This year’s NCAA Cinderella is a Shocker. Ninth-seeded Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference knocked off #1 seed Gonzaga and #2 seed Ohio State in a surprising run to the Final Four. Wichita evoked memories of mid-majors like George Mason, VCU, and Butler, other recent tournament darlings who made it to the last dance.
For Wichita, it’s been quite the NCAA drought. The last time the Shockers advanced this far, in 1965, LBJ was President, “The Sound of Music” was released, the Beatles played at Shea Stadium and gasoline cost 31 center per gallon.
That year Wichita State survived the in-season losses of two future NBA players, All-American forward Dave Stallworth and center Nate Bowman. Stallworth’s eligibility expired in the middle of the season, and Bowman was declared academically ineligible.
Still the Shockers persevered. They were ranked No. 1 in the country in December, won the MVC by two games, then beat SMU and Oklahoma State to reach the Final Four in Portland, Oregon
The Shockers lost to eventual champion UCLA, coached by the legendary John Wooden, in the semifinals. In those days, the semi losers played in a consolation game for third place.
Wichita fell to Princeton 118-82 in a game in which Bill Bradley, pictured above, scored a Final Four record 58 points. That night, Bradley made 22-of-29 field goals and 14-of-15 free throws to set a record which has stood for nearly 50 years.
UCLA, led by guard Gail Goodrich, went on to beat Michigan and All-American Cazzie Russell for its second consecutive NCAA title. The Bruins, sparked by Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and others, would go on to win 10 NCAA titles in a 12-year span.
Stallworth, Bowman, Bradley and Russell were all members of the New York Knicks 1970 NBA championship team. A year later, Stallworth was traded to the Baltimore Bullets along with Mike Riordan for Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. And Russell was dealt to the San Francisco Warriors for Jerry Lucas.
Bowman, who filled in for Willis Reed in that famed 1970 Game Seven against the Lakers and actually outscored the Knicks captain 6-4, was sent to the Buffalo Braves along with Mike Silliman for cash after the 1970 season. Bradley played his entire 10-year career with the Knicks and became both a Hall of Famer and a United States Senator.
If Kentucky wins the NCAAs, you can count on a Yankee parade down Broadway this fall.
The last six times Kentucky has won the NCAA men’s basketball title, the Yankees have gone on to win the World Series.
The Wildcats have won seven titles overall, second only to UCLA’s 11 and by far the most of any team in this year’s Final Four. Kansas has taken three, Louisville two and Ohio State one.
Kentucky won its first championship in 1948, the year the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Braves to win their last World Series.
Kentucky repeated in 1949, beating Oklahoma State in the final, under the tutelage of immortal coach Adolph Rupp, the “Baron of the Bluegrass.”
Rupp, fourth all-time with 876 victories, would go on to win in 1951 (against Kansas State) and 1958 (against Seattle) for a total of four championships.
Meanwhile the Yankees were winning five World Series in a row between 1949 and 1953 under another legendary leader, Casey Stengel. In 1958, the Yankees rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves.
It took Kentucky 20 years to return to the mountaintop, when coach Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats defeated Duke for the 1978 national championship. That fall, the Yankees rallied to knock off the Red Sox on Bucky Dent’s home run, then repeated against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rick Pitino, now the head coach at Louisville (which meets Kentucky in a Final Four intra-state rivalry on Saturday), coached the Wildcats to the NCAA title in 1996. Two years later, coach Tubby Smith guided Kentucky to its last championship, against Utah.
Meanwhile, Joe Torre piloted the Yankees to World Series wins in 1996 (vs. the Braves) and 1998 (vs. the Padres).
Of the other Final Four finalists, Kansas won its first championship in 1952, followed by a Yankee win over the Dodgers. Ohio State’s only title occurred in 1960, the year the Yankees lost the Series to Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates. And although the Yankees didn’t win the World Series following Louisville’s 1986 title run, the Mets did.
