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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--Kentucky (34-2; coached by Rick Pitino/seventh of eight seasons with Wildcats; won SEC Eastern Division by seven games with a 16-0 record).
NIT Champion--Nebraska (21-14; coached by Danny Nee/10th of 14 seasons with Huskers; finished in seventh place in the Big Eight with a 4-10 record).
New Conference--Conference USA.
New Rules--All unsportsmanlike technical fouls charged to anyone on the bench count toward the team foul total. . . . Teams are allowed one 20-second timeout per half, an experimental rule the previous season.
NCAA Probation--Alcorn State, Baylor, Georgia Southern, Morgan State, New Mexico State.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Ray Allen, G-F, Jr., Connecticut (23.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 81 FT%, 46.6 3FG%); Marcus Camby, C, Jr., Massachusetts (20.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.9 bpg); Tony Delk, G, Sr., Kentucky (17.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.9 spg, 80 FT%, 44.3 3FG%); Tim Duncan, C, Jr., Wake Forest (19.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 3.8 bpg, 55.5 FG%); Allen Iverson, G, Soph., Georgetown (25 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.7 apg, 3.4 spg); Kerry Kittles, G-F, Sr., Villanova (20.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.4 spg, 40.4 3FG%).
National Player of the Year--Camby (AP/NABC/Naismith/UPI/USBWA/Wooden).
National Coaches of the Year--Purdue's Gene Keady (26-6; 15-3 in Big Ten/AP, UPI, USBWA) and Massachusetts' John Calipari (35-2; 15-1 in Eastern Division of Atlantic 10/NABC, Naismith).
The Big East became the only conference ever to have three different members represented among the NCAA consensus first-team All-American selections. Second-team All-American John Wallace was the only All-Big East standout to appear with his team at the Final Four, however.
Connecticut became the first Big East team to post the league's undisputed best record in back-to-back seasons. . . . St. John's (11-16) compiled its worst mark in 33 years. . . . West Virginia's 84-63 defeat against Boston College was the Mountaineers' worst homecourt loss since bowing to Westminster, 102-80, in the 1954-55 season. . . . Coach Lefty Driesell sustained his first losing record in 33 seasons when James Madison went 10-20. Davidson, Driesell's first head coaching outpost, became the first Southern Conference school in 21 years to go undefeated in league competition.
Murray State's Marcus Brown (26.4 ppg), Hampton's JaFonde Williams (25.7), Georgetown's Allen Iverson (25), New Hampshire's Matt Alosa (24), Wisconsin-Green Bay's Jeff Nordgaard (22.6) and Southeastern Louisiana's Sam Bowie (21.9) set school single-season Division I records for highest scoring average. . . . Cal Poly's Shanta Cotright (43 points vs. George Mason), Hampton's J.J. Williams (43 vs. Maine), Alcorn State's DeCarlos Anderson (41 vs. Southern), Mount St. Mary's Chris McGuthrie (41 at Robert Morris), SLU's Bowie (39 at Central Florida) and New Hampshire's Brad Cirino (39 at Maine in four overtimes) established school Division I single-game scoring records. UNH's Alosa tied Cirino's mark with 39 against Hartford in the first round of the North Atlantic Conference Tournament. Oddly, Cirino was scoreless in eight minutes of the NAC playoff game. . . . Murray State's Brown set a school single-game scoring record with 45 points against Washington (Mo.). His barrage tied Vermont guard Eddie Benton (45 vs. Hartford) for highest single-game output in the nation. Benton, 5-11, finished his career with 2,474 points, a total second only to Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy (2,548 points for Niagara) in NCAA Division I history for players under six feet tall.
Massachusetts (35-2/coached by John Calipari), Texas Tech (30-2/James Dickey), Drexel (27-4/Bill Herrion), Mississippi Valley State (22-7/Lafayette Stribling) and Mount St. Mary's (21-8/Jim Phelan) had their winningest seasons in school Division I history. . . . Texas Tech, finishing in the Top 10 of a final wire-service poll for the only time in school history, became only the fourth team in the 82-year history of the Southwest Conference to go undefeated in league competition.
After the season, Calipari accepted a five-year, $15 million deal to coach the NBA's New Jersey Nets. His departure came just a couple of days after a scandal erupted involving national player of the year Marcus Camby and a Hartford, Conn.-based agent. Camby, who exited UMass to make himself available for the NBA draft, admitted receiving improper gifts in college and filed a criminal complaint stemming from allegations he was blackmailed by a would-be agent attempting to woo him as a client. Calipari was also the subject of controversy for giving three Final Four tickets to a long-time acquaintance who was banned from working in Las Vegas casinos because of an alleged link to an organized crime figure. Fulfilling highly unusual requests, prospective agents made 31 requests for complimentary tickets to 11 regular-season UMass home games.
