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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--Indiana (32-0; coached by Bob Knight/fifth of 29 seasons with Hoosiers; won Big Ten title by four games with an 18-0 record).
NIT Champion--Kentucky (20-10; coached by Joe B. Hall/fourth of 13 seasons with Wildcats; finished in a tie for fourth place in the SEC with an 11-7 record).
New Conferences--Metro, Southland (moved up from Division II).
New Rules--NCAA Tournament regional third-place games are abolished. . . . NIT field reduced from 16 teams to 12 for one year.
NCAA Probation--Canisius, Centenary, Clemson, Long Beach State, Louisiana Tech, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Southwestern Louisiana.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Kent Benson, C, Jr., Indiana (17.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 57.8 FG%); Adrian Dantley, F, Jr., Notre Dame (28.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 58.8 FG%); John Lucas, G, Sr., Maryland (19.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg, 51.1 FG%); Scott May, F, Sr., Indiana (23.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 52.7 FG%); Richard Washington, C-F, Jr., UCLA (20.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 51.3 FG%).
National Players of the Year--Dantley (USBWA) and May (AP/UPI/NABC/Naismith).
National Coaches of the Year--Indiana's Bob Knight (32-0/AP, USBWA); Michigan's Johnny Orr (25-7/NABC), and Rutgers' Tom Young (31-2/UPI).
Indiana, the final unbeaten squad in the 20th Century, tied North Carolina '57 for the all-time record for victories by an undefeated team (32-0). The Hoosiers' schedule was one of the most difficult of any NCAA kingpin. In 14 games outside the rigorous Big Ten, their opponents combined to win more than three-fourths of their games excluding the contests with Indiana. "I don't think a team should really give a damn who it's playing against," IU coach Bob Knight said. "It doesn't make any difference who you play, how good they are, how poor you are. It's not a game against an opponent; it's a game against your potential. If it is going to be a good team, every time it goes on the floor it is going to try to play against its potential. When it walks off the floor, it need not look at the scorebord to know if it has played up to its potential or not. It needs only to reflect back on the performance, both individually and collectively, relative to potential, to determine the success of the venture. I think that's the whole essence of athletics."
Joining Indiana for its winningest season in school history was Rutgers (31-2/coached by Tom Young). Rutgers made its first Top 20 appearance in a final wire-service poll. . . . West Texas State (19-7/Ron Ekker) tied its school Division I record for most victories in a single season.
Illinois lost 13 consecutive games against Purdue in their series until the Illini whipped the Boilermakers, 71-63. Standout guard Bruce Parkinson missed the majority of the season because of a broken wrist, but Purdue finished in third place in the Big Ten behind Indiana and Michigan after losing all four of its games to the NCAA finalists (three of them by four points or less). . . . Purdue (25 of 25) and opponent Wisconsin (22 of 22) combined to sink all 47 of their free-throw attempts on February 7. The Boilermakers won, 85-74, in a game that set an NCAA record for most free throws made by both teams without a miss (see accompanying box). It was one of 14 consecutive defeats for the Badgers on the heels of erasing a 22-point deficit in an 82-81 overtime victory against Ohio State. . . . Minnesota's Mychal Thompson established a Big Ten Conference standard with 12 blocked shots in a game against Ohio State. . . . Senior guard Scott Thompson, Iowa's leading scorer (19.5 ppg) and an All-Big Ten second-team selection, eventually coached Rice, Wichita State and Cornell. . . . Toledo starter Len Matuszek went on to become a backup outfielder in the majors. He assumed first-base duties from Peter Rose in 1984 after the Hall of Famer left the Philadelphia Phillies. . . . Bill Lynch, who led Butler in assists with 4.5 per game, eventually became the only head football coach in Indiana history to guide a Hoosiers squad to a bowl game in his debut season (Insight Bowl in 2007).
St. Joseph's had an NCAA-record eight players foul out in a 109-96 defeat in double overtime against Xavier. The victory enabled the Musketeers to compile their first winning record (14-12) in 12 years. . . . Merlin Wilson became the first Georgetown player to finish his career with at least 1,000 points (1,191) and 1,000 rebounds (1,230). . . . Princeton guard Armond Hill, a two-time All-Ivy League first-team selection, later coached in the conference for Columbia. . . . Andy Walker, finishing his Niagara career with a 16.2-point scoring average, went on to coach his alma mater for four seasons in the late 1980s. . . . Rich Gale, New Hampshire's leader with 7.2 rpg, pitched three shutouts for the Kansas City Royals as a rookie in 1978 before appearing in the World Series with them two years later. . . . Barry Collier, who led Butler in rebounding for the second straight season, eventually coached his alma mater and Nebraska.
