In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Even with the departure of Lew Alcindor, UCLA remains the supreme in College Basketball, winning their fourth straight NCAA Tournament and the sixth in seven years under coach John Wooden. In the championship game at College Park, Maryland, UCLA beats Jacksonville 80-69. The Bruins are led by Sidney Wicks, who wins the Most Outstanding Player, scoring 17 points with 18 rebounds in the championship game.
It was the era of the Wizard of Westwood, as UCLA became the gold standard in college basketball. The dynasty began in 1964 when the Bruins went unbeaten to win their first National Championship. After a second straight National Championship in 1965, the Bruins waited for Lew Alcindor to reach eligible status, as their varsity team lost a game to their freshman with Alcindor leading the way. So, dominate was the center from New York City, that the NCAA banned the slam dunk. This only made Lew Alcindor a better player, as UCLA won the NCAA Tournament three straight years to close out the 1960s.
After Lew Alcindor moved on to the NBA, the question was, could the UCLA dynasty continue? The Bruins was ranked number one most of the season, as they won their first 21 games. They would head into the tournament ranked second, with a record of 24-2. In the regional semifinals, UCLA beat Long Beach State 88-65. They would reach the Final Four by beating Utah State 101-79 in Seattle.
While UCLA was the best in the west, the 25-team tournament had New Mexico State emerge in the Midwest, St. Bonaventure emerge in the East and Jacksonville triumph in the Mideast Region. All three schools, traditional mid-majors, were making their first trip to the Final Four. New Mexico State needed a 101-77 win over Rice in the first round at Fort Worth just to reach the Sweet 16. From there, the Aggie beat Kansas State 70-66 and Drake 87-78 at Lawrence, Kansas, to reach the Final Four. In the East Region, St. Bonaventure beat Davidson 85-72 in a first-round game in New York, to reach the regionals in Columbia, South Carolina. There they would stun NC State 80-68 and Villanova 97-74 to reach the Final Four. Jacksonville began their road in Dayton, beating Western Kentucky 109-96 to earn a trip to Columbus, where they edged Iowa 104-103 to reach the Mideast Regional Finals. Facing #1 Kentucky, the Dolphins again won a track meet 106-100 to earn a trip to the Final Four.
In the semifinals, UCLA wasted little time in getting past New Mexico State 93-77. In other rounds in a battle of upstarts, with future professional stars, it was Jacksonville led by Artis Gilmore beating Bob Lanie and the Bonnies 91-83.
The National Championship Game had a David versus Goliath feel as UCLA faced Jacksonville. The Dolphins coached by Joe Williams had lost just one game all season, but were a considerable underdog, facing the UCLA dynasty. Jacksonville had a size advantage with Artis Gilmore, the leading rebounder in the nation at center. However, with the prohibition on dunking, the odds were stacked in UCLA’s favor. The whistles also were in the Bruins favor, as UCLA got to attempt 35 free throws, while Jacksonville only was called to the line eight times, the biggest margin in the history of the NCAA tournament. Despite the presence of Gilmore, who had 16 boards, it was UCLA who won the battle of the glass as Sidney Wicks had 18 rebounds, while Steve Paterson had 11. The Bruins got a balanced scoring attack with Wicks and Paterson scoring 17 points, while Curtis Rowe had 19, matching the game-high from Artis Gilmore. In the end, the Bruins were too good to be stopped as they won 80-69, continuing their dynasty.