Men's Division 1 National Champion:

Year Record Winner Won Coach Outstanding Player
1948 Kentucky 36-3 NCAA Adolph Rupp Ralph Beard, G


Upset in the NIT final the year before, Kentucky went back to New York a year later and brought home the NCAA championship.

This time coach Adolph Rupp had a new starting line-up, the Fabulous Five—center Alex Groza, forwards Wah Wah Jones and Cliff Barker, and guards Ralph Beard and Kenny Rollins.

After winning a fifth straight SEC title, Kentucky came into the NCAAs with a record of 33–3 and met defending NCAA titlist Holy Cross in the East Regional final. The Crusaders were 26–2 and riding an 18–game winning streak. They also had George Kaftan back and a sophomore ballhandling whiz named Bob Cousy in the backcourt.

Rupp assigned Rollins to guard Cousy in the game's key match-up, and with Rollins holding Cousy to just one point, Kentucky won, 60–52. Three days later, UK beat West Regional winner Baylor by 16 for the title. Dolph Schayes and NYU went into the NIT final on a 19–game win streak, but lost to Easy Ed Macauley and St. Louis, 65–52.

  Consensus All-America (In alphabetical order)

First Team

·         Ralph Beard, Kentucky

·         Ed Macauley, St. Louis

·         Jim McIntyre, Minnesota

·         Kevin O'Shea, Notre Dame

·         Murray Wier, Iowa

Second Team

·         Dick Dickey, N.C. State

·         Arnie Ferrin, Utah

·         Alex Groza, Kentucky

·         Harold Haskins, Hamline

·         George Kaftan, Holy Cross

·         Duane Klueh, Indiana St.

·         Tony Lavelli, Yale

·         Jack Nichols, Washington

·         Andy Wolfe, California

NCAA Results

First Round: Kentucky 76, Columbia 53; Holy Cross 63, Michigan 45; Kansas State 58, Wyoming 48; Baylor 64, Washington 62.
Regional Third Place:
Eastern: Michigan 66, Columbia 49
Western: Washington 57, Wyoming 47
Regional Finals:
Eastern: Kentucky 60, Holy Cross 52
Western: Baylor 60, Kansas State 52
National Third Place: Holy Cross 60, Kansas State 54
Championship Game: Kentucky 58, Baylor 42

Kentucky Wildcats Regulars: Wallace Jones, Cliff Barker, Alex Groza, Ralph Beard, Ken Rollins.

All-NCAA Tournament MVP

Alex Groza, Kentucky

Top 10

None. Polls began in 1948-49 season.

All-America Team








Ed Macauley


St. Louis


Jim McIntyre




Ralph Beard




Kevin O'Shea


Notre Dame


Murray Weir





Offense: Rhode Island, 76.3
Defense: Oklahoma A&M, 32.5








Norm Hankins

Lawrence Tech


Murray Wier



Tony Lavelli




St. Mary's


Ernie Vandeweghe



Hal Haskins



George Kok



Jim McIntyre






Gene Berce



Rebounding: Unavailable.


• “Easy Ed” Macauley led St. Louis to the NIT title, outscoring NYU’s Dolph Schayes 24-8 in a 65-52 victory. The Billikens finished 24-3; NYU 22-4.

• The leading scorer in the NIT was Ed Mikan of DePaul, brother of the famed George Mikan.

• Oregon State led the nation in field goal percentage (36.7), while Texas was # 1 in free throw shooting (73 percent).

• St. Bonaventure’s Sam Urzetta became the first 90+ free throw shooter with a 92.2 percentage.



Adolph Rupp's Fabulous Five - 1948
By Joe Gergen
For The Sporting News

Basketball was not invented by Adolph Rupp. It only seems that way to citizens of the Commonwealth, which is how Kentuckians refer to their state. More than any other individual, Rupp was responsible for the sport's acquisition of a Southern accent.

When Rupp arrived in Lexington late in the summer of 1930, the popularity of basketball was such that he was required to double as an assistant football coach. Years later, he would tell his players, "I had more sense than to stand out in the wind and rain, so I came indoors."

But basketball always was Rupp's paramount interest. And there was no denying the serendipity of his background.

Raised on a farm near Halstead, Kan., he said he didn't know the story of Dr. James Naismith but he did play the sport, or at least a variation, as a youngster.

"In those days, the ball we had out on the farm was just a gunnysack stuffed with rags," he said. "Mother sewed it up and somehow made it round. You couldn't dribble it. Then, in grade school, we got a barrel and used that for a basket. The ball was a little bit better than the one we had on the farm, but not much. We had an old ball, and we'd have to blow it up every day and put a rubber band around it. We had to keep lacing it to keep it from falling apart."

Upon enrolling at Kansas, Rupp soon found himself in one of Naismith's physical education classes. Rupp learned the origins of basketball from the good doctor's mouth. He also played under coach Phog Allen, Naismith's foremost protege, on the Jayhawks' 1923 team that went unbeaten against collegiate competition.

Rupp spent five years developing his philosophy of basketball at the high school level before taking the Kentucky job.

The Wildcats were 15-3 in his first year, and they would do no worse than break even in any of Rupp's 41 seasons in Lexington. He was overly modest about neither his knowledge of the sport nor his ability to impart it.

