So much has changed since the Long Island University Blackbirds were a force to be reckoned with in men's college hoops. But surely the gear — specifically, the oh-so-short shorts, the BDSM-ready knee pads, the grimy sneakers and such — worn by the lads is way up there among the many features of the sport that have changed, changed utterly, over the past seven decades. And seeing this picture of the Blackbirds practicing in 1940 gave us pause . . .
Now that March Madness is here, perhaps it's time to treat our acute bracketosis with a healthy dose of waybackism. Not nostalgia — everybody hates nostalgia, which is like history with a mouthful of cavities — but a clear-eyed glimpse back at where we were, and how we got here. After all, isn't that what learning's all about?
Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com. Picture This is his weekly (and occasionally more frequent) feature for The Stacks.
Photo Credit: Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images