NCAA Basketball ‘09 by EA Sports has chosen to honor the 1956 National Champions, the USF Dons, in their ESPN Classic Tournament of Legends. The ESPN Classic Tournament of Legends places 64 of the greatest college teams from every era against each other to decide which team is the best of the best. With the help of ESPN and Blue Ribbon, EA Sports was able to pick these 64 teams. Connor Doughan, who is one of the producers of the game, discussed which teams were honored in the tournament and why USF was one of them.
The 1955-1956 Dons were arguably “one of the best teams of all time with great players like Bill Russell and K.C. Jones leading them,” said Doughan. USF was an easy choice because they were the first undefeated team to win a national championship at 29-0. A feature that EA Sports has included in this year’s game is a write-up for each team, giving a synopsis of the team showing the strengths and weaknesses. The 1955-1956 Dons write-up listed strengths such as “2 NCAA titles, a great defense led by Bill Russell, and a very balanced team offensively featuring five players averaging between 7 and 10 points per game,” said Doughan. Not only did the Dons win back-to-back championships, they also won 60 games in a row under coach Phil Woolpert. With all these qualifications, choosing the 1955-1956 Dons was a no-brainer. Choosing which other teams would be featured wasn’t such an easy choice.
ESPN and Blue Ribbon, which is a company that scouts every basketball team and evaluates them, contributed a lot to the picking of the 64 teams. “We had a short list of a hundred teams and we worked with ESPN for about 2-3 months to determine which teams are the greatest of all time. ESPN analysts gave us feedback on the teams we picked and we were able to narrow the list down from their feedback,” said Doughan.
Blue Ribbon also played a huge role in the process of developing the game. “Blue Ribbon scouted each team, and helped us write up bios, we got a lot of great information from them,” said Doughan. Not every team in the Tournament of Legends is considered one of the greatest teams from a talent standpoint, meaning not every team features future NBA players or Hall of Famers.
Doughan said, “Every team featured in the tournament is a classic team, which means they were either a great team and won a championship or they were a memorable team, a Cinderella team.”
Some of the other teams featured in the Tournament of Legends are 70s UCLA Bruins, ‘94 Arkansas, ‘91 Georgetown, ‘06 George Mason and ’90 Loyola Marymount.
The point of this tournament is to find the best of the best, whether it means the greatest team of all time or the greatest Cinderella team of all time. The best part is that you the gamer, get to play with which team you feel deserves the label of “the best team”. So go out and play the game to crown the greatest team of all time, whether it’s the 1955-56 Dons or some other team.