On This Date in Sports March 26, 1946: The First Repeat
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Oklahoma A&M becomes the first team to win back-to-back NCAA Championships, beating North Carolina 43-40 at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Aggies, coached by Hank Iba, went into the title game with a 30-2 record. They were led by the scoring of Bob Kurland, who was named Most Outstanding Player for the tournament for the second consecutive year. Kurland was famous as basketball's first seven-footer.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament was still new in 1946, as the war was finally over. Growth was on the horizon for teams like North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky. However, the first super team to emerge was Oklahoma A&M, who, after winning the seventh NCAA Tournament in 1945, was back for more. The Aggies were led by Bob Kurland, basketball's first giant, who dominated the game over a two-year period.
Bob Kurland was born on December 23, 1924, in St. Louis. A star in track and basketball for Jennings High School in Missouri, he decided to play for Oklahoma A&M after watching them play a game in St. Louis. He was the first member of his family to attend college. He quickly became a dominating player, as the first seven-footer in the NCAA. He dominated on defense, leading to the creation of the goaltending rule that prevented players from stopping a shot over the rim. Kurland was also the first player to dunk in an NCAA game. After leading the Aggies to a championship in 1945, Bob Kurland was stronger in 1946, winning NCAA Player of the Year, highlighted by a 58-point game against St. Louis.
Just eight teams made up the 1946 NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma A&M started with a 44-29 win over Baylor, while California defeated Colorado 50-44 to set up the Western Semifinal. In the East, it was North Carolina knocking off New York University 57-49, while Ohio State schooled Harvard 46-38. Carolina needed overtime to beat Ohio State 60-57, while the Aggies crushed Cal 52-35.
The 1946 NCAA Tournament was the first to air on television, as it was broadcast in the New York area. The key to the game was Bob Kurland, who had a game-high 23 points. North Carolina making their first appearance in the championship game, trailed 23-17 at the half. The six-point deficit was too much for the Tar Heels to overcome, as John Dillon had 17 points. Oklahoma A&M would win 43-40 to claim their second straight title.
Oklahoma A&M became Oklahoma State and has not won another championship. Bob Kurland never played professional basketball, working for Phillips 66 and playing for an amateur team. He would help the United States win Gold Medals at the 1948 Olympics in London and the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.