GREATEST MOMENTS | VMI bounced DePaul in 1976 NCAA Tournament upset


VMI-greatest-1VMI men’s basketball team was so bad in 1970-71, the Keydets seemed more like the Keystone Cops.

Assistant coach Bill Blair compiled a montage of the team’s 1-25 season. The lowlight reel became known as the Funny Film.

Blair took over as head coach two years later and led VMI to its first winning season in 35 years in 1975-76.

He also guided the Keydets to the sports moment judged the greatest in school history, VMI’s 71-66 victory in overtime against DePaul in 1976 NCAA Tournament.

With their second win of the tournament, VMI advance to the Elite Eight for the only time in school history.

“We have come so far, it’s incredible,” Blair told the Chicago Tribune before the DePaul game. “Four years ago, basketball at VMI was a joke, and now we’re playing in the big time. I might have to buy a three-piece suit like they wear in the ACC.”

Forwards Will Bynum and Ron Carter, both 6-5, led the Keydets with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Center Dave Montgomery added 12 points as VMI beat the favored Blue Demons, who were led by Dave Corzine.

Sports Illustrated described Bynum as “a long-necked goose from Sumter, S.C., with sloping shoulders and soft blond hair that is cut so short his ears seem to stick out.” The story continued:

“Yeah, somebody wrote that I looked like I stepped right off Huck Finn’s raft,” says Bynum with a mixture of humor and disgust. “Well, sir, I’ve got news for you. I came to VMI because I was a basketball player, not because I had an uncontrollable urge to carry a rifle around all day.” A civil engineering major with a 3.9 grade average last semester, Bynum totaled 42 points in the 1976 NCAA tournament upsets of Tennessee and DePaul, then had 34 in the loss to Rutgers.

Despite Bynum’s 34 points against Rutgers in the East Regional finals, VMI lost, 91-75. Carter scored 15 points though he was limited with four fouls.

The Keydets went 26–4 the following season, including a 21-game winning streak, and beat Duquesne in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They lost in the East Regional semifinals to Kentucky, 93-78.

But no one was laughing at the Kedyets.


• VMI Hall of Fame Members

Above: Ron Carter (Courtesy VMI Athletics)

Monday: Towson and Tulane
Tuesday: Tulsa and Union
Wednesday: Utah Valley and Valparaiso
Thursday: Vermont and VCU
Friday: VMI and Western Carolina

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.