With the NCAA Basketball Tournament "officially" tipping off this morning, I'd like to look back at my five favorite games from March Madness.
5--Navy vs Cleveland State, 1986 Regional Semi-Finals. This little gem featured one of the greatest one on one battles between David "The Admiral" Robinson for the Midshipmen and Ken "Mouse" McFadden of the Vikings. Cleveland State had become the darlings of the tournament becoming the first 14-seed to make the Sweet 16--beating Bobby Knight and Indiana in the first round. Meanwhile, Robinson became a household name dominating through the first two games--and then hitting the last-second game winner in this win to put Navy a game away from the Final Four (a game they would unfortunately lose to Duke).
4--North Carolina State vs Houston, 1983 Championship Game. This is really the game that coined the phrase "March Madness". NC State had to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament just to make the field--while Houston was this high-flying, dunk-a-minute crews with future hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The Wolfpack won a bunch of come-from-behind games to make it to the final--and then "won it on the dunk" by Lorenzo Charles--while Hakeem just stood there and watched. Suddenly, Cinderella became the belle of the ball every March.
3--Georgetown vs Princeton 1989 East Regional First Round. The game where a 16-seed from the Ivy League almost beat the 1-seed Big East Champions. It was also the game where we all learned what a beautiful thing the Princeton High Post Offense was--designed by the mad genius Petey Carril--as the Tigers kept beating the Hoyas on the patented back door cuts for easy layups. At halftime of the game, ESPN's Dick Vitale said he would serve as the ballboy for the next Princeton game if they ended up winning. Unfortunately, Alonzo Mourning blocked a couple of shots at the end of the game and G-town got out of there with a lucky win.
2--Wisconsin vs Purdue, 2000 West Regional Final. I'm going to try not to get choked up thinking about this one. The most unlikely of all Wisconsin teams goes to the Final Four--despite eight and nine minute scoring droughts--as Mike Kelley, the embodiment of Dick Bennett basketball, thoroughly dominates on the defensive end--and Coach Bennett cuts down the nets. It was the perfect high point to one of the finest coaching careers in basketball history. (Damn you Michigan State!!)
1--Duke vs Kentucky, 1991 Regional Final. This is still the greatest game in the history of basketball as far as I'm concerned. I remember the TV lounge in our dorm was packed even before tip-off--with the room divided between the Duke haters (who couldn't wait to see Christian Laettner get his come-uppance) and the bandwagon Dukies (who believed winning was a given). Kentucky got off to a fast start. Duke clawed their way back in front. Kentucky rallied late to send it into overtime. It looked like us Duke haters were going to get the last laugh after Sean Woods wild shot banked in with 2.1 seconds left to give the Wildcats the lead by one. But of course, Rick Pitino didn't put anyone in Grant Hill's face to try and block the perfect 3/4's court pass--and he didn't have anyone front Laettner to challenge the catch. You just knew that when he put up that shot--he hadn't missed one all night--it was going to go in.
Let's hope this year's edition of March Madness has some similar moments to savor forever.