The 1972 men's basketball team entered the NCAA Tournament with a 23-4 record. Roanoke made a mockery of their opposition, winning their opening game against Mercer by six, followed by a 10-point win over Biscayne. The University of Missouri at St. Louis was dispatched with 24 points to spare in the quarterfinals, while Eastern Michigan fell by 26 in the semifinals. The Akron Zips, who upset tournament favorite Tennessee State in the semifinals, were the other team on the court, but no other College Division II team in the nation played with the Maroons: Beatty Barnes, Jay Piccola, Everett Hurst, Dickie Adams, and Hal Johnston.
Head Coach Charlie Moir's "murderous Maroons" were a colorful bunch. Johnston, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and a first-team All-American at the shooting guard position, was a "whirling dervish in Roanoke's perpetual motion attack." Barnes was described as, "deceptively mobile" at power forward. Piccola was noted for his glass jaw almost as much as his playing skills at small forward. The second-team All-American was twice knocked unconscious during the tournament by punches from frustrated opponents. Moir earned the AP Coach of the Year award in 1972, while he and his Maroons won a very special place in Roanoke lore-the first to be called National Champions.