Kentucky is heavily favored to cut down the nets Monday night. And if they do, the Yankees can start planning a parade down Broadway
In the early 1960s the Cold War was heating up. America was showing it had the right stuff for the space race. And the state of Ohio was the center of the basketball universe.
Now, more than 50 years later, Ohio is again dominating the NCAA basketball tournament. For the first time in NCAA tournament history, four teams from the same state — Ohio State, Cincinnati, Ohio and Xavier — have advanced to the Sweet 16.
Back in 1960, Ohio State, led by All-America center Jerry Lucas, won their only national championship, beating defending champ California, 75-55.
In 1961 and again in 1962, Cincinnati captured back-to-back NCAA championships, beating Ohio State both times in the final game.
All told, Cincinnati made it to five straight Final Fours between 1959 and 1963. And Ohio State advanced to the championship game three straight times.
Lucas, below right, led a well-balanced Ohio State team coached by Fred Taylor. He was named NCAA Most Outstanding Player in both 1960 and 1961 (the second time on a losing team) , and was Big Ten Player of the Year three straight times, leading OSU to a 78-6 record over three years.
Lucas and Havlicek
Other members of that famed 1960 team included John Havlicek and Larry Siegfried, both of whom went on the play for the Celtics, and a reserve named Bobby Knight, who achieved coaching immortality at Indiana University.
Oscar Robertson, one of the greatest guards ever to play basketball, was the top player on Cincinnati’s Final Four teams in 1959 and 1960 that failed to go all the way..
But the Bearcat dynasty continued after the Big O graduated under the direction of coach Ed Jucker and mainstays like Tom Thacker, Paul Hogue and Ron Bonham.
In the 1961 Final Four in Kansas City, Cincy knocked off Utah and Ohio State beat St. Joseph’s to advance to the championship. Then the Bearcats and the Buckeyes had to wait anxiously while St. Joseph’s beat Utah in a record-tying four overtimes to win the third place game.
Cincinnati trailed OSU by one point at the half, but rallied to win in overtime, 70-65, with a balanced scoring attack (four players in double figures). Lucas led all scorers with 27 points.
The following year Cincy beat UCLA, making its first appearance in the Final Four, and Ohio State topped Wake Forest and guard Billy Packer. Hogue scored 22 points and earned Most Outstanding Player honors as Cincinnati won again, 71-59.
Seeking the first three-peat in tourney history, Cincinnati advanced to the championship game in 1963 but blew a big second half lead and was upset by Loyola of Chicago, 60-58, in overtime.
When Cincinnati and Ohio meet in the NCAA East semifinals, it will mark their first match-up in the NCAA tournament since March 24, 1962, almost exactly 50 years ago.
Ohio State made it to the championship game in 2007 behind Greg Oden, but lost to Florida. The Buckeyes also made the Final Four in 1968 and 1999.
Cincy’s only Final Four appearance since 1962 occurred in 1992. Neither Xavier or Ohio University has ever advanced to the Final Four.
Get a load of these 10 potential Final Fours. Hey, it’s March Madness, anything is possible.
Wonderful World of Color Final Four
Duke Blue Devils
Alabama Crimson Tide
Carolina on My Mind Final Four
NC — Asheville
Top Cat Final Four
Kansas State Wildcats
Been There, Done That Final Four
UNLV (1 championship)
Marquette (1 championship)
Syracuse (1 championship)
Michigan (1 championship
Been There, Done That Redux Final Four
Kentucky (7 championships)
Florida (2 championships)
Cincinnati (2 championships)
North Carolina (5 championships)
Bless Me Father Final Four
Larry Bird Final Four
Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
What’s That Supposed to Mean Final Four
Saint Louis Billikens
Ohio State Buckeyes
Like Father, Like Son Final Four
Duke — Austin Rivers, Seth Curry
Missouri — Matt and Phil Pressey
Gonzaga — David Stockton
Michigan — Tim Hardaway Jr.
