1949 College Basketball Recap
With four-fifths of the Fabulous Five back (Alex Groza, Wah Wah Jones, Cliff Barker, and Ralph Beard), a regular season record of 29–1, and the No.1 ranking in the new AP Top 10, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp set out to do what no other team had ever done: win both the NIT and the NCAA tournaments in the same year.
Rupp's plan hit an immediate snag, however, when the top-seeded Wildcats came up against Loyola of Chicago in the quarterfinals of the NIT. No stiff at 23–5, Loyola upset UK, 61–56, as Rambler center Jack Kerris played the game of his life and outscored Groza, 23–12. This was the year of the Manhattan Massacre at the NIT, when all four seeded teams (Kentucky, St. Louis, Utah and Western Kentucky) and all four New York City teams (CCNY, Manhattan, NYU and St. John's) lost their opening games. Loyola reached the final but lost to San Francisco, 47–46.
A chastened Kentucky entered the NCAAs determined to become only the second team in the 11–year history of the tourney to win back-to-back championships. The first? Oklahoma A&M. And it was the No.2–ranked Aggies who awaited the Wildcats at the final in Seattle. Kentucky won by 10 as Groza redeemed himself with 25 points and a second straight MVP award.
Rule change of the year: coaches were now allowed to talk to their players during timeouts.