Men's Division 1 National Champion:

Year Record Winner Won Coach Outstanding Player
1945 Oklahoma A&M 27-4 NCAA Hank Iba Bob Kurland, C


The biggest stars of the mid-40s were also the biggest players: 6–10 George Mikan of DePaul and 7–0 Bob Kurland of Oklahoma A&M.

Many officials thought All-Americas Mikan and Kurland wre too big and introduced the goaltending rule to nullify their shot-swatting prowess around the hoop. Forced to develop other skills, Mikan and Kurland actually got better and led their teams to NIT and NCAA titles.

Mikan, the country's leading scorer, threw down 120 points in three games (53 points against Rhode Island alone) as DePaul rolled to the NIT championship, while Kurland led the more deliberate A&M attack to victory in the NCAA.

For the third and final year the NCAA and NIT champs met in the Red Cross Benefit Game in NewYork. Mikan and Kurland filled the Garden to the rafters, but the ballyhooed battle of big men never materialized. Mikan fouled out in the first half with only nine points, Kurland scored 14 and the Aggies won 52–44.

Big Ten champion Iowa (17–1) and Notre Dame (15–5), two teams that could have made their presence felt in the postseason, both declined tournament invitations.  


Rules changes: Defensive goaltending is banned. Players now allowed five fouls before fouling out (previously the limit was four). 3-second violation started.

Consensus All-America (In alphabetical order)

First Team

·         Howie Dallmar, Penn

·         Arnie Ferrin, Utah

·         Wyndol Gray, Bowling Green

·         Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M

·         Walton Kirk, Illinois

·         Billy Hassett, Notre Dame

·         Bill Henry, Rice

·         George Mikan, DePaul

Second Team

·         Don Grate, Ohio St.

·         Dale Hall, Army

·         Vince Hanson, Washington St.

·         Richard Ives, Iowa

·         Max Morris, Northwestern

·         Herb Wilkinson, Iowa

NCAA Results

Championship: Oklahoma A&M 49, New York U. 45
Third Place: None
Semifinals: NYU 70, Ohio State 65 (OT); Oklahoma A&M 68, Arkansas 41
Regionals: NYU 59, Tufts 44; Ohio State 45, Kentucky 37; Arkansas 79, Oregon 76; Oklahoma State 62, Utah 37.

All-NCAA Tournament MVP

Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M

Top 10

None. Polls began in 1948-49 season.

All-America Team






Arnie Ferrin




Wyndol Gray


Bowling Green


Bill Henry




Bob Kurland


Oklahoma A&M


George Mikan




Billy Hassett


Notre Dame


Walt Kirk






Offense: Rhode Island, 81.7
Defense: Unavailable


Scoring: Unavailable
Rebounding: Unavailable.


• DePaul won the NIT, 71-54, against Bowling Green as Mikan scored 34 points. His season high was 53 against Rhode Island in the NIT semifinal. Mikan averaged 23.3 on the season, and set an NIT record with 120 points in three games.

• With the 6-10 Mikan and Oklahoma A&M 7-footer Bob Kurland dominating, the goal-tending rule was introduced. The pair ran into each other in the Red Cross game at season’s end, with A&M winning, 52-44. Kurland finished with 14 points and Mikan 9, but Mikan fouled out after only 14 minutes.

• Oregon played a massive 43-game schedule, finishing 30-13.