Massachusetts captured both the regular-season and postseason conference tournament titles for the fifth consecutive year. UMass won its first 26 games before bowing to visiting George Washington, 86-76, when Calipari was banished midway through the first half after receiving two technical fouls. It was the second straight season that Mike Jarvis-coached GWU kayoed the Minutemen when they ranked No. 1 nationally. Earlier, the Colonials finally were able to capitalize on their homecourt advantage against Temple by overwhelming the visiting Owls, 64-47. Temple had won its first 13 games at GWU's Smith Center. . . . George Washington (21-8, .724) posted its best winning percentage in 41 years. . . . James Madison (10-20), coached by Lefty Driesell, won its last five CAA regular-season contests by a total of eight points.
Duke still had difficulty in the ACC despite the return of coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils' blew double-digit leads in their first six ACC defeats and visiting Illinois hit less than half of its free throws but still ended Duke's 95-game homecourt winning streak against non-conference competition, 75-65. Later, however, the Illini lost its first five Big Ten games for the first time since the 1930-31 season. . . . Georgia Tech, despite entering conference play with six defeats in its previous seven non-league games, captured the ACC regular-season championship after winning a school-record seven consecutive league games. Georgia Tech (24-12) is the only school with more than 10 defeats overall to win an ACC regular-season title. Tech's Stephon Marbury became the first freshman to lead an ACC regular-season kingpin in scoring (18.9 ppg). The Yellow Jackets almost overcame an 18-point, second-half deficit in the ACC Tournament final but bowed to Wake Forest, 75-74. . . . Wake Forest's Tim Duncan set an ACC Tournament record with a total of 56 rebounds. . . . Eleven of North Carolina State's 13 ACC regular-season defeats were by fewer than six points or in overtime.
Alabama's Roy Rogers established a SEC standard with an NCAA record-tying 14 blocked shots in a game at Georgia but it wasn't enough to prevent a 68-55 setback against the Bulldogs. . . . Kentucky became the first SEC team in 40 years to go undefeated in league regular-season competition. The Wildcats won all but one of their regular-season SEC games by double digits but lost in the SEC Tournament final to Mississippi State. It was MSU's first-ever SEC Tournament title. . . . Arkansas' season unraveled when junior college signees Sunday Adebayo and Jesse Pate were forced off the team late in the year because of questions about their academic eligibility. . . . Mississippi State's program came under scrunity when a suspect student and standout forward Dontae' Jones "earned" 36 junior college credits the previous summer (regular classes and correspondence courses) in order to gain his eligibility. . . . South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler won an NIT game with his third different school in eight years. He previously coached Wichita State and Vanderbilt.
UNC Charlotte erased a 26-point deficit with 15 minutes remaining to frustrate Tennessee, 79-76. . . . Virginia Tech, coached by Bill Foster, made its lone appearance in a Final Top 20 poll (20th in UPI). . . . Mississippi Valley State's Marcus Mann grabbed a national-high 28 rebounds in a game against Jackson State. . . . Southeastern Louisiana defeated visiting College of Charleston, 93-83, to hand the Cougars their only TAAC regular-season defeat in a 59-game stretch that extended well into the 1997-98 campaign. . . . Campbell tied for the second-highest win total in TAAC competition after tying for last place the previous year. . . . Forward Jason Sasser became Texas Tech's first All-American.
Purdue, coached by Gene Keady, became the first school to win three consecutive undisputed Big Ten titles since Ohio State from 1959-60 through 1961-62. Boilermakers guard Chad Austin posted the lowest scoring average (12.8 ppg) for a Big Ten champion since Ohio State's Jack Underman averaged 12.7 in 1945-46. . . . Guard Geno Carlisle became Northwestern's first All-Big Ten first-team selection in 19 years. . . . Dayton's Chris Daniels ranked second in the nation in field-goal percentage when he died because of a heart ailment. His brother, Antonio, hit a layup in the closing seconds to give Bowling Green a 72-70 victory over Eastern Michigan in Antonio's first game after his sibling's death. . . . Butler's Mike Pflugner fouled out in just 1:38 of a game against Illinois-Chicago.
