Memorable Regional-Finals in the NCAA Tournament
It is easy to get caught up in the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Tournament. Top seeds are gearing up for a deep run while underdogs dream of winning a game or two to shock the basketball world. Sixteen schools survive and take a deep breath. They then jump back into action for the regional semi-final games, or the “Sweet Sixteen” as they are better known. Here are some of the more memorable games from this round. Who knows what will happen this year.
2002 – #5 Indiana defeats #1 Duke 74-73
The defending national champion Blue Devils were the favorites to repeat, and they had the talent to do so. Players such as Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and Carlos Boozer led the overall #1 team into a matchup with Indiana. The Hoosiers turned the ball over twenty-three times, and they trailed by seventeen early in the second half. Slowly but surely Indiana inched back into the game. They led by four with seconds to go, but Jason Williams hit a three pointer and was fouled. He went to the free throw line with a chance to tie but missed. The Hoosiers advanced to the national championship game before losing to Maryland.
2006 – #2 UCLA defeats #3 Gonzaga 73-71
Gonzaga, the ultimate underdog for so long, finally had a team that could compete for a championship. Led by national player of the year Adam Morrison, Gonzaga was in good shape, leading by nine with three minutes to play. A furious rally by UCLA cut the lead to one with twenty seconds to play. On the ensuing Gonzaga possession, Jordan Farmar stole a pass and fed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for the winning basket. The sight of Adam Morrison sitting at half court crying after the game is a memorable snapshot of the heartbreak from tournament losses. UCLA won two more games before falling to Florida in the national championship.
2008 – #10 Davidson defeats #3 Wisconsin 73-56
Stephen Curry had already become a household name by leading the small-school Wildcats in wins over Gonzaga and Georgetown. This game against Wisconsin showed that those wins were no accident and that Curry was more than just a flash-in-the-pan. With LeBron James in attendance, Curry scored thirty-three points. Some wild finishes around the basket along with his six three-pointers cemented his spot in tournament lore.
2013 – #4 Michigan defeats #1 Kansas 87-85 in OT
Kansas was a favorite to win the national championship, and Michigan was full of freshmen and sophomores. The Jayhawks built and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the game, but Michigan used a late rally to close the lead to three with seconds remaining. A deep three by Trey Burke tied the game and sent it to overtime. The Wolverines would win the game after a missed three at the buzzer by Naadir Tharpe. They advanced to the national championship game before losing to Louisville.
About the author:
Ben Billman is currently a doctoral teaching assistant at the United States Sports Academy. He lives in Mobile, Alabama with his wife Jennifer and son Derrick. He is originally from Indiana, and therefore has a deep love for the game of basketball.