Duke’s Post Players: Has Reality Caught Up with Perception?

Posted by mpatton on November 14th, 2011

For the last ten years, fairly or unfairly, Duke has had the perception of being all backcourt all the time. Long gone are the days where Christian Laettner, Elton Brand or Carlos Boozer graced the court in Durham. In describing his recruitment decision to attend Michigan last week, Mitch McGary let it all out: “all [Duke’s] big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches.”

Josh McRoberts' Relative Lack of Success at Duke Still Haunts the Blue Devils

Duke Hoop Blog looked at this perception, which moves closer to reality as the memory of its last dominant big man, Shelden Williams, fades out of casual fan memory. The author comes to the conclusion that the Williams/Redick era is the answer, and I see his argument. But I don’t think it’s that simple, or even the biggest factor in Duke’s relative decrease in a post presence over the last ten years. I think the real argument is much more complex and is a combination of four main factors:

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Christian Laettner and the Profitability of Big Blue Hate

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 25th, 2011

Since 1992, former Duke forward Christian Laettner has been remembered in the dark recesses of every Kentucky fans’ heart. Beating The Unforgettables — the senior class of Wildcats who overachieved through Kentucky’s probation in the early 1990s — on a last-second shot created an entire generation of fans who harbor special hatred for Laettner and his stomp of Wildcat Aminu Timberlake’s chest.  After a decent pro career and some financial difficulties, Laettner re-engaged with Big Blue Nation Monday night. Laettner wanted to be hated; more specifically, Laettner wanted to get paid for being hated.

The Big Blue Hate Trade isn’t quite as profitable as former Wildcat basketball player Jeff Sheppard and his production team hoped. This Villains exhibition game was the ninth and final game of the Big Blue All-Star Tour that stretched throughout the state of Kentucky in the last couple of weeks. Laettner’s fame as Wildcat Enemy #1 was supposed to be the big pull to draw repeat attendees. Instead the announcement of Laettner’s involvement sparked some heated debate within Big Blue Nation as some fans did not want him a part of the festivities. Even after nearly 20 years since Laettner’s shot and Kentucky winning two National Championships of their own, it is still too soon for some Kentucky fans to let bygones be bygones.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 25th, 2011

  1. The Mikan Drill: Florida State‘s defense last season was excellent, but its offense nearly tipped the scales back the other way with its ineptitude. The Mikan Drill
    takes a look at the Seminoles’ offense with short video clips and diagrams to back up their analysis. Essentially, the ‘Noles did well in the post but very poorly on pick and rolls. Another key in the dysfunctional cog was the team’s inability to take care of the ball. Overall, a very informative piece on one of the most under-the-radar teams in the country coming into the 2011-12 season.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: First, let me give a shout-out to the high-quality pieces Duke Basketball Report has been putting out this offseason (unfortunately, it’s because its Blue Devil Tip-Off magazine didn’t raise the funds to get published, leaving lots of great articles looking for a home). Second, here’s a roundtable article looking at Duke basketball legend Bill Brill. Brill was a distinguished sportswriter who covered the Blue Devils for over 35 years. The interviews are with many ACC journalists who tell personal stories from Brill’s respected career. One of the more interesting anecdotes was that Brill unintentionally co-founded bracketology long before it was a staple in college basketball’s coverage — it’s worth a look.
  3. Testudo Times: Speaking of roundtables, Testudo Times has a great preview of Maryland‘s basketball season. Topics cover everything from predicted offensive style to conference realignment and everything in-between. The Terrapins are one of the more interesting teams in the ACC this season, as they lost quite a bit of size and production from last year’s squad (in addition to a certain hall of fame coach).
  4. Syracuse.com: In a talk with ESPN‘s Andy Katz last week, ACC coaches weighed in on conference realignment. The general consensus was that the conference should expand to 16 teams provided the two new teams fit well. NC State’s Mark Gottfried was the most adamant that the conference will expand, though Mike Krzyzewski has made it clear in the past that he supports going to a 16-team format with divisions. Not surprisingly, commissioner John Swofford evaded the question like the adept politician that he is.
  5. Kentucky Sports Radio: Duke legend Christian Laettner laced up his coaching shoes in Kentucky’s Rupp Arena last night for a Jimmy V fundraiser. Unfortunately, a recent number of Kentucky-related scrimmages led to a meager crowd. But the game was good enough to go to overtime, where Laettner’s “Villains” won the game despite pregame chemistry concerns about Duke’s Nolan Smith and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansborough playing for the same team. Laettner embraced the moment, perhaps his only in Rupp Arena, by wiping down the UK hardwood (see video below) and getting ejected late in the second half.