New Mexico State recruited a freshman for a scholarship for the first time in the '90s. . . . Arizona refused to play at St. Joseph's because of a snow storm although Philadelphia's airport did not close. St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said he was so irritated by the Wildcats' decision he would not play them again, even if the teams were paired in the NCAA Tournament. The decision cost the Hawks national exposure on a cable network. . . . Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo made the nation's biggest turnaround from the previous season (1-26 to 16-13). . . . Washington ended a 14-game losing streak in its series with Arizona State. . . . England import Michael Olowokandi, a sophomore center for Pacific, was scoreless and had only one rebound in his varsity debut against St. Mary's. In 1998, he became the top pick in the NBA draft.
Central Connecticut's Keith Closs set a national record for highest average of blocked shots per game when he rejected 6.4 field-goal attempts per outing. . . . Drexel's Malik Rose earned his third consecutive North Atlantic Conference Tournament MVP award. Rose and Vermont's Benton were All-NAC first-team selections for the fourth straight season. . . . Vermont (10-8), coached by Tom Brennan, posted its initial winning league mark in the first 15 years of the North Atlantic. . . . Penn's Ivy League-record winning streak against conference competition ended at 48 when the Quakers were edged at Dartmouth, 54-53. Penn hit only eight of 15 free-throw attempts (see accompanying box score). . . . Penn State closed out 67 years at Rec Hall in style, getting off to its best start in school history (won first 11 games under first-year coach Jerry Dunn) before opening Bryce Jordan Center.
Wisconsin-Green Bay went undefeated in league play, making the Midwestern Collegiate Conference the first non-divisional alliance in 25 years (Princeton and Penn in the Ivy League in 1969 and 1970, respectively) to have two different schools go undefeated in conference competition in back-to-back seasons. Xavier achieved the feat the previous year. . . . Iowa State, despite losing 95 percent of its scoring and rebounding off the previous season's roster, finished in the Top 20 of a final wire-service poll for the first time in school history. Penn State and Marquette reached that plateau for the first time since 1954 and 1979, respectively. . . . Former Indiana All-America Steve Alford became coach at Southwest Missouri State, where his father, Sam, joined him as an assistant in an unusual twist. . . . Dick Bennett became the first Wisconsin coach since 1912 to win his Big Ten debut when the Badgers beat Michigan. . . . Minnesota became the first Big Ten team with a winning league record not to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. . . . Ohio State's freshman class included four players who went on to transfer and become stars for other Midwest schools--Jami Bosley (Akron), Shaun Stonerook (Ohio), Damon Stringer (Cleveland State) and Jermaine Tate (Cincinnati).
Venerable coaches Gene Bartow (UAB) and Pete Carril (Princeton) retired. Hall of Famer Bob Knight was effusive in his praise of Carril, who posted a career-high eight victories in games decided by fewer than six points in his 29th and final campaign with the Tigers. Wrote Knight: "I have always tried to tell my players that the two key ingredients in success in basketball are playing hard and playing intelligently. No one has gotten more out of these two characteristics than Pete has with his teams (led nation in scoring defense 14 times with the Tigers). I can think of no better compliment that a coach could ever receive than to be told, `You know your teams play a little bit like Carril's Princeton teams used to play.'" . . . Western Carolina's musical chairs continued when Phil Hopkins became the Catamounts' sixth head coach in 10 years. Hopkins promptly guided WCU to its first NCAA Tournament appearance.
1996 NCAA Tournament
Summary: Kentucky's air of invincibility dissipated when the Wildcats' 27-game winning streak was shattered by Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament final. UK quickly regrouped, however, and the Big Blue showed clearly in the NCAA playoffs that it was the nation's premier team. Kentucky's dominance in the Midwest Regional led some observers to again believe the Wildcats were untouchable, but two rugged games at the Final Four revealed that the principal difference between the Wildcats and the remainder of the field was roster depth brimming with high school All-Americans. UK, entering the Final Four with an opportunity to become the first NCAA kingpin to win all of its playoff games by at least 20 points, won both Final Four games by a single-digit margin. Massachusetts and Syracuse cut double-digit second-half deficits to two against the 'Cats before faltering as they captured their first NCAA title since 1978. National player of the year Marcus Camby finished with 25 points and eight rebounds in the semifinals for UMass, but at one point he went almost 16 minutes without a field goal to impede its "refuse to lose" motto. Freshman Ron Mercer gave Kentucky a big boost with 20 points in the final after scoring just four points in the regional. The Wildcats won the final despite shooting 38 percent from the floor, the lowest for a winner in 33 years. Kentucky's Tony Delk tied a championship game record with seven three-pointers. In historical terms, there is probably only one other titlist that had as much depth as UK. Seven players for UCLA's first championship team in 1964 averaged more than four rebounds per game. "I want us to play mother-in-law defense: constant nagging and harassment," said UK coach Rick Pitino.
