One Great Season
Just a few days left of the NCAA Tournament. Despite a hectic few weeks rocking the BracketMaster Challenge, the OGS Survey Team found a minute to reach out to friends and compile this collection of their most memorable March Madness moments:
Len Berman, Sports Broadcasting Legend — Two-part answer: Single game, Villanova's monumental upset of Georgetown. Single moment, Jimmy Valvano running around the court after NC State beat Houston.
Mark Ennis, College Football Blogger — My most memorable March Madness is easily the Christian Laettner shot to beat Kentucky in 1992. I was only in the sixth grade but that was, and still is, the best game of any kind I’ve ever seen.
John Fay, Cincinnati Reds Beat Writer — The UK-Duke Christian Laettner game. I was in a car on my way to the Enquirer composing room, listening on the radio. Marty Brennaman, the Reds Hall of Fame announcer, was doing the game. I stopped and listened to the ending, then drove over to watch the sports pages be put together. All the printers working on pages were huge UK fans. They were devastated, completely dejected. I loved to ride them about UK, but they were so genuinely hurt that I couldn't do it.
Jeff Garcia, San Antonio Spurs Blogger — Aside from winning my pool in college, I would say Nick Collison's performance in 2003 and helping Kansas give Duke the boot, 69-65. Collison was just unstoppable. He dropped 33 points, 19 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks. Oh, and to top it off, he played all 40 minutes.
Jeff Gluck, Sports Blogger — Most memorable moment? 1997. Second Round. Auburn Hills, Michigan. Cincinnati vs. Iowa State. I'll let Mike DeCourcy, then of the Cincinnati Enquirer, describe it. He watched as Burton rebounded a missed shot by Iowa State with the Bearcats up one and 35 seconds left, then dropped to the ground when the Cyclones' Kenny Pratt grabbed his legs. Cahill blew his whistle and charged Burton with traveling. "He said I fell on purpose," Burton said.
Why would anyone fall to the floor with the game in his hands and a half-minute to play?
"That's what I asked him," Burton said. "He said nothing."
The only one other time in my life (Lewis Billups, Super Bowl XXIII) have I been so mad because of a game I was watching on TV. At least Billups had a fair chance to make a play. UC got jobbed by an official who didn't have to answer to anyone and acted as if he knew it.
Ben Jackey, Emmy-Award Winning Former Television Reporter — March 28, 1992. Duke-Kentucky. I remember the euphoria I felt when Sean Woods hit the one-handed prayer over the top of the outstretched hand of Christian Laettner. After years of probation and the struggle to return to greatness, I believed Kentucky basketball was back where it belonged. Then came Cawood Ledford's very matter-of-fact call of the shot made by the guy who should've been thrown out of the game. "That's why they're No. 1," he said. I'd love to forget that shot. But CBS' constant replays of it won't let me.
Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Columnist — My most memorable moment is tough. As much as I'd like to pick either Tate George vs. Clemson in 1990 or Richard Hamilton vs. Washington in 1998 I can't. Have to go with Bo Kimble shooting his first free throw left-handed in honor of his best friend and late teammate Hank Gathers in 1990. That LMU run to the Elite 8 was something else.
Adam Kramer, College Football Blogger — For me, my favorite moment selfishly involves winning a tournament pool in dramatic fashion. In 2008, I had Kansas as my tourney champ and they were down big against Memphis late in the title game. Thanks to some horrific free-throw shooting by the Tigers and Mario Chalmers' timely 3-pointer, I ended up celebrating a nice cash prize. Pretty sure that game took multiple years on my life, but boy was it fun/stressful/memorable.
Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer Columnist — Tie: Cleveland State beating Indiana in 1986. CSU's coach, Kevin Mackey, said his team's league, the AMCU-8, "sounds like a motor oil." Great to see them beat the blue bloods of the Big Ten. Also, my alma mater, Vanderbilt, beating Pitt after Pitt did not foul and let the immortal Barry Goheen tie it with a three at the buzzer. Vandy then won in OT.
Troy Machir, College Basketball Blogger — Man that's a loaded question. It's like asking "What's you favorite thing about nachos?" Answer: Everything. But seriously, my favorite March Madness moment was the entire first day of games last year. The first day of March Madness is, in my books, the best day of the year, bar-none. But last year was something special. Game after game, shot after shot, buzzer-beater after buzzer-beater, drama was pouring out of the TV. Usually we are privy to 4 or 5 great first round games and maybe 2-3 buzzer-beaters. But last year, it felt like every game went down to the wire. CBS had trouble choosing which game to air because so many of them were ending in dramatic fashion at the same time. The BYU/Florida 2OT game was magical, and the Murray State/Vanderbilt tilt featured one of the more-memorable buzzer-beaters in recent years. Eight of the 16 games on Day 1 were decided in OT or by 3 points or fewer. Eleven of the 16 were decided by single digits, and three games went to overtime. Now that's a statistic! I was practically out of commission for the weekend because I had become so exhausted from taking in all the excitement.
Whitney Mathews, Social Media Rock Star — As a Kansas fan, I have to say the moment that Mario Chalmers' three sent us into OT against Memphis in the 2008 National Championship game. No shot has been more significant in Jayhawk history. The hope and pride that came rushing back in that fraction of a second is unforgettable. I got goosebumps typing that.
