Top 10: Best NCAA championship games

confetti

As college basketball fans gear up for tonight’s NCAA championship game between Villanova and Michigan, here’s a little history lesson.

Since the NCAA basketball tournament began in 1939, there have been great dynasties like UCLA, which won 10 titles in 12 years beginning in 1964. There have been great players like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton,  Larry Bird and Magic Johnson,  Michael Jordan and Christian Laettner.

There have been watershed games that changed the sociological face of America and enhanced the popularity of the college game, bringing words like March Madness and Final Four into the American lexicon.

There have been seven overtime games, including a triple overtime classic between North Carolina and Kansas in 1957.  Six games have been decided by a single point.

UCLA has won the most titles with 11, followed by Kentucky with 8, North Carolina with 6 and Indiana and Duke with five apiece.

Here are the 10 most memorable championship games in NCAA basketball history:

1. 1979 — Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64 — Many call this the most important college basketball game ever played; with a 24.1 Nielsen rating it is the highest rated basketball game ever. It was the game that put college basketball, March Madness and the Final Four on the map. Oh yes, and Magic Johnson, shown right, outscored Larry Bird 24 to 19 in Michigan State’s win.

2. 1966 — Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65 — Another watershed game, as an all-black Texas Western starting five surprised Kentucky. Soon after, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. the Baron, began recruiting black players, breaking down barriers throughout the South. In 2006, the film “Glory Road” dramatized the game and Texas Western coach Don Haskins.

3. 2016: Villanova 77, North Carolina 74 – Kris Jenkins hits a dramatic three pointer at the buzzer on a feed from Ryan Arcidiacono to give the Wildcats the win and their first championship in 31 years. UNC’s Marcus Paige had tied the game on a three with just 4.7 seconds left

4. 1957 — North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 (3OT) — The unbeaten Tar Heels outlasted Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks in the longest game in NCAA championship game history. Two free throws by Joe Quigg with six seconds left made the difference. UNC also played three overtimes in the semis, beating Michigan State.

5. 1983 — NC State 54, Houston 52 — The Wolfpack, sixth seeded with 10 losses during the season, won when it mattered most as Lorenzo Charles putback dunk at the final buzzer upset Houston’s heavily favored Phi Slama Jama. Few will ever forget  the site of NC State coach Jim Valvano racing around the court looking for somebody to hug after the final buzzer.

6. 1985 — Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 — In a shocker, the Wildcats shot a tournament record .786 percent. They attempted 10 field goals in the second half and made nine. Georgetown was defending champion and the top seed, but fell short against eighth-seeded Villanova after beating another Big East foe, St. John’s, in the semis.

7. 1982 — North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 –– This was Michael Jordan’s coming out party,  and the freshman hit the game-winning shot, a 16-foot jumper with 15 seconds left, to give Tar Heel coach Dean Smith his first national championship. “I was all kinds of nervous,” Jordan said, “but I didn’t have time to think about doubts. I had a feeling it was going to go in.”

8. 1950 — CCNY 71, Bradley 68 — City College of New York (CCNY) legendary coach Nat Holman, a New York native and a star with the Original Celtics,  led the Beavers to wins against Bradley in both the NCAA and the NIT, both at Madison Square Garden. CCNY remains the only team to win both the NCAA and the NIT in the same season.

1987 — Indiana 74, Syracuse 73 — Keith Smart’s 16-foot baseline jumper with five seconds remaining gave the Hoosiers a victory in a matchup of Hall of Fame coaches, Indiana’s Bob Knights versus Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. Seven three-point baskets by IU’s Steve Alford combined with the Orangemen’s futility from the foul line were just enough to give Indiana the win.

10. 1973 — UCLA 87, Memphis State 66 — UCLA won its seventh NCAA championship  behind center Bill Walton, shown right, who made 21 of 22 shots for 44 points as the Bruins waltzed to another victory. Overall, the UCLA dynasty would capture 10 crowns in 12 years under coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood.

Overtime…5 More Minutes, 6 More Classics

2008 — Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT) — Kansas was down with 2:12 left in regulation but missed Memphis free throws left the door open, and the Jayhawks finally tied  the score on Mario Chalmers three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining. Kansas then dominated the overtime to win its first championship in 20 years.

1997 – Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT) – Guards Miles Simon and Mike Bibby combined for 49 points to give Arizona the championship. Coach Lute Olson’s fourth-seeded Wildcats became the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds en route to a title.

1989 — Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 (OT) — Rumeal Robinson made a pair of free throws with three seconds left following a controversial foul call to give the Wolverines the win in the NCAAs first overtime game since 1963. Seton Hall rallied from a 12-point deficit to send the game into overtime on John Morton’s three-pointer with 24 seconds left in regulation.

