Men's Division 1 National Champion:

Year Record Winner Won Coach Outstanding Player
1949 Kentucky 32-2 NCAA Adolph Rupp Alex Groza, C


With four-fifths of the Fabulous Five back (Alex Groza, Wah Wah Jones, Cliff Barker, and Ralph Beard), a regular season record of 29–1, and the No.1 ranking in the new AP Top 10, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp set out to do what no other team had ever done: win both the NIT and the NCAA tournaments in the same year.

Rupp's plan hit an immediate snag, however, when the top-seeded Wildcats came up against Loyola of Chicago in the quarterfinals of the NIT. No stiff at 23–5, Loyola upset UK, 61–56, as Rambler center Jack Kerris played the game of his life and outscored Groza, 23–12. This was the year of the Manhattan Massacre at the NIT, when all four seeded teams (Kentucky, St. Louis, Utah and Western Kentucky) and all four New York City teams (CCNY, Manhattan, NYU and St. John's) lost their opening games. Loyola reached the final but lost to San Francisco, 47–46.

A chastened Kentucky entered the NCAAs determined to become only the second team in the 11–year history of the tourney to win back-to-back championships. The first? Oklahoma A&M. And it was the No.2–ranked Aggies who awaited the Wildcats at the final in Seattle. Kentucky won by 10 as Groza redeemed himself with 25 points and a second straight MVP award.

Rule change of the year: coaches were now allowed to talk to their players during timeouts.  

Rectangular glass backboards made official for college play.

Final AP Top 10 (Writers' poll taken before tournament).


Before Tourns

Head Coach

Final Record




Adolph Rupp



Oklahoma A&M


Hank Iba



St. Louis


Eddie Hickey





Harry Combes



Western Kentucky


Ed Diddle





Ozzie Cowles





Forddy Anderson



San Francisco


Pete Newell










Cliff Wells



Bowling Green


Harold Anderson


Consensus All-America (In alphabetical order)

  First Team

·         Ralph Beard, Kentucky

·         Vince Boryla, Denver

·         Alex Groza, Kentucky

·         Tony Lavelli, Yale

·         Ed Macauley, St. Louis

Second Team

·         Bill Erickson, Illinois

·         Vern Gardner, Utah

·         Wallace Jones, Kentucky

·         Jim McIntyre, Minnesota

·         Ernie Vandeweghe, Colgate

NCAA Results

First Round: Illinois 71, Yale 67; Kentucky 85, Villanova 72; Oklahoma A&M 40, Wyoming 39; Oregon State 56, Arkansas 38
Regional Third Place:
Eastern: Villanova 78, Yale 67
Western: Arkansas 61, Wyoming 48
Regional Finals:
Eastern: Kentucky 76, Illinois 47
Western: Oklahoma A&M 55, Oregon State 30
National Third Place: Illinois 57, Oregon State 53
Championship Game: Kentucky 46, Oklahoma A&M 36

Kentucky Leaders: Alex Groza, Ralph Beard, Wallace Jones, Cliff Barker, Dale Barnstable.

All-NCAA Tournament MVP

Alex Groza, Kentucky

Top 10




NCAA Result




1st Place


Oklahoma A&M


2nd Place


St. Louis


L in NIT quarterfinal




L in NCAA semifinal


Western Kentucky


L in NIT quarterfinal








L in NIT semifinal










Bowling Green


L in NIT semifinal

All-America Team








Vince Boryla




Ed Macauley


St. Louis


Alex Groza




Ralph Beard




Tony Lavelli





Offense: Rhode Island, 71.6
Defense: Oklahoma A&M, 35.2








1. Tony Lavelli



2. Paul Arizin



3. Chet Giermak

William & Mary


4. George Senesky

St. Joseph’s


5. Ernie Vandeweghe



6. Alex Groza



Rebounding: Unavailable.


• NCAA champ Kentucky lost to Loyola 61-56 in the NIT quarterfinals. Later, Wildcats Alex Groza, Ralph Beard and Dale Barnstable admitted taking $1,500 to throw the game, and they admitted shaving points in other games. Ironcially, Groza was chosen MVP in the NCAA tourney.

