The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
It isn't the first time black players make an impact on the national championship game: San Francisco won the '56 title with six African-Americans, and Cincinnati ('62) and Loyola ('63) won crowns with four black starters. Yet there's no greater symbol of the racial evolution of the game than when Texas Western uses five black starters to defeat all-white Kentucky 72-65 in the '66 NCAA final. At the Miners' 25th reunion in 1991, coach Don (the Bear) Haskins tells his team, "You guys got a lot of black kids scholarships around this country. You helped change the world a little bit."
Historic Ups and Downs
No. 23 Gives Smith Title No. 1
Coaching in his seventh Final Four, in 1982, North Carolina's Dean Smith wins his first NCAA crown when Michael Jordan, an 18-year-old freshman, swishes the game-winner from the left baseline. "I didn't see it go in," says Jordan. "I didn't look at the ball at all. I just prayed."
Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1899
Five years after Dr. James Naismith organized the first game of what would become known as basketball—with nine players on a side—at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., the University of Chicago beats Iowa 15-12 in the first five-per-side intercollegiate game, on March 20, 1896.
Of all the small miracles in eighth-seeded Villanova's 66-64 upset of top-ranked Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA final, none stands out more than this: If the Wildcats had shot 71.4% from the field for the game, they would have lost. Instead, they shot 78.6%.
The Slam Duffer Dunk
In 1944-45 Oklahoma A&M's 7-foot Bob Kurland becomes the first player to regularly use the dunk, and the "duffer shot," as The Denver Post calls it, helps carry the Aggies, coached by Hank Iba, to their first national title. Banned in '67, the dunk regains its funk (and legality) in 76.
After Nine Encores, the Wizard Leaves the Stage
UCLA edges Louisville in the 1975 NCAA semifinals, whereupon Bruins coach John Wooden, 64, springs a retirement announcement that's a surprise even to him. "I had no intention of retiring," he would say years later, "but when I left the court that day, for the first time I could remember, I didn't want to go to the pressroom. I said to myself, If I feel like this, it's time to get out." In the final against Kentucky, Wooden blows a gasket at the referees—it's the angriest he has ever been in a game, he says—after UCLA forward Dave Meyers gets hit with a technical, but the Bruins hold on for a 92-85 win and their 10th title in 12 years. After the UCLA dynasty ends, only Duke in '91 and '92 will repeat as champion in the next 24 years.
Dick's Ducks Nix Bucks
Oregon, led by its Tall Firs front line of 6'4" John Dick, 6'4" Laddie Gale and 6'8" Slim Wintermute, beats Ohio State 46-33 in the first NCAA championship game, on March 27, 1939, in Evanston, III., as Dick goes for a game-high 13. At one point, guard Bobby Anet, who has vexed the Buckeyes with his hand-waving on defense, charges into the scorer's table, knocking off the inaugural trophy and breaking it. The eight-team tournament is sponsored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which loses $2,531—and turns the whole thing over to the NCAA—after its five sessions are witnessed by a total of 15,025 fans.
Elvin Has Left the Building
On Jan. 20, 1968, a historic crowd of 52,693 watches (through binoculars) as No. 2 Houston beats No. 1 UCLA 71-69 at the Astrodome to end a 47-game Bruins winning streak. Elvin Hayes drops in 39 points to outplay Lew Alcindor (bothered by an eye injury), but the real winner is the sport: The game is beamed live to 49 states and helps make college hoops more of a national spectacle than ever.
The Magic of TV
If there's a ground zero for the modern game, it's the year 1979 as ESPN debuts (in the next 20 years it will broadcast innumerable college hoops games), the Big East conference is formed and the NCAA final pits Indiana State's Larry Bird against Michigan State's Magic Johnson in a game that still holds the record for the highest TV rating in the tournament's history.
U.S. Watches U.S. Reed
In 1981, in a single day of delirium that gives credence to the term March Madness, Arkansas guard U.S. Reed (dunking, left) heaves a 49-foot buzzer-beater to give the Hogs a one-point, second-round upset of Louisville; Rolando Blackman of eighth-seeded Kansas State hits a 16-foot turnaround as the Wildcats nip No. I seed Oregon State; and St. Joe's appalls DePaul, then ranked No. I in the nation, winning by a point on a layup at the horn.