1963 – Loyola of Chicago 60, Cincinnati 58 (OT) – Down 15 with 12 minutes to play, the Ramblers scrambled back to force overtime. Then Vic Rouse’s rebound basket with one second left gave Loyola the championship.

1961 — Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 (OT) — In an all-Ohio finale, Cincinnati, minus the great Oscar Robertson, who had graduated, beat defending champion Ohio State. The Buckeyes roster included Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. The Bearcats would go on to repeat in 1962, once again beating OSU.

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.  The Utes were the youngest NCAA champion in history; the team’s average age was 18 years, six months.


Indiana last NCAA champ to finish unbeaten

It hasn’t happened in nearly 40 years — and has happened only seven times in history. It is winning the NCAA championship to cap off a perfect season.

UCLA did it four times — once with Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1967, and back to back with Bill Walton in 1972 and 1973, part of the Bruins’ record 88-game winning streak. John Wooden coached all four of those teams, including the 1964 team which was the first of his record 10 NCAA champions.

The University of San Francisco (USF) was the first to do it, capping off a 29-0 campaign to win the 1956 NCAA championship behind Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.

North Carolina (32-0) went unbeaten the following year, winning twice in triple overtime to beat Michigan State and then Kansas, with Wilt Chamberlain, in the finals.

Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers
The only other undefeated champion was Bobby Knight’s 1976 Hoosiers — who  led by Kent Benson, Scott May and Quinn Buckner finished the year 1976 at 32-0 .Rutgers also entered that tournament undefeated, at 31-0, before losing to Michigan in the semifinals.

Only Wichita State has a shot this year. The Shockers, Missouri Valley Conference champions, are 34-0 as they attempt to reach the Final Four for the second year in a row.

The last team to enter the tournament unbeaten was UNLV in 1991. The defending champs had won 45 in a row before losing to Duke in the national semifinals.

Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamore’s were 33-0 entering the 1979 national finals – but were beaten by Magic Johnson and Michigan State. Alcorn State also had a perfect regular season that year. The Braves were 27-0 and won the SWAC but did not receive a bid to the 32-team field.


Pac-10 Leads With 15 NCAA Titles

Throughout history, the NCAA basketball tournament has been dominated by teams from the six major conferences — ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. In fact, 61 of the 71 total championships — more than 85 percent — have been won from teams from one of these six conferences.

Not surprisingly, the Pac 10 is the overall leader with 15, led by UCLA. The Bruins have won 11 NCAAs overall — 10 under John Wooden, including seven in a row from 1967 through 1973.

The ACC is next with 11 titles, led by five by North Carolina, three from Duke and two from NC State.

The Big East, Big 10 and SEC are even with 10 total titles apiece. Multiple winners are Kentucky (SEC) with seven; Indiana (Big 10) with five, and Michigan State (Big 10), Florida (SEC) and Cincinnati, Louisville and UConn (all Big East) with two apiece.

Kansas has won three of the five Big 12 NCAA championships and Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) the other two.

CCNY Now in CUNY
The other 10 championships are divided amongst the Mountain West (Wyoming, Utah and UNLV); West Coast (San Francisco twice); and Patriot League (Holy Cross); CUNY (CCNY); Atlantic 10 (LaSalle); Horizon (Loyola of Chicago); and Conference USA (Texas Western, now UTEP).

CCNY, which remains the only team to win both NCAA and NIT championships in the same year, 1950. The Beavers now face the likes of Baruch, Lehman and Hunter in the City University of New York (CUNY) Athletic Conference.

Butler could join the Ramblers of Loyola Chicago as the only Horizon League champions. Loyola Chicago beat two-time champion Cincinnati in overtime to win the crown in 1963.

Duke aims for its fourth championship overall and first since 2001 — all under Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K is looking to tie Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for second all time behind Wooden with four championships.

Footnote: Of course, many of these conferences did not exist when Oregon won the first NCAA tournament in 1939. The championship tallies above are based on where the schools  play today.


Top 10: Best NCAA Championship Games

 

North Carolina’s Michael Jordan shoots down Georgetown for 1982 NCAA title.

Since the NCAA basketball tournament began in 1939, there have been great dynasties like UCLA, which won 10 titles in 12 years beginning in 1964. There have been great players like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton,  Larry Bird and Magic Johnson,  Michael Jordan and Christian Laettner.

There have been watershed games that changed the sociological face of America and enhanced the popularity of the college game, bringing words like March Madness and Final Four into the American lexicon.

There have been seven overtime games, including a triple overtime classic between North Carolina and Kansas in 1957.  Six games have been decided by a single point.

UCLA has won the most titles with 11, following by Kentucky with 7, Indiana with 5 and North Carolina with 4.

