Celebrating 75 years of March Madness
By JIM O’CONNELL
The Associated Press | April 05,2013
AP FIle Photo
This November 1991, photo shows Michigan’s Fab Five from left, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson pose in Ann Arbor, Mich.
ATLANTA — It doesn’t matter what the final vote totals say, there will be more than one greatest moment and one greatest team. There will even be more than the 15 greatest players.
College basketball fans will still have their own favorites in each category as they look back on 75 years of March Madness.
To commemorate the tournament’s 75th anniversary, the NCAA will release on Friday the results of a fan poll that determined a No. 1 in the greatest moment and greatest team categories and the top 15 players.
The original lists were compiled and researched by the NCAA’s basketball and statistics staffs, which consulted with the organization’s media partners and selected members of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Last month each category was trimmed, the moments to 35, the teams to 25, and the players to 75.
The buzzer-beater that made you a fan for life may not be there, and the player who you imitated every time you shot the ball may not make it, either. That’s OK. Remember, nobody was wrong. Except the people who didn’t agree with you.
With a much better chance at being correct at this than on the tournament bracket sheet (thanks Wichita State and Florida Gulf Coast) here’s one set of votes that goes a little bit beyond the fan poll:
BEST MOMENT: The ballots should have come with this box already filled in. Please, the answer is Duke 104, Kentucky 103 in overtime at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on March 28, 1992. Down one, 2.1 seconds left, 94 feet from the Kentucky basket, Duke’s Grant Hill throws a 75-foot pass that finds Christian Laettner who hit a turnaround 17-footer to cap a 10-for-10 night from the field that sent Duke onto the Final Four and a second straight national championship.
There were other great moments — North Carolina State’s upset win over Houston in 1983 when Jim Valvano ran around looking for someone to hug and Indiana capping a perfect season in 1976 and Michael Jordan hitting his game-winner for North Carolina in 1982 — but there was one best moment and it took a perfect pass, a sweet move and a sure shot.
BEST TEAM: It’s tough to argue with a zero on the right side of a team’s won-loss record. That means there are really just six teams in the running for this one. UCLA’s last of three unbeaten champions was the 1972-73 team that capped its season with an 87-66 victory over Memphis State when Bill Walton shot 21 of 22 from the field and scored 44 points. If there’s still any doubt, here is what coach John Wooden said after the tournament: “I’ve never had a greater team both offensively and defensively.” (A trivia note: This was the first Final Four played on a Saturday and Monday). Of the teams that finished with a loss or two or three, North Carolina State (30-1) with David Thompson in 1973-74 and Kentucky (34-2), with a roster full of NBA players, in 1995-96, deserve some consideration.
TOP PLAYERS: Fifteen? No way. There are 15 great players in the last 15 years. So with this being the 75th anniversary, shouldn’t it be 75 players? Still, in the interest of space, here’s 15 players with a four-man injured reserve just in case: Oscar Robertson, Kemba Walker, Christian Laettner, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Danny Manning, Jack Givens, Glen Rice, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, David Thompson, Austin Carr, Jerry Lucas, Bill Bradley, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Jerry West.
BEST COACH: This should have been on the official list and it would have been another easy one. John Wooden led UCLA to 10 national championships in a 12-year period. There was a generation of kids who thought the tournament was held to decide a runner-up to the Bruins. Adolph Rupp led Kentucky to four titles, the same number Mike Krzyzewski has won at Duke. Bob Knight of Indiana and Jim Calhoun of Connecticut have three each. John Wooden won 10 so this discussion is done.
BEST NICKNAME: Besides the school nickname, the Oregon Ducks in 1939 had a team that came to be known as the “Tall Firs.” And the tree reference wasn’t enough. The Ducks were greeted with this headline in the Oregon Emerald the day after the title: “Wandering Webfoots Whip Ohio State.” There were also great nicknames like “Fab Five,” “Rupp’s Runts,” “Phi Slamma Jamma,” “Doctors of Dunk.” Still, any team that can go by “Tall Firs” and “Wandering Webfoots” takes the nonexistent title.
BEST CATCHPHRASE: Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State team in 1983 lived by the creed of “survive and advance.” The better one came six years earlier when Al McGuire, another emotional coach from New York, explained that an event like the Final Four was “seashells and balloons.”
BEST ARENA: Since 1997, the Final Four has been played in a domed stadium, basketball on a football stage. Before then there were some great arenas that hosted the national semifinals. Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City hosted nine national championship games with Madison Square Garden second with seven. If it was up to the media: and it never is: the dome that would be the favorite to host is Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
BEST SONG: No matter how much people say “One Shining Moment” is a little too sappy, there are a lot of people standing around and watching it play on the scoreboard after the nets cutting is over. Knowing the words is optional but humming along is mandatory.