinnati has a balance that will make them hard to dethrone. Cincinnati's deliberate style does not make them an exciting team to watch--but they win ball games.
Duke has perhaps the best shooting team in the nation. Four members of its first five hit for better than 50 percent from the floor this season; their fifth man, Art Heyman, is probably the best player in college basketball today. The great shooting of Heyman (25.3 points per game) and Jeff Mullins, coupled with the height of Hank Tison and Jay Buckley (both 6 ft. 10 in.) make the Blue Devils look invincible on paper. They're not. Although they sport a 20-game winning streak, Duke has a sometimes shoddy defense and a rather ineffectual set of multiple offenses which may portend trouble for them tonight.
Loyola, the big surprise of the 1962-63 season, doesn't have a great deal on paper; the Ramblers have no depth and little height. But Loyola plays the most exciting brand of basketball in the country: they employ a full-court press forty minutes a game and a pell-mell offense which averaged 94 points a game during the regular season. Their attack is paced by 6 ft. 2 in. All American Jerry Harkness.
Without a great deal of conviction. I'll pick Loyola to beat Duke tonight and shock Cincinnati tomorrow. Admittedly, the Bearcats do everything well, but they have been showing signs of mortality this year. Cincinnati's 37-game winning streak was wrecked last month by Wichita, and they have just managed to salvage recent games against Tulsa, Xavier, Drake, and Bradley.
The Chicageans are by no means invincible either (they have lost two games this year) but their razzle-dazzle style might prove too much for the defense-minded Bearcats to handle. Two weeks ago Loyola toppled Mississippi State a powerful quintet which plays slow, deliberate possession ball. The same thing may happen tomorrow night
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