The NCAA tournament, a.k.a. The Greatest Sporting Event in the History of Sporting Events and Everything Else, will hit a rather remarkable milestone later this season -- the 2013 edition will be the 75th anniversary of the competition. For a tournament that spent much of its early life playing second fiddle to the NIT, 75 years is an impressive accomplishment, and there's little doubt the tournament is on stronger ground now than ever before.
In honor of its flagship tournament's dodranscentennial (say that five times fast) anniversary, the NCAA is breaking form with a similarly inequitably distributed, outdated governing elite and not hosting its own Diamond Jubilee. Probably a good choice. Instead, on Tuesday morning the NCAA launched its first foray into all-time lists of tourney superlatives -- the "Top 75 All-Time March Madness Players, 25 All-Time March Madness Teams and 35 All-Time Madness Moments." You can see the complete lists here, at the NCAA's web site.
At first, I assumed these lists were the final word, which made me wonder why they were released in the middle of a dreary mid-December finals week. Alas, that's because these lists are merely the start of the conversation. In early January, fans will be able to vote for the top 15 players, as well as the No. 1 team and No. 1 moment in the tournament's lifespan. And if there's one thing I know about college basketball fans on the Internet, it is when their favorite school's history is a matter of debate and/or democracy, they show up.
Which brings us, of course, to the lists themselves. The natural impulse is to comb for flaws, but I'm having a hard time finding them. That might be because 48 of the NCAA's 75 tournaments took place before I was born. There may be an omission or two that I just can't see. (I would love to get Hoops' thoughts on some of the earlier selections. Actually, I love to get Hoops' thoughts on just about anything.)
But I've done a fair bit of historical hoops homework myself, and as I scanned the great players, teams and moments, I felt exactly how this list should make a basketball fan feel: Like I was reading a quick but comprehensive snapshot of the history of college basketball in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Of course, that doesn't mean we can't argue. I'm sure Indiana, Duke, UCLA and North Carolina fans (whose teams have the most players on the list by a considerable margin) could spend the rest of the morning declaring their all-time players superior to all others. I'm sure Kentucky fans will have something to say about seeing just four Wildcats on the list. I'm sure there are a few title teams between 1996-97 and 2003-04 that believe they belong in the top 25.
You'll get your chance to vote in January. In the meantime, you may begin sharpening your rhetorical swords in the comments. I'm going to see if there's footage of the 1946-47 Holy Cross team on YouTube.