A great time to witness IU hoops

As a student in Bloomington from 1974-1978, I saw a lot of wins and few losses.
Indiana coach Bobby Knight, second from left, looks on as senior John Ritter.
Indiana coach Bobby Knight, second from left, looks on as senior John Ritter. / Jimmy Ellis / The Tennessean / USA TODAY

My timing was fortunate, to say the least. I saw a lot of success in men’s basketball during my four years as a student at IU Bloomington, with “The General,” Coach Bob Knight, leading the charge.

Try this on for size: Our men’s basketball team won 100 games and lost 20 during those four seasons after I arrived on campus in August 1974. That’s a winning percentage of .833.

Our teams went 63-1 in my first two years of attending games in a jam-packed and roaring Assembly Hall. If we were playing at home, we won. We didn’t lose a single home game in those two years. In that 1974-1975 season, we beat Iowa 102-49. You don’t see margins like that every day.

A 31-1 record in my freshman year, 1974-1975, preceded the last perfect season in college basketball, the sparkling 32-0 season in 1975-1976. That one was capped by beating Michigan 86-68 in Philadelphia on March 29 to win the national championship.

Coach Knight often said the 1974-1975 team was better than the squad that won the championship the next year, but mainstay Scott May, a starting forward, broke his left arm about a month before the end of the regular season. In addition to the familiar names of Quinn Buckner, Bobby Wilkerson, Kent Benson, and May, the 1974-1975 team included standout senior forward Steve Green.

After a perfect regular season, IU lost to Kentucky 92-90 in the NCAA tournament that year (after defeating UTEP and Oregon State in the tournament). May suited up for the Kentucky game with his arm in a cast but stayed in the game for less than 10 minutes and scored 2 points. Kentucky later lost the championship game to UCLA in Coach John Wooden’s last contest.

With much of the strongest talent gone after the magical 1975-1976 season, the next year’s team went 16-11 (Coach Mike Woodson’s freshman season as an IU player), before everything turned more positive in 1977-1978, with 21 wins and 8 losses and a trip to the Sweet 16.

As I said, it was a pretty good time for a college basketball fanatic to be a student at IU.