NIT Tournament (8 teams)

All games at Madison Sq. Garden, New York

Quarterfinals Rhode Island St. 51, Tennessee 44
Bowling Green 60, RPI 45
DePaul 76, West Virginia 52
St. John's 34, Muhlenberg 33
Semifinals DePaul 97, Rhode Island St. 53
Bowling Green 57, St. John's 44
Third Place St. John's 64, Rhode Island St. 57
Championship DePaul 71, Bowling Green 54
Most Valuable Player George Mikan, DePaul

Major Conference Champions

Conference Regular Season Tournament
Big 6 Iowa St. (8–2) —
Big 7 Utah (8–0) —
Big 10 Iowa (11–1) —
Ivy Pennsylvania (5–1) —
Missouri Valley Oklahoma A&M —
New England No competition  
PCC North Oregon (13–6)* —
PCC South UCLA (3–1)* —
SEC Tennessee (8–2) Kentucky
Southern South Carolina (9–0) N. Carolina
SWC Rice (12–0) —
*Co-champions, no PCC playoff held (travel restrictions).
Note: Oklahoma A&M awarded Missouri Valley championship after going 27–4 overall during regular season.


By JOE GERGEN   For The Sporting News


The game that so intrigued Henry Iba was a primitive one. In the Missouri town where he was raised, there was no indoor facility in which to practice basketball. The children of Easton had a blacksmith forge a backboard and a hoop and, during the years of the Great War, they played in a clearing.


Henry Iba
Still, something about the sport challenged Iba's intelligence. A 62-14 defeat in high school led Iba to reflect on a systematic approach to basketball and he gained as much knowledge as he could during his career at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.

Given the early stage of basketball's development, however, Iba was obliged to get much of his training on the job.

That first job was at Classen High School in Oklahoma City.

"I had to coach basketball and baseball and teach geology," he said, "and I didn't know one rock from another."

He knew enough about basketball to see that Jack McCracken got the ball in the post. McCracken was a fine passer who kept the ball moving. Iba saw to it that the other players moved as well and thus was born the motion offense.

The young coach took that concept to Maryville Teachers College (later Northwest Missouri State, where McCracken again starred for him; now Truman State) and later to Colorado. In the fall of 1934, at the age of 30, Iba began his long association with Oklahoma A&M, where he coached the Aggies' basketball team for 36 seasons. He already had become a national figure in the sport when he first encountered Bob Kurland.

Kurland was an awkward 7-footer at a time when the description was redundant.

"You used to go to a playground and run away the big boys," Iba said, "because they were clumsy."

But this big boy had been recommended to Iba by his high school coach, who had attended Maryville.

The youngster wanted to study civil engineering, but hometown schools St. Louis University and Washington University had dropped their programs during World War II. The University of Missouri offered a job waiting tables but not the scholarship Kurland needed. Iba said he would take a look, so the high school senior got on a bus and traveled to Stillwater.

Iba still wasn't sure after watching him work out.

"I don't honestly know if you can play college basketball or not," the coach told Kurland. But Iba said he would work with him as long as he attended class and did as he was told. Kurland placed his future in Iba's hands.

Together, they made history.

Using a jump rope to improve his agility, Kurland improved from a freshman reserve to a sophomore regular to a junior star. Iba built his defense around him. That defense was limited mostly to goaltending in Kurland's sophomore season (1944), but the basketball rules committee outlawed the practice before his junior year.

Playing defense with his feet instead of just his arms, Kurland became a more complete player and, along with 6-foot-10 George Mikan of DePaul, a major attraction in the sport.

Iba made certain people got to see the big boy. He took his team to Chicago. He made an annual swing to the East -- Buffalo, New York, Philadelphia, Washington -- during the holidays. In Kurland's freshman year, the Aggies lost the final game of the trip to George Washington. On the return, the train was almost in Kansas City before Iba spoke.

"At least," someone finally said to the coach, "we made some people in Washington happy." Iba, having watched his team lose for the third time in the four-game trip, was not amused.

"We've got to stop going around the country making people happy," he replied.

Mostly, the Aggies made people in Oklahoma happy during Kurland's years in Stillwater. The Aggies were 14-10 and 27-6 in his first two seasons, winning a National Invitation Tournament berth in his sophomore year. At the end of regular-season play in 1945, Oklahoma A&M was 23-4 and bound for the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

The initial postseason stop in '45 was Kansas City, site of the Western playoffs. The Aggies' first opponent was defending national champion Utah. The Utes had been weakened by the absence of Arnie Ferrin and Fred Sheffield, who entered the service after the final game of the regular season. But it's doubtful Utah would have been a match for Oklahoma A&M even with Ferrin, who was the team's tallest player at 6-4.

