1900s College Basketball National Champions

The game continued to spread during the first decade of the twentieth century, moving from a primarily northeastern game to a national sport.

1900

This season featured some successful undefeated records by schools in the Midwest playing limited schedules: 5-0 Nebraska (who beat Kansas 48-8 and won games by a total of 212-41) and Illinois State (who was never seriously challenged). But Yale continued to be the best college team in the northeast, handling all four of its college opponents, which included wins at powerful 8-4 Ohio State (11th in Premo-Porretta) and versus 22-4-1 Dartmouth (Premo-Porretta #3) in Boston. Yale may have finished the season 8-6 (according to their records), but that has to do with playing strong non-collegiate competition. There is a serious argument for Premo-Porretta #2 Nebraska, but Yale was excellent against collegiate foes.

GDB National Champions: Yale

1901

The 1901 season marks the first year that the Helms Athletic Foundation awarded a retrospective national championship, choosing Yale (Premo-Porretta #3) to Premo-Porretta’s Bucknell. Yale went 10-6 (according to their records), absolutely dominating their collegiate challengers (including #10 Hiram and #16 Harvard), except for a season-ending loss to #4 Allegheny College. But Dartmouth’s records show a victory over Yale that Yale does not recognize. Bucknell, meanwhile, went 12-1 with an early season loss to Williamsport that they easily avenged later in the year. But that Allegheny College team that Yale lost to went 14-2 themselves with only one loss to a college team. Like Bucknell, they avenged an early season loss, beating Geneva (10-2 and 9th in Premo-Porretta) in their second meeting. Allegheny also claims a forfeit victory over Dartmouth (12th in Premo-Porretta). The call here is for Allegheny over Bucknell and 11-8 Dartmouth (according to Dartmouth’s records), due to having the most impressive results with an otherwise strong record (21-12 over Yale in their season finale). However, #2 Purdue went 12-0, according to their records, beating Indiana, #19 Butler, and #20 Lafayette. Both Allegheny and Purdue have a good claim to being the most successful team of 1901.

GDB Co-National Champions: Allegheny College & Purdue

1902

While Premo-Porretta #3 Amherst had a strong 8-0 season, the star of the year was in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota went 15-0 against an admittedly questionable schedule, but they beat #9 EIBL conference champion Yale 32-23 and cruised against all other competition, including #12 Iowa and #14 Wisconsin. Both Helms and Premo-Porretta went with Minnesota, and that selection is the right one.

GDB National Champions: Minnesota

1903

Premo-Porretta selected Minnesota as a back-to-back champion following a 13-0 season, but Helms went with one-loss Yale (#2 in Premo-Porretta). Yale won the EIBL again, but did suffer a 26-22 setback at #14 Princeton. Yale played an undoubtedly stronger schedule, going 3-1 against Premo-Porretta top 20 teams, but Minnesota was once again undefeated and dominant (including a 38-11 win over Wisconsin and a 41-14 win over #19 Nebraska). 10-0 Bucknell, who won a game 159-5, and and 8-0 Purdue, who won four home and home series, are worth serious examination. But their schedules were not very good and they did not win as many games as Minnesota. While Yale deserves the national championship for a 15-1 season against a tough slate, the zero in the loss column for Minnesota also matters. A split title is the right call.

GDB Co-National Champions: Minnesota & Yale

1904

The 1904 season featured a few strong undefeated Midwestern schools, including 7-0 Chicago (Premo-Porretta’s #5) from the Western Conference (precursor to the Big Ten). It also featured an Olympic tournament in St. Louis that was won by #9 Hiram College, who finished the year 9-1 and claims a championship for that tournament win. But the season’s star was in New York. Columbia went 17-1 against a difficult schedule and won the EIBL, which included sweeps of #6 Penn and #7 Princeton, at 10-0. Columbia also went unbeaten versus collegiate competition. Premo-Porretta and Helms both selected Columbia, and that’s the selection here.

