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At a Glance
NCAA Champion--Kentucky (32-2; coached by Adolph Rupp/19th of 41 seasons with Wildcats; compiled 13-0 SEC record to finish two games ahead of Tulane).
NIT Champion--San Francisco (25-5; coached by Pete Newell/third of four seasons with Dons).
New Conference--Ohio Valley.
New Rules--Coaches allowed to converse while mingling with players during a timeout. . . . NIT field expanded from eight teams to 12.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans--Ralph Beard, G, Sr., Kentucky (10.9 ppg); Vince Boryla, F, Sr., Denver (18.9 ppg); Alex Groza, C, Sr., Kentucky (20.5 ppg); Tony Lavelli, F, Sr., Yale (22.4 ppg, 82.4 FT%); Ed Macauley, C-F, Sr., St. Louis (15.5 ppg, 52.4 FG%).
A weekly ritual began on January 18, 1949, when the Associated Press announced the results of the first weekly basketball poll. St. Louis was ranked first in the initial poll, followed by Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma A&M, San Francisco, Illinois, Hamline (Minn.), Villanova and Utah. The Billikens placed third in the final rankings.
Kentucky, unbeaten in SEC competition for the third consecutive season en route to becoming the only school to win more than 30 games overall in three consecutive campaigns, finished sixth nationally in both team offense and defense. Wildcats coach Adolph Rupp needed every single one of the victories to finish one win ahead of Harold Anderson (248 with Toledo and Bowling Green) for most triumphs in the decade. The UK trio comprised of Ralph Beard, Alex Groza and Wah Wah Jones were All-Americans for the third straight year.
"When playing a game," Beard said. "If you've got that inner fire burning that says you want to prove you're the best, there are times you get to feeling superhuman."
The season's most shocking defeat was the Wildcats' 67-56 setback against Loyola of Chicago in the opening round of the NIT. The defending NCAA champions entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in the AP poll. Later, it was disclosed that the Kentucky-Loyola game was one in which UK players allegedly were bribed by gamblers to keep the winning margin under 10 points.
One of North Carolina State's players was Norm Sloan, who went on to coach his alma mater to the 1974 NCAA Tournament title. . . . Western Kentucky won 32 consecutive regular-season games until bowing to Eastern Kentucky, 42-40. All-American forward John Oldham, WKU's second-leading scorer with NIT teams for the second straight season, later coached All-Americans for Tennessee Tech and his alma mater. The Hilltoppers finished third in the NCAA Tournament under Oldham in 1971. . . . Oklahoma A&M captured the Missouri Valley title, extending the Aggies' streak of finishing first or second in the MVC to 12 consecutive seasons. . . . Oklahoma (14-10), coached by Bruce Drake, had one-half of its games decided by fewer than six points (7-5 mark in that category). . . . Texas-El Paso posted its lone triumph over Arizona in an 18-game stretch of their series from 1942 through 1951.
Jim Lacy of Loyola (Md.) became the first player to finish his career cracking the 2,000-point plateau. . . . Villanova junior Paul Arizin erupted for a school-record 85 points in a 117-25 pounding of Philadelphia NAMC (Naval Air Material Center) after the Wildcats played their previous eight games on the road. The previous year, Arizin made only spot appearances in the first seven games and went scoreless in the eighth contest. . . . The only player to score at least 40 points in two games was Yale's Tony Lavelli. A 52-point uprising by him against Williams remains a school record. Specializing in long-range hook shots, the 6-3 Lavelli passed DePaul's George Mikan as the leading career scorer in major-college basketball. Lavelli, the only player ever to become a major-college All-American under three different head coaches (Red Rolfe, Ivy Williamson and Howard Hobson), sparked Yale to its only Top 20 finish in a final national poll. . . . Lafayette's first 20-win season came in Bill Anderson's 11th and final year as its coach. He had been a student-coach in 1917-18 and 1918-19 on his way to becoming the school's first 1,000-point scorer. . . . Dartmouth defeated Holy Cross, 50-44, in a major upset. Holy Cross' average annual record in a 10-year span from 1946-47 through 1955-56 was 23-5. Crusaders captain Joe Mullaney, a choice of the Boston Celtics in the first NBA draft, went on to coach Providence in three straight NCAA playoffs from 1964 through 1966 before coaching the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. . . . St. Joseph's Jack Ramsay, averaging more than eight points per game for the third consecutive season, eventually coached his alma mater in the NCAA Tournament seven times in an eight-year span from 1959 through 1966 before coaching in the NBA. He ranked 13th in the nation in free-throw shooting (78.8%).
