1954 College Basketball Recap
Kentucky returned from forced exile to win all 25 of its regular season games and reclaim the No.1 spot in the AP poll.
Despite a cancelled 1952–53 schedule, the Wildcats had stayed together and practiced regularly during their year off. No Rupp team was ever hungrier for an NCAA title. Tying LSU for the SEC championship (they didn't play during the regular season), the Cats beat the Tigers in a playoff to determine the NCAA qualifier. The NCAA, however, ruled that UK seniors Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos all had enough credits to graduate (which technically made them graduate students) and were ineligible to compete in postseason play.
Rupp cursed his fate (and the NCAA) and refused the berth.
Second-ranked La Salle (21–4), 1953's NIT champion, stepped up to the NCAA title with a 16–point victory over No.7 Bradley in the tournament's first nationally televised final. Tom Gola paced the Explorers with 114 points in five games and won his second MVP award in two tourneys.
Another Eastern independent, No.3 Holy Cross, beat No.5 Duquesne for the NIT title.