C What I Mean Final Four
With Valparaiso coach Homer Drew looking on, his son Bryce Drew unleashes game-winning three-pointer at buzzer to slay Ole Miss in 1998 NCAA Tournament.
Somewhere in this vast galaxy, in some alternate universe, Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt heave went in the basket and Butler beat Duke to win the 2010 NCAA National Championship. In that other world, it is celebrated as the greatest shot in college basketball history and arguably the greatest shot ever in sports.
Hayward’s shot would have topped this SportsLifer list except for one important detail. In this world, Hayward’s shot rimmed out and instead Duke held on to win its fourth National Championship.
There were plenty of other shots that did go in and made a difference.
Here are the 10 greatest game-winning shots in NCAA Tournament history:
1. Bryce Drew , Valparaiso, 1998, First Round: You remember the play. Valpo trailing Ole Miss by two, seconds left to play….and…we’ll let CBS broadcaster Ted Robinson, now the 49ers play-by-play man, make the call: “The inbounds pass to be thrown by Jamie Sykes, Carter pressuring. It’s to Jenkins….to Drew for the win…GOOD! HE DID IT! BRYCE DREW DID IT! VALPO HAS WON THE GAME A MIRACLE!” The leaning three pointer well behind the arc gave 13th-seeded Valpo a 70-69 win. Cinderella beat Florida State to gain the Sweet 16, where Valparaiso fell to Rhode Island
2. Christian Laettner, Duke, 1992, East Regional Final: In one of the greatest games every played and Duke trailing Kentucky by one in overtime, Calvin Hill threw a desperation 80-foot pass to Christian Laettner who caught the ball, faked and put up a fadeway shot from the free throw line as time expired. The Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four with the 104-103 win and went on to win their second straight title.
3. Arkansas, US Reed, 1981, Second Round: U.S. (Ulysses S) Reed, unable to get the ball to any of his teammates and with time running out, took a desperation shot from beyond the midcourt line, left. The ball went in (this before the advent of the three-point shot) and Arkansas stunned defending champ Louisville, 74-73.
4. Lorenzo Charles, North Carolina State, 1983, National Championship: With the game tied at 52 and four seconds to play, NC State’s Dereck Whittenburg flung a desperation heave. It was an airball, but Lorenzo Charles turned the miss into a dunk, and causing Wolfpack coach Jim Valanvo to run wild looking for somebody to love.
5. Keith Smart, Indiana, 1987, National Championship: The title game was held on Oscar night and while the nominated “Hoosiers” didn’t win in Hollywood, Bob Knight’s Hoosiers did in New Orleans. Keith Smart hit the winning jumper in the final seconds for the 74–73 win over Syracuse.
6. Tyus Edney, UCLA, 1995, Second Round — 5’10″ guard Tyrus Edney went cost-to-coast with 4.8 seconds left and made a game-winning layup as the buzzer sounded the give the Bruins a 75-74 win over Missouri. UCLA went on to win its 11th national championship, the only one since John Wooden’s run of 10 titles ended in 1975.
7. Tate George, UConn, 1990, Elite Eight, Regional Semifinals: With only one second left in the game and UConn down a point to Clemson, Scott Burrell threw a full court pass to George. George caught the pass, spun around and released a 15-footer that fell through as time expired for a 71-70 win. Two days later, the Huskies lost a heartbreaker to Duke on a buzzer beater by Christian Laettner.
8. Michael Jordan, North Carolina, 1982, National Championship: No list of great exploits in basketball history is complete without the obligatory Jordan reference. The freshman hit a 17-foot jumper from the left side with around 10 seconds left. giving Dean Smith his first national title with the 63-62 win over Georgetown.
9. Vic Rouse, Loyola of Chicago, 1963, National Championship: The underdog Ramblers rallied from 15 points down in the second half to force overtime, then won the game on a last-second rebound and basket by Vic Rouse. Loyola’s improbable 60-59 win and denied Cincinnati the first three-peat in NCAA history.
