Each Monday until the national championship is played in Indianapolis on April 5, One Great Season will count down the Top 10 National Championship games since 1979, when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson squared off in Salt Lake City. Today's No. 4 is the 1987 classic between Indiana and Syracuse in New Orleans.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
I was supposed to attend my first concert ever on this night, but a Cleveland snowstorm turned my plans to see Bon Jovi into an evening alone in the basement watching Indiana and Syracuse. Not a terrible consolation by any stretch.
Unless the Hoosiers were playing Ohio State back then, I almost always rooted for Bob Knight and Indiana. But my high school basketball teammates and I were big fans of the Big East, so it was hard not to root for freshman phenom Derrick Coleman and that funny-looking coach with the glasses.
+ No. 6: Michigan vs. Seton Hall, 1989
+ No. 7: Syracuse vs. Kansas, 2003
+ No. 8: Georgetown vs. North Carolina, 1982
+ No. 9: Duke vs. Connecticut, 1999
+ No. 10: Indiana State vs. Michigan State, 1979
In such a dilemma, the only thing a teen can then hope for is to see a good game. And that's precisely what America got.
The game was a close one throughout, and when Coleman missed a free throw with 27 seconds left, Indiana legend Steve Alford, who led the Hoosiers all season long, brought the ball upcourt, hoping to set up one final shot for himself.
But it was his backcourtmate Keith Smart who got the best look. He knocked down a baseline jumper with four seconds left to give Indiana the 74-73 lead and Knight his third and final national championship.
Smart, who endured an up-and-down career under Knight, finished the season on the highest of high notes, and even joked after the game that teammate Daryl Thomas made the wise move of kicking the ball back out to Smart to set up the heroic shot.
"I'd like to thank Daryl for not taking that last shot and passing it back out to me," he said. "It was a wise decision on his part."
After the chaos of the winning shot, Syracuse didn't call a timeout until only one second remained. That's when Smart intercepted the three-quarter court pass and heaved the ball skwyard, setting off the great celebration just a few miles down the road from his native Baton Rouge.