As the NCAA men's basketball championship gets down to business Thursday, the silent partner in the drama will be records set in previous years. They establish the highs and lows of the tournament’s history and give it character.
Not many are broken from year to year. In fact, only one was last year, by Arinze Onuaku of Syracuse. The 6 ft. 9 in. forward made 15 of 19 field-goal attempts in three games (a minimum for a “series” record), giving him an unsurpassed 78.9 percent accuracy rate.
One other record was tied, when North Carolina’s Ty Lawson stole the ball eight times – in the championship game, no less – against Michigan State. He joined three other players to accomplish the feat.
Here are half a dozen tournament records, both team and individual, worthy of attention.
Fewest field goals in a single game : 8
… by Springfield against Indiana in 1940.
Springfield also set the mark for shooting futility by making only 12.7 percent of its attempts in losing to Indiana, 48-24. Two things are worth nothing here: These are the oldest surviving records in NCAA tournament annals, and ironically, they were set by the very college where James Naismith invented basketball.
Points scored by one team in a single game: 149
This was an incredible scoring fest, not only for the lesser-known Loyola squad, but also for Michigan, which scored 115 points in defeat – and in a regulation-length game. The combined point total of both teams (264) is also a record.
Total steals by both teams in a single game: 32
This represents a lot of turnovers for two of the most storied programs in college basketball.
Total free throws attempted in single game: 105
Clearly, the referees didn’t “let the boys play.” Considering that the clock doesn’t run during free throws, this must have been one long, tedious game. Iowa, in case you’re wondering, won, 97-83.
Points in a single game: 61
Carr, it should be noted, was no one-game wonder. He holds the record for the highest career scoring average in tournament play (a minimum of six games over two years) with 41.3 in seven games. Now a TV analyst on Cleveland Cavalier NBA games, Carr also finished his career with the second-highest scoring average in regular-season play in NCAA history (34.6 points per game), behind Pete Maravich.
Tournament games played: 23
This, of course, is a mark attributable to the fact that Laettner played on a team that made it to the Final Four from his freshman through his senior seasons, and which won back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992. In fact, he is the only player to start in four successive Final Fours. So obviously he was a major reason for the run.
He also is the central figure in one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters in basketball history. In a 1992 East Regional final against Kentucky in Philadelphia, he caught an 80-foot-long in-bounds pass and buried a jump shot (the now iconic “Philly Phallaway”) to lead Duke to a 104-103 win. For the game, he made 10-of-10 from the field, and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. You can’t do better than that.