Monday, April 8, 2013

It Was Our Final Four & National Championship Game

Tonight is the culmination of March Madness! The national championship game of Louisville versus Michigan. It's the ultimate highlight of the college basketball season.

At least at Vanderbilt, college basketball was huge 40 years ago too, as you can see from the photo above of the student section at Memorial Gym. It was captured at the beginning our last home game versus UT in early March, 1973. To say it was packed to the rafters would be an understatement. As was the intensity of the crowd in how badly we wanted to smash the Big Orange (and its hated coach, Ray Mears).

And smash them we did that day with Vandy finishing the season at 20-6, recording the best record of the four years we were on campus. We even beat Kentucky home and home that season but lost enough other conference games to miss winning the SEC title. And because Vanderbilt was hosting the NCAA Mideast Regional on our home court that year (won in a very close game by Indiana and Bobby Knight over Kentucky), we were not allowed to participate in any post-season games such as the NIT or even the runner-up Commissioner's tournament held in those days.  This could have been a year Vandy had the team to make a Final Four run, if only....
The players seen above are the VU Centennial Class of 1973 seniors from that team (from the left) Rod Freeman, Chris Schweer, Ray Maddux and Steve Turner. They helped lay the foundation to rebuild Vanderbilt basketball while we were in campus.


Celebrating our UT victory back in early March 1973, it was these players  above (except for Steve Turner, third from the right) who helped us win an SEC Championship and a Mideast regional berth the year after we graduated in 1974. Pictured are (from the left) Butch Feher, Terry Compton, Jan Van Breda Kollf and Jeff Fosnes. They along with other the stars on that team, including Bill Ligon,  Lee Fowler and Joe Ford, gave VU only its second ever SEC crown under legendary coach Roy Skinner.

Remember in those days, you had to win the title to go the Big Dance. And if the 1974 squad had had a big man such as Turner, we might made it to the Final Four that year too. Of course, UCLA had Bill Walton and Coach John Wooden winning the Final Four every year we were in school and beyond, so winning the national title was not likely.

But just think of what could have been....  

Thanks to THE TENNESSEAN for the photos.

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