THIS DAY IN SPORTS: The NCAA selection process was a lot different

Presented by THE SANDWICH BAR.

This Day In Sports…March 28, 1944, 80 years ago today:

In a nailbiter at Madison Square Garden, a game in which neither team led by more than four points, Utah edges Dartmouth, 42-40, on a long shot by Herb Wilkinson with three seconds left in overtime to win the NCAA Tournament. The Most Outstanding Player of the tournament was Utah legend Arnie Ferrin, who would go on to be the Utes athletic director and, ironically, would chair the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The team also included Wataru Musaka, who would go on to join the New York Knicks and become the first person of color ever to play pro basketball. 

The Utes were recruited as a fill-in team by NCAA Tournament organizers after being eliminated in the first round of the NIT. Arkansas was unable to participate after an assistant coach was killed and two players were seriously injured in an auto accident. Then two days later Utah would beat NIT champ St. John’s in a Red Cross War Charities benefit game, and that’s when the Utes were considered the undisputed college champion.

The NIT was created in 1938, one year after the NAIA Tournament and one year before the NCAA Tournament. It was bigger than the NCAA Tournament at the time. The NCAAs included one team from each of eight different regions of the country, meaning a lot of good teams were left out. Those schools would opt for the NIT, which was able to assemble more competitive fields. Some teams played in both events—City of College of New York did, and it won both tournaments in 1950.

Now, the NIT is a distant second fiddle to the Big Dance, with some teams opting out of the 87-year-old event. And did you know? The Mountain West did have one team in this year’s NIT. UNLV was eliminated in the quarterfinals Wednesday night, 91-68 at Seton Hall.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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