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Sports Then and Now

VCU Quiets the Basketball “Experts” 6

Posted on March 27, 2011 by Dean Hybl

VCU has shouted loudly with their actions during the NCAA Tournament to reach the Final Four.

If Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and the legion of other NCAA basketball “experts” we regularly see on television were in charge of selecting the NCAA Tournament field, the VCU Rams might be on their way to New York for the NIT Finals or getting back in the swing of classes after the end of basketball season. But fortunately, those “experts” are not in charge and instead the Rams are preparing for a trip to Houston for the first Final Four appearance in school history.

Given how bleak the experts believed the chances were for the Rams to make the field two weeks ago, the team didn’t even bother watching the selection show together. But within hours of the announcement they were on their way to Dayton and have been on an amazing trip ever since.

Following their dominating 71-61 victory over top seeded Kansas, the Rams are now the first team in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Final Four after winning five tournament games. They did so by defeating teams from the Pac-10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 and winning four of those games by double digits.

Coupled with the Elite Eight victory by Butler, we are now guaranteed a team from a non “power” conference reaching the NCAA Championship Game for the third time in four years.

Both Butler a year ago and Memphis in 2008 fell just short, but given the lack of dominance by big conference schools in recent years you have to believe that 2011 could bring the first NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Champion from a non-power conference to cut down the nets since UNLV in 1990. Read the rest of this entry →

Memorable NCAA Tournament Runs – Part 2, 25-11 2

Posted on March 16, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The 1979 Penn Quakers defeated North Carolina and Duke to reach the Final Four.

Welcome to Part 2 of the 50 most memorable NCAA tournament runs since 1979.

This installment features tournament runs 25 through 11 since the tournament began to seed teams back in 1979.

We start with #25:

25. 2002 Kent State
The Golden Flashes entered the 2002 tournament with the longest winning streak in the country, at 18 games, but were given only a #10 seed in the South Regional.

Led by future San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, Kent State knocked off Oklahoma State in the first round, then easily defeated SEC champion Alabama in the second round to make it out of the first weekend.

In the Sweet 16, the Flashes pulled off a 76-73 overtime victory over #3 seed Pittsburgh to become the first Mid-American Conference team to reach the Elite Eight since Ohio back in 1964.

However, Kent could not get past Indiana in the regional final as they lost 81-69, denying the Flashes a trip to the Final Four.

24.  1979 St. John’s
St. John’s was the 40th and last team to make it to the 1979 NCAA tournament, by winning nine of its last 11 games in the regular season.

The Redmen continued their hot streak into the tournament as they defeated Temple in the first round, then stunned 2nd seeded Duke 80-78 as part of “Black Sunday”, where the Blue Devils and North Carolina both lost their games in the state of North Carolina.

St. John’s held off Rutgers 67-65 in their Sweet 16 match-up to advance to the East Regional Final, where they faced off Pennsylvania, the team who knocked off North Carolina.

The Redmen’s memorable run ended just short off the Final Four as they lost to Penn 64-62.

23. 1987 LSU
One year after making the Final Four as a #11 seed, the Tigers almost pulled off another Final Four run as a double digit seed.

LSU actually had a worse record in 1987 than they did the previous season as they finished the season with a 21-14 record, 8-10 in the SEC, but earned berth as a #10 seed.

The Tigers defeated Georgia Tech in the first round, followed by a win over second-seeded Temple in the second round to move onto to the second weekend of the tournament where they defeated #3 seed DePaul to face where they faced top seed Indiana in the Midwest Regional Final.

LSU was on the brink of a second consecutive Final Four as they lead the Hoosiers 75-66 with 4:38 left in the second half, but Indiana outscored the Tigers 12-1 with forward Rick Calloway scoring the winning basket with seven seconds remaining to give Indiana a 77-76 win and denying the Tigers a return trip to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry →

Hey NCAA: You Are Changing the Wrong Championship! 0

Posted on March 31, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Northern Iowa v Kansas

If the NCAA Basketball Tournament expands, Northern Iowa would likely need to win two games before getting a chance at a top seed like Kansas.

I guess it is debatable as to whether sports were ever really about the fans, but in case you help out some naïve believe that fans mattered, you need look no further than decisions that are being made by the NCAA to realize that cash is king and everything else doesn’t really matter in today’s sports world.

Over the last several decades, football and basketball have developed into the marquee sports for college athletics. The Division I men’s basketball championship has evolved into “March Madness” and captivates millions of Americans in a three week love affair with office pools and Cinderella stories.

Few people like the current Division I college football championship structure of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), but there is no denying the immense popularity of the sport.

A multitude of fans and critics have spent years calling for the NCAA to create a system for college football that is more like the playoff system used in college basketball and in football for all other divisions of college football.