Andy McNamara, Assistant Media Relations Director, University of Oregon and radio play-by-play voice of the MLS' Portland Timbers — The most vivid was watching the end of the 1992 East Region final in the restaurant/bar that sat at one end of the Providence Civic Center during the NCAA Hockey Championships East Regional. When Laettner hit the winner, the entire place let out a collective "Noooooooooo" with some other more colorful words and phrases mixed in. It wasn’t as if the bar was filled with Kentucky fans; Duke could have been playing the University of Satan and the reaction would have been the same.
Mike Mudd, Assistant Sports Editor at The Louisville Courier-Journal — My favorite March Madness moment goes way back to 1981. I was 8 years old at the time. My dad lucked out and got two tickets from a friend at work to go to the first-round NCAA games in Dayton, where Indiana was playing Maryland, and mighty No. 1 seed DePaul, led by All-American Mark Aguirre, was playing St. Joseph's. (Note to anyone under 30: DePaul was actually a powerhouse program in the 1980s).
Anyway, we got to UD Arena a little later than hoped and took our seats with two minutes left in the DePaul-St. Joseph game, which preceeded IU-Maryland. Much to our surprise the game was close, as DePaul led by only a couple of points. The place was 90 percent filled with IU and DePaul fans, of course, considering the proximity. All the IU fans were rooting against DePaul, and they were loud. I was immediately just blown over by the energy and the noise. It was incredible. I was 8 years old and had never been to a basketball game of any type. It was the coolest thing to ever happen to me at that point.
Down 48-47, St. Joseph's had the ball last and came down the floor. A guy for St. Joe's faked a jumper and passed underneath to a wide open teammate who hit a layup as time expired to win 49-48. The place went nuts. I went nuts. I was 8 years old and March Madness had struck me hard!
Chad Potier, LSU Sports Blogger — 1987 Elite Eight, North Carolina vs. Syracuse. The first sports bet I ever made won me $20 when the Orange beat UNC. Winner winner, chicken dinner! Then I lost that $20 when Bob Knight and Indiana beat Syracuse in the final.
Tim Ryan, Sports Blogger — My single most memorable March Madness moment would probably be either Princeton's textbook backdoor play to beautifully take down defending champs UCLA in 1996, or Emanuel Mayben and his unforgettable unibrow in 2009. Both were equally magnetic.
Amanda Rykoff, ESPNW Contributor — Without question, my single most memorable March Madness moment was Chris Webber's time out against North Carolina in the 2003 Championship Game. I was at that game, rooting for Michigan (my grandmother and father went there) and literally could not believe my eyes when it happened (not to mention that he traveled before calling time out). It is an NCAA tournament moment forever etched in my brain. A close second is Christian Laettner's shot to beat Kentucky in 1992 but since I was not at that game, it's second to Webber.
Bruce Sholl, OGS Contributor — Indiana winning on Keith Smart's shot at the buzzer over Syracuse in 1987.
Matt Zemek, College Football Writer — So many choices, so many memories. In many ways, picking the very best March Madness moment from three decades of viewing (my first title game as a 6-year-old boy was the 1982 game between North Carolina and Georgetown) is an impossible task. People will define or filter "greatness" through many different prisms, so I have to offer my own basis for selection:
The game had to be a great game, not just a close and/or exciting one (sports fans often conflate the two notions).
The significance of the achievement (or the moment) had to be considerable.
The event had to capture the essence of March Madness in a very real way.
Therefore, the 1983 NCAA final between N.C. State and Houston doesn't make the cut. Mediocre game. Gobs of missed foul shots. No shot clock.
Villanova-Georgetown? That's a worthy candidate because Villanova played a virtually perfect game, immortalized by the magic number, 78.6 (the Cats' shooting percentage against the mighty Hoyas). However, the lack of a shot clock still diminishes that game to a slight but meaningful extent. Wildcats-Hoyas gets the silver medal.
Honorable mention? George Mason in 2006. Butler in 2010. Jordan and Carolina winning that '82 title game against Georgetown. Keith Smart's shot for Indiana in '87. Valpo against Ole Miss in 1998. The Michigan State-Wisconsin national semifinal in 2000. (That last one's a joke, of course.)
However, when looking for the moment of Madness that outshines all the others, there really can't be another choice according to the three criteria given above (quality of game, significance of achievement, fidelity to the March Madness experience).
There is Kentucky-Duke 1992, and then there's everything else. It will be hard to encounter a better, more dramatic, more sustained climax to a high-stakes college basketball game between two elite programs, punctuated by three of the most iconic images in American sports history: Christian Laettner running like a madman; Thomas Hill making his "Oh, my God!" utterance on the Duke bench while his face appears ready to burst into tears of joy; and then Kentucky's crestfallen kids - the very same kids who brought a storied program back from the college basketball dumpster - left devastated on the Spectrum court in Philadelphia.
Verne Lundquist of CBS owned the moment at the mike. The CBS production truck caught every shot in a pitch-perfect display of production-truck work. The moment spilled out in full flower before an enraptured national audience.
Madness never captured so many souls in such a value-positive way.