Thrills and Tribulations
fying. My last year has been equally satisfying, regardless of what happens Monday night. . . ."
Writers perked up instantly. What had The Man just said? Had he really said what they thought they had just heard? It was true. John Wooden was retiring as head basketball coach at UCLA.
But he wanted to talk about the game just ended, the one with Denny Crum, and the one upcoming. UCLA would beat Coach Joe B. Hall's Kentucky Wildcats as everyone anticipated. The Wooden Era was now B.C.. time's dividing line.
Indiana won the national title with a 32-0 mark in 1976, but in 1981. which begins the second triumvirate of this particular study. Coach Knight's Hoosiers had started slowly, 7-5 in December as a matter of fact. Like most Knight teams, they became stronger and by the time they got to trophy ceremonies they had beaten every NCAA opponent by as many as 13 points.
The Hoosiers would be the first to repeat since The Man retired, and Isiah Thomas became a national hero in the process. Leading only 27-26 at halftime of a control game, Indiana exploded in the first five minutes of the second half with North Carolina, and Thomas with a pair of converted steals upped the spread to 35-28. It was all over. Knight's   man-to-man   pressure defense
forced both LSU (semifinals) and North Carolina out of their excellent offense.
Bob Knight, who would have a delightful 1984 summer in Southern California sunshine, had broken the post-Wooden Era spell.
Dean Smith would continue the new trend. In 1982 his North Carolina Tar Heels would return to the Final Four for the seventh time (only Wooden bettered that), and they were ranked No. 1 in the country from preseason to tournament time. Wooden's Bruins had become accustomed to that challenge, others since have found more difficulty.
Coach Smith would win his first title. 40 minutes of superb basketball with Georgetown in the Louisiana Superdome with 61,612 pairs of eyes glued to the excitement. Ben Carnevale, member of the NCAA basketball committee, noted afterward: "Now, that was one of the classics in this tournament."
Coach John Thompson's Hoyas led 62-61 when Coach Smith called timeout, 32 seconds remaining. Easy plan: 1) shoot when open. 2) rebound if missed, 3) foul quickly if 1) and 2) go awry.
Tar Heel freshman Michael Jordan said later: "I thought about the possibility of my taking a shot that would win or lose the game when I was on the bus on the way over to the Superdome." Michael Jordan hit a 16-footer
with 15 seconds, and Coach Smith won his first national title (63-62).
Nothing can surpass 1983. N.C. State and Georgia would not have made the NCAA tournament at all had they not won, in surprise, their own conference tournaments. But they were in the Final Four.
Coach Jim Valvano and N.C. State made it to the mile-high finals (Albuquerque) with nine miracles. Their 17-10 regular season was lackluster, but they won three ACC tournament games (including North Carolina which led 80-74 with 2:13 in overtime). In Corvallis (Oregon) they topped Pepper-dine in two overtimes and Nevada-Las Vegas (which had been up 12 with 10 minutes left). In Ogden (Utah) they felt guilty with an easy win over Utah, but then beat Virginia a second time, a Virginia with Ralph Sampson in his final shot at the national title. It was a one-pointer.
In Albuquerque, the Easternmost point in the Wolfpack travels, they downed Georgia by seven. They trailed slam-dunk Houston by six in the final four minutes, caught up by surprise, and won. The winning shot was just as surprising as anything in the history of the game: Dereck Whittenburg firing from 30 feet, or maybe 3,000 feet, and Lorenzo Charles under the basket taking the ball and stuffing, 52-50.
Of such stuff are champions made.