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Small Conferences Provide Big Tournament Excitement 18

Posted on March 06, 2012 by Dean Hybl

It was pure joy for players and fans in Richmond when VCU punched their NCAA Tournament dance ticket.

There was a time when the weekend of the ACC and Big East men’s basketball tournaments was as anticipated as the opening week of the NCAA Tournament.

When I was a middle and high school student in Virginia during the early 1980s, the only time our teachers would ever bring a television into the classroom was on the Friday afternoon of the ACC Tournament so we could watch that opening game in between science, math or English lessons.

In the Big East you could always count on classic battles between Georgetown, St. Johns, Syracuse and Villanova as each looked to secure bragging rights in a conference that was built for basketball.

That, of course, was the days before the 64 team tournament (now 68) when only the best team or two from each league was assured of making the tournament field and even high quality squads had to make a deep run in the conference tournament to guarantee a spot in the NCAA field.

Since 1985 when the NCAA field expanded from 53 to 64 teams after having as few as 22 teams participating just a decade earlier, the role of the conference tournament in power leagues like the ACC, Big East and SEC in determining which teams make the NCAA field has steadily declined.

Now, instead of the third or fourth seeded teams in these tournaments feeling they needed to make a run to the title game to ensure a spot in the NCAA field, they now enter the tournament knowing an early exit won’t hurt them and the extra rest may actually be helpful for their NCAA run.

Occasionally, like Georgia in the SEC in 2008 or Connecticut in the Big East last year, a team that must win the conference tournament to make the NCAA’s can still emerge and capture the crowd. Read the rest of this entry →

Memorable NCAA Tournament Runs – Part 1, 50-26 5

Posted on March 15, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The 1994 Boston College Eagles ended a string of 14 consecutive Sweet 16 appearances for the UNC Tar Heels.

One of the many reasons that fans love March Madness is an underdog team managing to pull together a series of unlikely victories to help ruin someone’s bracket.

With that in mind, I have created the 50 most memorable NCAA tournament runs in recent history.

Every single run that is represented in this list is from 1979 through the present, since seeding was first used back in the 1979 tournament.

A team did not have to make it to the Final Four or win the national championship just to get mentioned on this list.

The more surprising the run they made, the higher the team is.

So, let’s begin the 50 most memorable NCAA tournament runs starting with 50:

50. 1982 Houston
The “Phi Slamma Jamma” made three consecutive Final Fours from 1982 through 1984, but their appearance in 1982 was a surprise.

As a #6 seed in the Midwest Regional, the Cougars defeated Alcorn State, then higher seeds Tulsa and Missouri, and beat fellow Cinderella Boston College in the regional final.

The Cougars would lose in the Final Four to eventual national champion North Carolina.

49. 1988 Rhode Island
The Rams became the first Atlantic 10 team to reach the Sweet 16, as the East region’s #11 seed knocked off Missouri and Syracuse, thanks to guard Tom Garrick’s combined 57 points in the two victories.

Rhode Island narrowly missed advancing to the Elite Eight as they lost in the Sweet 16 to Duke, 73-72.

48. 1982 UAB
In just their fifth season of basketball, the Blazers made it all the way to the Elite Eight.

The tournament field had 48 teams from 1980 through 1984 and since they were a #4 seed, UAB got a first round bye, but had to face defending national champion Indiana in the second round.

Led by guard Oliver Robinson, the Blazers defeated the Hoosiers 80-70, then shocked #1 seed and player of the year Ralph Sampson 68-66, to advance to the regional final where their run came to an end at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals.
Read the rest of this entry →

2011 NCAA Tournament: Let the Madness Begin 5

Posted on March 13, 2011 by Dean Hybl

It is that time of year again with brackets being completed and the debate heating up in preparation for the most enjoyable three weeks of the college basketball season, the NCAA Tournament.

In the first year of the 68 team tournament it has been proven that even adding three additional at-large teams doesn’t ensure happiness with the system.

In a year that college basketball experts say is filled with mediocre teams, there continues to be disappointment with some of the selections into the NCAA tournament field. Most specifically, the inclusion of Alabama-Birmingham and Virginia Commonwealth has some experts scratching their head and calling foul.