After breezing past Utah, 62-37, the Aggies met Arkansas for the fourth time that season. They had won two of the previous three encounters against the Razorbacks, both victories coming by nine points.

Kurland, who had scored 28 points against Utah, concentrated on rebounding and passing in the Western final. Thus did forward Cecil Hankins score 22 points and guard Doyle Parrack add 16.

Arkansas was buried, 68-41.

Those victories earned the Oklahoma A&M Aggies -- known a little more than a decade later as the Oklahoma State Cowboys -- another train trip to New York for the national championship game in Madison Square Garden. A young New York University team awaited them.

Howard Cann's Violets had staged an amazing comeback to defeat Ohio State in the Eastern qualifier, making up a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation and outscoring the Buckeyes, 8-3, in overtime for a 70-65 triumph.

Oklahoma A&M had met NYU three months earlier at the Garden, the Aggies coming out 44-41 winners. Since that time, the Violets had added Dolph Schayes, a 6-6 freshman, to the lineup. But the Aggies also had been strengthened. Hankins, a football star at the Oklahoma school, had been practicing for the Cotton Bowl during that first engagement.

The championship would present a sharp contrast in styles.

NYU was smaller, quicker and blessed with accurate shooters. The Aggies were rangy, slower and more committed to defense. And in Kurland the Aggies had a mature as well as mammoth center. Schayes, the Violets' pivotman, still was two months shy of his 17th birthday.

Although Kurland was no stranger to the Garden, he still marveled at the atmosphere. There were more than 18,000 fans in the stands for the title game.

"There was smoke up to the ceiling," he said. "it was so thick you couldn't see the rafters."

However, Kurland had no trouble seeing the basket. It quickly became apparent that NYU did not have an answer for Kurland. He dominated both ends of the court, even as the Violets used some hot shooting to take a 19-14 lead. The Aggies tightened their defense and pulled ahead, 26-21, by halftime.

Oklahoma A&M pushed the lead to 11 points, 37-26, after six minutes of the second half. Twice the Violets cut the deficit to four points, but that's as close as they came. The final score, 49-45, was a tribute to Iba's sound strategy and Kurland's brilliance.

The big center scored 22 points and limited Schayes to six. Still, he complimented the youngster.

"I wouldn't have liked playing against him when he was a senior," said Kurland, recipient of the outstanding-player award in the NCAA's showcase event.

Three years after he tried out for a scholarship before a doubting coach, Kurland had reached a pinnacle of college basketball. But his season wasn't finished. By virtue of its title, Oklahoma A&M would represent the NCAA in the third and last of the Red Cross benefit games. The opponent would be DePaul, the NIT champion. The Demons' star, of course, was Mikan, the other dominant center in the nation.

It was billed as the "Game of the Century," even though the century wasn't half over.

Kurland was the more agile of the two and a better jumper. Mikan was stronger and he wielded his elbows with devastating force. Kurland was more inclined to pass; Mikan, who scored a Garden-record 53 points against Rhode Island in an NIT semifinal, was more likely to shoot.

In this showdown, both were inclined to foul.

To the fans who contributed more than $40,000 to the cause, the matchup was a major disappointment. Mikan drew his fifth foul after 14 minutes, leaving the game with a 9-7 edge against Kurland in their personal scoring duel. Kurland finished with 14 points (and four fouls) as the Aggies rallied from a 26-21 halftime deficit to a 52-44 victory.

"I know it was a disappointment to the fans," Kurland said. "They had expected 'the duel' to go on for the full 40 minutes. But I take pride in the victory."

That was one of the lessons he had been taught by Henry Iba, who had picked it up along the way in his on-the-job training.


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