Outcome for Defending Champion: UCLA led the nation in field-goal accuracy and won the Pacific-10 championship, but the Bruins committed a conference-worst 554 turnovers and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when Princeton coach Pete Carril bowed out in style with a 43-41 victory on a perfectly executed back-door layup (bounce pass from center Steve Goodrich to forward Gabe Lewullis with 3.9 seconds remaining) reminiscent of how many games were played several decades ago. It was UCLA's lowest-scoring output in 99 playoff outings, and the lowest score for a Bruins team in a regulation game in more than 55 years. Goodrich moved to L.A., became a banker after enrolling at UCLA's business school and married the daughter of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (Dem.-Iowa). Lewullis became an orthopedic surgeon.
Star Gazing: Coach Jim Boeheim of runner-up Syracuse gave counterpart Rick Pitino of champion Kentucky Pitino's first full-time coaching job in 1976, when Boeheim was promoted to bench boss by the Orangemen. Boeheim came to New York and called Pitino on Pitino's wedding day, offering him an assistant's job, and was so persistent Pitino eventually met with him for 2 1/2 hours at a hotel right after the wedding. "I kept calling my wife every half-hour, telling her I'd be up (to the room)," Pitino recalled.
Biggest Upsets: The biggest shocker in the tourney might not have been Princeton over UCLA. It could have been Drexel over Memphis, 75-63. Drexel has had an outstanding run the last three seasons, but Memphis had as much talent as any team in the country. . . . Western Carolina missed a three-point shot at the buzzer that would have beaten Purdue and made the Catamounts the first No. 16 seed winner in tourney history.
One and Only: First-year Georgia mentor Tubby Smith became the only coach to guide three consecutive clubs to regional semifinals despite not being accorded a top four seed during the span. His two previous tourney teams were with Tulsa. Smith was the only coach in the 20th Century to win multiple playoff games in back-to-back seasons with different schools. . . . San Jose State's Stan Morrison became the only coach to guide three different schools to the NCAA playoffs but never have a 20-win season. He previously coached Pacific and Southern California. Morrison is the only individual to coach three different major colleges in the same state at least seven seasons apiece.
Celebrity Status: Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb, who became the second pick overall in the 1999 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, scored two points in two NCAA playoff games for the Orangemen.
Numbers Game: Kentucky was a 13 1/2-point favorite in the NCAA final against Syracuse. That is the largest championship game spread since UCLA was a 16-point choice vs. Florida State in 1972 (Bruins won 81-76). . . . UK joined Indiana as the only schools to capture NCAA Tournament crowns in four different decades. The Wildcats, the first NCAA champion since Louisville in 1980 to go unbeaten in conference regular-season competition, became the fourth NCAA titlist in six years to fail to capture its conference tournament. . . . The NCAA succumbed to network pressure and moved the title game to 9:22 p.m. ET, but CBS' 18.3 rating for the championship contest was the lowest since 1972. . . . Central Florida became the second consecutive Trans America Athletic Conference team to enter the NCAA playoffs with an 11-18 record after earning a berth by winning the TAAC Tournament. . . . Canisius made its first appearance in the tourney since 1957. . . . When will the Southeastern Conference receive the respect it deserves? The SEC, boasting two teams at the Final Four for the second time in three years, compiled more NCAA Tournament victories than any league over the last three seasons. The SEC posted the best winning percentage (.824, 14-3 record) by a conference in a single tourney (at least three entrants). . . . The Big Ten Conference came within eight points of going 0-11 in the NCAA playoffs the last two seasons. . . . The last four defeats for Indiana coach Bob Knight were to worse-seeded opponents. . . . Michigan's lack of maturity was exemplified when the Wolverines were assessed a technical for calling yet another timeout in the closing seconds of a playoff game while being out of timeouts. They apparently weren't making a vow to avoid Chris Webber's blunder when several of their standouts had their infamous auto accident at 5 a.m. earlier in the season. . . . Texas Tech, after posting the Red Raiders' first NCAA playoff victories in 20 years, had as many players foul out in their 98-90 loss to Georgetown in the East Regional semifinals (three) as they totaled in their first 34 games. . . . None of the first six NCAA champions in the '90s reached a regional final. This was the first time in nine years that neither Duke or North Carolina advanced to the Final Four. . . . It was the eighth straight year for a Pacific-10 Conference member to be eliminated by an opponent seeded 12th or worse. . . . Eastern Michigan's Brian Tolbert tallied a tourney-high 36 points in a second-round setback against Connecticut in the Southeast Regional. . . . Montana State's Quadre Lollis hit 12 of 13 field-goal attempts in an opening-round loss to Syracuse in the West Regional. . . . Portland, coached by Rob Chavez, participated in the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1959. . . . The last five times Kentucky won the NCAA crown, the New York Yankees captured the ensuing major league baseball World Series. UK's first of six titles came in 1948 when the Cleveland Indians claimed the World Series. But since then, the Wildcats won NCAA championships in 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978 and 1996, all followed by Yankee successes.
