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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--Indiana (23-3; coached by Branch McCracken/12th of 24 seasons with Hoosiers; won Big Ten title by three games with a 17-1 record).
NIT Champion--Seton Hall (31-2; coached by Honey Russell/11th of 18 seasons with Pirates).
New Conference--California Basketball Association (forerunner of West Coast).
New Rules--Teams no longer waive free throws in favor of taking the ball out of bounds. . . . The one-and-one free-throw rule is introduced although the bonus is used only if the first shot misfires. The rule will be in effect the entire game except the last three minutes, when every foul is two shots. . . . The NCAA Tournament bracket expanded from 16 teams to 22 and fluctuated between 22 and 25 until 1974.
NCAA Probation--Bradley, Kentucky.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Ernie Beck, F, Sr., Penn (25.9 ppg, 17.3 rpg); Walter Dukes, C, Jr., Seton Hall (26.1 ppg, 22.2 rpg); Tom Gola, C-F, Soph., La Salle (18.5 ppg, 15.5 rpg); Bob Houbregs, C, Sr., Washington (25.6 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 53.8 FG%); Johnny O'Brien, G, Sr., Seattle (28.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 53.1 FG%, 80.9 FT%).
The season marked the greatest increase in points per game from one year to the next (126.6 to 138.1). College basketball's record book was overhauled when intercollegiate competition was interpreted as being between varsity teams of four-year, degree-granting universities. In effect, the ruling negated games against AAU, service, junior college, alumni and freshman teams. The decision stemmed from 100-point plus outings by Rio Grande's Clarence "Bevo" Francis and Los Angeles State's John Barber. In response to Francis' 113-point performance, Los Angeles State coach Sax Elliott scheduled a game for his team with the Chapman junior varsity and had his players concentrate on scoring and feeding Barber, a 6-6 center. Los Angeles State won, 206-82, as Barber scored 188 points.
Furman (21-6 record/coached by Lyles Alley) became the first school to average more than 90 points per game (90.2). Furman's Frank Selvy supplied the season's top scoring effort with 63 points against Mercer.
A couple of major rebounding records were established. Seton Hall's Walter Dukes set an NCAA single-season record by retrieving a total of 734 missed shots. William & Mary's Bill Chambers, standing a mere 6-4, grabbed an NCAA-record 51 rebounds in a 105-84 victory against Virginia on Valentine's Day (see accompanying box). Six of his teammates, either starters or first-line reserves, were not with him in William & Mary's next game (a 79-57 defeat against Maryland) because of a mass violation of the school's honor code. Chambers later became his alma mater's all-time winningest coach in a nine-year coaching career with the Tribe from 1957-58 through 1965-66. . . . Richie Regan, Seton Hall's second-leading scorer behind Dukes for the third straight season, eventually coached his alma mater for 10 years. The Pirates finished in the Top 10 of a final wire-service poll for the only time until 1993. . . . Seton Hall (second) collaborated with St. John's (seventh) to give the New York metropolitan area a pair of Top 10 teams for the last time in the 20th Century. . . . Princeton, 5-7 in conference play, posted its final losing mark in EIBL/Ivy League competition for the remainder of the 20th Century. . . . Maine lost 39 consecutive games against Rhode Island until upending the Rams, 81-79. . . . Forward Gene Shue became Maryland's only All-American in a 39-year span from 1933 through 1971.
Niagara outlasted Siena, 88-81, in a six-overtime game. Niagara's Ed Fleming played all 70 minutes and teammate Larry Costello played all but 20 seconds before fouling out. As a result, Fleming had his uniform number changed to 70 and Costello's was changed to 69. Oddly, one of the referees in the game was Max Tabbachi, who had officiated a five-overtime NBA game between Rochester and Indianapolis two seasons ago.
Sophomore Don Eaddy, Michigan's leading scorer in Big Ten competition (13.8 ppg), was a member of the Wolverines' baseball squad that captured the NCAA championship. . . . Minnesota upset two Big Ten members when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation (Illinois and Indiana). The Gophers, coached by Ozzie Cowles, knocked off top-ranked Kentucky early in the previous season. . . . The University of Chicago, a former powerhouse, ended a 45-game losing streak with a 65-52 victory over Illinois-Navy Pier. . . . Cincinnati compiled an 11-13 overall record but finished in a tie for second place in the Mid-American Conference (9-3) in its final year as a member of the league. . . . Seattle's Johnny O'Brien finished among the top six in both field-goal shooting (53.3 percent) and free-throw accuracy (80.8). . . . Western Kentucky's Art Spoelstra, who led the nation in field-goal marksmanship (51.6 percent) the previous season, improved to 52.8 percent yet finished sixth. Three severe heart attacks sidelined WKU coach Ed Diddle for a time.
