The University of Wyoming’s ‘One Shining Moment’
March Madness tips off today. To celebrate, here's a look back at the University of Wyoming's "one shining moment", the NCAA National Championship in 1943.
Coach Everett Shelton's team was led by the "father of the jump shot", Kenny Sailors, who averaged 15.5 points per game. Although Sailors was named the College Basketball Player of the Year that season, his fellow All-American Milo Komenich led the team in scoring, averaging 16.7 points.
Despite playing only nine games at home, the Pokes would roll to a 32-2 record. Their only losses came early in the season against Duquesne University and a Denver Legion team.
Wyoming established many records along the way that year, defeating their opponents by an average of over 20 points per game. Their 101-45 blowout victory over Regis marked the first time in school history that a team scored over 100 points in a game.
After winning the Mountain States Conference, the Cowboys were one of eight teams selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament, which was then in its fourth year.
Their first test would come in Kansas City, Missouri, when they outlasted the University of Oklahoma 55-50 to advance to the Final Four. Another close game would follow, with the Pokes beating Texas 58-54.
On March 30th, Wyoming traveled to Madison Square Garden in New York to take on Georgetown in the National Championship game. The Cowboys dominated the game, cruising to a 46-34 victory and their first NCAA Tournament title.
However, that wouldn't be their final game that season. In those days, the National Invitational Tournament, which was founded five years earlier in 1938, crowned their own national champion.
To settle the debate, Wyoming coach Everett Shelton challenged the NIT Champions St. John's to a charity game at Madison Square Garden. On April 1st, the two champions met in New York in a benefit for the Red Cross war effort.
The game would eventually go into overtime before Wyoming claimed the outright National Championship with a hard fought 52-47 victory.
Although Wyoming had been named the 1934 National Champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation, 1943 marked the first, and only, NCAA Tournament title in school history.