Share this story

A Few ACC Villains Take On the Kentucky All-Stars Tonight

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2011

Tonight in Lexington, Kentucky, Duke’s Christian Laettner will lead a coalition of players that have terrorized Kentucky in the past against the Big Blue All-Stars, a group of UK alumni that includes Rajon Rondo, John Wall, and several other Wildcat standouts. Laettner is, of course, the natural choice to coach a team against Kentucky (something about a perfect game and a foot stomp?). Beyond Laettner, though, there are a nice pair of additional ACC players involved in this game on the villain side: Tyler Hansbrough and Nolan Smith.

Laettner Is The Arch-Villain in Lexington, but Tyler Hansbrough and Nolan Smith Make A Nice Pair of Henchmen

Hansbrough in particular is a nice pick-up for this team. Despite a lack of postseason showdowns, Hansbrough’s North Carolina team beat Kentucky in each of his four years in Chapel Hill. More importantly, though, is that he is Tyler Hansbrough, one of the most polarizing players in recent college basketball history. While North Carolina’s fans may adore him, Hansbrough’s awkward, sometimes-clumsy, and freakishly intense play irritated all sorts of college basketball fans on a national level. If I had to bet, I would expect that he will the recipient of some the night’s most fervent jeering. Nolan Smith is a more interesting case, mostly because he never played against Kentucky. However, as a Louisville native, the son of former Louisville star Derek Smith, and perhaps most importantly, a star player for the Duke Blue Devils, I expect that Kentucky fans will have no trouble summoning a healthy disdain for the reigning ACC Player of the Year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Dysfunctional Success: Documentary to Look Behind Duke’s 1992 National Championship Season

Posted by mpatton on October 13th, 2011

Christian Laettner has a reputation as a little bit of a jerk. He’s arguably the best college basketball player ever (he’s the only player to start in four Final Fours), but he’s also in the conversation for most hated. Your relative opinion of him can run from Kentucky fans, who still grit their teeth when his name is mentioned, to Duke fans, who accept his abrasive personality with two spoonfuls of National Championships. But could his spiny personality have helped Duke stay motivated to win its second consecutive title in 1991-92? That’s one of the questions a new documentary produced by Bobby Hurley and Laettner, scheduled to be released as part of CBS and Turner’s March Madness coverage this coming spring, will attempt to investigate.

Christian Laettner Is One of College Basketball's Most Polarizing Figures. (Credit: TruthAboutIt.net)

An example of an anecdote from the documentary comes from USA Today: driving to the hole in a pick-up game, Hurley rocketed the ball off of Laettner’s face instead of passing it to an open man on the weak side. However, that sort of antagonism may have been what kept the Blue Devils on edge during the repeat season.  If the previews from the USA Today preview are anything like the rest of this movie, it will be must-see television for college basketball fans. There’s no doubt that opinions have probably mellowed over the years, but this should be a unique opportunity to look behind the game footage of one of the most dominant teams in the history of college basketball and into the strong personalities that made it happen.

The documentary will air on TruTV next March.

Share this story

The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Welcome to the ACC Microsite!

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2011

The ACC.

To most American sports fans, the mere mention of those two words conjures up immediate images of Michael Jordan from the baseline, Christian Laettner from the top of the key, Jim Valvano searching for a hug, Dean Smith calling for the four corners, and Mike Krzyzewski collecting rings like a Kardashian at Tiffany’s.  The ACC, perhaps more than any other conference in our lifetime, defines college basketball.  The cultural affinity for the sport down on Tobacco Road and beyond is only rivaled by the SEC’s obsession with the pigskin, and with the recent additions of hoops powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the mix, the league stands to become even stronger.  It only makes sense that we would begin our power conference microsite roll-out focused on the league with the most history, tradition and passion for the game.