GDB National Champions: Columbia

1905

20-2 Williams College (Premo-Porretta #2) was proclaimed by some contemporary sources as the national champions, but for the second straight year, Columbia’s only loss was at the Washington Continentals, going undefeated against collegiate opponents during a 19-1 campaign. Columbia not only went 8-0 versus EIBL opponents, including sweeps of ranked Yale and Princeton teams, but also defeated Wisconsin and Minnesota in inter-regional matchups. For the second consecutive season, Columbia is the selection of Helms, Premo-Porretta, and here.

GDB National Champions: Columbia

1906

1906 featured a truly national game from 10-0 Oregon State out west (#11 in Premo-Porretta), which had won a couple of close games (including a one-point overtime win at Oregon), to 16-2 Dartmouth in the east. #2 Dartmouth defeated Yale 44-16 in a rout, but Wabash easily handled 11-17-2 Yale, as well, 24-8. Wabash’s official record books have them at 17-0 on the season with four of those wins coming over Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota. Minnesota was number three in Premo-Porretta and 13-2 on the year. Helms champion Dartmouth dropped two games, one against a Wesleyan team (#17) they beat four times and one versus 7-6 Colgate (#13). Dartmouth also won at #4 Williams, #7 Columbia, #13 Colgate, and #12 Holy Cross, and they beat Holy Cross and Williams at home. Premo-Porretta’s selection Wabash and Helms selection Dartmouth are both good choices. Dartmouth was far more proven, but that win over Minnesota legitimizes Wabash’s season.

GDB Co-National Champions: Wabash & Dartmouth

1907

The Chicago Maroons earned the 1907 Helms national title selection after going 21-2. Chicago (#2 in Premo-Porretta) went 2-2 against Premo-Porretta top 20 teams, splitting series against #9 Minnesota and #10 Wisconsin (though Chicago ended up with a negative 8-point differential in the four games). The Maroons split the Western Conference Championship with Minnesota and Wisconsin, as all three teams were 6-2 in league play. Chicago has a real shout for the national title but there is some doubt as to whether they were better than every team in their conference, let alone the whole country. Premo-Porretta #1 Williams College went 15-1, splitting with #3 Dartmouth, who themselves went 3-1 against ranked foes, including 2-1 vs. top 4 teams. But Dartmouth also dropped three games to unranked teams. Some sources at the time regard Williams College as the New England and National Champions, and that’s the pick here.

GDB National Champions: Williams

1908

For the second straight season, Helms chose Chicago (24-2) as its national champions. Premo-Porretta, though, chose 24-0 Wabash. The Wabash schedule was not very strong, including two games against Crawfordsville High School, one of which was only a 2-point win. But they also beat Premo-Porretta #11 Notre Dame twice and easily handled nearly their entire schedule. Chicago dropped two games overall and tied Wisconsin for the Western Conference Championship at 7-1 in league play. In a tiebreaker game for the conference title, Chicago went to Madison and defeated Wisconsin, 18-16. They then took down EIBL Champions Penn in a best-of-three series sweep to lay claim to the national championship. Certainly, Chicago is worthy of the national title. Though Wabash played a weaker schedule, their undefeated record and wins against Notre Dame are enough to earn a share.

GDB Co-National Champions: Chicago & Wabash

1909

There are six teams worthy of legitimate national championship consideration in 1909. Cal went unbeaten, but was only 8-0 by Cal’s accounting. Only one of those opponents, Pacific, was a collegiate team. Illinois State was also very successful, blowing out a nine-game schedule that did not include any notable opponents. NYU went 13-0 to capture second in Premo-Porretta, but they only won at 7-9 Wesleyan by one and only two wins over 9-6 St John’s stand out. Columbia lost a game, but also won the EIBL at 16-1 overall. The Lions did lose at Premo-Porretta #18 Penn at the end of the season by 16. Swarthmore won four less games than Columbia but were a perfect 12-0, winning at Penn by ten. They also won at 9-3 Bucknell and beat 7-6 Penn State twice. Chicago was named national champion by both Helms and Premo-Porretta after going 12-0 against Western Conference competition. The Maroons beat 8-4 Purdue twice and also beat #19 Wisconsin (#19 in Premo-Porretta) both home and away. Differing contemporary accounts claim both Chicago and Swarthmore champions. A co-title is appropriate.

GDB Co-National Champions: Swarthmore & Chicago