1951 and 1966 NIT Champions | The Official Site of BYU Athletics

1951 and 1966 NIT Champions

1951 NIT Champions

In 1951, the Cougars defeated Dayton in the championship game of the National Invitational Tournament. After the win, BYU accepted an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, which at the time was not yet recognized as the decisive tournament for the country’s best team. As the nation’s champions, the Cougars finished 28-9 with the most wins in BYU basketball history. Not only is it impressive that BYU won the national title and so many games, but it is even more amazing that they did so without a home court. With the Smith Fieldhouse under construction, BYU split its "home games" between Springville High’s gymnasium and the University of Utah. Head coach Stan Watts guided the Cougars to the national title in only his second year at the helm. Watts had the help of Mel Hutchins, who became the first Cougar to be named a first-team All-American and went on to win Rookie of the Year in the NBA in the 1952-53 season.


1966 NIT Champions

In 1966, the Cougars finished as a 20-game winner with their final game against NYU in the championship game of the National Invitational Tournament. Playing in a packed Madison Square Garden, the No. 1-ranked Cougars outplayed NYU, leading 48-43 at halftime and never looking back. With star Dick Nemelka on the bench with four fouls, the Cougars turned to junior center Craig Raymond and junior forward Gary Hill. Hill and Raymond, non-starters going into the tournament, led the high-scoring Cougar offense with 21 points each. Steve Kramer added 20 points to become the third Cougar with 20 or more points and the fifth Cougar to score in double digits. The win over the Violets marked the second NIT championship for both BYU and head coach Stan Watts. The season was the highest scoring in Cougar history. BYU averaged 95.5 points per game while hitting 50 percent of its shots. In the NIT final the Cougars shot 59 percent while handling NYU. Former coach of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach, commented on BYU at the championship, saying, "BYU simply overpowered them. They (the Cougars) outplayed them all over the court."