The ACC microsite is intended to focus exclusively on the stories coming out of the league on a daily basis.  Our two staffers, Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) and Kellen Carpenter (@kellenlc), are talented and knowledgeable ACC insiders who plan on bringing you thoughtful commentary, analysis and criticism on a regular basis.  Get to know them at Twitter or you can contact them directly by clicking on their names.

Welcome to the next phase in the living history of RTC, the ACC microsite.

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.26.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2011

  1. We guess this technically is still news even though we don’t buy the whole “BREAKING” aspect that the mainstream media has tried to make it out to be, but we guess we have to mention that the SEC has formally accepted Texas A&M into the conference with its first games starting next season. If there is anything noteworthy with this announcement it is that the SEC has basically called out the Big 12 schools that threatened legal action and told them to go ahead and file their ridiculous lawsuit because no reasonable court would accept it. Of course, our next reaction was that now that the SEC has 13 teams in the conference for next season they will need to get a 14th team pretty soon. Of course, we all know what that means. More conference expansion rumors. . .
  2. Former Connecticut star Tate George was arrested late last week on accusations that he defrauded investors of nearly $2 million in a Ponzi scheme based on the premise that he was operating a $500 million real estate portfolio. The details of the reported scheme are kind of complex and are detailed in great length in the well-investigated piece that we linked, but things do not look good for the former UConn legend who hit what would have been “The Shot of the 1990 NCAA Tournament” before Christian Laettner hit the first of his two “The Shot”s. Given the involvement of former Stanford point guard Brevin Knight we wonder if there will be more names of prominent college basketball coaches and players coming out in the near future.
  3. Taylor Branch made waves recently with his prodigious article in The Atlantic (discussed here) that generated quite a bit of discussion online, but was met with little public resistance until Seth Davis decided to chime in with a dissection of Branch’s column. For his part, Branch has responded to Davis (sort of) where he concedes several of the points that Davis makes, but points out several other major issues in his article that Davis did not address. However, the most interesting thing to us is that Branch essentially uses his literary glove to challenge Davis to a podcast duel. As much as we are looking forward to this confrontation (Seth, stick to sports and avoid civil rights) we are also looking forward to speaking with Mr. Branch later this week about the issue, which we will update you on when we have more details.
  4. We have started our series highlighting the schedules of some of the top teams in the country. Andy Glockner at SI.com has taken a slightly different approach as he has chosen to highlight/call out the teams that play some highly suspect schedules. The list runs the gamut from 3 of the top 5 teams in the country (not counting some middling program called Duke) to a team that has never made the NCAA Tournament. We have not had a chance to go through every single team’s schedule yet (don’t worry, it is coming), but we think there are probably a few other BCS conference teams that are not featured that have pretty embarrassing non-conference schedules. However, based on the schools that Glockner selected we are guessing that he had some pretty interesting e-mails this week.
  5. After deciding to go public with his diagnosis of prostate cancer in April Steve Lavin has decided to undergo treatment. At the current time Lavin is deciding between surgery and/or radiation therapy and will make the decision within the next two weeks to treat what the team’s physician described as a “relatively low-grade cancer”. According to St. John’s, Lavin is not expected to miss any time and should be able to rejoin the team for their first practice in mid-October. We wish Lavin the best of luck with whichever treatment option he pursues.
Share this story

Morning Five: 09.12.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 12th, 2011

