Selection Sunday is upon us which means March Madness is about to happen. I’ve seen hundreds of tourney games over the years and there have been thousands of memories. But, as hard as it was, I’ve narrowed it down to 5. These are my Top 5 Favorite or at least most memorable, NCAA Tourney moments. Not that these are the ‘best’ moments of the Tournament, but just my most memorable.
1) Alonzo’s block -- First, I’m a lifelong Hoya fan and I didn’t want this to be a list of 5 Georgetown memories, so Zo’s block actually represents my most memorable G’town tourney moment as well – It was 1989 and the Mighty Hoyas were the #1 overall seed in the Tournament. First up was 20-point underdog and 16<sup>th</sup> seeded Princeton from the Ivy League. Of course no 1 seed has ever lost to a 16 seed in tourney history, ever. Coach Pete Carrill lured Freshman stud Alonzo Mourning away from the basket with his sharp-shooting big men while the Princeton guards would backdoor the over-aggressive Hoya D. Lay-up after lay-up after lay-up for the Tigers, each one seemingly with less than 5 seconds on the shot clock. However, Georgetown had little trouble scoring either, as Mourning was just too big in the middle. But the game came down to the final possession, and it belonged to the Tigers. Down 50-49, Princeton ran a play to again bring Big Zo out of the paint…but this time their big guy took the shot, and Mourning leaped to try to just get a piece. And that’s just what he got – a piece, but enough of a piece to cause the shot to fall short and Georgetown to hold on to victory. Whew!
2) Keith Smart’s jumper – It’s 1987 -- Steve Alford and the Indiana Hoosiers are in a titanic battle with freshman beast Derrick Coleman and the then Syracuse Orangemen. I think DC had something like 20+ rebounds in that game….crazy. Anyway, this game too came down to the last possession, and the Hoosiers had the ball. Up a point, the ‘Cuse decided that All America guard Alford is NOT going to beat them….little did they know Keith Smart would. After he hit that corner jumper, I can remember going outside and shooting that shot over and over and over. 3….2….1….from the corner…..gooooooood! You too, right?
3) Bo honoring Hank – In 1990, the college basketball world lost a fantastic player, one Hank Gathers. He played alongside Bo Kimble in High School and both stints in college, at USC and Loyola-Marymount (Gathers and Kimble transferred from USC to LMU after the ’85-’86 season after their coach was fired). During the 1990 West Coast Conference Tourney, Gathers collapsed and died on the court due to a known heart condition. The conference tournament was of course suspended and, due to their regular season title, LMU was given the automatic NCAA tourney bid. The 11<sup>th</sup> seeded Lions made an unbelievable run, all the way to the Elite 8. But what I most remember is that Bo, although right-handed, would shoot his first free throw of each tourney game lefty, honoring his longtime southpaw pal. Bo went 3 for 3 left handed during the Tournament. Great stuff.
4) Rice’s takeover – 1989 – The University of Michigan is entering the Tournament with a coach who hadn’t won a game all season. The coach who was at the helm for every win that season was Bill Frieder. But after the regular season, Frider had accepted a new job with Arizona State , and although he intended to coach the Wolverines throughout the Tournament, AD Bo Schembechler was having none of it. He told Frieder to split and gave the job (and the Tournament) to Steve Fisher. There’s no way this team can advance very far with a new coach, right? It’s just everyone forgot to tell Glen Rice. Dude went nuts. I can remember him coming off those double-screens and popping out at the top of the key….swish! Perfect form, perfect release…it was beautiful. It seemed like he never missed. Throughout the Tournament, he scored a record 184 points, just a shade over 30 per. That record still stands today. I wanted to have just won day where I was in the zone Rice was for that Tournament. Simply amazing. By the way, the Wolverines did go on to win the whole thing – Rumeal Robinson sinking the clinching free throws against Andrew Gaze and Seton Hall.
5) Hill to Laettner – 1992 East Regional Final – a trip to the Final Four on the line. All America beast Christian Laettner was already perfect on the night, having gone 9 for 9 from the field and 10 of 10 at the line. But there were only 2.1 seconds left, and Duke trailed Kentucky 103-102. Its Duke ball out-of-bounds baseline after a made UK basket. Grant Hill inbounds the ball with a Hail Mary-like bomb to Laettner at the far free throw line. Guarded by two Kentucky players (who inexplicably just stand there), Laettner catches the bomb, dribbles, spins, and fires a 17 footer that hits nothing but the bottom. Time expires and Duke advances to the Final Four (and eventually the National Championship). Amazing pass, amazing shot, amazing game by Laettner. He literally couldn’t miss all night.
Ok, I know I left out TONS of great stuff. Honorable mention to Scotty Thurman’s jumper vs Duke, Chris Webber’s timeout that wasn’t, NC State, and the multitude of Georgetown memories….Jordan in ’82, Ewing in ’84, and Nova in ’85.
Let’s start bustin’ some brackets!