Sweetest NCAA Memories #4: Bryce Drew & Family

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

My Stepdad, A Sports Bar, and Bryce Drew (submitted by Dave Zeitlin)

Long before Bryce Drew made one of the most memorable shots in college basketball history, I sat in a fourth-grade class waiting impatiently for my stepfather to pick me up early from school. At the time, I did not know that something strange and wonderful was about to begin, a tradition, I must admit now to all my teachers from fourth grade through high school, that was fueled by a lie: No, I wasn’t really sick the same Thursday and Friday in March every year. The truth is, I ditched school every year so I could watch the first-round games of the NCAA tournament at a sports bar with my stepdad. Phew, I feel better now. And now that this public admission is out of the way, I must say that I learned lessons at the sports bar that I never could have learned in school – like how to watch four games at once without missing a basket (hard); how to order food while keeping an eye on the TV (not as hard); and who to root for you when you had no real rooting interest (the dark jerseys, of course).

It was also there where I learned about Bryce Drew.

bryce-drew-shot

For those who don’t know about Bryce Drew’s game-winning shot – well, you guys are just bad people. Seriously, the play doesn’t need a description because anyone who is a college basketball fan has seen it over and over again. But amazingly, it never gets old. Watch the YouTube clip of the wild finish of the 1998 first-round game between Valparaiso and Mississippi (below), and then check out the longer version, and then watch both clips one more time.

Valpo 70, Ole Miss 69. Chills.

Sure, there are buzzer-beaters every year. And 13 seeds often find a way to sneak into the second round or the Sweet 16. But for me, Drew’s shot is in a class by itself for two reasons: For starters, what few people remember is that Drew missed an open 3-pointer seconds earlier and Valpo only got the chance to pull off the win when Ole Miss star Ansu Sesay missed two free throws and the rebound was, fortuitously, tipped out-of-bounds and given to Valpo. Secondly, it wasn’t just the single shot that was amazing. It was the entire play – from the pump-fake on the inbounds pass by Jamie Sykes, to the leaping catch in traffic by Bill Jenkins, to the nifty touch pass to the streaking Drew, to The Shot, to the wild celebration on the floor, and then, finally, to an emotional hug between Drew and his head coach.

Only at that moment, it wasn’t his head coach that he was hugging. It was his father, Homer. And for me, that’s the coolest thing about the play – that it was designed for Bryce by his dad. Every time I think of the play, I always imagine the father and son having drawn it up years before while goofing around on an old, raggedy driveway hoop. Bryce’s older brother, Scott, the Baylor head coach who was then an assistant at Valpo, probably helped, too.

Many of These NCAA Memories Come Back to Family
Many of These NCAA Memories Come Back to Family

Lucky for me, on the day the Drew family booked their place in NCAA tournament lore, I was with a family member, too. Even better, I was with someone who understood that the first round of the NCAA tournament – also known as the greatest two days in sports – is far more important than a few hours in school. And if you don’t think that’s true, watch Bryce Drew’s shot one more time.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #5: The Mason Miracle

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

The Mason Miracle (submitted by Ryan Kish of George Mason Basketball)

Will Thomas Dunked His Way to the Four

Will Thomas Dunked His Way to the Four

I’ll have to take the homer pick here, as a I do blog about George Mason.  The 2006 Final Four run by the Patriots shocked everyone and it wasn’t just the fact that they unseated some historic programs (Michigan St, UNC and UConn) but rather how they accomplished it.  The Patriots took down a UConn squad that was littered with NBA prospects by going right into the teeth of the Husky front court.  Not by shooting a barrage of hail mary three-pointers but by using their undersized forwards to take the Huskies on right at the chokepoint.  Mason inspired many basketball fans by showing that having superb talent doesn’t always guarantee victory and five guys playing together with unity and determination can win under any circumstance. The victory was not just for Mason but for all the mid-majors who thought they were not given enough respect around the NCAA and the media.  ‘If Mason can do it, why can’t we’, is now the battle cry on many mid-major campuses and everyone wonders  each year: who will be the next George Mason?