10. Richard Washington, UCLA, 1975, National Semifinals: John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won 10 titles in 12, and most weren’t even close. But this battle against former Wooden assistant and Louisville head coach was. The Bruins rallied to force overtime and won the game 75-74 on a last-second shot by Richard Washington. They went on to beat Kentucky for Wooden’s last championship.
The Best of SportsLifer
First posted on April 13, 2009 by sportslifer
T.S. Eliot knew how to write, but sports wasn’t his strong suit.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. “
– T.S Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922
Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot, the American-British poet, playwright and critic, may have been a member of the Literature Hall of Fame, but he didn’t know sports.
With apologies to old T.S., shown below, April is America’s best month for sports.
April, the rites of passage, the season of rebirth, where Opening Day signals the start of another baseball season.
April has the pageantry of the Masters, from Augusta National, the most beautiful golf course in the world.
Both the NBA and NHL playoffs begin in April, the second season for 32 basketball and hockey teams.
The NCAA Tournament may be heralded as March Madness, but the Final Four is an April event.
And finally there’s the NFL draft, one of the most popular events in the NFL outside of the Super Bowl.
What other months challenge April?
June has the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Belmont Stakes, last leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown.
October has the World Series, and peak activity in college and pro football to go with Fall foliage.
And February has the Super Bowl, the single biggest day in American sports, and the Daytona 500.
Give me April every time.
West Virginia, led by Jerry West (44), made its last Final Four appearance in 1959.
For a while there last weekend, it looked like the NCAAs would have a fresh Final Four, comprised of four teams that had never won the tournament.
Butler and West Virginia did their part on Saturday, but then three-time champ Duke and twice-crowned Michigan State spoiled the fun.
You need to go back 20 years, to 1990, to find the last time you had four teams that had never won in a Final Four. That year in Dallas UNLV’s Runnin’ Rebels crushed Duke 103-73 to win their first and only championship. Arkansas and Georgia Tech lost in the semifinals.
And way back in 1959 was the last time that four teams — California, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville — made the Final Four for the first time.
Cal won its only title that year, beating West Virginia 71-70 in the championship. The Mountaineers’ great guard Jerry West — Zeke from Cabin Creek — scored 28 points and was named the outstanding player of the tournament despite the loss.
West Virginia Returns
West Virginia is back for the first time in 51 years to try and capture that elusive title. And Jerry West’s youngest son, Jonnie West, is a reserve guard for the 2010 Mountaineers.
Michigan State has been to the Final Four eight times — six times since 1999 — and won championships in 1979 with Magic Johnson and 2000.
The Spartans went to their first Final Four in 1957, when they lost to eventual champion North Carolina in three overtimes in the semifinals. The Tar Heels beat Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas team in another triple overtime game the following night for their first championship.
Duke has been to the Final Four 14 times, winning it all in 1991, 1992 and 2001. The Blue Devils made their first appearance in the Final Four in 1964, Despite a height advantage, Duke lost in the finals to coach John Wooden and his UCLA Bruins, who finished 30-0 and won the first of Wooden’s 10 championships.
Butler has never been to the Final Four, but the Bobcats don’t have to travel far to get there, just 6.2 miles to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, according to Google maps.
Hinkle Field House at Butler University, scene of hoop miracles.
There’s a scene in the movie classic “Hoosiers” where Coach Norman Dale, played by Gene Hackman, gives a short locker room speech before his Hickory High School team plays for the Indiana state championship.
Once coach Dale finishes, he asks his players if they have anything to add. One of the Hickory players says: “Let’s win this one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.”
Well sometimes dreams do become reality, and Hollywood tales come true. Like Hickory High, Butler University, which punched a ticket to the Final Four with a win over Kansas State, is representing all the small schools across America who’ve ever dreamed of going to the Final Four.
Butler is a David among the Goliaths. A member of the mid-major Horizon League, is 32-4 and hasn’t lost a game since December. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs have won 24 games in a row.
