IU players after winning the 1940 title. Credit - IU Archives

This Date in Hoosier History: Indiana Defeats Kansas for the 1940 National Title

March 30, 1940 — Kansas City, Missouri

It was a night where icons were remembered, legends were made, and traditions began.

The founder of the game of basketball, James Naismith died during the start of the 1939-40 season.  Before IU and Kansas played in the title game on this night there was a ceremony that paid tribute to Naismith.

Although he’d invented the sport in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, James Naismith had later claimed, “Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

In 1898 Naismith was hired by Kansas to coach basketball and teach physical education.  One of his students was Phog Allen, who coached the Kansas basketball team from 1919 to 1956.  The Hoosiers knocked out Springfield on their way to the title game, which coincidentally was the very school where Naismith had invented the game.

Indiana, Kansas and Naismith seemed intertwined, and the Hoosiers and Jayhawks, perhaps destined to play this game.

The 1938-39 Hoosiers set the stage for the championship run. That sophomore led squad started the season with a 17-1 record before losing its final two games and finishing a game out of first place in the Big Ten.

A year later IU once again finished in second place in the Big Ten, but because Indiana had swept first place Purdue, the NCAA Tournament invite was granted to the Hoosiers.

At the 1940 national championship game, IU surprised the Jayhawks with their accurate shooting and up-tempo style.  Led by their 32 year old head coach Branch McCracken, the Hurryin’ Hoosiers ran away with a 60-42 victory, despite a heavily pro-Kansas crowd of 10,000 at the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium.

Marvin Huffman and Jay McCreary led Indiana (20-3) with 12 points each. Huffman won the Most Outstanding Player award and was an All-American.  Bill Menke was also an All-American on this 1940 team.

(Indiana is in the dark uniforms in the video below)


Video credit – Galen Clavio


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