|MOP Tony Delk Kentucky|
Finals site Izod Center
|Dates 14 Mar 1996 – 1 Apr 1996|
|Champions Kentucky (6th title, 8th title game,
11th Final Four)|
Runner-up Syracuse (2nd title game, 3rd Final Four)
Semifinalists Mississippi State (1st Final Four) Massachusetts (Vacated) (1st Final Four)
Winning coach Rick Pitino (1st title)
Top scorer John Wallace Syracuse (131 points)
Champion Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball
Similar 1997 NCAA Division I, 1995 NCAA Division I, 1998 NCAA Division I, 1999 NCAA Division I, 2001 NCAA Division I
The 1996 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament involved 64 schools playing in single-elimination play to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball. It began on March 14, 1996, and ended with the championship game on April 1 at Continental Airlines Arena (now known as Izod Center) in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey. A total of 63 games were played.
The Final Four venue was notable for several reasons:
The Final Four consisted of Kentucky, making their first appearance in the Final Four since 1993 and eleventh overall, Massachusetts, making their first ever appearance in the Final Four, Syracuse, making their third appearance in the Final Four and first since 1987, and Mississippi State, also making their first appearance.
Kentucky won their sixth national championship by defeating Syracuse in the final game 76-67.
Tony Delk of Kentucky was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Kentucky's run to the championship was one of the most dominant in NCAA tournament history, as the Wildcats won each of their first four games by at least 20 points and won every game by at least 7 points.
The committee that put together the bracket in 1996 was criticized for placing what seemed to be the best two teams in college basketball – Massachusetts and Kentucky – on the same side of the bracket so that they faced each other in the national semifinal – not the final game itself. Note that there are guidelines that the selection committee follows. In 2004 the procedure would be changed so that the regional sites would first be assigned their #1 seeds, then would be placed in the bracket so that the #1 overall seed would face the fourth #1 seed while the second #1 seed would face the third #1 seed, barring any upsets. However, it must also be noted that Connecticut was the presumed #1 overall seed that season, after compiling a 30-2 record during the season in a strong Big East Conference, including a conference tournament victory. Meanwhile, Kentucky was apparently dropped to the #3 overall seed following their defeat to Mississippi State in the SEC conference tournament final. Kentucky also could not be placed in the Southeast region since the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games were being played in Kentucky's home arena, Rupp Arena.
Connecticut, coached by Jim Calhoun and Massachusetts, coached by John Calipari, were later stripped of their wins, including the UMass Minutemen's Final Four appearance, by the NCAA because players (including UMass star Marcus Camby) had accepted illegal gifts from agents.
First and second rounds
(* – Denotes overtime)