Answer: there won’t be one.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #6: Butler to the Sweets

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Your School, Your Time (submitted by Damon Lewis of the Horizon League Network)

Growing up I always thought of myself as a big time college basketball fan.  I remember feeling very fortunate that my school always held half-days on the first Thursday-Friday of March Madness.  Sure, it was pure coincidence, but I liked to think that it was somehow a sign that we were supposed to be watching the games, and that’s exactly what I did.  It wasn’t until I went to college at Butler that I learned what March Madness was truly all about.  After having collected 25 wins in 2001-2002, and falling victim to a rage-tastic NCAA snub, the Bulldogs responded the following season with 25 more wins, and this time an at-large bid into the Big Dance.  Birmingham, Alabama was the site, Mississippi State was the draw, and there was no question I’d be attending.  The first step was figuring out “how” and the second step was figuring out “when” – as many of my friends and I had a fraternity formal scheduled for the exact same weekend.  It didn’t take long for the plans to come together, however.  We’d leave Friday morning, and 8 hours later we’d be in Birmingham, just in time to be able to watch a potential 2nd-round opponent, the Louisville Cardinals.  After the game, we’d drive straight back and attend our formal the next night on a few hours of sleep.  Just another day in the life of a college kid, right?

Butler Rode Cornette & Co. to the Second Weekend (photo credit: enquirer.com)

Butler Rode Cornette & Co. to the Second Weekend (photo credit: enquirer.com)

All went as planned.  Myself and 3 others drove all day on Friday, constantly going over why we thought our Bulldogs (not Mississippi State’s) would be victorious.  We tried to convince ourselves all afternoon that we’d be marching on, but none of us really believed it.  We were just happy to be able to escape the cold air of Indianapolis for a day.  Soon enough we arrived, and caught a glimpse of why Louisville was so feared that season (02-03).  They hammered Austin Peay in the first game of the night session, ending the Governors’ season.  As that game ended, the butterflies really started to build.  I was at an NCAA Tournament game, and not to just watch and enjoy the action.  I was there for MY team.  And I can tell you, win or lose, there’s nothing like being able to root for your team at the NCAA Tournament.  When you’re a heavy underdog, playing a team from the SEC, in SEC country, there’s something about feeling that momentum build as David is taking its best shots at Goliath.

As tip-time neared, everything that had been absorbed from watching Butler for an entire season began racing through my brain.  They needed to shoot well from the perimeter, stay out of foul trouble, and most importantly – control the tempo.  That Butler squad enjoyed grinding out possessions, and they were damn good at it.  At the same time, everything that had been absorbed from that entire week – pundits predicting a massive Mississippi State victory for being seeded too low as a #5 – also came rushing to the front of my brain.  It was a different, unsettling feeling, one that I haven’t felt about any Butler basketball team ever since.  The game took shape – painfully slow – just the type that Butler wanted.  There were punches, counter-punches, and counter-counter-punches, all spread VERY far and wide across both 20-minute halves.  Slowly, the “neutral” fans began to get on Butler’s bandwagon, and before anyone knew it, the game was still up for grabs with just seconds remaining.  Then this happened…

That feeling is one that I’ll never, ever forget.  They had done it, and David had advanced to the Round of 32.  Other friends of mine stayed in Birmingham.  They called their dates to our fraternity formal and cancelled on them, but it was understandable given the circumstances.  Our small crew of four hopped back in the car and drove all night up I-65 back to Indianapolis.  It was the fastest eight hours I’ve ever spent in a car.  We went to our formal on Saturday night, and of course the victory was all anyone could talk about.  A fun time was had by all, but I don’t remember all that much of it.  I was already thinking about Sunday’s showdown with Louisville.  Combine that with the lack of sleep and an excessive amount of malted hops, and, well, you get the picture.  Everyone woke up early Sunday morning and headed back to campus to see if our classmates had one more unthinkable performance in them.  This is what we saw…

Needless to say, the scene on campus was unreal.  Everyone ran out of their housing units as soon as the final buzzer sounded, and it was pandemonium in the streets.  Sure, there were only a couple-thousand out there, but that was easily over half the campus!  To this day, I think about that 48-hour period every time March rolls around.  And, honestly, I usually end up telling this story to someone, whether they’ve heard it already or not.  I’ve been to several of Butler’s NCAA Tournament games since that weekend, but the sequel is never, EVER as good as the original.  That is, unless the latest sequel involves a run to the Elite 8 (or beyond) in the next couple weeks…

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #7: Two Shades of Orange(men)

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

We got two excellent submissions involving Syracuse, so we decided to throw both of them up in this memory (yeah, it’s cheating… take it up with our compliance dept.).