For a time, Rupp taught a course on the fundamentals of basketball on behalf of the university's physical education department. He enjoyed telling people he was the best professor on campus because everyone who took his course received an "A." The reason all his students excelled, he explained, was that no one could learn basketball from Adolph Rupp without qualifying for such a grade.

It was in the aftermath of World War II that Rupp's Wildcats made their greatest impact. His 1946 team won the National Invitation Tournament and the 1947 Kentucky squad reached the NIT final. That set the stage for the first of his great championship clubs. In 1948, he became the "Baron of the Bluegrass," master of all he surveyed, with the rise of the "Fabulous Five."

Named by Larry Boeck, a crony of Rupp's who worked for the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper, the team consisted of center Alex Groza, forwards Wallace (Wah Wah) Jones and Cliff Barker and guards Ralph Beard and Ken Rollins.

Together, they would attain heights no other college team had scaled, reaching the Olympic Games.

Kentucky's remarkable journey started with a regular-season record of 27-2 (the losses were to Temple and Notre Dame) and a fifth consecutive Southeastern Conference postseason tournament title. The first NCAA Tournament stop was New York's Madison Square Garden, where the Wildcats met Columbia in the first round of the Eastern playoffs. Columbia had lost only once in 22 games, and that defeat came in overtime. Jones (21 points), Groza (17) and Beard (15) equaled the scoring total of the entire Columbia team as Kentucky dominated the Lions, 76-53.

The victory boosted the Wildcats into the Eastern final against Holy Cross, the defending national champion. The Crusaders had entered the tournament on the crest of a 19-game winning streak and were a dashing, exciting team sparked by a dynamic sophomore guard named Bob Cousy. The New York youngster scored 23 points against Michigan in the other first-round Eastern game, mystifying the Wolverines with his dribbling and passing in Holy Cross' surprisingly easy 63-45 triumph.

Once again, Kentucky's big three proved virtually unstoppable, particularly the 6-foot-7 Groza. He scored 23 points, eight more than Holy Cross counterpart George Kaftan.

The key defensive performance of the night was turned in by Rollins, who shut down Cousy. The Crusaders' sparkplug scored only three points, all on free throws, before Rollins was relieved by Dale Barnstable.

The Wildcats won convincingly, 60-52.

Having dethroned the old champion, Kentucky awaited the arrival of Baylor, the unlikely survivor of the Western playoffs at Kansas City. The Bears had rallied from 17 points down to edge Washington, 64-62, and then had overcome a l0-point deficit in defeating Kansas State, 60-52. Baylor's first two victories in tournament history provided the Southwest Conference with its first representative in an NCAA title game.

The New York media made much of the fact that Baylor's floor leader was named Jackie Robinson. Only the previous spring, of course, another Jackie Robinson had broken the color line in Major League Baseball and earned Rookie of the Year honors in the uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This Robinson was a whiz of a white guard studying for the ministry.

A team of fine ballhandlers, Baylor was even less a physical match for Kentucky than was Holy Cross. The Bears' center, sophomore Don Heathington, was only 6-3, and there was no forward with the stature of the ruggedly built Jones. Compounding its problems, Baylor seemed intimidated by the Garden and the crowd of 16,174 at the start of the game.

Chances are, Rupp could have thrown the jacket of his famous brown suit on the court and walked off with the championship. Rupp wouldn't dare wear any other color to a game if he planned to win, and the man planned to win every game he coached.

"I once wore a blue suit to a game," he explained, "and we got the hell beat out of us. I figured I better go back to brown after that."

It took the Bears five minutes to score their first point, on a free throw. That was after Kentucky had built a 7-0 lead, which it subsequently boosted to 13-1 and 24-7. Baylor did cut a 13-point halftime deficit to nine (44-35) at one stage of the second half while Groza and Jones were resting. Rupp promptly reinserted them and the Wildcats ran away to a 58-42 triumph.

In any other year, that would have been accomplishment enough. But this was an Olympic year, and the basketball trials were scheduled to begin within a week after the NCAA championship game. Once again, the Garden provided the backdrop.

The eight-team field included college and Amateur Athletic Union teams. Kentucky and Baylor met again in the semifinals, with the Wildcats once more doing as they pleased in a 77-59 victory. They were finally stopped, 53-49, in the championship game by the AAU champion Phillips Oilers, led by 7-foot Bob Kurland.

So impressive were the Oilers and the Wildcats that the Olympic selectors took the starting fives from each and added one individual from four other teams, including Baylor's Robinson. Bud Browning of the Oilers and Rupp were named coaches for the competition in London.

For players accustomed to huge crowds in the United States, the Olympic competition was a strange experience.

"Some games we had 50 people in the arena," Beard said. "Other games we didn't have that many. Basketball wasn't very popular in Europe then. But it doesn't take away from the gold medal."

The U.S. team won all eight games it played, and five Kentucky players were rewarded with another championship. It was an unprecedented postscript to a spectacular season. And it led Rupp to call his Fabulous Five "the greatest (college) basketball team of all time."

Of course, he gave all his players "A" grades. Who do you think taught them so well?