  1. Yesterday, while most of the nation’s attention was focused on New York City and the variety of ceremonies honoring those who lost their lives in the horrific events of September 11, 2001, another tragedy occurred in the city. Early yesterday morning, Tayshana Murphy, one of the top female prep players in the country, was shot and killed in the hallway of her apartment building in what was believed to be a case of mistaken identity. Unfortunately, this one happens much more frequently in this country and often goes unnoticed. Our condolences go out to Murphy’s family and friends along with anybody else who has lost a loved one in a sadly “everyday” tragedy.
  2. This year’s Carrier Classic featuring Michigan State and North Carolina is one of the premier games of the season even if the Spartans are not expected to be as solid as we normally expect of a Tom Izzo-coached team. Of course, this leads to the inevitable question of who will be playing in the game next season. Although the match-up has not been announced, Morale Entertainment Foundation, who is putting on the game, has announced that Connecticut would be one of the participants. The potential opponents for the Huskies next season are Kansas, Illinois, Florida, Arizona, and Texas. We doubt that this game alone will be enough to convince Jim Calhoun to coach another season if he was not already planning on it, but it would be an interesting environment for a new head coach to try to direct his team in if Calhoun does step down at the end of this season.
  3. We briefly touched on Duke‘s decision to induct Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Hurley into the school’s Hall of Fame last week when Krzyzewski stated that Hurley’s 3-pointer against UNLV in the 1991 national semifinals was the biggest shot in school history. They were formally enshrined during a ceremony on Friday night along with three other Duke athletes.  We don’t have much to add here other than to ask the question: what took so long? On some level I can understand not wanting to induct an active coach into the Hall of Fame, but once you name the court after him I think that argument is moot. As for Hurley, he is the second of the championship-era Duke basketball players to be inducted with the first being Christian Laettner (an obvious selection who also has the perfect portrait that encapsulates everything about him right down to the sneer). We expect that there will be a couple more Blue Devils from their run of championships joining these three in the next few years.
  4. One of the more amusing topics in college sports over the past few weeks has been the ongoing discussion about team uniforms, the fashion statements they make, and whether they can attract a coveted player to come to a school that he or she might otherwise not be inclined to do so. The football uniforms from Oregon sparked this discussion before the start of the football season and the uniforms (or whatever you call them) that Maryland unveiled in their season opener last week created a Twitter frenzy. Still, we didn’t think that the uniforms could make a big difference until we read an interview from highly coveted prospect Archie Goodwin that appeared to suggest he ruled out Baylor because he did not like their colors or their shoes. The person who wrote the article has updated it to lash out at a few site that he felt unfairly criticized Goodwin for this comment and there were other reasons listed for his dismissal of Baylor. While we won’t go so far as to say that aesthetics were the singular reason that Goodwin crossed Baylor off his list it is interesting that it is enough of a factor that he would even mention it and might be something that college coaches take into consideration the next time the school’s athletic director unveils a new uniform for the team to wear.
  5. Finally, what would a Morning Five be without a comment on the ongoing ridiculousness that is conference expansion? Today’s submission comes from a little different perspective–the conferences trying to prevent teams from leaving via financial penalties. In this case, the ACC is reportedly looking to increase its penalty buyout to $13 million from the previous figure of $10 million. Honestly with the size of the TV contracts being thrown around that extra $3 million is more symbolic than anything else especially if an ACC school would be looking to join, say, the SEC. We are not sure if there is a realistic way to limit schools from switching conferences (having a school “sit out” a year from conference play would never be politically feasible), but some administration has to come up with a way or stop with the pettiness against programs that decide to switch conferences.
Share this story

Time For The Hall of Fame To Reevaluate Itself

Posted by nvr1983 on April 12th, 2011

A little over a week ago, the Naismith Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2011 during the NCAA Final Four festivities in Houston. Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, and Arvydas Sabonis were among the individuals selected to join the list of luminaries in Springfield, Massachusetts in August. We would have a difficult time arguing against any of the individuals selected this year or previous years, but when we looked at the list of those currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame we were shocked to see which players the HOF voting committee (done anonymously) left out. Cases can certainly be made for at least a dozen individuals who have not already been inducted to the Hall, with many of them being some of the African-American pioneers of the game who played in less well-recognized venues and leagues, but the two who stand out for us — Ralph Sampson and Christian Laettner – do not fall into that group by any measure.

 

Sampson soared over the competition in college

Both players already meet the Naismith Hall of Fame’s requirement of being retired for five years, so they are eligible for selection. There will be some who will argue that neither player had a great NBA career, and we will not even try to argue that because there is little debate that both had disappointing pro careers although both had their moments. But that misses the point of the Hall of Fame. It is not solely a forum to recognize achievement at the professional level. As its own site states, since 1959 it has “honored and celebrated the game’s greatest moments and brightest stars.” There is nothing on its website stating that it is specifically for professional basketball either at the NBA level or overseas. Another argument you will hear is that both Sampson and Laettner were exceptional college basketball players who already have been honored at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri in the past two years. Once again, that misses the point, as there are multiple coaches in both Halls of Fame, including Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, and Lute Olson, none of whom ever coached at the professional level. The fact that neither player has been selected yet is simply a travesty and raises questions about the utility of the Naismith Hall of Fame when two of the greatest college basketball players of all-time (probably both in the top ten on most lists) are not included.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Past Imperfect: The NCAA’s Greatest Weekend

Posted by JWeill on March 24th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the greatest Sweet 16 and Elite Eight ever, the 1990 NCAA Tournament.