Pan American's Marshall Rogers (58 points vs. Texas Lutheran), Michigan State's Terry Furlow (50 vs. Iowa), Louisiana Tech's Mike McConathy (47 vs. Lamar) and Montana's Michael Ray Richardson (tied with 40 vs. Montana State) set school Division I single-game scoring records. Furlow became the only Big Ten player to average more than 30 points per game (32.7) in conference competition in a 23-year span from 1970-71 through 1992-93. His 40-point outburst against undefeated NCAA champion Indiana was the highest output yielded by the Hoosiers. . . . Rogers (36.8 ppg), Furlow (29.4), Lafayette's Todd Tripucka (26.1), Minnesota's Thompson (25.9) and Missouri's Willie Smith (25.3) set school records for highest scoring average in a single season. Four years later, Furlow died in a car wreck. . . . Missouri, coached by Norm Stewart, captured its first conference crown since 1930.
Coach Gene Bartow, John Wooden's successor at UCLA, got off on the wrong foot with an 84-64 setback against Indiana in St. Louis in his debut with the Bruins. . . . Oregon guard Ron Lee became the only player in Pacific-8 Conference history to be named to the all-league first team four consecutive years. He helped the Ducks end UCLA's 98-game homecourt winning streak, 65-45. One of his teammates was Stu Jackson, who averaged more than 11 points per game for an Oregon NIT team for the second straight year. Jackson eventually coached the New York Knicks before becoming an NBA executive. . . . UNLV's only regular-season defeat was at Pepperdine, 93-91. . . . Arizona, coached by Fred Snowden, posted its lone conference title (WAC) in a 32-year span from 1953-54 through 1984-85 in three different leagues. Snowden won more than 70% of his games decided by fewer than four points in his first seven seasons with the Wildcats through 1978-79 (33-14 mark in close contests in than span). . . . Neil McCarthy became the fourth different Weber State coach in nine years to capture at least a share of the Big Sky Conference regular-season crown. . . . Portland lefthander Bill Krueger, who led the WCAC in free-throw shooting (87.1%) as a freshman, went on to pitch 13 years in the major leagues with eight different teams.
Maryland playmaker John Lucas, a U.S. Junior Davis Cup team member as a high school junior, successfully defended his ACC singles tennis championship in the second straight spring he was tabbed an NCAA consensus basketball All-American. Lucas went on to play a couple of years of World Team Tennis late in the decade. . . . Bill C. Foster coached Clemson to victories over nationally-ranked top-five teams at Wake Forest and Maryland in his first two ACC road games. . . . Tennessee's Ernie Grunfeld (25.3) and Bernard King (25.2) became one of only four sets of teammates in NCAA history to each average more than 25 points per game in a single season. King was the first Tennessee player to become an NCAA consensus first- or second-team All-American. With King idled by a broken right thumb, half of the Bernie-Ernie show was on the sideline and Grunfeld's 36 points weren't enough to prevent an 81-75 defeat against VMI in the first round of the East Regional. The Volunteers, who defeated national finalist-to-be Michigan early in the season, were in the midst of a span when they beat Kentucky nine times in 11 contests from 1975 to 1980. . . . Georgia defeated Kentucky, 81-76, for the Bulldogs' lone victory in a 21-game stretch of their series from 1972 through 1982. . . . South Carolina guard Mike Dunleavy, averaging more than 14 points per game for the third consecutive year, went on to coach the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers.
Centenary's Robert Parish finished his career as the only player ever to rank among the national top five in rebounding for four seasons. Parish, who had a total of 17 games with at least 20 rebounds, retrieved a career-low six missed shots at Houston Baptist. . . . North Carolina outlasted Tulane, 113-106, in four overtimes at the Superdome in New Orleans. . . . The Citadel lost 20 consecutive games in its series with Davidson until upending the Wildcats, 81-77. Richard Johnson, who led The Citadel in rebounding and field-goal percentage for the second time, would go on to coach in Division I with Wofford.
