Believe it or not, dunks once were outlawed in March Madness

No one under the age of 30 would believe this, but there was a time when college basketball players weren’t allowed to dunk.

Imagine March Madness without it now. Great players would still deliver great performances but something would be missing, like a carbonated beverage gone flat.

FILE - In this Oct. 20, 1980, file photo, John Wooden, center, former UCLA basketball coach, poses with UCLA alumni and pro basketball stars Bill Walton, left, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during a birthday party for Wooden in Los Angeles. Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor when he played for the Bruins in the 1960s. Wooden, college basketball's gentlemanly Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever, has died. He was 99. (AP Photo/File)
Bill Walton (left), coach John Wooden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (right) just kept on winning national championships for UCLA during the NCAA’s brief ban on slam dunks. (1980 AP Photo)

It was the 1966-67 season when the NCAA banned the slam during all college games, citing safety considerations. Everybody kind of figured it had more to do with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, thoroughly dominating the game at 7-feet-2. That’s what he figured, anyway, and was not happy about it.

There might have been something else going on, too. In an era before breakaway rims, it wasn’t uncommon for rims to get bent and for games to be delayed because of it. There was the occasional shattered backboard, too. What a mess, and what a cost in cleaning it all up and getting back to normal.

For seven years the dunk ban stood. That made it tougher on big men everywhere but it didn’t slow Kareem down all that much. He went from averaging 29 points per game and a .667 shooting percentage in his final season with the dunk to 26.2 and .613 in his first season without out. UCLA won national championships both of those years, too, and seemingly every year.

If anything, it might have made Kareem work on his post moves more, the sky hook included, and that probably was a good thing in the end.

UCLA’s Bill Walton also thrived during the dunk ban. In fact, it would have been difficult for him to be any more productive if allowed to dunk. In the 1973 NCAA championship game against Memphis, for instance, Walton scored 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting.

Either way, according to an NCAA news archive I came across, the number of field goals steadily increased during the years of the dunk ban. Scorers are always going to find a way to score outrageous numbers of points. The only way to stop them entirely is to nail a lid on the basket. Raising the rim to 12 feet, a topic discussed during Wilt Chamberlain’s day, might frustrate them but it wouldn’t stop them.

As far as what was lost during that dunk-free era, David Thompson, the amazing 6-foot-4 skywalker from North Carolina State, never got to posterize anybody until his NBA days. Sure did make up for lost time, though.

[Adam Gase already showing an openness that Joe Philbin did not]

[Dolphins never took the wrapper off Lamar Miller]

[Larranaga won’t make mistake FSU’s Kennedy did in leaving ACC]

Would college big men be more well-rounded in their offensive games and better prepared for the pros if they weren’t allowed to simply overpower lesser defenders and stuff the ball home?

I figure it’s more of a personal thing. Guys who have the discipline and desire to develop their skills will put in the time to do it. Those who don’t will wind up like players who don’t bother working on their free throws.

They’ll be more or less like Dwight Howard, a physical force of nature right out of high school and a sensational shotblocker and defender but never an NBA champion.

 

Here’s proof that Jim Larranaga knows how to beat Villanova

 

There’s a nugget on Miami coach Jim Larranaga’s coaching resume that reaffirms his worth in very specific terms as the Hurricanes prepare for Villanova in the Sweet 16.

The last of Larranaga’s school-record 271 victories at George Mason just happened to be an NCAA tournament win over Villanova.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga gestures during the first half of a second-round game against Wichita State in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Providence, R.I., Saturday, March 19, 2016. Miami won 65-57. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Miami head coach Jim Larranaga gestures during a second-round game against Wichita State in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament last Saturday. Miami won 65-57. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It was one of those classic 8-9 showdowns in 2011’s opening round, won 61-57 with a three-pointer in the closing seconds as the clincher. There were no more magic memories from that particular George Mason run. Ohio State, a No. 1 seed, crushed the Patriots 98-66 in the second round and one month later Larranaga was introduced at Miami.

At least we’re clear, however, that Larranaga knows how to beat Villanova in a massive March Madness elimination game. He’s done it before and maybe he can do it again Thursday night.

Otherwise, even if you knew nothing about this year’s teams, there are plenty of warnings about Villanova’s tournament toughness that must be heeded.

Start with the dream season of 1984-85, when Villanova came in as a No. 8 seed and rolled to a national championship behind coach Rollie Massimino, now the boss at Keiser University in West Palm Beach.

The Wildcats beat a couple of No. 1 seeds (Georgetown and Michigan) and a couple of No. 2’s (Memphis State and North Carolina) on the road to the title. Two games, including the title shot against Georgetown, were won by a single bucket. Overall, Villanova’s average winning margin was four points.

In the 2005 and 2006 NCAA tournaments, Villanova split games with Florida, a team stocked with future NBA first-rounders. In 1971 the Wildcats reached the national title game against UCLA and in 2009 they knocked off UCLA and Duke back-to-back on the way to the Final Four.