Syracuse, Finally (submitted by The Kiff)

Growing up in suburban Albany, NY, I have been a Syracuse basketball fan all of my life. Until 2003, that meant a life of never having had “my team” win the NCAA tournament – although it has meant heartbreak (see, e.g., 1987, 1996). That made 2003 all the more sweet. That year was my last year of law school in Virginia. My roommate and I decided on a whim that we would go to Vegas for the first week of the tournament – not an original idea, but still a great one. We got a flight on Southwest and a room at some crack den that has since been torn down called Bourbon Street. All I can say in justification is that we were poor students and that it was a 3-minute walk to Caesars Palace – and we weren’t killed. We got to Caesar’s Palace early Thursday morning, finding slot machines to sit at where we could watch the games, and just absorbing everything around us. While half of the screens in front of us were showing bombs of a different type in Iraq, we were largely focused on the upcoming games (and nervously wondering if there were going to be any).  I remember my buddy telling me that I could get 40-1 on Syracuse winning it all. I laughed and told him he was crazy – Cuse never wins it all, they just make you think they can. Damn it.

melo-syracuse
On Friday, we found ourselves actually sitting next to a couple of big Cuse fans, which was perfect. All I remember about the first game against Manhattan is that they won – not convincingly, but they won. I also remember that my hands hurt like a bitch from all of the high-fiving, and that I could barely talk from all of the yelling. On Sunday afternoon the good seats in Caesars opened up, and we were sitting pretty right in front. Unfortunately, the game started out rough – Cuse went down big early on (a Google search shows me they went down 17 points – jesus!). My buddy and I were going insane that they might lose in the second round with that lineup (McNamara, Anthony, Warrick, Edelin) – although I remember being less stressed than this kid sitting in front of us who we were pretty sure had bet his entire college tuition on the game. In the Final Four game against Texas, my memory is that Carmelo Anthony scored about 95 points and Gerry McNamara was hitting 3-pointers from half court. And this.  That may be the result of a faulty memory, but they definitely dominated. Finally, Syracuse was back in the Finals – they would be a major part of “One Shining Moment” – hopefully the best part.

This next part is a little embarrassing. Saturday night after the Final Four game, I had to go to an incoming-student event at the local pub. I spent the night drunk, chanting “Let’s Go Orange, Let’s Go!” (add clapping here) to anyone who would or would not listen. Now, I didn’t know my wife at that point, but when I later met her, and subsequently her friends, they knew me as the pathetically drunk dumbass in the [bar name redacted to protect the innocent] who had been screaming about “the Orange” all night. Alas, if they only knew how big it was to get into the Finals again. I couldn’t stand to watch the final game in a bar, so a buddy from school who is from the Syracuse area and is a bigger Cuse fan than me came over to my apartment and watched it with me. Needless to say, Hakim Warrick is a god to us. I have (almost) forgotten his missed free throws that almost killed us because the subsequent image of his diving block of the 3-pointer with no time on the clock is burned into my retinas. I have never been so happy watching a sporting event – except maybe the 1986 World Series, but I was too young to appreciate that one. If the Bills ever win a Super Bowl, I’ll have to revisit that statement, but for now, the 2003 Tournament, with my first trip to Vegas, the amazing games and Syracuse’s first Tourney win, will never be forgotten (note: the below video isn’t me, but it could have been).