What Might Have Been: Arkansas (20-13/without Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman), Maryland (17-13/Joe Smith), Memphis (22-8/David Vaughn) and North Carolina (21-11/Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace) might have fared better in the playoffs if standout players had exercised their remaining eligibility instead of declaring early for the NBA draft. . . . Alabama probably would have participated in the NCAA Tournament instead of the NIT if Antonio McDyess didn't defect early for the NBA. Ditto Rhode Island if starting guard Cuttino Mobley didn't miss the season because of an elbow injury. . . . Wake Forest struggled in the tourney when guard Tony Rutland missed his first 15 shots in NCAA playoff play. Rutland eventually underwent reconstructive surgery on his right knee after tearing a ligament in the ACC Tournament title game. . . . UConn's chances of earning its first berth at the Final Four diminished when standout freshman guard Ricky Moore was idled by a shoulder injury. . . . Center Tim Young was out with a bulging disk in his lower back for Stanford, which trailed by just one point in the closing seconds vs. top-ranked UMass. . . . Virginia, finishing seventh in the ACC after tying for the league title the previous season, might have avoided becoming one of the nation's most underachieving teams if guard Cory Alexander hadn't left early for the NBA. . . . Clemson (without Iker Iturbe/shoulder problem) and Penn State (Rahsaan Carlton/knee injury) might have avoided opening-round tourney losses if key forwards didn't sit out the season as medical redshirts. Both players had been starters for 1995 NIT participants. Clemson was also without starting guard Merl Code because of a knee injury.
Putting Things in Perspective: Syracuse finished national runner-up despite losing six times in a nine-game midseason stretch. The Orangemen won their West Regional semifinal game against Georgia, 83-81, when John Wallace hit a three-point leaner from the top of the key with 2.8 seconds remaining in overtime.
NCAA Champion Defeats: Neutral court vs. Massachusetts (10-point margin) at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., and SEC Tournament vs. Mississippi State (11). UMass' Marcus Camby posted the highest single-game output by an individual opponent against Kentucky during the season with 32 points in the Great Eight.
Scoring Leader: John Wallace, Syracuse (128 points, 21.3 ppg).
Highest Scoring Average: Allen Iverson, Georgetown (111 points, 27.8 ppg).
Rebounding Leader: Todd Burgan, Syracuse (51 rebounds, 8.5 rpg).
Highest Rebounding Average: Tim Duncan, Wake Forest (39 rebounds, 13 rpg).
Todd Burgan, G-F, Soph., Syracuse (38 points, 15 rebounds)
Marcus Camby, C, Jr., Massachusetts (25 points, eight rebounds in one game)
*Tony Delk, G, Sr., Kentucky (44 points, nine rebounds, eight three-pointers)
Ron Mercer, F-G, Fr., Kentucky (29 points)
John Wallace, F, Sr., Syracuse (50 points, 14 rebounds)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
Championship Team Results
First Round: Kentucky 110 (McCarty team-high 24 points), San Jose State 72 (Saint-Jean 18)
Second Round: Kentucky 84 (Walker 21), Virginia Tech 60 (Smith 13)
Regional Semifinal: Kentucky 101 (Walker 19), Utah 70 (Van Horn 23)
Regional Final: Kentucky 83 (Delk 25), Wake Forest 63 (Duncan/Goolsby 14)
National Semifinal: Kentucky 81 (Delk 20), Massachusetts 74 (Camby 25)
Championship Game: Kentucky 76 (Delk 24), Syracuse 67 (Wallace 29)