The 1966 NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament involved 22 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national men's basketball champion of the NCAA University Division, now known as NCAA Division I. It began on March 7, 1966, and ended with the championship game on March 19 in College Park, Maryland. A total of 26 games were played, including a third place game in each region and a national third place game.
The Washington metropolitan area and College Park became the ninth host city, and Cole Field House the tenth host venue, of the Final Four. It was the first time since 1956 that the Final Four was held on a college campus. For the first time ever, the tournament was held entirely on college campuses, something that would only happen once more in the tournament's history. There were three new venues used in the 1966 tournament. The tournament made its first-ever appearance in Los Angeles when Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA hosted the West regional rounds. The first round in the East was held in the state of Virginia for the first time, at Cassell Coliseum on the campus of Virginia Tech. The Mideast first round was also held in a new arena, on the campus of Kent State University at the Memorial Gym (now the Memorial Athletic & Convocation Center). For the second straight year, the Midwest & West first rounds were combined into one venue, this time at the WSU Field House in Wichita. The 1966 tournament would mark the final time the tournament would be held at the University of Iowa; the tournament would return to Ames and Iowa State University in 1972, and Des Moines in 2016 (in games hosted by Drake University).
The Tournament is most remembered as for the all-black starting five of Texas Western defeating an all-white starting five for Kentucky in the championship game. In the 1963 NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament, Loyola started four African-Americans and Cincinnati started three. That was the first time that a majority of African-Americans participated in the championship game.
Clem Haskins and Dwight Smith became the first black athletes to integrate the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers basketball program in the Fall of 1963. This put Western Kentucky at the forefront to integrate college basketball in the Southeast. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were 2 points away from defeating Michigan and meeting the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the Mideast regional final. A controversial foul called against Smith during a jump ball put Cazzie Russell on the free throw line for Michigan, where he scored the tying and winning baskets.
^Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem - My thoughts on UCLA in the Final Four Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2008. Western Kentucky was the forefront of the fight to integrate college basketball in the 1960s and early '70s.
^O'Donnell, Chuck - Cazzie Russell: converting two free throws with no time left advanced Michigan in the 1966 NCAA Tournament - The Game I'll Never Forget - University of Michigan versus Western Kentucky University. Basketball Digest, January/February 2004 issue