The Year in College Basketball
The Associated Press
December 20, 1995
The scene that played over and over in the 1960s and ’70s was the signature point of college basketball in 1995.
John Wooden had made UCLA synonymous with national championships having won 10 of 12 from 1964-75. There wasn’t another for 20 years until Jim Harrick and his team stood at midcourt at the Kingdome and accepted the trophy after an 89-78 victory over Arkansas.
“What it meant was obvious that night,” Harrick said. “Later on, after having a chance to go to the Academy Awards, the Masters and the White House, I found out what it really meant. You could see it in the eyes of the players and in the looks of people around campus. You could see it in the reaction of strangers. The world is different with that trophy in the trophy case.”
Wooden was there the night the Bruins kept Arkansas from becoming the second repeat champion of the ’90s. He stayed out of the spotlight so it would shine on Harrick and the players.
“I care a lot about Jim and those players,” Wooden said. “It was their time to enjoy the fruits of all that hard work as my teams and I did.”
The Bruins’ ride to the title wasn’t a juggernaut, as Tyus Edney played the hero in the second round with a length-of-the-court drive as time expired for a 75-74 victory over Missouri. The regional championship game was an up-and-down 102-96 victory over Connecticut.
Then, after beating Oklahoma State in the semifinals, the Bruins were faced with some adversity. Edney had an injured wrist and could only make a token appearance in the school’s biggest game in two decades.
Led by All-America forward Ed O’Bannon and his 30 points, the Bruins came up with a gritty performance from its bench as freshman Toby Bailey had 26 points.
North Carolina was the other team in the Final Four and the Tar Heels kept the Atlantic Coast Conference’s streak of appearances in the national semifinals alive at eight.
The team that was the ACC’s representative for five of those years didn’t even make the NCAA tournament in 1995, and there was an obvious reason.
Mike Krzyzewski was forced to leave the Duke bench in early January to concentrate on his rehabilitation from back surgery. The Blue Devils sputtered and stalled without Coach K and finished last in the league with a 2-14 record and were 13-18 overall. With Krzyzewski back this season, the Blue Devils jumped to a start that vaulted them back into the Top 25.
College basketball was faced once again with what has become the standard offcourt problems for the sport.
The first four selections in the NBA draft — Joe Smith of Maryland, Antonio McDyess of Alabama and Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace of North Carolina — were players who had only completed two seasons of college eligibility. The fifth, Kevin Garnett, never even had a chance to play college basketball as the Minnesota Timberwolves selected the high school phenom.
One look at Georgia Tech freshman Stephon Marbury or California’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim was enough to know that the talent supply seems endless.
Conference changes continued and as usual were dictated by schools making moves to protect their football programs. Conference USA was created by merging most of the Great Midwest with a lot of the Metro. The Big East added Rutgers, West Virginia and Notre Dame and that affected the Atlantic 10 which had to add Fordham, La Salle, Dayton, Virginia Tech and Xavier, Ohio.
This will be the last season for the Southwest Conference with half of its eight member joining the current Big Eight to form the Big 12, three going to the 16-team Western Athletic Conference and Houston joining Conference USA.
Another constant from college basketball was the obscenity-filled tirade of Indiana coach Bob Knight at a postgame news conference following the Hoosiers’ 65-60 loss to Missouri in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. He was fined $30,000 by the NCAA for the latest addition to his personal chronology.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee took a lot of heat on Selection Sunday when it opted for Manhattan of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference over Georgia Tech of the ACC, continuing the age-old argument of midlevel runners-up against teams that finish in the middle of the big conferences. The committee was able to pat itself on the back when Manhattan upset Oklahoma in the opening round.
Six schools — Arkansas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, UCLA, Kansas and Connecticut — held the No. 1 ranking last season and it was the first time at the top for the two schools from New England.
Kurt Thomas of Texas Christian led Division I in scoring (28.9) and rebounding (14.6), joining Xavier McDaniel of Wichita State in 1985 and Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount in 1989 as the only players to accomplish that feat.
Southern Indiana won the Division II national championship while Wisconsin-Platteville won it all in Division III. The NAIA champions were Birmingham Southern in Division I and Bethel, Ind., in Division II.
© 1995 The Associated Press
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