Conversely, whenever it has been suggested that the NCAA basketball tournament might increase the number of teams, the debate is more divided with a majority seemly believing the status quo is working and adding to the field would cheapen the tournament and hurt the magic.

So, you can guess which championship looks like it will undergo some major revisions for next year.

Let me give you a hint, it isn’t the one that currently keeps most of the money with the “big boy” conferences.

Yes, in a greed play reminiscent of a robber going back into the bank because he forgot to take the bankers watch, the NCAA powers appear poised to increase the number of teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament to 96. Read the rest of this entry →

Ultimate March Madness: The 20 Greatest Moments in NCAA Tournament History 10

Posted on March 17, 2010 by A.J. Foss
Christian Laettner's game-winning shot ended one of the great games in NCAA Tournament history.

Christian Laettner's game-winning shot ended one of the great games in NCAA Tournament history.

Welcome to the third and final part of the Ultimate March Madness List.
This installment features the top 20 moments in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

20. 1998 Valparaiso-Ole Miss

With 2.5 seconds left and trailing 69-67, Valpo’s Jaime Skyes throws a 60-foot pass down the length of the court that is caught by Bill Jenkins, who then passes it over to Bryce Drew (the head coach’s son), who then proceeds to drill a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give #13 seed Valparaiso an improbable 70-69 victory over the #4 seed Ole Miss Rebels in their first round game.

19. 1990 Connecticut-Clemson
With exactly one second left, Uconn guard Tate George catches a full-court pass from Scott Burrell, lands, then squares up to shoots a jumper that goes in the basket at the buzzer to give the Huskies a miraculous 71-70 win over the Clemson Tigers and send Connecticut to their first ever Elite Eight.

18. 1991 Duke-UNLV
One year after losing to UNLV 103-73 in the championship game, Duke avenges that humiliating by knocking off the undefeated and defending national champion Runnin’ Rebels 79-77 as Christian Lattener hits two free throws with 12.7 seconds left.

Duke would win the national championship two nights later as they defeated Kansas 72-65 to give coach Mike Krzyzewski his first national title after five trips to the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry →

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Time For Cinderella To Dance 3

Posted on March 16, 2010 by Dean Hybl
The NCAA Basketball Tournament gives small schools the chance to wear Cinderella's glass slipper.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament gives small schools the chance to wear Cinderella's glass slipper.

So how does your NCAA bracket look? If yours is anything like mine, the toughest choices have not been in picking Final Four teams, but instead in trying to predict which school will come out of nowhere to crash the party.

Almost every year at least one school that is familiar only to people within its home area code suddenly becomes a national darling thanks to an upset, or near upset, of a team with significantly more national recognition. These schools are often referred to as “Cinderella” and just to avoid the kind of confusion that occurred at my house the other night when my five-year old daughter heard a promo for the NCAA Tournament and thought it meant one of her favorite princesses was going to be playing basketball, in this case Cinderella does not have flowing blonde hair, a glass slipper or a Fairy Godmother.

Rather, the typical Cinderella of the NCAA Tournament is a school that has been playing good basketball throughout the year, but has stayed under the radar while schools from the power conferences hog the national television spotlight and spots in the national polls. One of the endearing elements of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is that the opening rounds of the tournament are the one time each year when those power conference schools must share that spotlight with schools that aren’t so familiar to a national audience. Read the rest of this entry →

The Colonial Athletic Association: The NCAA Tournament’s Giant Slayer 1

Posted on March 06, 2010 by Dean Hybl
The 1991 NCAA Tournament win by Richmond over Syracuse marked the first time a 15 seed had ever defeated a number two seed.

The 1991 NCAA Tournament win by Richmond over Syracuse marked the first time a 15 seed had ever defeated a number two seed.

When the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament begins later this month there will be lots of talk about Cinderella’s and which previously unknown teams from obscure conferences will shatter the Final Four dreams of schools from top-tier leagues.

For more than a quarter century, schools from one mid-level conference have set the standard for crashing the dance during March Madness.

Based in the mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) has created an impressive resume of NCAA Tournament upsets.

Even before the league officially formed in 1985, some of its original members were harassing the “big boys” during the NCAA Tournament.

Between 1981 and 1983, James Madison University (as a member of the CAA predecessor the ECAC South), made three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament and each season knocked off a big conference opponent. Their victims were all marquee programs in West Virginia, Ohio State and Georgetown.

JMU also nearly pulled off what would have gone down as one of the biggest upsets in tournament history as they gave eventual National Champion North Carolina all they could handle during the second round of the 1982 NCAA Tournament. UNC needed a controversial charge call on JMU in the final minute to pull out a 52-50 victory.

The University of Richmond (a member of the ECAC South and then a CAA member from 1985-2001) is now known as the only team in NCAA Tournament history to win games as a 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed, however, in 1984 they were a national unknown when head coach Dick Tarrant led the Spiders into the tournament. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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