March Madness has arrived. The NCAA Tournament is about to go down! With it arrives the crumbled dreams (read: paper) of office pool participants seeking that elusive perfect bracket. The stories are what intrigue me the most about the college tournament. It’s where the David beats Goliath. It’s where previously unknown players and teams make a name for themselves.
There are five stories that always come to mind for me this time of year. It’s s personal top five of sorts. For the record, I don’t count anything before 1985. So Jimmy Valvano’s NC State team is out. So is the epic Bird vs. Magic matchup in 1979. But these five moments are some of the fondest memories I have of the mid-March Classic known as March Madness.
1. Scrawny Lil’ Chef Curry
Who can forget the kid from Davidson with the sweet stroke? Before he was Chef Curry, Steph was wreaking havoc in a mid-major conference that no one heard about. Looked over by major D-1 schools after a great high school career, Steph was on a mission to prove them all wrong. And he got his shot in 2008 as a sophomore.
2. The Shot Heard Round The World
Seconds left in the game. Kentucky is up by one. And Christian Laettner catches a 3/4 court pass, turns and nails a jump shot. Who can forget the epic Thomas Hill “cry face”? He was the Jordan meme before the Jordan meme.
I hated Duke then. I hate Duke now. I’ve found solace in the fact that Laettner had a very sub-par NBA career. But this shot still defines his career and always makes a cameo in the One Shining Moment montage put together every March for the tournament.
3. He’s Not A Math Major
Chris Webber is a Detroit kid. He grew up in the D, went to a private school to play hoops, and went on to star at Michigan as a member of the Fab Five. He even had a pretty good NBA career. But he’ll always be remembered as the guy who forgot how many timeouts his team had at the end of a crucial game. He turned his tragedy into triumph and started an organization called Timeout to help support youth in his native Detroit. Still, the timeout stands out in my mind as one of the greatest player mistakes in sports history
4. The Mike Tysons of Basketball
The UNLV Running Rebels were amazing and scary at the same time. Their coach was crazy. They had players with gold teeth, high top fades, and swagger before the Fab Five even enrolled at Michigan.As soon as UNLV stepped on the court, they intimidated every other team in the NCAA. Stacey Augman, Larry Johnson, and Greg Anthony ran the show in 1990 and beat Duke like they stole something. By 30 points. 103-73. It was beautifully ugly.
5. George Mason to the Final Four
To think, this wouldn’t even be a story had George Mason not gotten an at-large bid as a mid-major. This is one time the committee got it right. This wasn’t just a great story because the team was an 11 seed. Look who they beat to get to the Final Four in 2006. Michigan State, North Carolina, and top-seeded Connecticut all lost to this team. What a run. What a story. And this was from a group of unassuming guys that looked like dudes I played pick up ball with at the YMCA.
Thoughts: Did I miss any? What are your top moments from March Madness?