Celebrating tournament’s 75th anniversary
by Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA – Fans and a panel of college basketball experts have weighed in: Indiana’s 1976 undefeated squad is the best team, Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beater against Kentucky in 1992 the best moment and ex-college stars like Jerry West, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan the best players in the history of the men’s NCAA tournament.
The voting was conducted by NCAA.com in honor of the tournament’s 75th anniversary. The NCAA said more than 700,000 votes were cast, with fan voting accompanied by a panel of basketball writers, committee members and CBS Sports talent.
Indiana’s 1976 team finished 32-0, capping the season with an 86-68 win over Michigan in the title game to give coach Bob Knight his first of three national championships. It remains the last undefeated men’s team in Division I.
Knight set the tone before the Hoosiers’ first practice of the season, the Hall of Fame coach said Friday.
“The day before practice, I brought you all together and I told you the only thing that would really matter, and the only goal that we would have, would be that we went undefeated,” Knight said.
“And I told them winning the Big Ten, winning the NCAA would not be what they were capable of doing. I said, winning a season-long win, you beat everybody that we play, would be what you guys are capable of doing.”
The team deserves its spot in NCAA history, Knight said. “I think there’s never been a representative of college athletics as a team than these kids. And they were smart. They were all good students.”
Laettner recalled the moments leading up to his game-winning shot in the 1992 East Regional final against Kentucky, a 104-103 win that pushed Duke to its fifth Final Four appearance in a row.
The buzzer-beating jumper illustrates the power of positive thinking, Laettner said Friday. Coach Mike Krzyzewski “didn’t want us to have our heads down,” Laettner said. “He said, ‘We’re going to win this game.’
“The genius of (Krzyzewski) was coming out right then,” he said. “I guess I was the only sucker who totally believe him.”
Laettner was also honored as one of the 15 greatest … [For more on Best team, moment and players recognized on tournament's 75th anniversary, click here.]