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On This Date in Sports March 28, 1950: City Double

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

CCNY (City College of New York) beats Bradley 71-68 to win the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Beavers, coached by Nat Holman, also defeated the Braves 69-61 ten days earlier at Madison Square Garden to win the National Invitation Tournament. It was the first, and only time a team won the NIT and NCAA Tournament in the same season.

In the early days of the NCAA Tournament, they had trouble competing with the NIT. The tournament played in Madison Square Garden led some teams to prefer playing in the NIT, even though the NCAA officially recognized the NCAA winner as the National Champion. With the tournaments, staggered teams were even able to play in both tournaments.

In 1950 the NCAA Tournament still was limited to eight teams. Beginning after the NIT allowed Bradley and CCNY to participate in both postseason tournaments. Led by coach Forddy Anderson, the Bradley Braves from Peoria, Illinois, shook off the disappointment of losing the NIT by beating UCLA 73-59. At the time, the Western Semifinals remained in Kansas City, as the Braves moved on to beat Baylor 68-66 in the semifinals for a return trip to New York.

While the Western half of the NCAA Tournament was held at Municipal Auditorium, the Eastern brackets were held at Madison Square Garden. The Beavers faced a challenge in the round of eight, edging Ohio State 56-55. CCNY beat NC State 78-73 in the semifinals for a rematch against Bradley.

The NCAA Title game was much closer than the NIT Championship, as CCNY held a one-point lead in the final seconds. Gene Melchiorre of Bradley made a big steal and raced up the court looking to give Bradley the lead but collided with Irwin Dambrot, who came up with the ball and made a pass to Norm Mager, who scored the game-clinching basket as CCNY won 71-68. Most observers thought Dambrot should have been called for a foul on Melchiorre.

The glow of CCNY’s double victory was short-lived, as a few months later, they were named in a point-shaving scandal. Less than a year later, three of CCNY’s top players Ed Warner, Ed Roth, and Alvin Roth, were nabbed in an undercover sting to fix games. Bradley also would be named in the scandal that nearly destroyed basketball, as 32 players from eight teams were named in the indictment.

The NCAA would never play the Final Four at Madison Square Garden again, as they forbade teams to play in both the NCAA and NIT. Runner-up Bradley, Kentucky, and Long Island University were among the teams rocked by the scandal. LIU shut down its athletic program for several years, while CCNY never again played in the NCAA Tournament and reduced its athletic program to the point it became a Division III school.