The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship is upon us. As you get busy building your bracket, take some time to reflect on the ghosts of big games past. Whether you are a total newbie or an NCAA superfan, these memorable stories of previous winners and losers might help you make your picks for 2012… or at least help you relive some of the most exciting minutes of The Big Dance.
The Game That Broke Barriers
In the early 1960s college basketball was completely segregated. Coach Don Haskins made a move that would change the game when he started five black players in the 1966 NCAA championship game. Reflecting back on his story in “Glory Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed America Forever,” Haskins shares the ideas and values that made him a groundbreaking coach, and why he made the choice that ended up winning the game, and was the catalyst for desegregation of NCAA basketball.
Bob Knight’s Big Letdown
It’s impossible to talk about amazing moments in NCAA history without talking about coach Bob Knight. Considered the definitive book about college basketball, John Feinstein’s “A Season on the Brink” tells the story of Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers during the 1985-86 season. With full access to Knight and his players during meetings, practices, games and strategy sessions, Feinstein was able to paint a picture of the team beyond the court as they geared up for the NCAA tournament, where they suffered a stunning first-round loss to Cleveland State.
The Last-Second Game Changer
In 1992 Duke University was looking to take home the NCAA crown for the second year in a row. Before they could repeat their success, the Blue Devils had to face number-two seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight. In what might be the biggest nail-biter in NCAA history, Grant Hill passed the ball to Christian Laettner, who made a last-second shot, giving Duke the win over Kentucky, 104-103. Drawing on interviews with players (including the NBA-bound Hill and Laettner) and coaches, writer Gene Wojciechowski captures the excitement of the night in “The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball.”