Saturday night when No. 1 Kentucky and No. 1 Wisconsin meet at the Final Four in Indianapolis, it will be the fifth occasion in which two programs have done so in consecutive years. In the prior four instances, the team that won the first meeting has taken care of business in the rematch on three occasions with Duke’s 1991 win over UNLV being the lone exception.
Below are each of the four instances, with the 1961 and 1962 meetings between Cincinnati and Ohio State being the only case in which both meetings took place in the national title game.
This is the only rematch in which both games were played in the national title game, and the Bearcats managed to win both. Ed Jucker’s Bearcats boasted three common starters in the two meetings: Paul Hogue, Tom Thacker and Tony Yates, and in both games the starting five was responsible for every point scored. The two starters in 1961 who wouldn’t be holdovers, Bob Wiesenhahn and Carl Bouldin, scored 17 and 16 points apiece to lead the way in the first of two consecutive title game wins for Cincinnati.
Hogue (22 points) and Thacker (21) led the way the following year, with Ron Bonham (ten points) and George Wilson (six) being the players who replaced Wiesenhahn and Bouldin.
As for Ohio State, future hall of famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek started both games as did Melvyn Nowell. Lucas accounted for 27 points and 12 rebounds in the 1961 title game, with Larry Siegfried (14 points) being the only other Buckeye in double figures that night. Gary Bradds led the Buckeyes in scoring in the 1962 title game with 15 points, with Lucas (16 rebounds) and Havlicek scoring 11 apiece. Siegfried and Richie Hoyt started in 1961, with Bradds and Richard Reasbeck moving into their spots the following year.
The 1967 and 1968 national titles were the first two of what would eventually become seven straight for John Wooden’s program, and they ran into Houston on the way to both. Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was one of four Bruins who started in both games with Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackleford and Mike Warren being the others. Jim Neilsen, who started in the 1967 national semifinal, moved into a reserve role in 1968 with Mike Lynn taking his place in the starting lineup.
Those four common starters for UCLA were responsible for 72 of the team’s 73 points in the 1967 win, with Shackleford scoring a team-high 22, and Alcindor, Lynn and Warren led a balanced effort with 19 apiece (all five starters reached double figures) in 1968.
As for Houston, Elvin Hayes was the most noteworthy starter in both games with his performance in the 1968 regular season meeting at the Astrodome being the difference in a Cougar victory (which UCLA avenged in ruthless fashion at the Final Four). Hayes accounted for 25 points in 24 rebounds in the 1967 Final Four meeting, but was limited to ten points and five rebounds in 1968. Don Chaney, who both played and coached in the NBA, was the only other Cougar to start both Final Four games against UCLA. Melvin Bell, Gary Grider and Leary Lentz started in 1967, with Theodis Lee, Vern Lewis and Kevin Spain moving into their spots the following year.
Of the rematches that have occurred in the history of the Final Four, the two games between the Blue Devils and Runnin’ Rebels may be the most memorable. Jerry Tarkanian’s team won the program’s lone national title in the first meeting, as they steamrolled to the largest margin of victory in the history of the national title game. Four of the five starters for UNLV in the ’90 title game were part of the starting lineup in ’91, with guard Anderson Hunt scoring a team-high 29 points in both games.
Joining him as returning starters were point guard Greg Anthony and forwards Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson, with David Butler (1990) being replaced by George Ackles (1991) as the fifth starter. As for Duke only two starters in the 1990 title game made the start the following year: point guard Bobby Hurley and forward Christian Laettner.
Seniors Phil Henderson, Alaa Abdelnaby and Robert Brickey all moved on following the 1990 title game, with Grant Hill, Thomas Hill and Greg Koubek moving into those spots. Koubek was a reserve in 1990, and sixth man Brian Davis added an important 15 points off the bench in Duke’s win in 1991. Laettner scored 28 points, the final two coming on a pair of free throws, to lead Duke to the win in the rematch with Hurley (12 points, seven assists) playing much better than he did the year prior in Denver.
The most recent case of Final Four rematches, Billy Donovan had the same starting lineup for both meetings between the two teams. Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey manned the guard spots, with Corey Brewer on the wing and Al Horford and Joakim Noah being the big men. Noah accounted for 16 points and nine rebounds in the ’06 title game, with Humphrey adding 15 while shooting 4-for-8 from three. In the ’07 Final Four it was Brewer who led the way offensively with 19 points, with Chris Richard scoring 16 off the bench and Horford (17 rebounds) and Noah (11) combining for 28 rebounds.
As for UCLA, only two players started in both games: guard Arron Afflalo and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In the ’06 title game point guard Jordan Farmar scored a team-high 18 points, with Afflalo and Ryan Hollis (ten rebounds) adding ten points apiece. Afflalo scored 17 points the following year and Josh Shipp a team-best 18, but they were the lone Bruins in double figures in the rematch.
Information from Sports-Reference.com was used in the compilation of this post.