By the time the 1990 NCAA Tournament hit its second weekend, fans had already been treated to quite a show: 16th-seeded Murray State pushing top seed Michigan State to the wire; Loyola Marymount’s emotional return to the court following the tragic passing of All-American teammate Hank Gathers and stunning rout of defending champion Michigan; upsets by Ball State, Dayton and Northern Iowa; surprise takedowns of high seeds Kansas, Purdue and No. 1 Oklahoma.

But as much as the results, 1990 in many ways represented a modern apogee for college basketball – a natural peak that was a nexus of upperclassman experience, elite talent and athleticism and a growing American obsession with this quirky college tournament cum mega-event. As television numbers soared and a new generation of basketball fans came of age, interest in the NCAA Tournament was at an all-time high, and the product on the court was worthy of it.

Basketball is a game that has weathered changes in style, scandals of all levels and cycles of roster attrition, any of which might have crippled a less beloved sport. But while there have always been flaws, much of the negativity and cynicism that has since widened the gap between fans of the college game and fans of the modern NBA at the end of the 1980s had yet to be amplified by the combination of youthful revolt, unmitigated marketing and an ever-present media lens that we accept as the norm today. Likewise, at the time the 1990 tourney tipped, ESPN had yet to dominate the sports broadcast market the way it does now and, while viewership of cable television was certainly widespread, Americans were still mostly attuned to a tradition of watching major sporting events like the NCAA Tournament on network, and even more so, local television. And, certainly not to be ignored, this was long before the Internet changed forever the way fans consumed, discussed and dissected the sports the watched.

NBA talents with years of college experience like Michigan State’s Steve Smith made the 1990 NCAA special.

But if in these many ways the beginning of the 1990s was a more innocent time for fans, it was a more experienced and developed time for college basketball. Since Magic Johnson had been drafted No. 1 overall as a sophomore in the 1979 NBA Draft, only 12 underclassmen had been selected in the draft to that point, and of those, none had been freshmen from Division I colleges. There was a fundamental agreement that freshmen were not physically ready to play with grown men in the NBA, and despite the Spencer Haywood decision of the early 1970s granting high school players the right to be drafted, only three high school players had opted to skip college entirely: Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby.

The result was that coaches continued to build teams around star players who they knew were not only talented, but also would be around long enough to accrue the experience that came with having played at least two years in college already. Any fan of college basketball knows that while added playing experience is certainly no guarantee of success at the college level, it sure does help.

So came the 1990 tournament, flush with future pros, plus Hall of Fame and soon-to-be-household-name up-and-comer coaches, too. There were blueblood programs and upstarts alike. And the opening weekend of the tournament was a fantastic one. But if the first two rounds had produced great games and standout individual performances, it was only a prelude to the grand waltz of the weekend ahead. From March 22-25, 1990, college basketball showed, on its grandest stage, all of the best things its season-ending tournament had to offer: emotion, drama, intrigue, and controversy – not to mention collegiate athletics played at the highest level.

It all began with a bang. Two years before a miracle full-court pass and shot at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., would become one of the most replayed and remembered moments in NCAA Tournament history, another, different but equally improbable full-court catch and shoot would captivate college basketball fans’ imaginations … for all of two days.