The Citadel's Jerry Varn (51 points vs. Piedmont), Washington's Bob Houbregs (49 vs. Idaho) and Penn's Ernie Beck (47 vs. Duke in Dixie Classic at Raleigh, N.C.) set school single-game scoring records. Villanova's Larry Hennessy (29.2 ppg), Beck (25.9) and Houbregs (25.6) set school records for highest scoring average in a single season. Houbregs' outbursts helped Washington finish with a 30-3 mark for its winningest season in history (coached by Tippy Dye).
Coach John Wooden posted his only non-winning league record (6-6 in PCC) in 27 seasons at UCLA. . . . Arizona State College-Flagstaff, now known as Northern Arizona, set an NCAA record by attempting 77 free throws (46 made) in a game against Arizona (see accompanying box). A new free-throw rule increased attempts from the charity stripe to a staggering 65.8 per game for both teams. . . . LSU established a SEC standard for most lopsided victory by smothering Southwestern (Tenn.), 124-33. . . . Arizona State, coached by Bill Kajikawa, overcame a 1-10 start to finish with its only winning record (13-12) in a 10-year span from 1948-49 through 1957-58. . . . Albert "Cappy" Lavin completed his varsity career at San Francisco. His son, Steve, was appointed coach at UCLA more than 40 years later. USF's leading scorer was guard Phil Vukicevich, who went on to coach his alma mater for five seasons from 1966-67 to 1970-71. . . . Joe Cipriano, runner-up in scoring for Washington's national third-place team, eventually coached Nebraska for 17 seasons from 1963-64 through 1979-80.
Oklahoma A&M captured its 14th team defense title in 19 seasons although it was the first time a Hank Iba-coached squad allowed as many as 50 points per game (53.8). . . . Texas captain Leon Black would become coach of his alma mater for nine seasons from 1967-68 through 1975-76, guiding the Longhorns to the NCAA playoffs in 1972 and 1974. . . . Colorado's Burdette Haldorson collected 31 points and a school-record 31 rebounds against Oklahoma in the Big Eight Christmas Tournament at Kansas City. Also piling up huge numbers against the Sooners was Kansas State's Dick Knostman, who collected 42 points and 23 rebounds in a single game in mid-February.
Fordham's Ed Conlin (36 vs. Colgate), Richmond's Walt Lysaght (35 vs. North Carolina in double overtime), Seton Hall's Dukes (34 vs. King's, Pa.), St. Joseph's John Doogan (34 vs. West Chester State), Columbia's Jack Molinas (31 vs. Brown), Wisconsin's Paul Morrow (30 vs. Purdue), Rutgers' Swede Sundstrom (30 vs. Johns Hopkins), Georgia Tech's Eric Crake (27 vs. Georgia) and Pittsburgh's Don Virostek (26 vs. Westminster) also set school single-game rebounding records. It was one of five times in Conlin's career that he grabbed more than 30 rebounds. Sundstrom tied his record the next season against Army. . . . Conlin eventually coached his alma mater for two seasons in 1968-69 and 1969-70 as Digger Phelps' predecessor. . . . One of Molinas' teammates was Jack Rohan, who went on to become Columbia's all-time winningest coach.
Coach Frank McGuire lost six of his first seven games against North Carolina State after leaving St. John's for North Carolina. But McGuire's first contest against the Wolfpack with Carolina was a 70-69 success at Raleigh, ending the Tar Heels' 15-game losing streak against their big rival. Later, Wake Forest ended N.C. State's streak of six consecutive Southern Conference Tournament championships with a 71-70 victory over the Wolfpack. It was the final Southern Conference tourney before seven of the league's members broke away to form the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Maryland lost to Penn for the 12th straight time in their series. . . . Tony Packer, the father of former Wake Forest star and current CBS analyst Billy Packer, posted his only winning record (12-8) in 16 years as coach at Lehigh. It was the Engineers' lone winning season in a 28-year span from 1939-40 through 1966-67. . . . Vanderbilt dedicated Memorial Gymnasium, one of the most distinctive arenas in the South. . . . Georgia guard Zippy Morocco earned All-SEC first-team acclaim (23.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) after leading the Bulldogs' football squad in receiving in 1950 (when he was Co-MVP in the Presidential Cup bowl game) and in scoring with six touchdowns in 1951.
