Sports History: Ncaa Basketball Tournament And March Madness

The NCAA Tournement History. Famous players and Coaches, who are the dominant teams, what are the names you should know.

The NCAA College basketball tournament has been a cornerstone of American sports for over six decades. With the possible exception of the Superbowl, "˜March Madness' is the most eagerly awaited, hotly debated, and monetary exchanging sporting event of the year. From its humble, almost unwatched origins, to its current multi-channel, web-glutted incarnation, the tournament has been a pageant of drama, sportsmanship, great coaching, and athleticism unlike anything else around.

The first NCAA tournament was played in 1939 on the cusp of World War II. Oregon won that year, but that proved to be an aberration rather than a precursor as the dominant teams tended to come from the Midwest or the East. Highlights from the first decade of action included the Oklahoma wins in 1945 and 1946 with help of one of the first giants of the game, the 7-ft. giant, Bob Kurland. The decade of the forties also showcased one of the first great coaching innovators, Adolph Rapp of Kansas. Under his helm, Kansas won in 1949 and 1950.

The decade of the fifties brought more excitement as the tournament stabilized its position as an American sporting tradition. The 1955 championship game was a showdown between LaSalle's Tom Golan, a gifted 6' 7" white player and, a skinny black player from San Francisco named Bill Russell, who at 6' 9" and 230 pounds, would lead Frisco to victory and later revolutionize the art of rebounding in the NBA. In 1957, Kansas had the most dominant player in the history of the game in Wilt Chamberlain, but North Carolina still managed to beat them in three overtimes.

The 1960's were famous for the incredible dominance of one man and one team. John Wooden, "˜The Wizard of Westwood', and his teams at UCLA would win an unprecedented six straight titles from 1964 to 1969. From 1966 until 1969, Wooden's center was the 7' 2" Lew Alcindor, considered by many to be the greatest center in college history. He would later become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and go on to display a similar level of dominance in the NBA.

Alcindor left for professional basketball in 1969, and Wooden, in perhaps his greatest coaching achievement, still managed to win titles in 1970 and 1971 without a dominant center. In 1972 he won again with the great Bill Walton, a 6' 11'' free spirit and hippy, no doubt one of the straight-laced Wooden's greatest tests. "Discipline yourself and others won't need to," was one of The Wizard's maxims, and if he didn't unleash this bon mot on Walton, he must have been sorely tempted to. The year 1979 would become what many consider to be the greatest one-on-one showdown in NCAA tournament history. Michigan State's Earvin "˜Magic' Johnson and Indiana State's Larry Bird played four quarters of inspired ball, ending in Michigan State's victory. They would, of course, go on to repeat the performances and the rivalry in the NBA.

In the eighties, with Wooden gone and UCLA in eclipse, there was a decade of parity. The decade was dominated by the coaches, their personalities proving more palpable to sporting fans and the media than the players that won for them. Coaches such as Danny Crum, Dean Smith, and the fiery and profane Bobby Knight of Indiana became household names in the world of sports.

The 1990s seemed to be the decade where established powerhouses reasserted their dominance. In 1991 and 1992, Mike Krzyzewski, a protégé of Bobby Knight, led the Duke Blue Devils to back-to-back championships. In 1993 North Carolina won its third national title. In 1995 UCLA won its first national title since the departure of Wooden. Kentucky won the title in 1996 and 1998 and may have been the overall best team of the decade.

The first decade of the new millennium has seen an eclectic group of teams rise to the top of the March Madness heap. Duke won again in 2001, solidifying Mike Krzyzewski's reputation as a coaching great. Maryland, Syracuse, and Connecticut have been the other winners of the decade, though it is too early to tell if one will rise to dynasty status, or that parity will remain in the NCAA Tournament.

The March tournament has become one of the mainstays of the American sporting world, and after 65 years it is only growing in the eyes of fans and media. With its appealing mix of hard-playing amateurs and showbiz style glitz it seems doubtful that the NCAA tournament will lessen in popularity anytime soon.

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