On This Date in Sports March 29, 1976: Perfection in Philadelphia

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Indiana wins its first NCAA Tournament in 23 years, beating Michigan 86-68 at the Philadelphia Spectrum. It is the third NCAA Tournament Championship for the Hoosiers and the first for coach Bobby Knight. With the championship, Indiana finishes the season with an unbeaten record of 32-0. They were the eighth team in the NCAA Tournament era to post a perfect season; no team has done it since. 

The 1975 NCAA Tournament ended in bitter disappointment for Indiana and coach Bobby Knight. After winning their first 31 games, the Hoosiers lost a 92-90 heartbreaker to Kentucky in the Mideast Regional Final. With a balanced attack led by Scott May, Quinn Buckner, Bobby Wilkerson, and Kent Benson, the Hoosiers were ranked #1 at the start of the season and again ran the table, entering the tournament at 27-0. Playing in the Mideast Region again, Indiana started the 32-team tournament with a 90-70 win over St. John's. In the Sweet 16, they survived a scare from Alabama, winning 74-69. To get to the Final Four, the Hoosiers upended Marquette 65-56. 

Indiana was not the only unbeaten team to arrive in Philadelphia for the Final Four. Rutgers, making their second NCAA Tournament appearance for Tom Young, was also putting together a perfect season. The Scarlet Knights went into the NCAA Tournament at 27-0 and faced an immediate test as they edged Princeton, their rivals from the Garden State, 54-53. Rutgers would cruise in their next two games, beating UConn 93-79 in the Sweet 16 and VMI in the East Regional Final 91-75. 

Michigan, who played in the shadow of Indiana, won the Midwest Region. Before 1975, only one bid was allowed per conference. After Maryland did not make the tournament despite being ranked second and losing to #1 NC State in the ACC Championship, the rule was changed as the tournament grew to 32 teams. The Wolverines led by Johnny Orr reached the Final Four by edging Witchita State 74-73. In the Sweet 16, they beat Notre Dame 80-76. In the Regional Final, Michigan upended Missouri 95-88.

Rounding out the Final Four was the defending champion UCLA Bruins, who continued their excellence under new coach Gene Bartow, who had the herculean task of replacing the retired John Wooden. The Bruins reached their tenth consecutive Final Four by beating San Diego State 74-64. In Sweet 16, UCLA clubbed Pepperdine 70-61. In Regional Final, it was Arizona who fell victim to the Bruins, losing 82-66.

Any hope of a matchup of unbeaten teams in the Championship Game was dashed in the semifinals as Michigan ended Rutgers winning streak with an 86-70 win. Meanwhile, Indiana stayed perfect, shutting down UCLA 65-51. Rutgers would be further disappointed in the third-place game, as they were outgunned by UCLA 106-92. 


Indiana had beaten Michigan twice during the regular season, but both games were close, including an overtime win in Bloomington on February 7th. The game started poorly for the Hoosiers as Bobby Wilkson suffered an injury and was taken to the hospital. Michigan meanwhile shot over 60% and held a 35-29 lead at the half. The game began to turn in Indiana's favor when Michigan star Phil Hubbard ran into foul trouble. Midway through the second half, Indiana took the lead for good on a basket by Scott May. After Hubbard fouled out, the Hoosiers pulled away, winning 86-68. May was the game's leading scorer with 26 points, while Kent Benson, who was named the Most Outstanding Player, had 25 for Indiana.