Wednesday, May 26, 2010

1948 NCAA title game: March...whatever the opposite of madness is

Another video from the YouTube legend WiltatKansas. I thought I had a lot of videotapes. This guy, or gal, must be drowning in them. There's a decent chance a future episode of Hoarders will be devoted to helping this man clean out his basement. They'll find three or four dead pets under old tapes from the 1963 NBA playoffs and the 1958 NAIA national title game. But until that moment, I'll continue to enjoy his incredible array of old basketball games. Seriously, the guy has a game from 1942 involving Minnesota and Illinois. Spend some time browsing his selection.

The one above is the 1948 NCAA title game between Kentucky and Baylor. The 1948 tournament wasn't quite the tourney we picture when thinking about March Madness. Eight teams competed in the tourney. It started on March 19 and finished four days later. Adolph Rupp's Kentucky team defeated Baylor 58-42 for the championship.

What an odd game. Start with the introductions. They actually were a precursor to the spotlight intros of today, with some unique variations. Baylor comes out first. Each player dribbles a ball to center court as the spotlight follows them. It's the type of setup that someone probably organized seven minutes before tipoff. After dribbling to halfcourt, they then fire a pass back to a teammate, the next person introduced. They throw it in the dark. Meaning the next guy has to make a great catch. As seen immediately on the video, it wasn't easy. The second guy fumbles the pass and has it bounce off his foot as he bends down to scoop it up. Embarrassing. The third player, who looks like a point guard, is more eager than a 5-year-old who just learned to ride a bike and now wants to show off for daddy. He finishes with a flourish, a pass back followed by outstretched hands. It's the best pass of the game.

The fact there's no sound on the video adds to the strangeness. And this was obviously before basketball was desegregated. In fact, it'd be another 18 years before Texas Western famously upset Kentucky.

Kentucky's introduced second. The players are impressively bulky, though an average 8-year-old with minimal experience today has better ballhandling skills than guys who competed in the national title game in 1948. If anyone ever talks about the glory days and how better everything was back when guys knew fundamentals and knew the right way to play the game, please interrupt them if they in anyway reference 1948 and the NCAA title game.

I should say I believe Baylor's wearing the dark jerseys. It's hard to tell, but during the highlights, the team in dark scores much more than the team in white.

Some more highlights:
* At the 1:30 mark, an incredibly ghastly underhanded free throw. Ghastly because of the result, not the form. Rick Barry proved the granny shot works. This Baylor player proves you still need to practice. Not sure when the first chant of "airball, airball" appeared at a basketball game. Might have been this one, since the crowd would have had about 17 opportunities to use it.

* To me, it looks like the refs called a lot of cheap pushing fouls. I think they mistook the clumsiness of many of the players for infractions on the defender. Let 'em play.

* Every time I watch Ron Artest brick a 3-pointer, I'll rewatch this video and be thankful that at least he has better form than the Baylor player at the 2:45 mark, who unleashes a running one-handed shot that hits nothing but air.

* Between the 3:10 and 3:15 mark, the teams combine for three turnovers. Three TOs in five seconds, a record that lasted 41 years, until a pair of 7th grade girls basketball teams in Iowa broke it with four turnovers in five seconds.

* There are almost no points shown in the first four minutes of the video. It's almost like a video a prosecutor would splice together to show the jury at a point-shaving trial. A trial where players from both teams stand accused.
"Ladies and gentlemen. If you watch at the 3:48 mark, you'll see someone attempt the worst 'dipsy do' layup in history, followed by a fullcourt pass that didn't come within 10 feet of its intended target. These players weren't trying to score. They weren't trying to win. The fix was in. And it's obvious."

Speaking of point-shaving...Kentucky's star was Alex Groza. The NBA suspended Groza for life after he was implicated in the point-shaving scandals that rocked college hoops in the early 1950s. He was arrested for his involvement in a 1949 game. I guess this '48 game was clean. Watching the video, I have my doubts. Groza received a suspended sentence for his involvement, but he never again played in the NBA. He averaged 22.5 points per game in his two years.

* At the 4:31 mark, a Kentucky...marksman, launches a two-handed setshot that falls woefully short of the rim. I couldn't help but think back to a 3-on-3 tournament I played in. It was called Weir Hoopin', a play on words as an insurance agency named Weir sponsored the event. One year a friend of mine, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, shot a two-handed set shot from about 18 feet. Unfortunately the shot went 15 feet. He knew this would happen the moment the ball left his tiny hands, which is why, as the ball floated 25 feet in the air and got caught by a gust of wind, he announced, "I'm sorry," before it even had a chance to miss the rim by three feet. We've never let him live this moment down. He apologized as his shot was in the air. But I can say this Kentucky shot was worse. At least Mike, er, John Doe's shot in the Weir Hoopin' tourney was outdoors.

I love watching these old games for a variety of reasons. One, it's just cool to see this type of history, when the game was really in its infancy, even though it was decades after Naismith created his little sport. The video quality's bad and the play worse, but it's still an important game in the best game around. Secondly, it allows me to fantasize about going back in time to dominate play back then. Can you imagine being transported back in time to play in this game? Obviously both teams had great athletes--for their time. But dribbles with the offhand were simply a rumor. The jumper was as foreign as the idea of landing a man on the moon. No-look passes probably led to revoked scholarships.

I cant' say this video shows basketball at its finest. But it is YouTube at its finest.


Mike said...

Shawn, I wish the bird poop hit you instead of Louise. Maybe you should write about the basketball tournament when your squad was defeated by a team of girls.

Shawn Fury said...

They were older girls and quite talented. My teammates didn't perform. It was actually in the Waterville gym. We know how troublesome that gym can be.