The 1971 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament involved 25 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAADivision Icollege basketball. It began on March 13, 1971, and ended with the championship game on March 27 in Houston, Texas. A total of 29 games were played, including a third place game in each region and a national third place game.
UCLA, coached by John Wooden, won the national title with a 68-62 victory in the final game over Villanova, coached by Jack Kraft. Howard Porter of Villanova was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. However, Villanova was disqualified after the tournament for having an ineligible player, Howard Porter, who had signed with an agent prior to the tournament. Having lost to undefeated, second-ranked Penn (coached by Dick Harter) twice before, Porter did not think they would make past the regionals where third-ranked South Carolina was also in their path. However, Penn vanquished South Carolina by 17 and then had their worst game of the year against Villanova in the East Regional final, losing 90-47. Villanova's first place finish in the east regional was relinquished to Penn, with the regional consolation game (3rd place) winner, Fordham (coached by Digger Phelps, a former Penn assistant coach), receiving 2nd place.
UCLA was going for its 5th consecutive title and was a heavy favorite over Villanova. But the Bruins did not cruise through the season in their accustomed fashion. They were severely threatened in their own conference (and backyard) by 2nd ranked USC, who lost only 2 games all season - both to UCLA. In addition, UCLA lost at Notre Dame and had several other close calls (against Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State). In the Western Regional Final, the Bruins trailed Long Beach State by 11 points midway through the 2nd half and their star player Sidney Wicks was on the bench with 4 personal fouls. But Wicks returned and avoided his 5th foul (and disqualification), and the Bruins rallied to take a 55-53 lead. With 20 seconds remaining, Wicks sunk two clinching free throws and UCLA escaped 57-55.
In the championship game, UCLA jumped out to an early lead, but star players Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe struggled against Villanova's stingy zone defense. Only the outside shooting of Henry Bibby and a career best 29 points from center Steve Patterson kept the Bruins in the lead. In the meantime, Villanova stars Howard Porter and Chris Ford overcame early struggles to keep the Wildcats in the game. Midway through the 2nd half, UCLA coach John Wooden ordered the Bruins to go into a 4 corner stall offense (there was no shot clock in college in 1971), a tactic he rarely employed. Wooden said after the game he did so to bring Villanova out of their zone, and because he wanted to use the stage of the national championship game to show the NCAA that they should adopt a shot clock (something Wooden had long argued for). However, the tactic almost backfired as Villanova started forcing turnovers with an aggressive man to man defense. In addition, the stall took UCLA out of its offensive rhythm. Villanova closed the gap to 63-60 and had the ball with one minute to play. However, Porter missed a 15 foot off balance jumper, Wicks grabbed the rebound, and UCLA made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch as they won 68-62.
For the national 3rd place, Western Kentucky won over Kansas 77-75.1
In a situation similar to Villanova, Western Kentucky's placement in the tournament was vacated, due to an NCAA investigation that showed Jim McDaniels had signed a professional contract and accepted money during the 1970-71 season. Western Kentucky would be found in violation twice more in the next 10 years, earning the school a "lack of institutional control" violation.2
The total attendance for the tournament was 220,447, a new record. It was the largest crowd of 31,765 to see the championship game.3
Jim McDaniels of Western Kentucky had 147 points, top scorer in the playoffs.
Austin Carr of Notre Dame scored 289 career tournament points in seven games.
As a result of the Villanova’s forfeit to Penn, the 1971 Penn Quakers technically went undefeated but did not win the national championship. North Carolina State went undefeated in 1972-73 but did not win the national championship because they were on NCAA probation and were not eligible to participate in the NCAA tournament.