—————————————————————————————————————————————

The other memory involving the Orangemen didn’t quite go the same way…

Sorrentine… From the Parking Lot (submitted by Michael Hurley)

There is nothing greater in sports than March Madness. It does what high school basketball no longer accomplishes. Except for in Kentucky and Delaware, high school basketball breaks their state tournaments down into classes by size. The NCAA tournament pits the big schools against the small schools. Every team needs to win six games straight. It is the same concept regardless of the size of school. Yes, there is seeding which makes it easier for the bigger and higher seeded schools, but the fundamentals are still the same. This is what enables teams along the way to write their own story and provide memorable moments in single games.

It’s the 2005 NCAA tournament. Syracuse was 27-6 and a four seed going up against Vermont, a thirteen seed. The Big East had six teams qualify for the tournament while Vermont was America East’s only representative. Syracuse had just won the national championship only two years before and Vermont had never won an NCAA tournament game. It had all of the makings of a David vs. Goliath. Vermont played Syracuse tough though, holding them to 23 first half points and was only down four. The Catamounts started to believe and came out in the second half and sent the game into overtime.

In overtime the Catamounts found themselves down two points with just under two minutes remaining when Germain Mopa Njila, who had been playing the best game of his career, hit a three to give Vermont the lead. The next play down the court for Vermont T.J Sorrentine hits the shot I will always remember. Sorrentine runs the clock down before tossing up a three-pointer from what it seemed like, halfcourt. The television camera catches coach Tom Brennan’s reaction to the shot and it is priceless. Brennan, who had announced at the beginning of the year he was going to retire after nineteen years at Vermont, is jumping for joy. Even though Vermont got knocked out their very next game, their victory over Syracuse will always reside in my memory when it comes to slaying the giant. T.J Sorrentine’s shot truly is the sweetest moment I can remember from the NCAA tournament.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #8: Illinois’ Scintillating Comeback

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Deron Williams Will Not Go Quietly  (submitted by Josh of Big Ten Geeks)

Who can forget Illinois’ 2005 comeback against Arizona?  This game certainly made Deron Williams a lot of money, but what strikes me about this contest is how everything had to go right for the Illini, and everything had to go wrong for Arizona in the final four minutes of regulation.  Illinois hit just about every shot they put up, even if it was from 30 feet, and every gamble they made on defense paid off.  There are more “what ifs” in this game than any other I’ve seen.  What if McClellan made both of his free throws, what if Hassan Adams was just a step quicker to block Dee Brown’s layup, and Arizona fans probably wonder what if the refs didn’t swallow their whistles in the last 4 minutes?  While I’ve never seen a better comeback, I have seen the same kind of furious rally at the end many times.  It happens when the better team suddenly realizes that there’s only a couple minutes to play, wakes up, and tries to mount a furious comeback.  The fans will later reflect on why the team didn’t play like this all game, but in the midst of the comeback, they’re just excited that the team might just pull this one off.  Inevitably, the gap shrinks, and it’s really just a matter of whether the underdog can avoid making a couple of mistakes that open the door.  Arizona left that door open, and the Illini marched right through it.

illinois-guards-05

Illinois of course had a historic season from a results standpoint, but they were also very entertaining to watch because of how they diced teams up on offense.  They didn’t have the most NBA players on the team, but they were unselfish and everyone played to their strengths.  A part of me thinks that while the Illini certainly wanted to win and go on to the Final Four, they also weren’t ready to stop playing together on that fateful evening in Chicago.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #9: Where Heart Overcomes Head

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

If You’re Reading This, You Can Relate  (submitted by Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6)

I turn 33 years old in less than a month and if there one’s constant in my life, it’s been sports.  And if there’s one event each year that I look forward to more than any other, it’s the PBA Tour Finals.  Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s really the NCAA Tournament.  My fondest sports memories as a kid, as a high school student, as a college student and as an “adult” are of the Big Dance.  I have no one to thank for getting me hooked on the tournament but my father.
 
A 1959 Villanova graduate, my dad has rooted for the “Big V” as long as I can remember.  In 1985, it finally paid off.  Rollie and the ‘Cats miracle run to the title was the hook, line and sinker for me when it came to the NCAA Tournament.  Unfortunately, my mom made me go to bed that Monday night and I didn’t know of the ‘Cats win until the next morning.  I still, to this day, have newspaper clippings and such from that game.  From that moment, I became a Villanova fan for life.


