1939-40

Men's Division 1 National Champions:

Year Record Winner Won Coach Outstanding Player
1940 Indiana 20-3 NCAA Branch McCracken Marv Huffman, G
  USC (Helms) * 20-3 NIT Sam Barry Ralph Vaughn, F

 

One era passed and another began during the 193940 season.

Dr. James Naismith died on Nov.28, 1939, nearly 50 years after inventing the game and three years after seeing it gain worldwide acceptance as an Olympic sport at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin.

Exactly three months later, on Feb.28, 1940, college basketball appeared on television for the first time when experimental station W2XBS in New York televised a Pitt-Fordham and Georgetown-NYU doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.

Indiana finished second to Purdue in the Big Ten, but district officials sent the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament because of their two regular season wins against the Boilermakers. Good choice. Indiana, led by All-America guard Marv Huffman, won the eight-team tournament, beating Big Six representative Kansas by 18 in the final. NCAA moved the Final Two to Kansas City in search of more exposure.

Colorado and Duquesne, both early round losers in the NCAAs, went to New York and ended up meeting in the NIT final. The Buffaloes won, 5140.

 

FINAL AP TOP 20:

NCAA TOURNAMENT :

Indiana finished second to Purdue in the Big Ten, but district officials sent the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament because of their two regular season wins against the Boilermakers. Good choice. Indiana, led by All-America guard Marv Huffman, won the eight-team tournament, beating Big Six representative Kansas by 18 in the final. NCAA moved the Final Two to Kansas City in search of more exposure.

East Regional

Semifinals Duquesne 30, Western Ky. 29
Indiana 48, Springfield-MA 24
Third Place No game
Final Indiana 39, Duquesne 30

West Regional

Semifinals Kansas 50, Rice 44
USC 38, Colorado 32
Third Place Rice 60, Colorado 56 (OT)
Final Kansas 43, USC 42

FINAL TWO

at Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City

Championship Indiana 60, Kansas 42
Most Outstanding Player Marv Huffman, Indiana
All-Tournament Huffman, Jay McCreary and Bill Menke, Indiana
Howard Engleman and Bob Allen, Kansas

 

1940 Feb 28 The first televised college basketball games were broadcast, by New York City station W2XBS, as Pittsburgh defeated Fordham, 57-to-37, and New York University beat Georgetown, 50-to-27, at Madison Square Garden.

Major Conference Champions

Conference Regular Season Tournament
Big 6 Kansas/Missouri/Oklahoma (82)
Big 7 Colorado (111)
Big 10 Purdue (102)
Ivy Dartmouth (111)
Missouri Valley Oklahoma A&M (120)
New England Rhode Island St. (80)
PCC North Oregon St. (124)
PCC South USC (102)*
SEC Alabama (144) Kentucky
Southern Duke (132) N. Carolina
SWC Rice (102)
*Won playoff for league championship.
Note: Big 10 selected 2nd place Indiana (93) to go to NCAAs because the Hoosiers beat Purdue twice during regular season.

NCAA & NIT Tournament Teams

(In alphabetical order)

  Before Tourns Head Coach Final Record
Colorado 152 Frosty Cox 174
DePaul 214 Tom Haggerty 226
Duquesne 171 Chick Davies 203
Indiana 173 Branch McCracken 203
Kansas 175 Phog Allen 196
LIU 193 Clair Bee 194
Okla. A&M 252 Hank Iba 263
Rice 212 Buster Brannon 223
St. John's 153 Joe Lapchick 154
USC 192 Sam Barry 203
Springfield 162 Ed Hickox 163
Western Ky. 245 Ed Diddle 246
Note: Colorado won the NIT and Indiana won the NCAAs. Colorado and Duquesne played in both tourneys.

 

 


By JOE GERGEN   For The Sporting News

They always were in a hurry. At the insistence of Branch McCracken, their vigorous young coach, the Indiana Hoosiers played basketball at a pace that, in the days before World War II, was breathtaking. They ran and they ran and then they ran some more.

If they didn't beat opponents with their speed and ball movement, the Hoosiers beat them with their conditioning.

"You're going to beat them in the last 10 minutes," McCracken told his players. And a great many teams wilted under the pressure of Indiana's tempo.

"We always had a fast break," said Mary Huffman, Indiana's standout guard. "His (McCracken's) contention was that you get down before them and you get back on defense before them, so we were fast-breaking both ways. We just ran like mad."

It didn't take long for McCracken's teams to be dubbed the "Hurryin' Hoosiers." Nor did it take them long to impose their will on the Big Ten Conference.

McCracken, a former All-American at Indiana who possessed a courtside manner as intemperate as that displayed by Bob Knight about three decades later, was an immediate coaching success.

His first team, the 1939 Hoosiers, won 17 of 20 games overall and finished second in the conference behind NCAA Tournament finalist Ohio State. In McCracken's second season, the Hoosiers again were 17-3 in regular-season play. And again they finished second in the Big Ten, with Purdue taking the league title.

The difference in 1940 was that Indiana defeated Purdue in both games between the intrastate rivals. Additionally, Purdue's esteemed coach, Ward "Piggy" Lambert, was no fan of postseason competition. As a result, the selection committee for District 4 in the Upper Midwest tapped the Hoosiers to represent the area in the second national tournament.