Here are the 10 most memorable games in NCAA basketball history:

1. 1979 — Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64 — Many call this the most important college basketball game ever played; with a 24.1 Nielsen rating it is the highest rated basketball game ever. It was the game that put college basketball, March Madness and the Final Four on the map. Oh yes, and Magic Johnson, shown right, outscored Larry Bird 24 to 19 in Michigan State’s win.

2. 1966 — Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65 — Another watershed game, as an all-black Texas Western starting five surprised Kentucky. Soon after, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. the Baron, began recruiting black players, breaking down barriers throughout the South. In 2006, the film “Glory Road” dramatized the game and Texas Western coach Don Haskins.

3. 1957 — North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 (3OT) — The unbeaten Tar Heels outlasted Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks in the longest game in NCAA championship game history. Two free throws by Joe Quigg with six seconds left made the difference. UNC also played three overtimes in the semis, beating Michigan State.

4. 1983 — NC State 54, Houston 52 — The Wolfpack, sixth seeded with 10 losses during the season, won when it mattered most as Lorenzo Charles putback dunk, pictured below, at the final buzzer upset Houston’s heavily favored Phi Slama Jama. Few will ever forget  the site of NC State coach Jim Valvano racing around the court looking for somebody to hug after the final buzzer.

5. 1985 — Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 — In a shocker, the Wildcats shot a tournament record .786 percent. They attempted 10 field goals in the second half and made nine. Georgetown was defending champion and the top seed, but fell short against eighth-seeded Villanova after beating another Big East foe, St. John’s, in the semis.

6. 1982 — North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 –– This was Michael Jordan’s coming out party,  and the freshman hit the game-winning shot, a 16-foot jumper with 15 seconds left, to give Tar Heel coach Dean Smith his first national championship. “I was all kinds of nervous,” Jordan said, “but I didn’t have time to think about doubts. I had a feeling it was going to go in.”

7. 1950 — CCNY 71, Bradley 68 — City College of New York (CCNY) legendary coach Nat Holman, a New York native and a star with the Original Celtics,  led the Beavers to wins against Bradley in both the NCAA and the NIT, both at Madison Square Garden. CCNY remains the only team to win both the NCAA and the NIT in the same season.

8. 1987 — Indiana 74, Syracuse 73 — Keith Smart’s 16-foot baseline jumper with five seconds remaining gave the Hoosiers a victory in a matchup of Hall of Fame coaches, Indiana’s Bob Knights versus Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. Seven three-point baskets by IU’s Steve Alford combined with the Orangemen’s futility from the foul line were just enough to give Indiana the win.

9. 1973 — UCLA 87, Memphis State 66 — UCLA won its seventh NCAA championship  behind center Bill Walton, shown right, who made 21 of 22 shots for 44 points as the Bruins waltzed to another victory. Overall, the UCLA dynasty would capture 10 crowns in 12 years under coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood.

10. 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.  The Utes were the youngest NCAA champion in history; the team’s average age was 18 years, six months.

Overtime…5 More Minutes, 5 More Classics

2008 — Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT) — Kansas was down with 2:12 left in regulation but missed Memphis free throws left the door open, and the Jayhawks finally tied  the score on Mario Chalmers three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining. Kansas then dominated the overtime to win its first championship in 20 years.

1997 – Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT) – Guards Miles Simon and Mike Bibby combined for 49 points to give Arizona the championship. Coach Lute Olson’s fourth-seeded Wildcats became the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds en route to a title.

1989 — Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 (OT) — Rumeal Robinson made a pair of free throws with three seconds left following a controversial foul call to give the Wolverines the win in the NCAAs first overtime game since 1963. Seton Hall rallied from a 12-point deficit to send the game into overtime on John Morton’s three-pointer with 24 seconds left in regulation.

1963 – Loyola of Chicago 60, Cincinnati 58 (OT) – Down 15 with 12 minutes to play, the Ramblers scrambled back to force overtime. Then Vic Rouse’s rebound basket with one second left gave Loyola the championship.

1961 — Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 (OT) — In an all-Ohio finale, Cincinnati, minus the great Oscar Robertson, who had graduated, beat defending champion Ohio State. The Buckeyes roster included Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. The Bearcats would go on to repeat in 1962, once again beating OSU.


The Ring-Leaders: Champions of Championships

Do the math. The Boston Celtics have won 16 NBA titles, the Los Angeles (nee Minneapolis) Lakers 14. When the 62nd NBA Finals are completed in a few weeks, the Celtics and the Lakers will have combined for 31 titles, exactly half of the 62 championships. This is their 11th meeting in the finals, another NBA record.

What about the other sports?. Who are the champions of championships?

It starts with the New York Yankees, the king of champions. The Yankees have won 26 World Series, the most in any of the North American team sports. That’s more than double the number of championships won by the St. Louis Cardinals (10) and Philadelphia-Oakland A’s (9).