 
I can’t fill out a bracket without somehow convincing myself that Villanova can make the Final Four.  Example, you ask? 
 
1995.  ‘Nova had one of their best regular seasons in a long, long time led by the one-sock-up-wonder, Kerry Kittles.  The were finally back in the tournament for the first time in a few years and the ‘Cats are a 3-seed and get Old Dominion in the first round.  I naturally pick Villanova in the Final Four.  It’s my freshman year of college and I’m a videographer for the Ohio University women’s basketball team and we are flying to Seattle for the NCAA Tournament.  While in the air, ‘Nova is playing ODU.  I thought the flight attendant was going to throw me out of the plane.  I had one of those old-school walkmans with an AM/FM radio.  As we crossed over Minnesota and the great northwest of the United States, I kept tuning in broadcasts of the game.  I would catch a few minutes here, a few minutes there.  The flight attendant must have told me 15 times to turn off the walkman!  I refused.  I didn’t care that I was putting the flight in jeopardy.  Villanova was playing and they were going to overtime with OD-Who?  As you may have guessed (or remembered), the ‘Cats lost, all but ruining my trip to the Emerald City.  Luckily I was not arrested upon exit from the plane.
 
That’s just one of many Villanova heartbreak stories I’ve had following the ‘Cats all these years.  But if nothing else, it always gives my dad and I something we can talk, bond, argue, second-guess and complain about come March.

  • I remember on my 12th birthday, Villanova upset Rex Chapman and UK on their way to an Elite Eight loss to the great Stacey King/Mookie Blaylock-led Oklahoma Sooners.
  • After the ’95 disaster, I’m convinced they’ll bounce back in ’96 & 97 only to watch them get upset in the second round by Louisville and Cal (led by Tony Gonzalez)
  • Finally, after another lenghty lay-off from the Dance, ‘Nova gets back in with these youngsters (Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Mike Nardi and Curtis Sumpter, who tore his ACL and didn’t get to play)  Once again, I think they’re Final Four bound (when will I learn?!?!)  But this year they actually give me hope.  A win over New Mexico.  A win over Florida.  For the first time since 1988, they’re back in the Sweet Sixteen!  A showdown with Carolina in the Carrier Dome.  Do I need to remind you all of the phantom walk on Allen Ray in the final seconds? (1:05 mark)  Enough said.  Another heartbreaking end to the season.
  • 2006.  This might finally be the year.  A #1 seed.  They get the play-in winner for crying out loud!  Oops.  Monmouth gave the ‘Cats a war and ‘Nova barely got out alive.  Not one of their proudest moments.  But they did regroup to make it to the Elite Eight thanks to a memorable comeback against Boston College in the Sweet Sixteen.  The headline in the Philly Daily News read “Villa-Thrilla!”  Will Sheridan’s goaltend bucket will live in Main Line infamy and it gave me a memorable 30th birthday.  Unfortunately, what happened after that was something I wish I could forget.  A poor-shooting night ended the ‘Cats run (and a pretty good Florida team.  How did they finish?).
  • Then came last year’s improbable march to the round of 16 as a #12 seed.  Just a great coaching job by Jay Wright and a gutty effort by guys like Scottie Reynolds.  I never thought they had a chance against Kansas, but for once, just getting there was enough for me. 

Don’t think I can say the same for this year.  This team is capable of big things.  And again, I will talk myself into putting Villanova in my Final Four.  Only this time I hope I’m right.  And this time I won’t have to go to bed early!

