This took longer than expected, but we finally have winners in the excitingly academic Finals Week
competition! Shockingly, it did come down to timestamps - there were six clean A+ 100% sheets out of 32 completed entries, can you believe it? And nobody had fewer than 34 correct answers. I just want to thank everyone who participated, you all did great!
I'll be notifying the three winners directly and inviting them, one at a time, to select a valuable keepsake from the list of the remaining items in the Mid-Majority Swag Closet. Just get back to me with your postal mailing address, then I'll go on down the line from first to third. The envelope please!#1: Jeremy D., Winthrop
#2: Eric S., Kansas
#3: Brian W., Kansas
For your efforts, you three now become lifetime members of the Mid-Majority Pantheon Of Heroes! Congratulations! (And a special rock-chalk welcome to our exceedingly bright and mid-major-knowledgeable contingent from Lawrence!)
As promised, here is a selection of the responses to the essay question: "What's your favorite Tournament memory, and why?" Each and every carefully-turned piece of prose was more awesome than Dickie V could ever imagine, but unfortunately I have limited bandwidth. Let's start with our winners, then?
The tip-off of the Auburn/Winthrop game in the 1999 tournament was my favorite memory. As a junior at Winthrop at the time, I suffered through two awful seasons my first two years until Gregg Marshall was hired and took a team that was picked to finish last in the conference to the tournament for the first time in school history. Though Winthrop ended up losing by 39, seeing them on CBS along with the other schools in the tournament made me realize just how far the program had come in only one season.
Grand Champeen Jeremy D.
I'm a young'un, so I don't really remember much of tournaments before about '97... I'd actually probably pick a moment with about 2 minutes left in the first-round game between Kansas and Utah State in Oklahoma City two years ago. Of course, 15-seeded USU gave us more than we bargained for, and we only won 64-61 on our way to the national final. But no moment on the court in my short time as a fan has ever surpassed a great moment in the stands, when at the final TV timeout, our small band of students who made the trip had all kinds of alumni/donors/people who don't often stand up on their feet singing "We're Not Gonna Take It." Gave us chills.
If you want something on the court, Nick Collison's huge game against Duke in the Sweet 16 that same year was pretty spectacular as well - he just took the team on his back.
National Runnerup Eric S.
Honorable mention goes to listening to Missouri lose to Northern Iowa on the radio during English class my freshman year of high school. During passing period after class, the news spread through the halls; I think there were even some high fives (I grew up 30 minutes from the Kansas campus and ended up going there for college). I remember doing a week's worth of Mike Francessa impressions after the Kenny Anderson after-the-buzzer, foot-on-the-line three pointer to beat Michigan State that same year. (I don't know what it was about that year that makes me remember it so fondly--it certainly wasn't the Jayhawks' second-round loss to UCLA.)
If it didn't involve Duke, my favorite memory would almost certainly be the Devils' win against UNLV in the 1991 National Semifinals--that was the game that made me realize how great the tournament was (although I should give some credit to Richmond over Syracuse that same year). My favorite memory certainly should be KU beating Oklahoma in the title game in Kansas City--my best friends were over to watch (their parents were at the game). I know exactly where I was sitting during the game. I also remember being the only person in the room not jumping up and down after the game. KU was my favorite college basketball team, but I didn't really love them until college.
I would have to say, then, that my favorite memory is fairly recent. From the time I started college, in the fall of 1993, until the spring 0f 2003, I had never even seen KU win a Sweet 16 game. The 'Hawks suffered a number of tough tournament losses in the 90's and in 1996 and 2002, when they did make the Elite Eight, I was out of the country and did not see either tournament. It may be cheating then, but my favorite memory is the whole second weekend of the 2003 tournament, when Collison had 491 points and twice as many rebounds (I might be exaggerating) against Duke and Hinrich went off against the same Arizona team that had demoralized us on our home floor earlier in the year. As a sports fan, I've never been as giddy as I was after the Arizona game. And there's only one thing that could possibly make me happier.
Bronze Medalist Brian W.
