It’s time for a timeline.
At the end of a college basketball season — when the twists and turns of the Final Four and the national championship game easily lead bloggers (this one included) to reconsider what needs to be changed in the sport — it’s worth stepping back and considering how much history has washed over us.
Do certain events in the national championship theater of college basketball strike us as being more recent — or more distant — than our minds perceive?
That question hangs over this piece, which might make you think you’re old (apologies in advance), or which might make you think that various changes in the sport aren’t as ancient as first thought.
Consider this timeline, in reverse chronological order:
We’re six years removed from Butler’s first appearance in the national title game (2010).
We’re eight years removed from Billy Packer’s last call of a Final Four game (2008 — and we’ll stop putting years in parentheses from now on). We’re also eight years removed from the last — and only — time all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four.
We’re nine years removed from college basketball’s last back-to-back national champion, Florida.
It’s now been 12 years since a non-Duke, non-North Carolina member of the ACC (2013 Louisville was in the Big East and therefore does not count) reached the national title game: Georgia Tech.
It’s now been 15 years since Arizona played in a national championship game.
It’s now been 17 years since Connecticut began its run of four national championships, more than longstanding powers such as Kansas and Louisville:
It was 18 years ago that a Mountain West team (Utah at the time) reached the national championship game.
It was 19 years ago that a 4 seed last won the national title, and that a Pac-10 (now Pac-12) team won the national championship.
It was 21 years ago that a non-Kentucky, non-Florida team from the SEC last played in a national championship game.
It was 23 years ago that the second-highest Final Four in terms of combined seed numbers — 5, from three 1 seeds and a single 2 seed — unfolded.
It was 25 years ago that Duke defeated previously unbeaten UNLV and went on to win Mike Krzyzewski’s first of five national championships:
It was 28 years ago that a non-Kansas Big 12 (formerly Big Eight) team played in the national championship game… and that team lost to Kansas.
It was 29 years ago that college basketball — and by extension, the Final Four — featured the three-point shot.
It was 30 years ago that college basketball — and by extension, the Final Four — began to use a shot clock, first at 45. (The 1986 title game between Louisville and Duke is shown in our cover image.)
It was 32 years ago that an African-American coach, John Thompson, first won a national title.
It was 34 years ago that CBS’s association with the NCAA tournament and Final Four began, one year after NBC’s association ended. It was also 34 years ago that Dean Smith won his first national championship.
It was 37 years ago that a Missouri Valley Conference team last played in the national title game… and an Ivy League team last made the Final Four… and the NCAA tournament was seeded in a straight numerical order… and the tournament field was at least 40 teams.
It was 39 years ago that an independent team — no conference affiliation — won the national title.
It was 40 years ago that the last unbeaten season was completed… and that two teams entered the Final Four without a loss.
It was 41 years ago that John Wooden coached his last game.
It was 43 years ago that Bill Walton scored 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting against Memphis State. It was also 43 years ago that the title game moved to Monday Night with Saturday semifinals.
It is now 44 years ago that Florida State, out of nowhere, made its one national championship game appearance:
It is now 45 years ago that a domed stadium hosted the Final Four for the first time.
It is now 49 years ago that Dean Smith made his first Final Four as a coach. (It’s 63 years ago that Dean last made the Final Four as a player.)
It is now 50 years ago that Texas Western won its iconic national title against Kentucky.
It is now 51 years ago that an Ivy League team last won a Final Four game.
It is now 52 years ago that John Wooden won his first national title at UCLA.
It is now 53 years ago that Loyola of Illinois — a team nearly as important as Texas Western — won its lone national title.
It is 60 years ago that Bill Russell repeated as a national champion with San Francisco.
It is 62 years ago that La Salle preceded Villanova as the first Philadelphia-based school to win the national championship.
It is 64 years ago that Dean Smith — as a player — and coach Phog Allen won Kansas’s first national championship.
It is 70 years ago that Oklahoma A&M — now Oklahoma State — became the first repeat winner of the NCAA tournament.
It is 77 years ago that Oregon beat Ohio State — after the two schools defeated Oklahoma and Villanova in the semifinals — to win the first NCAA tournament.