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #10: “The Show” Sinks Carolina

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Harold “The Show” Arceneaux  (submitted by RTC Intern Mike Lemaire)

“Nobody gave us a chance in that first-round game against North Carolina. But we watched tape of them and came up with a game plan. We wanted to play to our strengths, and we didn’t care about their strengths. We wanted to spread the floor and use our quickness, make some of their big people play away from the basket. I don’t think North Carolina was ever worried about losing the game until the final few minutes. Then they started to takes us more seriously.”  — Harold Arceneaux

(photo credit: tampabay.com)

(photo credit: tampabay.com)

Long before Stephen Curry was leaving his mark on the NCAA tournament with his scoring barrage there was Harold “The Show” Arceneaux. Arceneaux was a 6-foot-6 guard for Weber State, and in 1999, he transformed from a good player to a player every college basketball fan remembers vividly. I remember the year, I was just 12 years old, and because my father wasn’t a basketball fan, I was an unabashed bandwagon-jumper. In 1999, it was North Carolina. Although the Tar Heels weren’t as strong as they had been in the past, the team was still loaded with talent like Ed Cota and Brendan Haywood. They entered the tournament as a three seed and were considered a lock to make it through the first round when they drew Weber State, but they didn’t know about Harold Arceneaux.

The Heels had no answer for “The Show” as he dumped 36 points on them on 14-26 shooting, including 5-7 from behind the arc. I remember because every time North Carolina looked like it would crawl back into the game, Arceneaux would get the ball and bury some fall-away jumper that would make UNC coach Bill Guthridge throw his hands into the air in frustration.  I can’t even remember how many times I screamed at the television.  Even when UNC tied the game with less than 20 seconds left, Arceneaux calmly sank two free throws and sealed the victory with a steal as time expired. What no one remembers is that Weber State also took Florida to overtime in the second round largely on the back of Arceneaux and his 32 points. Unfortunately, I don’t remember that either because I had my TV privileges revoked by my father for throwing the remote at the wall and smashing it when Arceneaux stole the pass to end the UNC game. So I guess in that sense, Arceneaux made sure he was my ONLY memory from the 1999 tournament.

(start at the 2:55 mark for highlights of the UNC game)

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #11: Remember the Titans

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Mercy Mercy Me (submitted by Ryan Pravato of College Fast Break)

UDM Star Rashad Phillips

UDM Star Rashad Phillips

Detroit Mercy was quite possibly the first ‘dog in the fight’ I ever had in the NCAA tournament.  Thanks to my dad’s efforts of introducing me to Titan basketball in ’98, I became enamored with Rashad Phillips’ flashiness and grit and thoroughly impressed with Perry Watson’s calm nature on the sidelines. Growing up an hour from Detroit gave me great leeway at jumping on any Michigan-based team’s bandwagon at any time.   It didn’t hurt that at that point in my life (age 9) I was gung-ho about underdogs anyway. I also had an uncanny knack for memorizing player’s names and heights, so much so that I was told countless times to ‘calm down’ and ‘zip it’ by my dad days prior to the game because of my constant regurgitation of the info I had read in the newspaper about the Detroit players. Apparently during the game I kept quiet enough, since I do remember that my dad allowed me to stay up late and watch the entire thing with him.

A ‘little’ school like Detroit actually knocking off a powerhouse… that completely hooked me on the sport. It didn’t seem true at the time, it seemed more like something I would have conjured up in my mind the night after the brackets were announced (is that not the best night ever?). All I know is that I owe my dad something really really nice one of these Father’s Days.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #12: Mario Miracle

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

The Mario Miracle  (submitted by Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com)

The Kansas Jayhawks had let me down too many times before.  Even as they romped through the 2008 NCAA Tournament field to face Memphis in the title game, visions of Arizona in 1997, Hakim Warrick’s freakish length in 2003 and Bucknell in 2005 danced in my head.  I mean, I was expecting national championships in those years.  Mike Bibby single-handedly made me question the meaning of life at the age of 12.

From This...

From This...

I’d been scorned too many times to get my hopes up as Kansas continued to win last season.  And win, and win.  I was cautiously optimistic heading into the title game, even after the Jayhawks’ romp of UNC in the game prior.  I thought we’d need a miracle.  Sure enough, Memphis gave us that by bricking free throws like it was in fashion.  Down three, I watched in horror as Sherron Collins dribbled down the court (his ball-handling has always terrified me) and found Mario Chalmers, who launched an impossible three-pointer from twenty-five feet out.  This was the point where Memphis was supposed to grab the rebound and celebrate.  But the universe felt my pain, it too had suffered long enough from the Jayhawks’ constant teasing.

...to This.

...to This.

