The Big Dance: The Story of the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Barry Wilner, Author, Ken Rappoport, Author
Barry Wilner and Ken Rappoport. Taylor Trade, $17.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-58979-621-8
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The NCAA basketball tournament has evolved into one of the most prominent annual sporting events in the United States, but its colorful, far-reaching history proves too big for veteran sports writers Wilner (Harvard Beats Yale 29-29) and Rappoport to handle. Only a few pages are devoted to the tournament’s humble eight-team beginnings in 1939; instead, Wilner and Rappoport rely on dozens of smaller stories divided into chapters such as “Great Performances,” “The Coaching Giants,” “Classic Confrontations,” and “Tourney Blunders.” Highlights include North Carolina’s back-to-back triple-overtime wins in the 1957 semifinal and national championship games; the evolution of UCLA’s dynasty, which won 10 national titles in 12 seasons between 1964 and 1975; major upsets by North Carolina State in 1983 and Villanova two years later; and a condensed history of the women’s tournament. Similar in format and style to Rappoport’s The Little League That Could, this selective account shoots and misses with dull copy (“How would you describe one of college basketball’s legendary coaches? A winner.”) and little attribution. However, in a perceptive epilogue the duo addresses the potential expansion of the tournament field beyond 68 teams, TV’s role in Selection Sunday, and eliminating campus sites in favor of domed stadiums. This book serves as a nice primer for the 2012 tournament, but is far from a definitive history of the event. Photos. (Feb.)
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