And so the Big Win Tournament comes to an end. It was a slim margin, but in the end, Irish basketball fans chose the 1978 Elite Eight win over the 2015 ACC Championship.
Normally, this is where I would tell everyone how thankful I am for their participation (which I am) and how I hope there will be more big wins to celebrate soon (which I do). But like so many other things these days, this isn’t normal, because we haven’t yet addressed the elephant in the room.
The #1 seed.
Back in April when I started this, I acknowledged the status of the most famous game in Notre Dame men’s basketball history. Now, if we are truly to decide the biggest win via our votes, that most famous game must now enter the arena and be judged.
As with most things ND-related, I have a strong opinion about this match-up. In the interest of an unbiased contest, however, I will start with the usual presentation of the contestants, followed by your opportunity to select between them.
#2 Seed: #6 Notre Dame 84, #7 DePaul 64
March 19, 1978 — NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, Lawrence, KS
What Happened: Two and a half months after the football team won the national title, Notre Dame blew out the Blue Demons to reach its first (and so far only) Final Four. Kelly Tripucka, Rich Branning, Duck Williams, and Bill Laimbeer all reached double-figures while shutting down the DePaul offense.
— vs. —
#1 Seed: #2 Notre Dame 71, #1 UCLA 70
January 19, 1974 — Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center
What Happened: Dwight Clay happened, and the end of UCLA’s streak happened. Given his teammates’ contributions, that’s probably simplistic, but that’s what we all think of, after all.
Make Your Choice
It’s a big decision, so you have the rest of the week. Poll closes at 12:01am Memorial Day morning.
OK, now that you’ve voted, let’s talk about what you’ve voted on. My opinion is a simple one: I’m voting for the 1978 win over DePaul instead of the 1974 win over UCLA because…
I hate the 1974 UCLA game
Don’t get me wrong, I love all the guys on that team. I’ve talked to Dwight Clay on multiple occasions, I think he’s a fantastic person, and I love that he gets recognized for what he did by Irish fans everywhere.
I also love that ND book-ended UCLA’s win streak. This is a record that likely will stand forever, and Notre Dame being a part of it is a good thing for the program.
So perhaps I need to qualify my statement above:
I hate what the 1974 UCLA game means
That likely is closer to the truth.
I have always believed pride in accomplishment should be based on what you accomplished, not on what you prevented someone else from accomplishing. Notre Dame has had a lot of wins in football over Southern Cal that I’ve enjoyed very much, but I enjoy precisely zero of them because SC didn’t get to do something as a result. To the contrary, I enjoy the ones that led to Notre Dame national titles the most.
That’s why the UCLA victory, to a small degree, rankles. The 1973-74 Notre Dame team had the most wins in the modern era until the 2015 team eclipsed them (which is why I can’t watch the Kentucky game either). If the win over the Bruins had been a springboard to the Final Four or a national championship, that would have been fantastic. But as was the frustrating tendency in that era, the Irish got upset in the NCAA tournament, which left the UCLA win as the bright spot … a spot that could have been so much more.
Don’t get me wrong, anything that gives Bill Walton a lifetime of mini emotional breakdowns is intrinsically a Good Thing. But if schadenfreude is our high water mark, we should be setting our goals much higher.
Therefore, I can’t in good conscience vote for the UCLA win. I have no problem with anyone who does, so may the best win … win.