NCAA March Madness 75-Year Celebration: Best Players, Teams, Moments From the Big 12Posted by KoryCarpenter on December 12th, 2012
The NCAA may be butchering another investigation, but they did something right on Tuesday. They are celebrating 75 years of March Madness with a list of all-time greats: the best players, teams, and moments in NCAA Tournament history. They aren’t ranked (wouldn’t that be a fun argument?) but there are plenty of arguments to be had by fans, and plenty of memories — good and bad — brought back to life in the lists. This note isn’t Big 12 related but I thought the same thing as our own editors said when I read the list for the first time:
“Shelvin Mack, really?”
With that out of the way, here’s how the Big 12 was represented:
- C Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M 1943-46 (now Oklahoma State): Kurland played in the 1945 and 1946 NCAA Tournaments, winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award in 1946. He was a three-time All-American (1944-46) and led Oklahoma A&M to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946, also winning two gold medals as a player.
- F Clyde Lovellette, Kansas 1949-52: Lovellette tells a story about his recruitment in high school. Kansas coach Phog Allen told the Indiana native that if he came to Kansas, the Jayhawks would win the 1952 national title and a gold medal in the Olympics. In 1952, Kansas beat St. John’s for the NCAA title then won a gold medal a few months later. Lovellette was an All-American and led the Big 7 in scoring each of his three seasons.
- C Wilt Chamberlain, Kansas 1956-58: He averaged 29.9 PPG in two seasons in Lawrence and is considered one of the greatest players of all time, making this one of the easier choices for the committee. Chamberlain was named the 1957 tournament’s Most Outstanding Player even though Kansas lost a three-overtime championship game to North Carolina, 54-53.
- F Danny Manning, Kansas 1984-88: Manning’s injury-ridden NBA career sometimes overshadows how great he was in college. He was the 1987-88 Player of the Year as well as the 1988 tournament MOP. He left Kansas as the Big 8’s all-time leading scorer with 2,951 points.
- 1951-52 Kansas Jayhawks: It’s a little underwhelming for the Big 12 to have only one team on this list, but the 1951-52 Jayhawks’ combination of head coach Phog Allen and Clyde Lovellette is hard to beat. They went 24-2 in the regular season and became the first NCAA champion in KU history.
- Kansas State’s Rolando Blackman beat the buzzer with a jumper to knock off the West region’s top seed, Oregon State, in 1981. That shot, along with two other buzzer beaters within minutes of each other and all shown on NBC, led to the phrase “March Madness.”
- In 2001, No. 2 seed Iowa State was upset by No. 15 seed Hampton in the first round, giving us a picture fans see every year in March.
- Mario Chalmers’ shot against Memphis in the 2008 championship game is one of the most memorable shots in NCAA Tournament history. It gave the Jayhawks their first championship in 20 years and Bill Self his first title.
- Three years after that shot, the Jayhawks were a No. 1 seed again with a seemingly easy path to another Final Four. VCU, however, handled Kansas for 40 minutes on its way to the school’s first Final Four. No last second shot or poorly timed timeout call here, just a two-hour beating given to one of the sport’s powers by an unknown school from Richmond.
My first thought was, “Really, Big 12?” Kansas is well represented, but Bob Kurland and Rolando Blackman are the only positive moments the rest of the Big 12 has to offer. The ACC has 28 (29 if you count Duke Beating Butler) between the three categories. The Big Ten received 15 good tales. Even the football conference down south beats the Big 12 in terms of sheer volume. It would be hard to take off many of the 75 players listed, but If it were up to me, I would have found room for Texas guard T.J. Ford. He averaged a double-double (14.6 PPG, 10.2 APG) in the 2003 NCAA Tournament while leading the Longhorns to their first Final Four since 1947, and he also won National Player of the Year. If Butler’s Shelvin Mack would have averaged his 20.3 PPG and 4.5 RPG at any school but Butler, or during any Tournament other than Butler’s run to the title game in 2010, he wouldn’t be on the list.
Is it just me, or is Al McGuire winning a title in 1977 a little noneventful for a list such as this? It’s as if the NCAA knew this, because their title “Marquette’s McGuire Goes Out On Top” is described with Marquette’s semifinal win over Charlotte, not the championship. How about Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick blocking an otherwise very clean look by Kansas’ Michael Lee in the final seconds of the 2003 championship game to give Syracuse an 81-78 win? Was Gonzaga advancing to the Elite Eight as a 10-seed in 1999 really one of the 35 greatest moments ever? What about Danny and the Miracles? The 6-seeded Jayhawks lost 11 regular season games and were 1-4 against Kansas State and Oklahoma going into the NCAA Tournament. They beat No. 4 seed Kansas State in the Elite Eight, No. 2 seed Duke in the Final Four, and top seed Oklahoma in the national championship game.
The omission I keep hearing about is the 2008 Kansas team. That team was the only year that featured all four 1-seeds, and the Jayhawks came out on top, so it seems obvious they’d find a spot on the list. Besides having all top seeds, there were a number of future NBA draft picks in that Final Four, from Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Tyler Hansbrough to Ty Lawson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Derrick Rose. But I think the close wins against Davidson in the Elite Eight and Memphis in the championship game as well as the lack of superstar power kept the Jayhawks off the list. The only teams from the 2000s I’d swap with Kansas would be 2004 Connecticut or 2009 North Carolina, but even then, I think 2005 North Carolina has to be on the list, too. So not everybody can be happy. I think the line of thinking went something like this: “A team that needed one of the best moments ever to win the championship might not be one of the 25 greatest teams ever.” And I can’t disagree with that thought process.
Overall, it’s a good list and definitely worth checking out when you have the time.