The week is upon us, the start of March Madness. March Madness the event that may have been the starting point of NCAA moving away from student-athletes and into the business market. March Madness, what a month will follow. For the next four weeks the country will be wrapped up in the annual Cinderella stories, the buzzer beaters, the bracket busters and the teams that live up to their potential and those that don’t. All season long we have had to listen to prognosticators talk about who is in, who is out. (Even as early as November, which is a joke can’t we even wait until teams reach conference play before we start talking about who is on the bubble and what seed they will get) Now we finally get to see how it all plays out.
I for one can’t wait to see what this year’s March Madness brings us. With all of the uncertainty of this season, no team separating themselves and with no true dominant player it could be wide open. With that here are some of my favorite and most memorable moments of March Madness from year’s past.
- The first moment I really remember March Madness just happens to be possibly the greatest moment in the history of the tournament. The “Laettner Shot”. It was 1992 and I was 13 at the time and just starting to get into my sport fanaticism. Who can forget this epic game between Duke and Kentucky that ended with Christian Laettner’s improbable shot at the buzzer.
- The next moment is on here because it involves probably my favorite all-time collegiate basketball team, the 1993-94 University of Missouri squad. What a team, they went 28-4 and undefeated (14-0) in the Big Eight. This team featured Melvin Booker, Jevon Crudup, Julian Winfield, Lamont Frazier, Kelly Thames and two guys that just bombed from long range in Paul O’Liney and Mark Atkins. They advanced the furthest any MU team ever had, reaching the Elite Eight before being sent home by Arizona.
- March Madness is always about the underdog, the Cinderella. Teams that the media and fans often overlook get a chance to play the big boys. So with this moment let’s honor two of the more recent Cinderella stories. First the Butler vs. Duke championship game in 2010. This game was a battle between #5 seed Butler and seven point favorites Duke. Butler had a chance to secure a Hollywood ending but saw Gordon Haywood’s last second shot come up short in a 61-59 Duke win.
- The next memorable Cinderella run occurred the next year with #11 seed VCU making Shaka Smart a household name. The Rams ran all the way to the Final Four after dispatching of #6 Georgetown, #3 Purdue, #10 Florida State and #1 Kansas. They are the lowest seed to ever make it to the Final Four.
- We can not close out the list without talking about the buzzer-beaters. Part of the aura of March Madness is the handful of buzzer beaters that occur each spring. Some of them live on in film and can either bring joy to you or torment you, depending on which side your team was on. My favorite buzzer beater is Bryce Drew’s shot in the 1998 tournament that sent Valparaiso, a #13 seed, on past #4 seed Ole Miss. They play itself was drawn up and run to perfection. A half court pass from the out of bounds, dropped off to a streaking Drew who pulls up from 25 feet out to win the game 70-69. It can’t get any better than this moment, a head coach (the father) drawing up the game-winning play for his son (Bryce) and hitting the shot to send an underdog team on in glory.
- My next most memorable buzzer beater was one that falls on the torment side for me. It is Tyus Edney’s full court sprint that sent UCLA past my Mizzou Tigers in the 1995 tournament. Mizzou, coming off an Elite Eight appearance the year before was primed for another run and just had to get past the Bruinss. There were 4.8 seconds left and MIzzou held a 74-73 lead. Edney a 5-10 guard, took the in-bounds pass and went on a full on sprint towards the Tiger basket where he lifted the ball over Derek Grimm’s (a 6-9 forward) hands for the win. UCLA would go on to win the tournament that year while Mizzou’s hopes for another run to the Elite Eight were dashed.