Few people remember now that when coach Jim Calhoun took over the University of Connecticut program it was arguably the worst in Division I. Now, in just his fourth year, Calhoun had the Huskies as the East Region’s No. 1 seed, facing a talented fifth-seeded Clemson in the Sweet 16. Strong and oozing confidence, UConn opened a 19-point lead. But in the second half, Clemson went on a 25-8 run to cut the lead to two with just over three-and-a-half minutes left. With only 12 seconds remaining in the game, Clemson sophomore David Young hit a three-pointer to give the Tigers their first lead since early in the first half. UConn point guard Tate George missed a jump shot with four seconds left, Clemson rebounded and was fouled. But after forward Sean Tyson missed the free throw, UConn collected the rebound and called time out. One second remained on the game clock.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Past Imperfect: The Tournament We Forgot

Posted by JWeill on March 18th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the lost, great 1998 NCAA tournament.

The 1998 NCAA tournament is the most exciting, bracket busting, nerve-wracking, well-played tournament in the modern era. And yet, no one seems to remember it. It’s sandwiched right there between “Simon says, ‘Championship,’” and Khalid El-Amin atop the scorer’s table. Can you see it? Look closely, it’s there. It’s the one with the two weird teams in the Final Four, the North Carolina squad coached by the old guy (no, not Dean Smith, the other old guy) and the first-year black coach at Kentucky. Oh, I know what will help…it’s the one where the coach’s kid hits that shot. Oh, now you remember.

It’s a shame, too, that no one remembers the 1998 tourney in toto. From beginning to end, the tournament was riveting, nip-and-tuck, gut-twisting basketball. And it didn’t take long at all to shake things up. On the first day, before many people were probably even aware that games were afoot, an out-of-the-way locale provided fans with some of the tournament’s most in-your-face moments, courtesy of a few names fans would become very familiar with over the next decade but who at the time were little known outside of the basketball community. But strange things can happen in Boise.

Ben Howland, then coach of the 15th-seeded Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, had his team on the cusp of history, all even at 62 apiece with Bob Huggins’ two-seed Cincinnati with just seconds remaining. Northern Arizona was the nation’s best three-point shooting team that year, so it was doubly cruel when Cincinnati’s D’Juan Baker buried an open three to win the game with just 3.6 seconds left to save the Bearcats’ skin. But Cincinnati’s flirtation with late-game disaster would come back to bite them the next round when, this time against West Virginia, Baker again hit a deep three-pointer to give his team the lead and then strutted down the court, only to watch helplessly as Mountaineers guard Jarrod West – yes, Jarrie West — threw up a prayer that was answered with eight tenths of a second left. West’s tipped three-pointer hit the backboard and went through the net, turning Baker’s sideline strut into a slumped-over disbelief. Live by the buzzer beater, die by the buzzer beater.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Tennessee fans got their first glimpse of a coach they’d become all too familiar with in a few years, when Kevin Stallings-coached Illinois State ruined the Volunteers’ sunny trip West on a running layup with 1.8 seconds left in overtime. While the Redbirds would get blasted in the second round, that was small consolation for Tennessee fans. Because just a season later, Stallings would take the job at intra-state rival Vanderbilt.

Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew hit a classic buzzer beater in Round 1.

But the action wasn’t all left to the Left Coast. Back in D.C., President Bill Clinton wasn’t the only one issuing denials. Washington denied Xavier a spot in the second round on a Deon Luton game-winner, while three-seed South Carolina saw B.J. McKie’s last-gasp attempt fall short, keeping the Gamecocks on the outside looking in at upset king Richmond moving on. Oh, and for good measure, Indiana needed extra time to top Oklahoma as well. Had enough? Too bad. Because if Thursday seemed like enough excitement for any single round, things were just getting started.

All across the country, the tense moments and close games continued on Friday. In Lexington, a gruff Syracuse senior from Lithuania named Marius Janulis buried not one but two three-pointers to help the Orange squeak by Iona. Then Chicago turned into Boise, with Detroit Mercy upsetting St. John’s by two and Western Michigan sending Clemson packing by three. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, UCLA outlasted Miami (Fl.) on four straight free throws in the final seconds. And then, it happened.

It would be a shot for all time. It would be replayed so often it has become an indelible part of the very tournament itself. Like Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper, like Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug, the miracle shot by Valparaiso guard, and son of his coach, Bryce Drew was the artistic flourish on a first round of gripping drama. Drew’s deep three, coming on a designed play whereby a half-court pass is touch passed to a streaking Drew, was the most memorable moment on a whole tournament’s worth of memorable moments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story