While both teams certainly have warts, the difference between them and some of the power conference teams that just missed the tournament isn’t significant.

What the NCAA Tournament committee seems to be saying is that conference success isn’t enough to get into the dance. Both UAB and VCU play in solid conferences and had a number of quality victories. Read the rest of this entry →

30 Years Ago: The Birth of March Madness 4

Posted on March 13, 2011 by A.J. Foss
Lonnie McFarlan passes to John Smith for layup that would shock top seeded DePaul.

Lonnie McFarlan passes to John Smith for layup that shocks top-seeded DePaul.

The NCAA Basketball tournament began with the 1979 national championship game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana State Sycamores, featuring Magic Johnson for the Spartans and Larry Bird for the Sycamores.

But the madness really began on March 14, 1981, when the top two ranked teams in the country and the defending national champions were all knocked off in buzzer beater losses.

All in the same afternoon.

The action began in Austin, Texas when the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals faced off with the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The game was close throughout but it appeared the Cardinals would advance to the Sweet 16 after guard Derek Smith hit the go-ahead basket to give Louisville a 73-72 lead with five seconds left. Read the rest of this entry →

NCAA vs. UNLV: Is it a Conspiracy? 10

Posted on March 17, 2010 by Richard Marsh
Is the NCAA still punishing UNLV for the antics of Jerry Tarkanian?

Is the NCAA still punishing UNLV for the antics of Jerry Tarkanian?

Of course there is but more on that in a little bit.

First off I am not what you call a “Conspiracy Theorist”. Well maybe a little bit. Like, sure there wasn’t another shooter on the grassy knoll. Like, Amelia Earhart really lost her way. Like all the disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle can be explained. Like Elvis is really dead. Now that one I know is not true. Here in Vegas I see Elvis at least three to four times a day, sometimes even in two places at once.

You tell me what dead person could do that. Oh and by the way here’s two more I’ll let you in on but don’t spread the word or I might be found just outside of town in an area called The Valley of Fire. Tupac’s alive for sure plus sports players never bet on games and know that Jeb Bush had nothing to do with the results of the 2000 election results in Florida. Duh, the guy with most votes lost.

With the 2010 NCAA Tournament on the verge of sending sports fans everywhere into March Madness my 20 year old nagging conspiracy that the powers that be in the NCAA land continues it’s life long vengeance against the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

This body of old, decrepit individuals really can hold a grudge. Geez!

Lets go back a little more than a generation ago. If you think of the City of Las Vegas to be “Sin City” now try to imagine when the town was run by the Mob, known in some circles as the Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, the Godfathers, that thing of ours, and my favorite, the Little Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Hell our current Mayor, Oscar (“I was not a mob lawyer”) Goodman was THE mob lawyer for Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Seigal. No he wasn’t but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Read the rest of this entry →

Ultimate March Madness: Great Moments 40-21 4

Posted on March 16, 2010 by A.J. Foss
Danny Ainge made a magical shot to defeat Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA Tournament.

Danny Ainge made a magical shot to defeat Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA Tournament.

Welcome to Part 2 of the Ultimate March Madness List. Today, we explore moments 40-21.

40. 2003 Syracuse-Kansas
Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick blocks a potential tying 3-point shot by Kansas’s Michael Lee with 0.7 seconds left to preserve the 81-78 win and securing the first national championship for Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim.

39. 1998 Washington-Connecticut
On the third shot attempt in the final eight seconds of the game, UConn’s Richard Hamilton hits a short fade away jumper at the buzzer that wins the game for the Huskies 75-74 in their Sweet Sixteen game with Washington and sends UConn to the Elite Eight.

38. 2008 Davidson
Stephen Curry, son of former NBA player Del Curry, becomes the star of the 2008 Tournament as he leads his Davidson Wildcats on a memorable run to the elite eight.

Curry scores 40 points in Davidson’s first round matchup with Gonzaga, followed by a 30-point performance in the second round against Georgetown as he outscored the Hoyas 25-22 in the final 14:24 of the second half to lead the Wildcats back from a 17-point deficit, then scored 33 in a rout of Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen, and then 25 in a two-point loss to Kansas in the Midwest Regional Final. Read the rest of this entry →

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