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NCAA Basketball 09 Producer Blog #6

NCAA Basketball 09 Producer Blog -- Tournament of Legends

Associate producer Novell Thomas

What’s up all, Novell Thomas here from EA Sports. I’m very excited about NCAA Basketball 09 and the 2008-2009 college basketball season. There are some great teams this year, who are returning some great players and obviously a bunch of freshmen who are poised and ready to make a statement for their respective schools. However, rather than talking about the 2008-2009 teams, I’m going to take you back to the past and talk about classic teams.

Historically NCAA March Madness, now known as NCAA Basketball, has had classic teams. When talking about classic teams, often the next logical question is “who is the best team of all time?” Many months ago during pre-production, this question was posed and of course a healthy discussion ensued. So rather than speculating on who’s the best of all time and based on community feedback  and many discussions amongst the EA Sports NCAA Basketball staff, we felt it was time for a classic team tournament – now known as the EA SPORTS ESPN Classic Tournament of Legends.

The Tournament of Legends is a customizable, 64 team, single elimination tournament. Top teams from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s are selectable. Coming up with and nailing down the legendary teams was not an easy process. A lot of time was spent researching the best teams and players from the various eras. Some of the factors we looked at were: championships won, win/loss records, team personnel and memorable team and player performances. To ensure that we had the correct teams selected, we leveraged our partners and contacts at ESPN and Blue Ribbon. We also got Basketball Hall of Fame contributor, Dick Vitale’s thoughts and recommendations - after all, he’s been around college basketball for years and has seen all of these teams and players first hand.

Here’s a breakdown of the various players and teams throughout the various eras. I apologize in advance for not being able to include names:

50’s….One of the best players of all time played during this era. The University of San Franciso’s center, #6, is arguably one of the best players to play that position. He won two championships and many many more at the professional level. Any player who averages 20 points and 20 rebounds per game during his college career, is definitely worth   playing with. However, you can’t forget about 1957 Kansas’ center #13 (who averaged 30pts and 18rpg in college) or 1954 LaSalle’s ball handling big man.

60’s….The center #11, from Ohio State was one of the greats from this era. He was an unbelievable rebounder, scorer and passer (24ppg/17rpg). But we all know that this era belongs to UCLA’s center, #33. It’s tough to argue that he’s not the #1 player of all time. He won 3 National Championships and awarded 3-Tournament MOP honors. The only thing that stopped him from getting four of each was perhaps the rule which deemed freshmen ineligible.

70’s….there were some great players from this era but I’ve got to start off with the guy nicknamed “Pistol” who averaged 44 points per game. He wore #23 and played point guard for LSU and averaged 44 points per game. Did I say that he averaged 44 ppg. That’s unbelievable. The 70’s started off with a bang and ended off with an even bigger bang. Two of college basketball’s greatest players, in Indiana States forward #33 and Michigan State’s Magician #33. They went head to head for the national championship in 1979 and this game is said to have changed basketball forever and very few disagree.

80’s….The talent level and number of elite players continued to pour in during this era. Indiana’s point guard  #11 dazzled the competition with his smooth controlling style; Houston’s center #34 and small forward #22, members of Phi Slama Jama were great to watch with their up-tempo style; North Carolina’s shooting guard #23 (aka. “the great one”) needs no introduction and #52 their power forward was also known for having a few ‘Big Games’ of his own; there was also the center from Navy, “the Admiral” who brought some excitement to that program; and you can’t forget about the center from Georgetown #33. These were college basketballs’ best during this time and now members of the NBA’s greatest 50 players of all time. With all of these great players there were definitely some great games and upsets. NC State over Houston and Villanova over Georgetown were two upsets during this era which people still talk about to this day.

90’s….The talent continued to pour into college basketball during this era. The style of play changed drastically and the up-tempo style really took over (make sure you check out the Producer Diaries for Game Tempo). You had teams pushing the ball in transition, pressing and trapping in the full court and really increasing the entertainment value in college basketball. My favorite team during the early 90’s was definitely UNLV. They had guys who could GO and the athleticism amongst their forwards/centers was second to none. The ameba defense they use to play still gives me chills and those lob passes and screams were the icing on the cake. You can’t forget about Duke. The Blue Devils had some great players who made big plays at big times. However, 1996 Kentucky raised the bar to an entirely new level. The talent level was off the charts and 4-5 players could play multiple positions on the court. They had big guys (6’8 and taller) constantly shooting threes, guards throwing down sick dunks…that roster had so many future NBA stars (I believe 7 of them ended up playing in the association), which further emphasizes how talented they were. But the most talented player probably came from the ACC’s Wake Forest, “the Big Fundamental” - a true big man who had a great feel for the game. He knew when to kick it out and when to go to work in the post.

2000’s….2005 Illinois and 2005 North Carolina had some future NBA talent as well but nothing during this era was bigger than the Florida Gators back to back championships. 4 out of their 5 starters are now in the NBA but for them to win back to back championships during this day and age, when parity is at an all time high, is really impressive. There weren’t too many people who believed it could be done but they proved us all wrong.

There were a ton of teams and players who I did not mention but as you can tell, we’ve now granted users the ability to determine who the best legendary teams of all time are. I encourage all of you to load up the Tournament of Legends mode and take your favorite team to the winners circle. Or better yet, try to win the championship with a team from each era and see the difference in the various teams styles of play.

I really enjoy these legendary teams and everything that comes along with them: the classic team logos, the classic jerseys, old school sneakers (ie. Chuck Taylors) and overall look, will definitely get you in that “old school” realm.

Here’s a list of all the teams in the ESPN Classic Tournament of Legends:

1991, 1994
2004, 1999
2001, 1986, 1992
Florida Gators
George Mason
1991, 1984
Georgia Tech
1981, 1976, 1987
Indiana State
1952, 1957, 1988, 2008
1996, 1978, 1954
1980, 1986
Loyola Maramount
1970, 1990
1993, 1989
Michigan State
North Carolina
1957, 1982, 1993, 2005
North Carolina State
1974, 1983
Ohio State
San Francisco
St. John's
1989, 2003
Texas Western
1968, 1967, 1972, 1975, 1995
Wake Forest
West Virginia

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