Dayton, struggling to stay above .500 in its only campaign in an eight-year span through 1957-58 to fail to finish among the nation's Top 20 in a final wire-service poll, pulled off the biggest upset of the season when the Flyers toppled top-ranked Seton Hall, 71-65. The Pirates, who would go on to capture the NIT, entered the road game with a 27-0 record. Seton Hall also lost its next outing (73-67 at Louisville) en route to finishing with a 31-2 mark, a school record for most victories.
Big Ten charter member Indiana captured its first undisputed conference championship prior to winning the NCAA crown. IU's three defeats were by a total of five points. Hoosiers coach Branch McCracken had been denied a Big Ten title in his first 11 years at his alma mater despite winning more than 70 percent of his games. . . . Three-time All-Mid-American Conference first-team guard Don Knodel, the second-leading scorer for Miami (Ohio) for the second straight season, went on to coach Rice for eight seasons from 1966-67 through 1973-74, including an appearance in the 1970 NCAA Tournament. . . . Toledo co-captain Bob Nichols eventually became the Mid-American's all-time winningest coach with 376 victories at his alma mater in 22 seasons from 1965-66 through 1986-87. . . . Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio) and CCNY competed in their final season at the major-college level.
Pete Mullins, the sixth-place finisher in the 1948 Olympic decathlon while competing for Australia, finished his career as Washington State's leading scorer with 13.3 points per game. He had been the Cougars' second-leading scorer as a sophomore and third-leading scorer as a junior. Utah's Vadal Peterson ended his 26-year coaching career with a 386-223 record. His successor, Jack Gardner, left Kansas State to join the Utes for 18 years and become the only coach with a stint of more than 15 seasons after following an individual who coached at least a quarter of a century for one university.
Pittsburgh posted its first winning record (12-11) in eight seasons as Dr. H.C. Carlson ended his 31-year coaching career at the school with a 367-250 record. Carlson's distaste for recruiting soured him on the game and he retired. One of his last recruiting acts would prove costly to Bob Timmons, his successor, for the next four years. Carlson, looking to break the color line at Pittsburgh, couldn't make up his mind between Ernie Bryant and Maurice Stokes. Carlson chose Bryant, who quit after his freshman year and never played varsity ball. Stokes went on to put St. Francis (Pa.) on the basketball map and became an instant star in the NBA before a disabling disease ended his career.
1953 NCAA Tournament
Summary: Junior guard Bob Leonard supplied the decisive point by hitting one of two free throws with 27 seconds remaining to give Indiana a 69-68 victory over defending champion Kansas in the final. Leonard also nailed a buzzer-beater shot from mid-floor to end the third period. The score was tied 14 times. IU had the lead 10 times, and the Jayhawks were in front on nine occasions. A game-ending shot by Jayhawk sub Jerry Alberts fell a few inches short. Until the title game, the Hoosiers had dropped their previous seven one-point decisions since coach Branch McCracken returned from WWII. Don Schlundt, averaging 25.4 points per game for the Hoosiers as a sophomore center, is the only player to never appear in the NBA or ABA after averaging more than 20 for a team reaching the NCAA championship game. Schlundt, a 1955 draft choice of the Syracuse Nationals, became successful in the insurance business after rejecting their contract offer of $6,000. Leonard went on to coach the Indiana Pacers for 12 seasons from 1968-69 through 1979-80.
Outcome for Defending Champion: Big Seven champion Kansas finished with a 19-6 record. The Jayhawks' two league losses were by 15 points at Oklahoma and 21 at Oklahoma State.
Star Gazing: Bertram "B.H." Born, the only Kansas starter taller than 6-1, scored more points in two Final Four games (51) for the national runner-up Jayhawks than he did the entire previous season when he averaged just 1.7 points per game as a sophomore backup to Clyde Lovellette, who was named Most Outstanding Player in powering KU to the 1952 title. Born, the first Most Outstanding Player not to play for the national champion, was the only MOP in the first 46 years of the NCAA playoffs not to ever be accorded All-American status. . . . Dick Harter, a member of Penn's team that defeated Ray Meyer-coached DePaul in an East Regional third-place game, went on to coach the Quakers in the NCAA playoffs in 1970 and 1971. . . . Don Haskins, a member of Oklahoma A&M's West Regional finalist that was eliminated by Kansas, eventually coached Texas Western to the 1966 NCAA crown. . . . Backup guard Dean Smith, reaching the NCAA final with Kansas for the second straight season, went on to coach North Carolina to the Final Four on 11 occasions. . . . Johnny Swaim, a starting guard for TCU, coached his alma mater in the tourney in 1968 and 1971.