• San Francisco won the NIT, defeating Loyola of Chicago 48-47. Don Lofgran led USF with 20 points and two for Loyola, on an accidental tip-in. Lofgran was chosen MVP.

• The NIT’s top teams — Kentucky, St. Louis, Western Kentucky, and Utah — all lost in the first round, a day called the “Manhattan Massacre.”  

Aug 03 The National Basketball Association was formed. It was a combination of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League.

Wildcats strut to second title - 1949
By Joe Gergen
For The Sporting News

This was the season that The Associated Press introduced its nationwide college basketball poll. And this was a year when the weekly balloting proved superfluous.

From the outset, there was little doubt about the identity of the nation's No, 1 team. It was the defending national champion, the Olympic halfchampion, the aspiring folk heroes from Kentucky.

Of the Fabulous Five, only Ken Rollins was lost through graduation, and Adolph Rupp had no shortage of replacements.

After an early-season loss to Saint Louis, the Wildcats won all their games until falling in the National Invitation Tournament to eventual finalist Loyola of Chicago. They were undefeated in Southeastern Conference play and considered in a class by themselves.

The athletic ability of their top three players was a matter of public record.

Alex Groza was the brother of Lou Groza, the standout placekicker and tackle for the Cleveland Browns. Wah Wah Jones, who acquired his nickname from his younger sister's inability to pronounce Wallace, had starred for the Kentucky football team as a two-way end and would earn 11 letters (three in baseball) during his college career. Ralph Beard had been an outstanding halfback in high school and arrived at Lexington with a football scholarship.

"I started the first game," Beard said of his football-playing days at Kentucky, "and I got both my shoulders separated on the same play. I had a hard time brushing my teeth and performing a few other necessities for a while."

He then decided to concentrate on basketball.

No such calamity befell the 6-foot-4 Jones, a strapping youngster of 225 pounds. He finished his first Kentucky football season under interim coach Bernie Shively and played three more seasons under the formidable Bear Bryant, whose direction made Rupp's seem gentle by comparison.

"The football players were scared to death of Bryant," Jones said, "and that included the veterans returning from the war who were older than him."

Well, almost as old as he was. Ordinarily, Jones didn't miss a step between the football and basketball seasons.

"The football season would end on a Saturday and basketball would start on a Monday," he said.

In the fall of 1947, behind quarterback George Blanda, Kentucky accepted an invitation to the first and only Great Lakes Bowl, extending its season. Jones was required to play against Villanova in the Cleveland bowl game before joining the basketball team.

After Jones played his way into basketball shape, there was no stopping the Wildcats as 1948 rolled around. To the relief of Rupp, the next Kentucky football team did not intrude upon the holidays and the 1949 basketball team was able to rely on Jones at the start of the season.

The fourth returning starter, Cliff Barker, was considerably older than his teammates. He had been a flier in World War II and was shot down and detained in a prisoner-of-war camp for more than a year.

After experimenting with the lineup in early games of the '49 season, Rupp achieved the perfect balance by moving the 6-2 Barker from forward to guard and using either Dale Barnstable or Jim Line in the frontcourt.

The maneuver put a devastating combination on the door, a unit Rupp was only too happy to display at major facilities around the country. Alumni Gym on the Kentucky campus held only 3,300, and the majority of space was taken by students, effectively freezing out the general public.

Wishing to share his Wildcats with basketball fans everywhere and wanting the best return on the dollar for the university, Rupp scheduled games at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Chicago Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden and other big-city arenas.

The Wildcats became a road show, drawing crowds wherever they went.

It didn't hurt their standing in the Commonwealth. They were renowned from Pikeville in the eastern section to Paducah in the far western part of Kentucky, from Louisville to the smallest mountain hamlet.

When the team took a trip out of state or returned home from a big game, a crowd would form at stops along the way. Sometimes, there would be a band.

So it was when the Wildcats left for New York in March 1949 to begin defense of their NCAA championship. They had returned to Lexington immediately after their loss in the NIT (Kentucky had accepted invitations to both tournaments) and practiced as hard as any Rupp team ever had, which was saying something.

