In honor of today’s start of March Madness, here are my top NCAA basketball memories. A good number of them happened well before the term “March Madness” was even coined. That means I’m old.
- Bill Walton of UCLA going 21-22 against Memphis State in the finals of the 1973 tournament. This was the last of UCLA’s eight in a row — and I hated them. I was sure Memphis State was going to win. Uh, no. The dunk was illegal in college basketball back then, and Walton and his teammates mastered the alley-oop pass with a delicate drop-in lay up. Even I had to admit it was a thing of beauty.
- North Carolina State’s upset of Walton and UCLA the very next year in the semis. At last my dream came true! David Thompson, Tom Burleson, and Monte Towe made it happen.
- If NC State was my dream in 1974, they were my nightmare in 1983. Lorenzo Charles’ buzzer beating dunk to edge the Houston Cougars remains a bitter pill to swallow. I hated to see such a talented team choke so badly. Sorry, Wolfpack fans. A team from Texas has still never won the NCAA basketball championship . . . and I don’t think SMU will do so anytime soon.
- Princeton-Georgetown, first round,1989. With Alonzo Mourning leading the way, Georgetown was a number one seed; Princeton was a 16. At the beginning of the ESPN broadcast that night, Dick Vitale stated (screamed?) that the Ivy League should no longer have an automatic bid to the tournament. By the end of the game, he was wearing orange-and-black Princeton garb. Princeton led most of the game, had the ball down one with mere seconds to go, and Mourning fouled Kit Mueller on the potential game winner . . . but of course the refs didn’t call it. The shot missed and Georgetown won. It’s still the closest a 16 seed has come to winning.
- Duke-Kentucky, Elite Eight, 1992. Two seconds to go. Christian Laettner. Full court pass. Swish. What else can I say? Still the best game I’ve ever seen. I knew history was being made as I was watching it.
- Princeton-UCLA, first round 1996. Talk about good karma (not that I believe in karma, mind you). My alma mater beats the defending-national-champion-team-I-hated-as-a-kid with a backdoor-cut-layup at the buzzer.
Those are mine. What are yours?