merely set the stage for higher drama in
1968. In the Astrodome in Houston, in
modern basketball's conceptual megabucks
game, the Cougars and Hayes snapped
UCLA's 47-game winning streak, 71-69. A
crowd of 52,683, college basketball's largest, watched, and so did a huge television
audience. To this day, Wooden remains
convinced the best team did not win. "I
don't think," he says, "we would have lost
if Alcindor hadn't been hurt."
Alcindor was hurting for the mid-season
game with an eye injury. But when it really
counted, when they met again in the national semifinals in Los Angeles, the once-beaten Bruins destroyed the undefeated Cougars, 101-69.
"If I ever had one that I thought might
have a chance to go through undefeated,
that was the team," says Wooden. "And we
didn't do it."
But Walton was on the horizon, and with
the rambunctious redhead from San Diego
dominating the game as Alcindor had before him, the Bruins capped consecutive
30-0 seasons with NCAA championships in
1972 and again in 1973. That year, Walton
set a championship-game record, missing
only one of 22 field-goal attempts and scoring a record 44 points in the Bruins' 87-66
championship-game victory over Memphis
With Walton back as a senior, yet another
unbeaten season and another championship
seemed to be a matter of merely waiting out
the calendar. Only John Wooden knew better.
"I told them after the first year they were
a delight to work with," he says. "And I
told them we'd be even better when they
were juniors. But I also told them, 'When
you're seniors, you'll probably be intolerable.' "
In the 14th game of the 1973-74 season,
after 88-straight victories, UCLA was upset
by Notre Dame and perfection, Bruin style,
was history. Gone, too, after a final title in
1975 — the Bruins beat Kentucky, 92-85,
in his final game for title No. 10 — was
But if the Wizard was history, wizardry
Indiana, and Bob Knight, were waiting in
Knight had been a sixth man on the
Havlicek-Lucas Ohio State team that won
the NCAA title in 1960 and lost to Cincinnati in the title game the next two years.
And under Knight, the 1975 Hoosiers
looked unbeatable until the breaks of the
game — in this case, forward Scott May's
broken arm — took their toll. After 31-
straight wins, the Hoosiers fell, 92-90, to
Kentucky in their regional final.
But May had another year left. And the
Hoosiers had more than enough. An 86-68
championship victory over Big Ten rival
Michigan, which had polished off previously unbeaten Rutgers in the semifinals, put
the finishing touches on a 32-0 season.
Now, the years roll on and the unbeatens
grow scarce. We wonder if we have, perhaps, seen the last of perfection. Fourteen
seasons have produced only one unbeaten
tournament qualifier, Indiana State in 1979.
Magic was both in the air and on the court
when the 33-0 Sycamores, with Larry Bird,
met Michigan State and Ervin Johnson for
Michigan State's 75-64 win bordered on
And, as suddenly as they came in, perfect
records went out of style.
So, we wonder, as basketball has progressed, has the degree of difficulty
changed to the point of making the possible
almost impossible? Is it that much harder
these days to do the things you did, John
"Not at all," he answers.
"NOT AT ALL."
We start to argue.
We figure he knows a little bit more about
it than we do. A
Indiana State's Larry Bird paced the Sycamores to the 1979 national championship berth.