Muhlenberg (Pa.) registered seven straight victories over Villanova in their series until succumbing to the Wildcats, 62-49. . . . Forward Ernie Vandeweghe, the only All-American in Colgate history until center Adonal Foyle in 1997, finished among the nation's top five scorers for the third consecutive season. His son, Kiki, became a standout at UCLA and averaged more than 20 points per game seven consecutive seasons in the NBA from 1981-82 through 1987-88. . . . West Virginia's school-record homecourt winning streak ended at 57 consecutive games with a 34-32 overtime loss to Pittsburgh in the closing contest on the Mountaineers' schedule. Fred Schaus, their leading scorer with 18.4 points per game (10th in the nation) and free-throw shooter (12th at 78.8%), went on to coach them to six straight NCAA playoffs from 1955 through 1960.
Cliff Wells, Tulane's all-time winningest coach, guided the Green Wave to its only Top 20 appearance in a final wire-service poll by compiling a school-record 24-4 record. Three of Tulane's four defeats were to Kentucky. The only other setback for the Green Wave was by two points at Vanderbilt. It was the third consecutive Tulane team with more than 20 victories. The following excerpt of a letter written by Wells to a high school coach might explain the drive behind Green Wave teams of the Wells era:
"I am a firm believer that conditioning means stamina. Stamina demands training. Training spells sacrifice. Sacrifice is the highway to desire. If a boy is traveling another road he is lost in every sense of the word. I would not have him on my squad. The athlete at his best learns something different. Not comfortable, ease. Not idleness. Not self-indulgence. Not jaunty contempt for authority. These never win any game. Instead, these: obedience, self-denial, team play and always the inner cry--`I must, I MUST and I will!'"
Another school to register its winningest season in history was William & Mary (24-10/coached by Bernard Wilson).
Ohio University went 6-16 for its first losing season in 15 years. . . . Miami (Ohio) suffered its most lopsided defeat in history when the Redskins were clobbered at Cincinnati, 94-36. . . . Bowling Green didn't win more than 20 games in a season until 1996-97 after compiling a 24-7 mark as third-place finisher in the NIT. The Falcons averaged 24.3 victories annually over the last seven seasons in the 1940s despite sustaining losses in that span to Muskingum, Great Lakes, Denison and Baldwin-Wallace. . . . Western Michigan's Don Boven, leading scorer in the Mid-American Conference, went on to coach his alma mater for eight seasons from 1958-59 through 1965-66. . . . Butler, coached by Tony Hinkle, made its only appearance in the Top 20 of a final national poll. . . . Ed Macauley, St. Louis' leading scorer for the fourth straight season, finished his career as a two-time first-team All-American after averaging a modest 6.8 points per game in his three-year varsity career at a local high school. . . . Wisconsin had a career 35-15 record against Indiana after defeating the Hoosiers, 58-48.
Texas' Slater Martin set a school record (subsequently tied) with 49 points against TCU. Martin more than tripled his season scoring average of 16 points per game. His career scoring average was a modest 12.7 ppg. . . . SMU's Bob Prewitt, an All-SWC second-team selection, went on to coach his alma mater for eight seasons from 1967-68 through 1974-75.
Pacific lost 17 consecutive games in its series with Santa Clara until defeating the Broncos, 60-52. . . . The publicist for NIT champion San Francisco was Pete Rozelle, who went on to become commissioner of the National Football League. The Dons had an eyebrow-raising road trip when they won at La Salle, CCNY and Bradley in a four-day span. Their roster included three players who eventually coached major colleges--John Benington (Drake, Michigan State and St. Louis), Ross Guidice (USF) and Rene Herrerias (California). Incidentally, former Presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger also worked in the USF sports information department as a student. San Francisco, coached by Pete Newell, compiled an 11-3 record in games decided by fewer than five points. Newell was 22-7 in contests decided by fewer than four points during his four-year stint with the Dons through 1949-50. . . . Washington State letterman George "Jud" Heathcote, who finished his college career with a 3-point scoring average, went on to coach Montana before guiding Michigan State to the 1979 NCAA crown.
John Wooden began his coaching career at UCLA with a 22-7 record, breaking the Bruins' previous single-season mark of 18 victories, which was set two years earlier under his predecessor, Wilbur Johns. UCLA, which posted only two winning marks in the 17 years before Wooden's arrival, finished with the best mark in the PCC South Division after tying for last place the previous campaign. Wooden, who coached two seasons at Indiana State in his home state, had also caught the eye of Minnesota but UCLA put its offer on the table first and he accepted a first-year salary of $6,000. Wooden, selected out of a list of more than 80 applicants, couldn't report to UCLA for over two months because he also coached ISU's baseball team.
