1976 NCAA Final — Indiana and Michigan


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing Columnist

On March 29, 1976, the Indiana Hoosiers (31-0) coached by 35-year-old Bobby Knight met the Michigan Wolverines (25-6) coached by Johnny Orr in the Spectrum in Philadelphia for the 1976 NCAA title.

The Hoosiers who had been close the year before, were in the final for the first time since the 1950’s. They dispatched St. Johns 90-70, Alabama 74-69, Marquette 65-56 and UCLA who were in their 10th consecutive final four 65-57 although Gene Barstow was the Bruins’ coach as John Wooden had retired.

They were lead by Scott May (23.5 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game), Kent Benson (17.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg), Ted Abernathy (10.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Quinn Buckner (8.9 ppg, 4.2 assists per game).

The Wolverines had triumphed over Wichita State 74-73, Notre Dame 80-76, Missouri 95-88 and Rutgers 86-70 in the NCAA semifinal to get to the title game.

They were led by Rickey Green (19.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Phil Hubbard (15.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg) and John Robinson (14.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg).

Although Michigan led at halftime 35-29, coach Knight and Indiana made adjustments and led by Quinn Buckner’s 15 points outscored Michigan 57-33 in the second half for the Hoosiers first NCAA title since 1953 when Branch McCracken was the head coach and fourth overall in team history.

Indiana was led by Scott May with 26 points and 8 rebounds and Kent Benson with 25 points and 9 rebounds with Benson getting the most outstanding player of the tournament award.

Rickey Green who led Michigan with 18 points but made only 7 of 16 field goal attempts as Indiana had a .525 field goal percentage to that of .474 for Michigan.

Green, Benson and May were joined on the all-tournament team by Marques Johnson of UCLA and Tom Abernathy of Indiana.

The 1976 Indiana team is the last undefeated NCAA champion and, including the record from the year before, won 62 of 63 games.

After six years coaching at Army, Knight was in his fifth year at Indiana. A native of Orrville, Ohio, he attended Ohio State and played for Fred Taylor. The Buckeyes reached the NCAA final three years, 1960, 61, 62, defeating the California Golden Bears for the 1960 title. He is one of only a few coaches to win an NCAA title as a player and a coach.

After 42 years of coaching at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech, Knight compiled an 899-374 record with a .706 winning percentage and three NCAA titles.

Statistics for this article were from basketball-reference.com and YouTube.

Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.

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