It may seem like a cop out picking a "memory" that only extends back about eight months, and it probably would lead some to believe I'm just another kid who doesn't really know much about basketball, or that I am bandwagoner. However, I have been to every home game that Georgia Tech's BJ Elder, Isma'il Muhammad, Anthony McHenry, and Luke Scenscher have competed in. When they were all freshman at Tech, I was a freshman at Tech. Now that they're all in their last go-round, I'm in my last go-round. So I feel a special sort of connection with the team, which made last year's run to the National Championship game a bit more special. More special than 1989 when a 5 1/2 year old Michigan fanatic watched Glen Rice set the record for points in a tournament, Shawn Higgins get a put-back bucket with seconds remaining to top Illinois - a team that had handily defeated them two times previously that year - and Rumeal Robinson stepping up to the line against Seton Hall in the final game and knocking down two free throws in OT to make Steve Fisher 6-0. Even more special than watching my neighbor lead his team to the National Championship in 2001 (although this is an extremely close call; I very nearly picked Shane Battier's reverse-tip-in-thing in the '01 title game).
Those were great moments, but when Will Bynum drove to the bucket and made his layup against Oklahoma State last year, my friends and I jumped around in a circle in the middle of the living room like a bunch of idiots. We quickly realized that this was extremely awkward but that the situation warranted it so we'd have to let it slide. That drive seemed to ease the pain of reading headlines back in the fall of 2001 like "Jackets Fall To IUPUI 98-92" and "Georgia Tech Edges Eastern Illinois." Hell, we even lost to the Nike Elite team, 99-90 that first year. We've come a long way, and hopefully aren't done yet.
Seton Hall beating Duke in the National Semifinal of the 1989 Tournament and the overtime Championship game against Michigan. My dad was betting a lot that year. During the tournament, the Pirates did right by my family, and the extra cash made our family Spring Break trip to Ft. Lauderdale possible (by family, it was me, my dad & my brothers Ã¢â‚¬" NO GIRLS ALLOWED!). A good time was had by all.
The Championship game was just a great game to watch. I don't even remember which team dad had his money on, but after rooting for Seton Hall all year, watching them play in the Final in such a close contest was about as excited about a basketball contest as I expect I'll ever get.
As a recent graduate of Marquette University the Elite 8 drubbing of Kentucky in the 2003 tournament has been the best moment so far. I arrived on campus as a freshmen the same year Tom Crean was hired. The program was down and out and struggling to reclaim the lost glory of the Al McGuire era.
It was such an emotional rush for not only myself but Marquette fans everywhere to witness the total domination of a the 1 rated Wildcats. The Elite 8 victory was the culmination of the program's return to its winning ways and helped ignite the new found buzz around Marquette basketball that has resulted in a hysteric fan following, the new Al McGuire center and a move to the Big East confrence starting next year.
I would have to say the 2000 Regional Final between Iowa State and Michigan State is my fondest tournament memory. The Sparties were on a roll that year and were most people's choice to take the title. Iowa State, however, had a squad and this game was the championship game that year as the two best teams left it all on the floor that night. The Cyclones had the odds stacked against them with the very partisan Spartan crowd screaming their heads off but they gave Cleaves and company all they could handle before eventually running out of steam. The nice thing about watching that Spartans team was the manner in which it imposed Tom Izzo's will on the game. The championship was a foregone conclusion from that point and I remember being both exhausted and euphoric after watching that battle in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
This game was in the spring of my junior year in high school. We always persuaded our teachers to put the NCAA games on Thursday and Friday afternoon, the first weekend of the tournament, the best 36 hours of the year. On Friday afternoon we watched the second half of the Valpo-Ole Miss game in English until school was over at 2:30. I had tennis practice at 3:00 but wanted to catch the end of the game, so I went to the AP Bio lab and turned on the TV. As the clock inched towards 3:00, Valpo continued to battle. Ansu Sesay, the All-American, missed a free throw, giving Valpo a chance. Homer Drew chalked up Tracer, they threw it down to Bryce and he buried it. I just stood there and pumped my fist, then turned the TV off and went down to practice. Sometimes the best moments are the ones you experience yourself, in your own way.