1949 NCAA Tournament
Summary: Despite returning seven of his top eight scorers from an NCAA titlist, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp experimented with the Wildcats' lineup until he achieved the chemistry he sought. Cliff Barker was moved from forward to guard and forward Dale Barnstable also played some guard. After an early-season defeat to St. Louis on a last-second tip-in, Kentucky won all of its games until bowing in the NIT to eventual finalist Loyola of Chicago. A couple of years later, Alex Groza, Ralph Beard and Barnstable admitted in sworn testimony that they accepted $1,500 in bribes to throw the NIT game against Loyola. There was also testimony that bribes from gamblers were accepted to shave points in other contests. Each received a suspended sentence in return for cooperating with federal officials and were banned by the NBA. Beard, who appeared on the cover of the very first issue of Sports Illustrated, and Groza are the only two of the 10 players who started the first NBA All-Star Game in 1951 not to be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Beard admits to taking $700, but not even the gambler, a student who sat on Kentucky's bench, said Beard agreed to shave points. "It's like I told the grand jury," Beard says. "I said, `I would like to know what constitutes guilt. If taking money constitutes guilt, I'm guilty. But if influencing the point spread constitutes guilt, I'm as innocent as anybody ever was.' I was too selfish as a player, too proud of who I was, to ever play less than my best."
Star Gazing: Groza is the brother of football Hall of Famer Lou Groza. . . . Barker went on to become coach of the NBA's Indianapolis Olympians. . . . Interestingly, a reserve on Kentucky's team early in the season, Joe B. Hall, didn't make the trip to Seattle because he had transferred to the University of the South. He was the Wildcats' coach when they made a trip to the "Emerald City" at the 1984 Final Four.
One and Only: Groza, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1948 and 1949, is the only player to appear at a minimum of two Final Fours and be the game-high scorer in every Final Four contest he played in. Despite missing 13 minutes of the second half because of foul trouble, Groza scored 25 points to lead the Wildcats to a 46-36 decision over Oklahoma A&M in the title game. . . . Wyoming, coached by Everett Shelton, became the only school to fall one victory shy of the Final Four three consecutive years. . . . Oklahoma A&M, coached by Hank Iba, became the only school to reach the NCAA championship game in its first three playoff appearances. It won titles in 1945 and 1946. . . . Wyoming guard John Pilch became the only All-American to go winless in as many as six NCAA playoff games.
Celebrity Status: Long before multi-sport standouts Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were hailed as jacks of all trades, there was three-sport whiz Dwight Eddleman, who is possibly the greatest all-around athlete to participate in the Final Four. Eddleman, a 6-3, 180-pound guard-forward, was named the Big Ten Most Valuable Player by the Chicago Tribune in 1949 when he was the leading scorer for Illinois' national third-place finisher in basketball. In football, he played both offense and defense, punted and returned kicks, and played in the 1947 Rose Bowl for a team that overwhelmed UCLA, 45-14. He returned punts 92 and 89 yards for touchdowns the next season as a junior. The 92-yard return against Western Michigan is still a school record. In his senior year, Eddleman ranked third in the nation with 42.9-yard punting average, including a school-record 88-yarder. He set school season records in 1948 for highest punting average (43 yards per kick) and punt return average (32.8). Eddleman, interrupting his collegiate career by joining the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, earned an amazing 11 varsity letters at Illinois. He won three Big Ten high jump titles. But his greatest athletic achievement probably was winning a silver medal in the high jump in the 1948 Olympics in London. The Olympics climaxed a scintillating academic school year for Eddleman. He won the NCAA high jump crown and led Illinois' football and basketball teams in scoring.
Eddleman retired in November, 1992 after 23 years directing fund-raising efforts for his alma mater's athletic department. As executive director of the Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund, he helped raise more than $30 million for Illinois athletic scholarships and programs.
Numbers Game: Groza and Villanova's Paul Arizin each scored a tourney-high 30 points when Kentucky defeated Villanova, 85-72, in their Eastern Regional opener. It was the only playoff game in which two players scored at least 30 in the same game until 1953. Arizin's output was the highest against UK for the entire season. . . . The Southern Conference (regular-season champion North Carolina State) did not have a representative in the tourney. Nebraska from the Big Seven lost a district play-in game against Oklahoma A&M.
What Might Have Been: Baylor shared the SWC regular-season title, but the Bears' chances of returning to the NCAA playoffs, let alone the championship game, diminished when three-time all-league first-team selection Jack Robinson did not play his senior year because of a balky knee. . . . Illinois' depth was hurt when guard Burdette Thurlby was declared scholastically ineligible for the second semester after failing a history course.
NCAA Champion Defeats: Neutral courts vs. St. Louis (2-point margin) and Loyola of Chicago (11).
Scoring Leader: Alex Groza, Kentucky (82 points, 27.3 ppg).
Most Outstanding Player: Alex Groza, C, Sr., Kentucky (52 points in final two games).
Championship Team Results
First Round: Kentucky 85 (Groza team-high 30 points), Villanova 72 (Arizin 30)
Regional Final: Kentucky 76 (Groza 27), Illinois 47 (Kersulis 9)
Championship Game: Kentucky 46 (Groza 25), Oklahoma A&M 36 (Shelton 12)