Feb. 16, 2008
Following the 1944 collegiate basketball regular season, Utah was invited to both the NIT and the NCAA Tournaments. At that time, the NIT and NCAA Tournament were considered somewhat equal in stature.
New York City and the NIT won out over Kansas City and the Western Sectional of the NCAA Tournament.
But Utah lost its first game in the NIT to Kentucky. But all was not lost.
Coach Vadal Peterson told the Utes they had a choice of what they could do for the next few days. The team could spend a couple of days seeing the big city before they went home ... or Coach Peterson had a telegram from the NCAA inviting the Utes to Kansas City and the Western Sectional of the NCAA Tournament.
Utah would replace Arkansas, which had to withdraw because of an automobile accident.
Arnie Ferrin, Wat Misaka, Herb Wilkinson, Fred Sheffield, Dick Smuin, Bob Lewis and his brother Fred knew that if they won in Kansas City it would be back on the train to Madison Square Garden for the NCAA Championship.
They voted to play ... and play they did ... beating Missouri and Iowa State in Kansas City to earn another trip back east. It was back to New York to play Dartmouth for the championship.
The title game was tied 36-36 at the end of regulation.
Freshman Arnie Ferrin had 22 points, but it was Herb Wilkinson's one-hander just one second before the gun that gave Utah a 42-40 overtime win and its first NCAA title. But the Cinderella Story doesn't end there.
The Utes were then invited to play the NIT champs, St. John's in a Red Cross Benefit game for the combined National Championship ... some called it the mythical championship.
The glass slipper fit perfectly for the Cinderella Utes.
Ferrin had 17 points, Wilkinson added 11 and Utah won 43-36.
All that was left was the ticker tape parade .. not in New York City ... but back home in Salt Lake City.