"I mean," Rupp said, "we really worked out. I spared no mercy."

The Wildcats boarded the train and rolled past good-luck signs and cheering youngsters all the way to the state line before crossing into West Virginia. They were 29-2 at the time and, even with the loss to Loyola, the overwhelming choice as the top team in the nation. They were about to prove it, or heaven help them.

The first team in Kentucky's path in the Eastern playoffs was Villanova, which boasted a great jump shooter in forward Paul Arizin (who had scored 85 points in a single game that season, albeit against the Naval Air Materiel Center).

With Groza and Tony Lavelli of Yale also present, the Eastern competition featured three of the leading scorers in the country. Fans expecting an offensive onslaught were not disappointed.

In the opening game of the Garden doubleheader, Illinois rallied from a six-point deficit with five minutes left to overtake Yale, 71-67, despite Lavelli's 27 points.

As fine as that performance was, it suffered in comparison to the individual efforts in the nightcap.

Arizin was superb. He scored 30 points, 19 coming in the second half when he labored under the burden of four fouls. But Groza was not about to be eclipsed. The Kentucky center also accounted for 30 points -- only one below the tournament record set by George Glamack of North Carolina eight years earlier -- despite sitting out much of the second half with foul trouble.

For all of Arizin's theatrics, however, the outcome was decided in the first half when Kentucky overcame a 15-10 deficit and used the shooting of Groza and Barker to roll to a 48-37 lead. The defending champion won impressively, thanks in part to 21 points by Line and 18 by Barker. Other than Arizin, only Brooks Ricca (14) scored in double figures for Villanova.

The final score, 85-72, set tournament marks for most points by one team and most total points by two teams.

If the Eastern final promised a major struggle, it didn't deliver. Perhaps that's because Kentucky delivered too well. Illinois had been ranked No. 4 in the nation, but the Illini were no match for the Wildcats.

With exquisite timing and teamwork, Kentucky overwhelmed Illinois, 76-47. The Wildcats' passing and movement were so sharp that 16 of the team's 31 field goals were layups. Each of the seven Kentucky players had at least one assist, and Jones was credited with five.

Meanwhile, Illinois never got going. Coach Harry Combes used a dozen players in an effort to reverse the momentum, to no avail. With Beard and Barker pressuring the backcourt, the Illinois offense was a shambles.

Not one of Combes' players scored in double figures. Groza led all scorers with 27 points. Line had 15 for Kentucky, and Jones and Beard each contributed nine.

As the Wildcats flew to Seattle for the NCAA championship game, it was clear no more scoring records would be set that season. Oklahoma A&M, the nation's stingiest team, had triumphed in the Western playoffs at Kansas City. In qualifying for their third final in five years, the second-ranked Aggies had squeaked past Wyoming, 40-39, and routed Oregon State, 55-30. Oklahoma A&M center Bob Harris was a standout against the West Coast team, scoring 23 points and dominating the middle.

Aggies coach Henry Iba, the high priest of defense, believed the 6-7 Harris was the man to contain Groza. He was wrong.

In a game at Washington's Edmundson Pavilion, the first campus site for an NCAA title game since Northwestern played host to the first tournament final in 1939, Groza used superior quickness to beat Harris to the baseline, fouled out the defender early in the second half and scored 25 points in his team's 46-36 victory.

In a major role reversal, the Wildcats broke open a close game in the second half with their defense, holding the Aggies without a field goal for almost 8 1/2 minutes. When Oklahoma A&M made its only run, cutting a 35-23 deficit to 39-32, Groza responded with two baskets to seal the victory.

Kentucky thus became the second institution to win consecutive NCAA basketball championships, fittingly at the expense of the first back-to-back champion.

The homecoming featured life-sized posters of the players hung from lamp posts and a 37-unit parade through Lexington.

How good were the Wildcats? Groza, Jones, Beard and Barker moved into the NBA as a unit the next season and their franchise, the Indianapolis Olympians, finished atop the Western Division. Even at the next level, they remained fabulous.