Not Many Surprises
Although 11th-seed George Mason did make the Final Four in 2006, you really need to go back to 1966 to find the last time a small school won the NCAAs. That was Texas Western, now UTEP, which surprised top-ranked Kentucky.
Loyola of Chicago was an upset winner in 1963. The Ramblers, now members of the Horizon League, stopped two-time champion Cincinnati. Holy Cross in 1947 and CCNY in 1950 were other surprise winners in a tournament generally dominated by the bigger-name schools, like UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina and Duke.
Proving that fact can be stranger than fiction, the final game in “Hoosiers” — where undermanned Hickory beats a heavily favored team from South Bend Central on a last-second jumper by star Jimmy Chitwood — is filmed in Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, called the Butler Fieldhouse in the 50s.
Butler played its first basketball game in the Fieldhouse in 1928, defeating Notre Dame 21-13 in overtime. The name of the facility was changed in 1966 from Butler Fieldhouse to Hinkle Fieldhouse in honor of Butler’s legendary coach and athletic director, Paul D. “Tony” Hinkle.
Historic Butler Fieldhouse
The Fieldhouse has served as host to four U.S. presidents (Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford), the Billy Graham Crusade, the Sonja Henie Ice Show, four professional basketball team, even a three-ring circus and a six-day bicycle race.
When the Fieldhouse was originally constructed, it was the largest basketball arena in the United States, and it retained that distinction for more than 20 years. Recent renovation has reduced the seating capacity from 15,000 to around 10,000, but the aura that made Hinkle Fieldhouse one of the nation’s first great basketball arenas remains today.
Fittingly, the Final Four next weekend will be held in Indianapolis, at Lucas Oil Stadium, just seven miles from the Butler campus.
Of course many people know that “Hooisers” is based on the story of tiny Milan High School, which in 1954 defeated heavily favored Muncie Central to win the Indiana state championship. In that game, Milan’s Bobby Plump hit a last-second jumper from roughly the same spot on the floor in the Butler Fieldhouse where Chitwood’s shot won it for Hickory
Does Butler have a Bobby Plump or Jimmy Chitwood moment waiting?
In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy told her little dog: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Well, Dorothy, Kansas isn’t in the NCAA tournament any more either after being kayoed by Northern Iowa in a Cinderellian effort. The top-seeded Jayhawks were knocked out by ninth-seeded NIU in one of the bigger surprises in NCAA history.
The Panthers became the first team to beat a No. 1 seed in the second round since UAB and Alabama did it to Kentucky and Stanford, respectively, in 2004.
The Kansas loss ranks as one of the top upsets in the history of the tournament, but there have been many. Here are the top 10, in chronological order:
10 Great NCAA Upsets
1944: Utah 42, Dartmouth 40 (OT) — Utah originally turned down an invitation to the NCAA tournament, but was given a second chance after losing in the NIT, and after Arkansas pulled out of the tourney after two players were injured in an automobile accident. In those days there were no seedings and no 64-team field, just two, four-team regionals and a title game at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The Utes, shown left, were the youngest NCAA champion in history; the team’s average age was 18 years, six months. And in the midst of World War II, the team had two Japanese-American players, one on release from an internment camp. The Utes defeated Eastern champion and heavily favored Dartmouth in the championship game on a set shot by forward Herb Wilkinson in the first overtime championship game in NCAA history. Utah became known as the Whiz Kids, Zoot Utes, and the Live Five from the Jive Drive.
1956: Canisius 79, North Carolina State 78 (4OT) — The Wolfpack was ranked second in the nation when they faced Canisius in the first round. The Golden Griffins won in four overtimes. The two teams set a record for longest NCAA Tournament game that’s been once tied (1961), but never broken. The San Francisco Dons, led by Bill Russell, won the NCAA title that year.
1966: Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65 — Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El Paso) and its all-black starting five was a heavy underdog to Kentucky’s all white starting five, including Pat Riley, and openly racist coach, Adolph Rupp. Yet the Miners managed the win. Rupp “carried the memory of that game to his grave,” wrote his biographer, Russell Rice.
