College Basketball is one of very few sports that was created rather than having evolved from some popular game already in existence.  The rules and regulations and the diagrams of how the basketball “court” should be set up were all written down before the game was actually played to any great extent.   NCAA Basketball has become one of the most popular sports in the US, and March Madness, the championship tournament series, is always a hot item with both basketball fans and gamblers.

The Start Of College Basketball

The man who started it all was James Naismith, a physical education teacher at what is now Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, back in the 1890’s.  The place was part of the YMCA back in those days and was called the YMCA International Training School.  In the winter of 1891, Mr. Naismith was tasked by the school’s administration to come up with an activity to be practiced indoors during the cold weather days that would keep their track and field athletes in good physical shape for their upcoming competition events.

Ironically, the “activity” that Naismith came up with evolved into the game of basketball, which was soon much more popular than track and field events ever were with the sporting public.  The first real basketball game played under Naismith’s rules is generally accepted to have taken place there on campus on December 21, 1891.  So quickly did the new game catch on that by 1893 several college campuses had put together teams and intercollegiate basketball competition soon followed.

Vanderbilt University down in Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the first recorded colleges to actually field a basketball team and take on challengers from other schools.  There were a few other contests staged around 1893, but they were extremely low scoring compared to the game we know today.

The Birth Of Modern College Leagues

One of the first “real” college basketball games was played in 1895 between Hamline University and Minnesota A&M, but that game allowed nine players to a side and must have been a bit chaotic.  But the first college basketball game to use the modern rules as refined by James Naismith took place in Iowa City between the University of Iowa and the University of Chicago on January the 18th, 1896.  Chicago won the game by a final score of 15-12.  The coach of the Chicago team had learned the game directly from James Naismith and became one of its early proponents.  His name was Amos Alonzo Stagg who went on to become one of the most famous figures in American sports history.

It did not take long for the game of basketball to catch on at college campuses all across the country and by the turn of the century it was fast becoming one of the most popular sports in America.  In 1904, the game was included as a demonstration at the Summer Olympic Games held in St. Louis, MO, and consisted of a tournament between several invited college teams.  Hiram University took home the gold medal.

College Hoops Takes A Big Leap Forward

In 1922, the first National Intercollegiate Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis was organized as a post season event to determine a National Champion basketball team.  It was the very first “stand-alone” basketball tournament exclusively for college basketball teams.  The champions from the six major conferences of the day were invited.

Those conferences were the Pacific Coast Conference, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Indiana Intercollegiate Athletic Association.  The Eastern Intercollegiate League and the Western Conference declined their invitations to compete in the event, which was won by Wabash College of Indiana who defeated Kalamazoo by a final score of 43-23.

College basketball finally hit the big time in 1939 when the inaugural National Invitational Tournament (NIT) took place in Madison Square Garden in New York City with Temple University emerging as National Champions.

  • Corey Kispert of Gonzaga

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