This anecdotal record, alive with photos, starts in 1892 when Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian, decided that his phys ed students at the YMCA college in Springfield, Mass., needed a winter game that could be played indoors at night. His solution, basketball, achieved almost instant popularity, and on March 20, 1896, Yale trounced Pennsylvania 32-10 in what generally is accepted as the first inter-collegiate contest. By 1939, when the center jump following field goals was eliminated to speed up on-court action and increase scoring, the NCAA was sponsoring an annual championship series to determine the nation's top team. The bulk of the text is devoted to the high points of the final rounds of each tournament, from the first (Oregon over Ohio State 46-33) through the most recent last March (Kentucky 94, Duke 88). In the interim, championship teams like CCNY (1950), the University of San Francisco (1955-56), and UCLA (10 of 12 titles through 1975 including seven straight starting in 1967) made their mark. McCallum's year-by-year report also takes in the betting scandals of 1950 and 1960 and the sleazy recruiting practices at big-time schools. But the game's the thing for McCallum, and he offers thumbnail sketches of the sports' brightest stars--Stanford's Hank Luisetti, San Francisco's Bill Russell, Seattle's Elgin Baylor, UCLA's Lew Alcindor (now, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton-along with such colorful coaches as Bones McKinney (Wake Forest), Adolph Rupp (Kentucky), John Wooden (UCLA), and A1 Maguire (Marquette). By turning what could have been a routine chronology into a snappy, fact-filled narrative, McCallum has scored a three-point play. For the TV following as well as season ticket-holders.