The best of the NCAA tournament by decade
Choosing the best from the NCAA tournament for each decade is challenging for any fan. After all, there's 74 years of history. For this exercise the main qualification is contributions to a school's success in the tournament -- particularly multiple tournaments -- not the regular season. Future achievements in the NBA are not part of the discussion.
Kentucky's Jack "Goose" Givens gets the nod over Indiana State's Larry Bird on the NCAA tournament Team of the 1970s not because he was a better player but because he played better over three tournaments and scored 41 points in the Wildcats' 1978 championship victory over Duke. Bird, who played in only one NCAA tournament, suffered an off-night in Indiana State's '79 title match with Michigan State.
In other words, being very good for many games over multiple tournaments rates higher than being great for one year -- especially if that season didn't end with a championship.
Each decade showcased its own personality, memories and quirks, and helped set the stage for the mega-event that the NCAA tournament has become.
It was also the last NCAA title game in New York's Madison Square Garden. Point shaving scandals involving CCNY as well as the players on the '49 Kentucky champs created the image of New York as a den of inequity. The NIT remained in Gotham but the NCAA moved its championship final out of New York and out of the Northeast entirely until 1966.
But even the departure of All-America talent can't halt the tournament's popularity. Millions of basketball fans begin filling out NCAA "brackets" in office pools, a practice that ultimately will reach the White House.
After 1996, the Final Four moved permanently into indoor stadiums. This leaves the Northeast and West Coast out of the Final Four rotation because neither region has an indoor facility that large.
High school players can no longer jump directly to the NBA but one-and-done stars such as Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony in 2003 and most of Kentucky's starting lineup in 2012 prevent teams from developing the cohesion that marked the great champions of the past. Four more teams were added in 2011, increasing the field to 68.