The 1974 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament involved 25 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division Icollege basketball. It was the first tournament to officially be designated as a Division I championship—previously, NCAA member schools had been divided into the "University Division" and "College Division". The NCAA created its current three-division setup, effective with the 1973–74 academic year, by moving all of its University Division schools to Division I and splitting the College Division members into Division II (fewer scholarships) and Division III (no athletic scholarships allowed). Previous tournaments would retroactively be considered Division I championships.
The tournament began on March 9, 1974, and ended with the championship game on March 25 in Greensboro, North Carolina. As of 2017, it is the last tournament in which neither school had previously appeared in any national championship game (5 years later Michigan State would defeat Indiana St in each school's inaugural Division I National Finals, but Indiana State had previously contested and lost finals in the NAIA National Championships and the NCAA Division II National Championships). A total of 29 games were played, including a third place game in each region and a national third place game.
This was the final year that only conference champions and independents could participate in the tournament. During the same time in 1974, the Collegiate Commissioners' Association held a tournament in St. Louis, Missouri. They invited the second-place teams from eight conferences to participate. In 1975, the NCAA would expand the field to include at-large bids for conference runners-up.
The UCLA – North Carolina State semifinal game made USA Today's list of the greatest NCAA tournament games of all time at #13. UCLA star Bill Walton calls that game the most disappointing outcome of his entire basketball career, given how UCLA lost a 5-point lead late in regulation and a 7-point lead in the 2nd overtime, before NC State rallied to win, 80-77. The game, played in Greensboro, was like a home game for the Wolfpack; UCLA had defeated NC State by 18 points in a neutral site game in St. Louis (where UCLA defeated Memphis State the previous March to win its seventh consecutive national championship) earlier in the season.