[Computer gave UM 1 percent chance of winning NCAA hoops]

[Simplest early measure to tell if Dolphins hired right coach]

[Dolphins never really took the wrapper off Lamar Miller]

Villanova, in other words, is the kind of program that would surprise people only if it didn’t make an impressive run in March. The Wildcats have been in the NCAA field 36 times, going 53-35 overall.

Miami, 8-7 in eight NCAA tournament appearances, can’t come close to that history. The Hurricanes have never advanced beyond the Sweet 16.

Worth nothing, though, that the Hurricanes dropped the sport altogether between 1971 and 1984 so there’s bound to be some catching up to do. Win on Thursday and none of this historical comparison will matter, at least until an even bigger NCAA tournament monster shows up in the next round. Someone like, say, Kansas.

 

 

Here’s a spooky parallel between UM’s NCAA tournament hopes and the Gators’ first title team

 

No. 3 seeds like Miami aren’t supposed to win the NCAA basketball tournament, right? Well, here’s a little inspiration for Hurricanes fans heading into Saturday’s second round, and it comes from the unlikeliest of sources.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, left, talks with guard Angel Rodriguez (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. Miami defeated Louisville 73-65. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga and guard Angel Rodriguez. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Florida Gators.

Florida won the first of its back-to-back national titles in 2006, rolling through the brackets as a No. 3 seed. The basic parallel is there, but it gets bolder and even a little bit spookier when you look at the first two opponents.

The Gators beat a No. 14 seed (South Alabama) and a No. 11 seed (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) on the opening weekend in 2006.

Miami’s first two opponents? A No. 14 seed (Hurricanes beat Buffalo 79-72 Thursday night) and a No. 11 seed (Wichita State) on Saturday.

Now we’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but it generally takes some help to get a little momentum going in the tournament. The Gators got it that year when UW-Milwaukee knocked off No. 6 seed Oklahoma in the opening round. Miami got it Thursday night when Wichita State, a play-in team, upset No. 6 Arizona.

[Simplest measure to tell if Dolphins hired the right coach]

[Dolphins never really took the wrapper off Lamar Miller]

[Larranaga won’t make mistake FSU’s Kennedy did in leaving ACC]

It’s a long, long, long way to go between here and the Final Four. It figures teams seeded higher than Miami will be the ones that get there.

One more confidence booster, though, as another round of crazy, scary, spectacular games begins.

Connecticut also won an NCAA title as a No. 3 seed in 2011 and again just two years ago as a No. 7.

Jim Larranaga may not use all of this in his motivational speeches but he’s always got a personal message in his back pocket. That 2006 Florida championship team had to fight its way past a real upstart in the national semifinals – Larranaga’s 11th-seeded George Mason Patriots.

 

Miami picked to flop in NCAA tournament? Have a heart, Mr. Computer

Superstar statistician Nate Silver is pretty good at reading numerical trends and making predictions. At the age of 31 he was named to Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list, based in part on his showstopping ability to nail 49 of the 50 state outcomes in the 2008 presidential election.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: Angel Rodriguez #13 of the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes has a shot blocked by Malcolm Brogdon #15 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the second half in the semifinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Virginia Cavaliers won, 73-68.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – Angel Rodriguez of the Miami Hurricanes has a shot blocked by Malcolm Brogdon of the Virginia Cavaliers during the semifinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 11, 2016. Virginia won 73-68.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Well now Silver is a scholarly 38, which means he probably is even smarter, but you may not like what his FiveThirtyEight website is serving up as the NCAA tournament goes into full swing today.

According to Silver’s busy staff of data drones, the 25-7 Miami Hurricanes have a 1 percent chance of winning the national championship. In fact, they’re only being given a 14 percent chance of getting past the Sweet 16.

Since the Hurricanes have never advanced beyond the Sweet 16 and they believe this might just be the year, this crunching of numbers also crunches the soul just a bit.

Playing the entire bracket out, one analytical showdown at a time, the Silver machine has Villanova knocking Miami off in the Sweet 16 round and Kansas winning it all. Probably, speaking in probabilities, that is.

If it makes Miami fans feel any better, Florida and FSU aren’t even in the tournament field. That means the Hurricanes’ 1 percent chance of winning the NCAA title is infinitely better than the zero percent I can confidently hang on the Gators and Seminoles.

Would you be mad if I said my prediction is that Miami will get to the Elite Eight and no farther? Sorry I asked.

[Simplest measure to tell if Dolphins hired the right coach]

[Dolphins never really took the wrapper off Lamar Miller]

[Mario Williams is better than Olivier Vernon, period]

Hey, it’s foolishness thinking that any man or computer or combination thereof could really see what’s coming in March Madness. That’s why we all love it, and why we’re so upset when the upsets end.

For the record, I’ll take Maryland to knock off Kansas in the Elite Eight round and Oklahoma to win the title.

Also for the record, my guesses have never been good enough to win a routine office pool, much less to take the shine off Silver.

Jim Larranaga won’t make the mistake that FSU’s Pat Kennedy did in leaving ACC

Don’t know if the Miami basketball team will win the ACC tournament next week but it has happened before, which still blows my mind just a little bit.

