IN HONOR of the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament, the NCAA just put out a list of the 75 greatest players in tournament history, along with the 25 greatest teams and 35 best moments.
It is a fascinating look through history with some legendary names and teams. You can almost hear the ball bouncing in all those old gyms from the 1940s and 1950s.
However, when you undertake a massive task like this, there is always a chance something or somebody gets missed.
There may have been other misses among the 75 players (and it was just based on NCAA Tournament performances), but the biggest one I saw was the omission of La Salle legend Tom Gola.
Gola was the Most Outstanding Player when La Salle won the 1954 championship. He was member of the all-Tournament team in 1955 when Bill Russell and San Francisco beat the Explorers in the championship game. In 10 NCAA games, Gola scored 229 points and anybody who saw him play knows his ballhandling and rebounding were every bit as good as his scoring. In 1954, Gola scored 28, 26, 22, 19 and 19 points. The next year, it was 22, 24, 30, 23 and 16.
The only players with Philly connections among the 75 are: Wilt Chamberlain (Overbrook High/Kansas), Eddie Pinckney (Villanova), Richard Hamilton (Coatesville High/Connecticut) and Walt Hazzard (Overbrook/UCLA). Obviously, they were all deserving, but so is Gola. And I could make a pretty good case for the great Guy Rodgers who got Temple to the Final Four in 1956 and 1958.
Don't go back nearly far enough for some of the players or teams, but whenever you compile lists like these, you will also promote arguments, as it should be. Here's another one they got wrong. They put Connecticut's 2003-04 team among the 25 greatest teams. Problem is that 1998-99 UConn, which upset supposedly unbeatable Duke in the championship game, was the far-better team and did not make the list. The best champion I have seen in my 20 Final Fours is 1996 Kentucky. They are prominent on the list of the best 25 teams.
Bill Walton or the then Lew Alcindor are the best players in my years watching NCAA games. Take your pick.
The moment has to be the Christian Laettner shot at the Spectrum in 1992.
UCLA, Duke, North Carolina and Indiana accounted for 23 of the 75 players. Would not argue with the vast majority of them, but some only made it because of where they played not what they did.