"Look," McCracken told his team, "there's no point in going if we're not going to win it." It was a supremely confident group that made the short trip to the Butler University field house in Indianapolis for the NCAA Eastern playoffs, whose opening games would match Indiana against Springfield and Duquesne against Western Kentucky.

The Hoosiers weren't particularly tall, but they didn't stand in one place long enough to be measured. Even Bill Menke, Indiana's 6-foot-5 center, "could run forever," according to forward Bob Dro. The other forward was Paul "Curly" Armstrong, with Huffman and Herman Schaefer at the guards.

McCracken wanted his players to handle the ball like a hot potato, keep it moving at all times. He abhorred dribbling when it wasn't necessary.

"I remember at one of our first practices," Huffman said, "I got a rebound and dribbled it a couple of times. Well, Branch blew his whistle and threw two balls up on the boards. I got one and dribbled it before I passed and he took the other one and just threw it downcourt. Then he looked at me and said, 'OK, now which one got there faster?' I said, 'You made your point,' and that was the last time I ever dribbled the ball."

The Hoosiers weren't reluctant to fling a courtlength pass if a teammate was open.

"If you took the chance and threw wildly," Dro said, "so be it. But we got pretty good at those passes."

Springfield didn't stand a chance. The Massachusetts school, where the sport had been born, was no match for the Hoosiers in its only NCAA Division I tourney appearance. Indiana led, 30-11, at halftime and McCracken cleared the bench in the second half en route to a 48-24 victory.

Duquesne edged Western Kentucky for the other berth in the Eastern final, setting up a rematch of a taut contest during the regular season in which the Hoosiers edged the Iron Dukes, 51-49, in Pittsburgh.

What the Hoosiers feared most about Duquesne was its zone. The key was to beat the Dukes downcourt before they could align themselves in the defense. This Indiana did often enough to open a 25-13 lead at halftime as Menke scored 10 points.

Rattled by the pace, Duquesne made only 4-of-26 shots from the field. Although the Dukes cut into the deficit in the second half, they never threatened to take control and Indiana won, 39-30.

The next stop was Kansas City, where the Kansas Jayhawks had emerged from the more competitive Western playoffs. The Jayhawks had defeated Rice, 50-44, and then rallied to upset Southern Cal, 43-42, on Howard Engleman's corner set shot in the waning seconds. The Trojans had beaten Colorado in the opening round for their 20th victory in 22 games and were favored to represent the West in the national title game.

This second national tournament, the first under the direct supervision of the NCAA, would be very much a Kansas production. Forrest "Phog" Allen, the venerable Kansas coach, had promoted the idea of holding both the Western playoffs and the championship contest in Kansas City's modern Municipal Auditorium. In fact, he was serving as the manager of both events. Of course, the proximity of Kansas City to the Kansas campus in Lawrence ensured a partisan crowd.

In addition, a pregame ceremony honored the late Dr. James Naismith, who had invented basketball at Springfield in 1891. Naismith had died at his home in Lawrence on November 28, 1939. He had been affiliated with the University of Kansas for the last 40 years of his life and had been Allen's mentor.

Against this tide of sentiment, the Hoosiers had their fast break and a belief in themselves. That belief was tested at the outset of the game when Kansas jumped to a 10-4 lead. Indiana called a timeout, but the rules prevented the team from huddling with its coach.

Instructions were not necessary. The Hoosiers had been schooled well enough to recognize their deficiencies.

"We knew what we had to do," Huffman said. "We tightened up our defense and got our fast break going."

The reversal was dramatic. Indiana rallied to force ties at 11-11, 12-12 and 14-14 and then overran the cautious, probing Jayhawks.

"If you get that shot," McCracken had told his team, "put it up and everybody go to the board except one. Let it go, don't hesitate."

And that's exactly what the Hoosiers did. They shot 39 times in the first half and made 13 field goals, and they left Kansas dazed and trailing, 32-19. Nevertheless, the Jayhawks stayed with their ball-control offense in the second half, continuing to play what Dro called a game of "cat and mouse." Even when the lead rose to 20 points, Kansas took its time looking for the perfect shot.

Indiana won easily, 60-42. It would be 10 years before another team scored as many points in an NCAA championship game. And basketball observers marveled at the fact the Hoosiers made 34.7 percent of their field-goal attempts.

So sure was Allen of his system -- a style, after all, handed down from on high -- that, in a perverse sense, he believed he had won the game. His players had done what he had asked them. They had controlled the ball. McCracken, remember, believed in putting the ball in the basket and not in an Indiana player's hands.

"They had the ball twice as long as we did," Dro contended. But the championship was decided on points, not on time of possession.

Ironically, the game's leading scorer was Bobby Allen of Kansas, the coach's son. He had 13 points, one more than teammate Engleman. Huffman (12), Jay McCreary (12) and Armstrong (10) paced Indiana. The outstanding-player award -- the first such honor bestowed in the NCAA finals -- went to Huffman, the captain, although a number of Hoosiers were equally deserving.

As much as Indiana's success was a victory for the players, so it was a triumph of strategy. The 10,000 fans in attendance were buffeted by a fresh, new breeze in college basketball -- although a Kansas City newspaper, in a burst of hyperbole, described it as a tornado.

"That tornado was us," Huffman said. "We just blew them out of the stadium."

The second-place team from the Big Ten was going back to Bloomington with the big prize. But the major winner might have been the tournament itself. With attendance of 36,880 at the five sessions, the NCAA was pleased to announce a small profit after expenses. No longer was the future of the event in doubt.

 


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