Cal State Fullerton's Kerry Davis (27 vs. Central Michigan) and SMU's Ira Terrell (26 vs. New Mexico State) set school single-game rebounding records. . . . Fullerton's Donny Daniels, selected the team's top defensive player as a senior, became coach of his alma mater in 2000. . . . Nevada-Reno's Pete Padgett led the West Coast Athletic Conference in rebounding for the fourth consecutive season although his average decreased each year from a high of 17.8 to a low of 10.5. He is the first player to lead a league in rebounding four straight years since the introduction of freshman eligibility. His son, David, became a two-time All-Big East Conference selection with Louisville more than 30 years later. . . . Five members of the 12-man All-WCAC team were freshmen, including three from San Francisco. . . . Assistant Rick Pitino, Hawaii's interim coach for the Rainbows' final six games, lost his first two contests in overtime. . . . Air Force, coached by Hank Egan, posted five one-point victories.
Virginia Military (22-10), posting its first winning record in 33 years, earned its only undisputed Southern Conference regular-season championship. VMI was coached by Bill Blair. . . . Washington (coached by Marv Harshman) finished in the Top 20 of a final wire-service poll for the first time since 1953. Centenary (Larry Little), Pepperdine (Gary Colson) and Western Michigan (Eldon Miller) made the only appearance in a final wire-service poll in their school history. Western Michigan had its only season without at least 10 defeats in a 35-year span from 1956-57 through 1990-91. Meanwhile, Air Force, coached by Hank Egan, posted a 16-9 mark for its only season without at least 10 setbacks.
Ohio State's Fred Taylor ended his 18-year coaching career with a 297-158 record. His final season (6-20 mark after losing 18 of last 20 outings) represented the most defeats in the Buckeyes' history until 1994-95. . . . Mike Krzyzewski began his distinguished coaching career at Army with a modest 11-14 record, which was eight games better than the previous season for the Cadets when they posted their worst winning percentage in school history (3-22, .120). In 1976-77, Army reached the 20-win plateau.
1976 NCAA Tournament
Summary: Indiana's Scott May and Kent Benson combined for 40.8 points and 16.5 rebounds per game for a team winning the national championship by an average of 13.2 points. The Hoosiers kept a perfect record intact despite trailing in the second half of three of their five tournament games, including Mideast Regional contests against Alabama and Marquette accounting for two of the 11 contests they won by single-digit margins. The closest result was a two-point triumph at Ohio State in their Big Ten Conference opener. Coach Bob Knight's alma mater finished in the Big Ten basement with a 2-16 league record. Bob Wilkerson collected 19 rebounds and seven assists in a 65-51 victory over UCLA in the national semifinals before captain Quinn Buckner contributed 16 points and eight rebounds in the championship game against Michigan in the first intraconference matchup in NCAA playoff history. Trailing by six points at intermission in the final and playing without Wilkerson after the guard sustained a concussion early in the game, the Hoosiers shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half to come from behind and win (86-68). May, Benson and Buckner collaborated for 36 of Indiana's first 38 points in the second half against the Wolverines, an overtime loser at Indiana in Big Ten competition. "The will to win is grossly overrated," Knight said. "The will to prepare is far more important."
Outcome for Defending Champion: UCLA's 98-game homecourt winning streak, which started in 1970, was snapped by Oregon, 65-45. The Bruins (27-5) won the Pacific-8 title by two games although they were upset at Notre Dame for the third year in a row. Their five defeats were by an average of 16.2 points.
Star Gazing: Rutgers, undefeated entering the tourney (28-0), lost in the national semifinals against Michigan (86-70) when the Scarlet Knights hit a paltry 27.5 percent of their field-goal attempts in the first half. Rutgers' top three scorers for the season--forward Phil Sellers and guards Mike Dabney and Eddie Jordan--combined to shoot 31.4 percent from the floor (16 of 51). Jordan, who finished his career as the school's all-time leader in assists, eventually coached the NBA's Sacramento Kings. . . . John Robinson posted game highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Wolverines. . . . Indiana's Tom Abernethy helped hold UCLA All-American Richard Washington scoreless for a 25-minute stretch in the national semifinals. . . . Jim Crews, who led IU in free-throw shooting (85.7%), went on to coach Evansville in the NCAA playoffs three times in a five-year span from 1989 through 1993.