In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls. The Green Packers have won nine total NFL titles and the Chicago Bears 7 since the first NFL championship game in 1933.

In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens, Les Habitants, are far away the ring-leaders with 23 Stanley Cups. The Habs are followed by the Toronto Arenas-St. Pats-Maple Leafs with 13 and the Detroit Red Wings with 11, including this year’s Stanley Cup.

UCLA has won 11 NCAA basketball championships and Kentucky seven since the advent of the NCAA tournament in 1939. Kentucky also won a national championship in 1933.

Notre Dame is the king of college football with 13 national championships, including nine since the polls were first instituted in 1936. In the so-called “early years” of college football (1869-1935), Yale won 18 championships and Princeton 17. All told, Alabama and USC have each won 10 total football championships, seven apiece since 1936.


Survive And Advance

March Madness….survive and advance….laying it all on the line, agonizing over a turnover, exulting after a long three. Sweating it out until the final buzzer.

College basketball players? Heck no, we’re talking about the pool players in NCAA tournament brackets.

It’s all about survive and advance at this point of the year, where one loss can turn those picks into pumpkins.

Quick, pop NCAA quiz. Who are the only two players to have triple doubles in the Final Four? Two very usual suspects. Scroll down for answers below.



CRASH!!!!
That’s the sound you heard this weekend, the sound of brackets crashing as Duke and Georgetown were brushed aside. And there was a distinct bracket creak before top-seeded UCLA, one of the tourney’s darlings, got a last second basket to subdue Texas A&M.

Ever play the game knock out? There are several different renditions of this sport, including one where you pick one NFL team to win each week, irregardless of point spread. Once you pick a team, you can’t pick that team again. If your team loses you’re out; if they win you advance to play another week. Winner is the last one left standing. Survive and advance.

That’s what pool play is all about. Give yourself a chance going into next weekend, grab enough points in the early rounds, and hope you’ve picked the winner and that your Final Four can run the table. And even then, that might not be enough to put you in the money, honey.

Just win, baby.

The Sweet 16: Three teams apiece from the Big East (West Virginia, Villanova, and Louisville) and the Pac 10 (UCLA, Stanford and Washington State). Two apiece from the Big 12 (Kansas, Texas) and Big 10 (Michigan State, Wisconsin). Only one from the ACC, although that one is top-rated North Carolina.

Rule change: In the final minute of UConn’s stunning OT loss to San Diego on Friday, the Huskies, trying to catch up, had to commit a succession of fouls just to force San Diego to the free throw line. In effect, because of the team foul rule, UConn was being penalized for avoiding fouls throughout the second half. In this instance, why not give the team committing the deliberate foul the option of sending the other team to the line instead of having to commit a series of fouls. Otherwise, they’re being penalized for not being penalized.

Not to make excuses for UConn, they were listless not only against San Diego but in their brief appearance in the Big East tournament.

Trivia Answer: Oscar Roberston (39 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists) of Cincinnati against Louisville in 1959 and Magic Johnson (29 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) of Michigan State against Penn in 1979


Is George Mason This Year’s George Mason?

Is George Mason this year’s George Mason? It was just two years ago that Jim Larranaga’s 12th-seeded Patriots of the Colonial Athletic Association made a run to the Final Four before losing to eventual champ Florida in the national semis.

A nice story, but Cinderellas in the Final Four are about as rare as a snowy day in Miami. Really, outside of the Pac 10, Big 10, Big 12, Big East and SEC — who makes the Final Four?

Marquette (2003) and Louisville (2005) got there, but both were on the verge of leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East.

In 1998, Utah out of the Mountain West Conference lost to Kentucky in the championship game. UMass from the Atlantic 10 advanced to the Final Four in 1996.

But for a real Cinderella, you need to go back-back-back to the Penn Quakers in 1979. That same year, Indiana State and Larry Bird lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the title game.

And for a Cinderella winner how about Texas Western upsetting top-ranked Kentucky in 1966. Don Haskins unheralded Miners knocking off the legendary Adolph Rupp and his top-ranked Wildcats.

Guess I’m just trying to rationalize my picks in this year’s tournament — three 1 seeds (North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA) and a 2 seed (Texas) in the Final Four.

Cinderella, forget about it. I do have a 13 seed (Siena), 12 seed (Western Kentucky), 11 seed (St. Joe’s) and two 10 seeds (Davidson and St. Mary’s) winning in the first round.

And two 6 seeds (USC and Purdue) reaching the Elite Eight. But that’s about it as far as upsets.

The final pick — the North Carolina Tar Heels edge Texas, 83-82, in a thrilling shooting for their fifth national title and second under Roy Williams.

Let the Madness begin.