Indiana was the NCAA’s last undefeated men’s team in 1976. North Carolina had Michael Jordan and James Worthy while winning the national championship in 1982, a decade before Duke won the tournament on the back of Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beating basket.
So which is the best team in NCAA tournament history?
Or is it one of Kentucky’s squads – the 34-win team in 1996, or the freshman-filled one that won a record 38 games last season?
All are among the top vote-getters so far as part of the NCAA’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of March Madness. The celebration includes an effort to determine the best team, most memorable moment and best players, all decided upon by fans voting at www.ncaa.com/MarchMadness through March 24. Early results from nearly two months of voting were released Thursday.
Laettner’s big shot in 1992, for an NCAA regional final overtime victory over Kentucky, headlines the memorable moments getting the most votes among 35 under consideration. Others include North Carolina State’s victory over Houston in 1983, and Earvin “Magic” Johnson leading Michigan State over an undefeated Indiana State team with Larry Bird in 1979.
All those players are getting plenty of votes among 75 that made the ballot, a list filled with names like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Patrick Ewing, Jordan, Bill Russell, Isiah Thomas and Bill Walton.
Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships, said the group is pleased with voter turnout and fascinated by the early results.
“A handful of moments and a dozen or so of the teams have started to separate themselves from their competition,” Gavitt said. “But the race to determine the top 15 all-time players is tight. … It includes players who are more than five decades removed from being college stars, most outstanding players at the Final Four in the last decade, and many all-time greats in between.”
The original lists were compiled and researched by the NCAA’s basketball and statistics staffs, which consulted with its media partners and selected members of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Fans can get plenty of help in making their choices. For each of the 25 nominated teams, there is a description and other information from that particular season, along with a video clip. There is also a tool to compare different teams, the same feature that is available for the side-by-side comparison of players.
There are also video highlights for all 35 memorable moment candidates, including those classic clips of Magic vs. Bird and North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano running around the court after the Wolfpack’s championship victory 30 years ago.
The final results – the top 15 players, along with the top team and most memorable moment – will be revealed April 5. The final selections will be honored the next day in Atlanta during the semifinal games of the NCAA tournament.