Five Impact Games

Five games that helped take college basketball from sideshow to main attraction:

1. Houston 71, UCLA 69 (Jan. 20, 1968): The so-called "Game of the Century," Lew Alcindor versus Elvin Hayes inside the Astrodome, Houston ends UCLA's 47-game winning streak on national television. The regular-season game provided a template for college basketball's future, paving the way for Final Fours to be played inside domed football stadiums and in front of large national television audiences.

2. North Carolina State 80, UCLA 77, 2 OT (March 24, 1974): North Carolina State's upset of the seven-time defending champion in the NCAA semifinals proved finally that, yes, UCLA could be beaten in the Final Four. The beginning of the end of the UCLA dynasty, which had been wonderful for Westwood but incredibly boring to 95% of the country. The first inkling that there could be parity in college basketball in our time.

3. Marquette 67, North Carolina 59 (March 28, 1977): Al McGuire finally wins his national championship in his final season of coaching, weeping in front of NBC's cameras, before trading his spot on the bench for a seat behind the microphone. College basketball telecasts would never be the same. NBC's teaming of the irrepressible McGuire with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer would have the same popularizing effect on college basketball as Howard Cosell and Don Meredith did with "Monday Night Football."

4. Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64 (March 26, 1979): The Men Who Would Save The NBA, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, met in the NCAA final for a sneak preview that attracted the highest-rated telecast in the history of college basketball--24.1. Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans won the battle but the NCAA won the war, with interest in the tournament and the Final Four exploding in the 1980s.

5. Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 (April 1, 1985): The NCAA tournament expands to 64 teams in 1985, spawning the Cinderella Syndrome that has become the tournament's lifeblood. In 1985, the biggest upset was saved for last--10-loss Villanova, eighth-seeded in the Southeast Regional and unranked at the end of the regular season, shocking defending champion and top-ranked Georgetown by shooting a championship-game-record 78.6% from the field, inspiring future generations of Richmond Spiders, Valparaiso Crusaders and Detroit Mercy Titans.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World