1979: Penn 72, North Carolina 71 — The Quakers beat top-rated UNC in the East Regionals and later St. John’s in the Eastern regional finals, and became what remains the last Ivy League team to make the Final Four. Penn would be the only team to beat four higher seeded opponents to reach the Final Four until the feat was matched in 1986 by LSU and again in 2006 by George Mason. Penn was crushed in the national semis by Magic Johnson and Michigan State, which went on to beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State team for the championship.
1983: NC State 54, Houston 52 — NC State had lost 10 games during the regular season and wasn’t expected to be in the title match. The Cougars and their “Phi Slamma Jamma” crew of Akeem (later Hakeem) “The Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, meanwhile, were the nation’s top-ranked team and on a 25-game winning streak. But when Lorenzo Charles slammed home an errant shot as time expired, the Wolfpack had an improbable win and coach Jim Valvano, right, went “looking for someone to hug.”
1985: Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 — Many thought the eighth-seeded Wildcats didn’t belong on the same court with Patrick Ewing and the defending champion Hoyas. Georgetown had already beaten Villanova twice during the regular season. But the Wildcats shot a record 78.6 percent from the field, missed only one shot in the entire second half, and became the lowest-seeded team ever to win the national championship.
1991: Richmond 73, Syracuse 69 — Richmond became the first No. 15 to beat a two seed (16 seeds have never beaten a one seed in 104 tries in the tournament.) The win inspired the immortal headline: Orangemen Bitten by Spiders. Other 15-2 shockers include Santa Clara over Arizona in 1991 and Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997.
1998: Valparaiso 70, Mississippi 69 — One of the most famous last-second shots in basketball history and the poster child for buzzer beaters was the three pointer by Bryce Drew, left, that helped 13-seed Valparaiso beat Ole Miss in a stunner.
2006: George Mason 86, Connecticut (OT) — A suburban commuter school from Fairfax, Va., that was a dicey choice to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, the 11th seeded Patriots upset No. 1 seed UConn and reached the Final Four. The Patriots were only the second double-digit seed to make the Final Four, matching LSU’s run, also as an 11th seed, in 1986. They were the first true outsider to crash the quartet since Penn and Indiana State both got there in 1979.
2010: Northern Ohio 67, Kansas 65 — It’s rare that the top seeded team in the tournament goes out this early. But NIU guard Ali Farokhmanes, the answer to future trivia question, hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds left to ultimately doom Kansas.
Yes Dorothy, lions and tigers and bears….and Panthers too.
Related Blog: Top 10 Championship Games in Final Four History
There’s an old cliche that goes something like this — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The decision-makers in the NCAA should take that saying to heart.
Cliches are cliches for a reason — because they work. Just like the NCAA basketball tournament.
Yet the NCAA is reportedly exploring the possibility of expanding from the present field of 64 to 96 teams next year.
That makes sense. Yeah right. Take something that’s created an aura and built a mystique around March Madness and change it. Why not eliminate Mother’s Day while we’re at it.
“I don’t like it,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said of the 96-team potential. “I’m not going to tell you I’m going to get out of coaching because of it. But I’m more of a traditionalist.
“Now, there’s a mystique, there’s something special about being in the tournament. If they expanded, that mystique would go away.”
No More NIT
Yes, the mystique would go away, along with the NIT, which despite a long heritage of its own is dead if the NCAA goes through with this plan.
With 96 teams, we’d be left with a tournament with a bunch of byes and 32 extra teams, mainly the leftovers and second-division finishers from the major conferences.
There’d be a bunch of byes to screw up the brackets. With 96 teams, we’d be crying 96 Tears, just like ? & The Mysterians
The NCAA should spend less time worrying about March Madness and more into expanding the utterly laughable BCS football format.
Or else, we’ll be left with a 96-team basketball tournament and a two-team football playoff next year.
Do the math, it doesn’t add up.