The only thing wilder when it comes to famous football schools collecting basketball trophies instead is Florida winning back-to-back national hoop titles in 2006-07.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, left, talks with guard Angel Rodriguez (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. Miami defeated Louisville 73-65. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga, left, talks with guard Angel Rodriguez during the first half against Louisville, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. Miami defeated Louisville 73-65. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Hurricanes haven’t gotten there yet. Matter of fact, you have to go back to Duke in 1991-92 to find anyone other than UCLA stringing together national titles in the last 50 years.

Miami isn’t shying away from any goal, however, and as a potential No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, there is no reason that the Hurricanes should.

That is the Jim Larranaga effect. He was the national coach of the year in 2013, his second season at Miami. That’s when the Hurricanes won both the ACC regular-season and tournament championships, and that’s when everything turned upside-down in the relationship between the school and the regal basketball conference it joined in 2004.

Miami football was supposed to compete for the ACC title every year, but it hasn’t even once.

Miami basketball was supposed to set up shop at the bottom of the ACC standings and stay there, but that hasn’t come true either.

At the moment the Hurricanes are No. 7 in the AP basketball poll. You’d have to go back to the middle of the 2013 season to find a Miami football team ranked that high, and it didn’t last long then.

Has anything this amazing ever happened to a relatively new ACC school hustling to gain a foothold in America’s most storied basketball conference? The answer is yes, and we’re talking about another supposed football school, Florida State.

[Dee Gordon brings most momentum to Marlins camp]

[Zo’s story taught Pat Riley all he needs to know about Chris Bosh situation]

[If Shaq gets his Heat jersey retired, why not Rice and Seikaly?]

FSU joined ACC basketball play in the 1991-92 season. The Seminoles hadn’t made it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in 20 years at that point. It was a football-first move that brought FSU into the ACC, just as it later was with Miami.

Still, FSU surprised everybody by finishing second in the ACC regular-season standings right away, and again the following year. Even more eye-opening, the Seminoles advanced to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds, respectively, in 1992 and 1993.

The coach at the time was Pat Kennedy, and he made the mistake, after going 202-131 in 11 total seasons at FSU, that he could be better appreciated and more comfortably situated somewhere else. What helped convince him of that was having to claw his way to an 82-78 record in ACC play during six years in that league, and the somewhere else wound up being DePaul.

Kennedy, 64, is no longer a head coach, having failed to get anything going at DePaul and in later years at Montana, Towson and Division II Pace University.

Larranaga, 66, is just hitting his stride at Miami and shouldn’t be looking to get out. Playing and winning in the ACC seems to him the perfect springboard to natural NCAA tournament prestige, not to mention the best way to maintain a stream of top recruits for years to come.

This Miami basketball thing doesn’t have to be a fad. If the Hurricanes make it to the Elite Eight this month, as ACC tournament champions or not, it doesn’t have to be anything but a great program in a great league, and the most fascinating story on campus.

Sure, that blows my mind a little bit, too, but Miami fans surely are getting used to it. Whether or not the Hurricanes football players find that to be upside-down or just right has ceased to matter.

It’s been a long time since Gators had simultaneous restart in football and hoops

Not since 1990 have the Florida Gators simultaneously started over with new coaches in football (Jim McElwain) and basketball (Michael White). Spooky stuff, but it really did work out pretty good that other time.

 Michael White (yahoo.com)
Michael White
(yahoo.com)

All Steve Spurrier did was give Florida its first SEC title. Then he won five more of those and the 1999 national championship, too — another Gator first.

Meanwhile, Lon Kruger — who also came on in 1990 — was making something of Florida basketball, too. He took the Gators to their first Final Four in 1994, the highest achievement for the program until Billy Donovan came along.

White’s turn at the wheel begins Monday with his introductory press conference in Gainesville.

White seems painfully young at 38, but he’s eight years older than Donovan was when he took the Florida job in 1996.

White is a coach’s son, but his father moved on from small-college track and field to become an athletic director. Today Kevin White is the athletic director at Duke. They seem to know a little about basketball up there, so that’s a good sign.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley had more than just White’s coaching record at Louisiana Tech (101-40) as a job recommendation. In his college days, White played basketball for Ole Miss, starting at point guard from his freshman year on. That sounds like leadership. What’s more, White is tied for seventh on the Rebels’ career assists list. That computes as leadership, too, and is an example of the kind of team-first concept that Donovan made work at Florida.

And how did White do as a player in games against Florida? Well, it’s pretty tough digging up box scores from 1998 and 1999 on the fly, but the overall results suggest he had a pretty good handle on the Ole Miss offense.

Jim McElwain (Getty Images)
Jim McElwain (Getty Images)

The Rebels beat Florida 90-79 at Oxford during White’s junior year. As a senior, he was part of a 79-68 win over the Gators at the O’Connell Center. That Gators team went 22-9 and made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time under Donovan. Matter of fact, that Ole Miss game was the only one Florida lost at home that season.

White is getting $2 million a year to coach the Gators. Not bad, considering Billy D signed for $400,000 per year on his original contract at Florida.

Not much pressure, then, on McElwain and White. Like I said, this double dose of change hasn’t happened at Florida since 1990. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1960, when Ray Graves became the football coach and slippery old Norm Sloan began his first of two runs in charge of Florida hoops.