Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball

Article excerpt

The Road to Madness: How the 1973-1974 Season Transformed College Basketball. By J. Samuel Walker and Randy Roberts. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016. Pp. xii, 172. $25.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-3023-6.)

There is no doubt that the yearly basketball championship tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) leaves an indelible mark on every sports fanatic's calendar. J. Samuel Walker and Randy Roberts have crafted a wonderful volume on the origins of "March Madness," focusing specifically on the 1973-1974 tournament, as it was the first to feature thirty-two teams and the last to accept only one representative per conference. Relying on a combination of archival material, memoirs, newspaper accounts, and interviews, Walker and Roberts have painted a vibrant portrait of the 1973-1974 college basketball season.

The authors use a multinarrative approach to build to the national tournament, dedicating individual chapters to the plight of the dominant squad at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), led by the conservative coach John Wooden and the socially minded superstar Bill Walton; to the emergence of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) as a college basketball powerhouse, spearheaded by Norm Sloan at North Carolina State University (NC State); to midwestern basketball, highlighted by the exploits of the University of Notre Dame's media savvy head coach, Richard "Digger" Phelps, and Marquette University's rigid Al McGuire; and to the efforts of Tom Scott, the chairman of the NCAA's university division basketball committee, to open the tournament to multiple teams from the same conference. The text culminates in the NCAA tournament and devotes two chapters to the various regional contests, the historic semifinal, and NC State's ascension to basketball supremacy.

The narrative's details, involving the players, coaches, and contests leading up to and within the tournament, are nothing short of spectacular. The individual stories surrounding each of the participating basketball teams supply context and demonstrate the NCAA tournament's multilayered narrative. The frequent use of famed sportswriters, such as Curry Kirkpatrick of Sports Illustrated and Arthur Daley of the New York Times, are welcome additions to the text that validate much of the basketball-related commentary. …

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