Biggest Upset: Each team had four players score at least 18 points when UNLV, ranked third by AP and fourth by UPI entering the tourney, lost to Arizona, 114-109, in overtime in the West Regional semifinals. UA's Jim Rappis had more assists (12) than the Rebels' entire squad. Arizona, coached by Fred Snowden, participated in the tourney for the first time since its debut in 1951. The Wildcats won their opener, 83-76, against John Thompson-coached Georgetown in the first NCAA playoff game where both coaches were African Americans.
One and Only: Buckner was the only one of the Hoosiers' starting quintet to finish his NBA career with a winning playoff record and play for a championship team (Boston Celtics in 1984).
Numbers Game: This year marked the last time more than half of a set of NCAA first-team All-Americans participated in the Final Four until 1999. The five-man All-American squad included Indiana's Benson and May and UCLA's Washington. . . . Virginia and Western Michigan appeared in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Washington participated for the first time in 23 years. . . . Missouri guard Willie Smith scored a tourney-high 43 points in a 95-88 loss to Michigan in the Midwest Regional final.
What Might Have Been: Eventual NBA first-round draft choices Leon Douglas and Reggie King combined to score an average of 31.5 points per game for Alabama during the season. If only this frontcourt duo combined for 22 points instead of 16 in the Mideast Regional semifinals, the Crimson Tide could have defeated unbeaten Indiana rather than losing 74-69. The Hoosiers were also fortunate when eventual NBA players Butch Lee, Lloyd Walton and Jerome Whitehead struggled from the floor for Marquette in the Mideast Regional final. If only Lee, Walton and Whitehead combined to hit 35.1 percent of their field-goal attempts instead of 21.6 percent (8 of 37), the Warriors could have defeated Indiana rather than losing 65-56. . . . Arizona (24-9) could have given UCLA more of a challenge in the West Regional final if Ticky Burden and Coniel Norman had stayed in college and exercised the remainder of their eligibility. . . . Illinois State (20-7) might have made its first NCAA playoff appearance if Bubbles Hawkins didn't leave school early. . . . Utah (19-8) would have had a good chance of appearing in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years if Mike Sojourner had exercised all of his eligibility. . . . South Carolina (18-9) should have been a postseason contender if center Tom Boswell, the Gamecocks' leading scorer and second-leading rebounder the previous season, had stayed in school and pooled his talent with Alex English and Mike Dunleavy. . . . Kentucky (20-10) probably would have participated in the NCAA Tournament instead of the NIT if forward-center Rick Robey didn't miss more than half of the season because of a knee injury.
Putting Things in Perspective: North Carolina sophomore playmaker Phil Ford, a second-team consensus All-American, injured a knee in a pickup game after the ACC Tournament and was ineffective (two points, three assists, five turnovers) in the Tar Heels' 79-64 NCAA Tournament first-round defeat to Alabama.
Scoring Leader: Scott May, Indiana (113 points, 22.6 ppg).
Highest Scoring Average: Willie Smith, Missouri (94 points, 31.3 ppg).
Rebounding Leader: Phil Hubbard, Michigan (61 rebounds, 12.2 rpg).
Highest Rebounding Average: John Thomas, Connecticut (30 rebounds, 15 rpg).
Tom Abernethy, F, Sr., Indiana (25 points, 10 rebounds in final two games)
*Kent Benson, C, Jr., Indiana (41 points, 18 rebounds)
Rickey Green, G, Jr., Michigan (34 points, 12 rebounds)
Marques Johnson, F, Jr., UCLA (42 points, 24 rebounds)
Scott May, F, Sr., Indiana (40 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
First Round: Indiana 90 (May team-high 33 points), St. John's 70 (Williams 20)
Regional Semifinal: Indiana 74 (May 25), Alabama 69 (Dunn 16)
Regional Final: Indiana 65 (Benson 18), Marquette 56 (Tatum 22)
National Semifinal: Indiana 65 (Benson 16), UCLA 51 (Washington 15)
Championship Game: Indiana 86 (May 26), Michigan 68 (Green 18)