The shot went in, and I screamed like a banshee.  I didn’t care that the game was about to go into overtime.  We beat fate.  We’d already won.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #13: Adam Morrison’s Tears

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2009

memories

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Adam Morrison Bawls at Midcourt  (submitted by Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net)

morrison-crying

Back in 2006 I had to travel for work during the NCAA Tournament. I was not pleased, I missed a bunch of the first and second round games. I happened to still be out on travel in Georgia and it was Thursday night. I came back from dinner with my co-workers and settled in to watch the game that was being shown on CBS in that region. That game happened to be UCLA vs. Gonzaga. Since I traditionally participate in a bracket or two during March Madness, and being the dumb mid-major loving guy that I am, I had picked Gonzaga to advance and of course was rooting for the Zags. Everyone knows what happened in the game, but I distinctly remember standing – not sitting – but standing in front of the t.v. in my hotel room as Gus Johnson screamed, WHAT A GAME!!!, WHAT A GAME!!!! Even though Gonzaga lost, that game was a quintessential example of why college basketball and March Madness will always be better than anything pro team sports can offer up.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #14: Coppin St.

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2009

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Coppin St. Eagles Fly High - (submitted by JC of HBCU Sports Blog)

Just six days after my 16th birthday, an NCAA tournament game changed the direction of my entire life.

I had grown up around historically black colleges and universities in the state of Maryland, but I was too young to remember the tournament appearances by Alcorn State in the 80s, and Southern’s win over Georgia Tech in 1993 was past my bedtime.

coppin-st-sc-1997

But #15 seed Coppin State was a school right in my back yard, and their 78-65 upset over #2 South Carolina in 1997 came at a critical point in my college selection process, and amidst the ending of a TV-watching curfew.

Two days later, Coppin State missed a chance to go to the Sweet 16, losing to Texas by one point.

Antoine Brockington and Coppin St. Flew High on This Night in 1997

Antoine Brockington and Coppin St. Flew High on This Night in 1997 (photo credit: Al Bello)

Two years later, I would enroll in Coppin’s cross-town rival, Morgan State University.  Twelve years later, it’s still the greatest moment in NCAA history.

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Sweetest NCAA Memories #15: Bob Knight

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2009

RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory,  something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today.  Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month.  We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Bob Knight: Fountain of Youth (submitted by RTC intern MP)

As a lifelong Tar Heel fan, I have plenty of moments to choose from when thinking about the NCAA tournament. My first basketball memory was watching UNC beat Michigan in 1993. I decided to apply to UNC and UNC alone after their 2005 championship. Yet, my favorite memory from March Madness has almost nothing to do with the Tar Heels, or any actual basketball. Instead, it has to do with a job I worked during the opening rounds of the 2005 tournament in Winston-Salem,  NC, and the time I spent in the presence of The General.

Bob Knight NCAA

Bob Knight’s last taste of March Madness was my first time seeing it in person. I worked behind the scenes, mostly with media in the press room. The day before games began, I was rounding a corner in the tunnel when I saw Coach Knight heading for his news conference. I was surprised by how old he looked off the court; he moved so gingerly. Then I was shocked when Knight missed a step on the way to the stage and fell to the ground. I couldn’t believe this was the same man that had thrown a chair onto the court twenty years earlier. This was the man who would eventually crack 900 wins? I took a seat in the back as Knight was helped up. And when he sat down, something changed.

Knight was suddenly in complete command again, somehow looking younger beneath the lights. He cracked jokes with sports writers about Albert Pujols. He asked a local sports writer if there was a law in the South against yankees walking the streets after dark. Best of all, Knight recounted a conversation he had with Dean Smith ten years earlier, in which he told Coach Smith, “You have to get that wins record, Dean, because Adolph Rupp was a son of a bitch, and you aren’t.” This was the man I knew of. The transformation Coach Knight underwent when cameras rolled that day is indicative of the power I believe March Madness holds on those of us who love it: it is an event that, for a few weeks each spring, makes us young again. For however long my school is still alive in March and into April, I feel like I am once more five years old. That is how powerful this thing is to me. I’m sure Bob Knight feels the same way.

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