As I type this, a freshly printed NCAA tournament bracket sits six inches away, taunting me. Since the field expanded to 68 teams some three years ago, the college basketball free-for-all has further complicated itself, adding more play-in games to an already dizzying (albeit always fun) onslaught of hoops. Filling out a March Madness bracket year after year—I have to do it, there’s gambling involved—while inevitably picking the wrong 14-seed to pull an upset, and predicting Kansas to go too deep, makes me pine for simpler times.
If only it were 1939, the year of the first NCAA tournament. A mere eight-team affair, the tourney featured six low-scoring games that culminated in a championship between Ohio State and Oregon at Northwestern’s old Patten Gymnasium (believe it or not, Oregon won 46-33). The original gym, designed by George Maher, was built in 1909 and demolished not long after the completion of the tournament to make way for a state-of-the-art engineering building. A new Patten Gym was quickly erected on Sheridan, and, in its current form, acts as a location for intramural sports leagues and exercise classes.
In related news, the Northwestern Wildcats have still never made the NCAA tournament.