Biggest Upset: George "Rinso" Marquette, the first-year coach at Lebanon Valley (Pa.), guided the Flying Dutchmen to the NCAA Tournament when they received an invitation after La Salle and Seton Hall chose to go to the NIT. Lebanon Valley's "Seven Dwarfs"--no player was taller than 6-1--won the Middle Atlantic Conference and led the nation in field-goal shooting (47.2 percent). They flogged Fordham, 80-67, in the first round of the East Regional before bowing to Bob Pettit-led LSU, an eventual Final Four team. Lebanon Valley, with a current enrollment of 900 after having 425 students in 1953, remains the smallest school ever to play in the tournament. The leading scorer for Lebanon Valley was Howie Landa, who went on to coach nationally-ranked Mercer County (N.J.) Community College and then serve as an assistant for both the men's and women's teams at UNLV.
One and Only: Kansas' Dean Kelley became the only player to have season scoring averages of fewer than 10 points per game in back-to-back years in which he was named to the All-NCAA Tournament team. He and fellow guard Allen Kelley are the only set of brothers to play together in two NCAA playoff title games.
Celebrity Status: Hal Patterson, a starting forward and second-leading rebounder for Kansas' national runner-up, was a two-year football letterman with the Jayhawks as an end and also lettered in baseball. Patterson, a member of the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, scored 54 touchdowns in his 14-year CFL career and had 34 games with at least 100 yards in pass receptions. Teammate Gil Reich, an All-American defensive back, was selected in the second round of the 1953 NFL draft (19th pick overall). . . . Former Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey and former Massachusetts U.S. Congressman Joe Early were teammates for Holy Cross in two NCAA Tournament games. Early scored six points for the Crusaders in their 81-73 East Regional final loss to Bob Pettit-led LSU. . . . Doyle Brunson, Hardin-Simmons' second-leading scorer who had nine points in a first-round loss against Santa Clara, went on to win 10 World Series of Poker bracelets (including the main event in back-to-back years in 1976 and 1977) en route to becoming the first participant to earn $1 million in poker tournaments.
Numbers Game: Of the more than 50 coaches reaching the national semifinals at least twice, Indiana's Branch McCracken is the only one to compile an undefeated Final Four record. He also won the championship in 1940. . . . Seattle's Johnny O'Brien, a 5-8 unanimous first-team All-America, became the only player to score more than 40 points in his first playoff game. He had 42 in an 88-77 victory over Idaho State. . . . Washington's Bob Houbregs had a tourney-high 45 points in a 92-70 scorching of Seattle in the West Regional semifinals. He poured in 42 in an 88-69 trouncing of LSU in the national third-place game. . . . Wake Forest posted its only NCAA playoff victory in the first 22 years of the tournament through 1960 (91-71 over Lebabon Valley in regional third-place game). The Demon Deacons were eliminated in the East Regional semifinals by Holy Cross when the Crusaders, only five years removed from an NCAA title, claimed their final tournament triumph of the 20th Century.
What Might Have Been: Mighty Kentucky was barred from playing a competitive schedule. . . . Kansas might have successfully defended its NCAA title if basketball Olympian Charlie Hoag didn't incur a career-ending knee injury as a running back for the Jayhawks' football squad.
Putting Things in Perspective: Indiana almost finished undefeated, losing three games during the regular season by a total of five points on field goals scored with fewer than five seconds remaining. . . . Wisconsin's Paul Morrow managed the highest single-game output against IU with 30 points.
NCAA Champion Defeats: At Notre Dame (1-point margin), at Kansas State (2), and at Minnesota (2).
Scoring Leader: Bob Houbregs, Washington (139 points, 34.75 ppg).
*B.H. Born, C, Jr., Kansas (51 points in final two games)
Bob Houbregs, C, Sr., Washington (60 points)
Dean Kelley, G, Sr., Kansas (24 points)
Bob Leonard, G, Jr., Indiana (34 points)
Don Schlundt, C, Soph., Indiana (59 points)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
Regional Semifinal: Indiana 82 (Schlundt team-high 23 points), DePaul 80 (Feiereisel 27)
Regional Final: Indiana 79 (Schlundt 41), Notre Dame 66 (Lewinski/Rosenthal 19)
National Semifinal: Indiana 80 (Schlundt 29), LSU 67 (Pettit 29)
Championship Game: Indiana 69 (Schlundt 30), Kansas 68 (Born 26)