When Giants Ruled the Tournament

March 23, 2008

From Bob Kurland to Patrick Ewing traditional back-to-the-basket big men have played a pivotal role, towering over the low post—and their often helpless opponents. For years the center was the centerpiece, and no team could harbor championship hopes without a true titan blocking the basket on one end of the floor and scoring at will on the other

WILT CHAMBERLAIN, Kansas
As a sophomore the 7-foot Chamberlain averaged 29.6 points in the regular season and then a tournament-high 30.3. Proclaiming that Chamberlain was "not going to give us the jitters" in the title game, North Carolina guard Tommy Kearns jumped center against Wilt, and the Tar Heels triple-teamed him. He still scored 23 points and had 14 rebounds, but North Carolina prevailed in triple overtime.

BILL WALTON, UCLA
Walton dominated at both ends of the floor as a sophomore in '72 and again in '73, averaging tournament highs of 16.0 and 14.5 rebounds. His defense—along with his two-year Final Four points total (115)—brought the Bruins their eighth and ninth titles in 10 years, and his three-year tournament field goal percentage (68.6) remains a record.

LEW ALCINDOR, UCLA
The only three-time most outstanding player, the 7' 2" Alcindor had the highest tournament scoring average (26.5) in '67, the highest rebounding average (16.0) in '69 and—despite opponents' best efforts to bait him—stayed out of foul trouble in three title games, which the Bruins won by an average of 19.3 points.

BILL RUSSELL, USF
"We can stop him only by keeping the ball away from him," La Salle coach Ken Loeffler said of Russell before facing San Francisco in the '55 finals. Loeffler's plan failed; Russell grabbed 25 rebounds to key USF's 77--63 win. The next season he helped the Dons stretch its winning streak to 55 and repeat as champ.

BOB KURLAND, Oklahoma A&M
The 7-footer LIFE magazine described as "balanced and coordinated in spite of his height" won titles for coach Henry Iba in 1945 and '46 and led the tournament in scoring (21.7 and 24.0 points per game, respectively) both years. Kurland was also one of the first to effectively use what LIFE called the "dunk shot."

BILL SPIVEY, Kentucky
Spivey dominated the game in 1950-51, averaging 16.3 rebounds as the I Wildcats won Adolph Rupp his third championship. Had the 7-footer played as a senior, UK might have repeated. But Spivey was injured and later implicated in a point-shaving scandal.

KENT BENSON, Indiana
A three-time All- America, 6' 11" Big Red anchored the Hoosiers' 32-0 1976 title squad, the last undefeated team in college basketball. He led IU in rebounding in the '76 Final Four and scored 25 points in the championship win over Michigan.

AKEEM OLAJUWON, Houston
Phi Slamma Jamma lost the 1983 and '84 finals, but the Dream averaged tournament highs in rebounds both years and was the top scorer (20 points) in the '83 loss to N.C. State. Olajuwon was the last player from the losing side to be named MOP.

PATRICK EWING, Georgetown
Ewing led the Hoyas to the title game in three of his four seasons. His team came up short in 1982 and '85, but in '84 the Hoya Destroya got the better of fellow 7-footer Olajuwon and Houston, winning the much-hyped matchup of All-America centers 84-75.

JERRY LUCAS, Ohio State
After leading the Buckeyes to the championship—and winning MOP honors—in 1960, the 6' 8" Lucas followed up with sensational junior (24.9 points and 17.4 rebounds) and senior (21.8 and 17.8) seasons that both ended with title-game losses to rival Cincinnati.

FINAL FOUR MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYERS

Until the mid-80's, centers (IN BOLD) had an outsized impact on the Big Dance

YEAR PLAYER, POSITION, COLLEGE
1939 Jimmy Hull, F, Ohio State
1940 Marvin Huffman, G, Indiana
1941 John Kotz, F, Wisconsin
1942 Howie Dallmar, G, Stanford
1943 Kenny Sailors, F, Wyoming
1944 Arnie Ferrin, G-F, Utah
1945 BOB KURLAND, C, Oklahoma A&M
1946 BOB KURLAND, C, Oklahoma A&M
1947 GEORGE KAFTAN, C, Holy
1948 CROSS ALEX GROZA, C, Kentucky
1949 ALEX GROZA, C, Kentucky
1950 Irwin Dambrot, F, CCNY
1951 BILL SPIVEY, C, Kentucky
1952 CLYDE LOVELLETTE, C, Kansas
1953 B.H. BORN, C, Kansas
1954 Tom Gola, G-F, La Salle
1955 BILL RUSSELL, C, San Francisco
1956 Hal Lear, G, Temple
1957 WILT CHAMBERLAIN, C, Kansas
1958 Elgin Baylor, F, Seattle
1959 Jerry West, G-F, West Virginia
1960 JERRY LUCAS, C, Ohio State
1961 JERRY LUCAS, C, Ohio State
1962 PAUL HOGUE, C, Cincinnati
1963 Art Heyman, G-F, Duke
1964 Walt Hazzard, G, UCLA
1965 Bill Bradley, F, Princeton
1966 Jerry Chambers, F, Utah
1967 LEW ALCINDOR, C, UCLA
1968 LEW ALCINDOR, C, UCLA
1969 LEW ALCINDOR, C, UCLA
1970 Sidney Wicks, F, UCLA
1971 HOWARD PORTER, C, Villanova
1972 BILL WALTON, C, UCLA
1973 BILL WALTON, C, UCLA
1974 David Thompson, G, N.C. State
1975 RICHARD WASHINGTON, C, UCLA
1976 KENT BENSON, C, Indiana
1977 Butch Lee, G, Marquette
1978 Jack Givens, F, Kentucky
1979 Earvin Johnson, G, Michigan State
1980 Darrell Griffith, G, Louisville
1981 Isiah Thomas, G, Indiana
1982 James Worthy, F, North Carolina
1983 AKEEM OLAJUWON, C, Houston
1984 PATRICK EWING, C, Georgetown
1985 Ed Pinckney, F, Villanova
1986 PERVIS ELLISON, C, Louisville
1987 Keith Smart, G, Indiana
1988 Danny Manning, F, Kansas
1989 Glen Rice, F, Michigan
1990 Anderson Hunt, G, UNLV
1991 CHRISTIAN LAETTNER, C, Duke
1992 Bobby Hurley, G, Duke
1993 Donald Williams, G, North Carolina
1994 Corliss Williamson, F, Arkansas
1995 Ed O'Bannon, F, UCLA
1996 Tony Delk, G, Kentucky
1997 Miles Simon, F, Arizona
1998 Jeff Sheppard, G, Kentucky
1999 Richard Hamilton, G, UConn
2000 Mateen Cleaves, G, Michigan State
2001 Shane Battier, F, Duke
2002 Juan Dixon, G, Maryland
2003 Carmelo Anthony, F, Syracuse
2004 EMEKA OKAFOR, C, UConn
2005 SEAN MAY, C, North Carolina
2006 JOAKIM NOAH, C, Florida
2007 Corey Brewer, F, Florida
PHOTOSHEEDY & LONG (WALTON) PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (ALCINDOR) PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (BENSON) PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (OLAJUWON) PHOTORICH CLARKSON/NCAA PHOTOS (LUCAS) PHOTOAP (CHAMBERLAIN) PHOTOAP (RUSSELL) PHOTOHUGH MORTON (KURLAND) PHOTOTHE COURIER-JOURNAL (SPIVEY) PHOTOMANNY MILLAN (EWING) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BASKETBALL FLOOR)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)