As there are each and every year, there were a few games that showed why this yearís
display of March Madness was truly madness. Maybe itís an upset, a huge storyline
following a big-name team, or just a big scare for a top seed. Or maybe none of the
above. Maybe itís something totally unexpected. But hereís a look at four games that
showed why March Madness is just that in 2002:
Alabama vs Florida Atlantic: This first round matchup showed just how over-confident one team can come into a first round game against a lower-seeded opponent. For 35 minutes, the Owls of FAU hung with the Crimson Tide, matching every shot and every move. Very rarely does a #2-seed go down in the first round (and it seemed even more unlikely since Iowa State, a #2-seed from 2001, went down last season). In the end, ĎBama pulled it out, but Florida Atlantic proved that they were a team that deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Florida vs Creighton: This was another one between David and Goliath. Creighton, although more respected in the college hoops world than Florida Atlantic, wasnít expected by many (though I did pick the upset) to knock off the Gators. The Gators, however, were coming off an early exit in the SEC Tournament, losing to Mississippi State in the second round, but they had been ranked in the top ten in the nation for most of the year. The teams battled and battled and then battled for two overtimes before the Bluejays finally prevailed and advanced to the second round.
Cincinnati vs UCLA: Both of these teams came into this second round game with a lot of hoops history, but Cincinnati, a team that had played well all year, seemed to overmatch UCLA, a team who had ridden a roller coaster all season long. The Bearcats were playing fairly close to home and seemed a lock for the Sweet 16. That was until the Bruins played one of the best games of the season. After getting down time and time again, UCLA battled back to make it a game. Regulation was not enough to settle the dispute. Even one overtime was not enough. It took two extra periods before the Bruins ousted the first #1 seed in 2002.
Duke vs Indiana: Indiana finally seemed to have the hoops program back on track, it seemed, coming into this game. They were in the Sweet 16, but the very near future didnít look bright: Duke was up next. The #1-seeded Blue Devils had been #1 a large portion of the season, depending on which polls you looked at. Indiana came in and battled for the entire game and finally took a lead with about one minute to go in regulation. That two point lead soon extended into a four-point lead. With just seconds to go, the only thing that could keep IU out of the Elite Eight was a made three-point shot along with a foul shot. After missing the first three-point try, the Blue Devilsí Jason Williams gave it one last attempt. The solid-shooting Williams swished the shot, and the Hoosiersí best defensive player had unbelievably fouled Williams as well. If you saw IUís coach run to the end of the bench and rest his head on the seats, you know how much of his time, heart, and soul he had put into the team. And he thought all of that effort was about to go to waste and send the game into overtime. However, Williams missed the free throw and a put-back attempt by Carlos Boozer also failed, letting IU advance to the round of eight.
Congratulations to the Maryland Terrapins on winning the 2002 National Championship. The Terps were by far the best team in this yearís Tournament. Although some people may feel that Indiana is not the second-best team in the country, they also proved themselves worthy of playing on April Fools Day.
Going into the game, unless you were a fan of either school, it was hard not to be happy for either coach that would go on to win the game. Indiana coach Mike Davis seems to be an extremely nice guy and has proved himself as a big-time college basketball coach. And personally for me, itís nice to see Mike Davis and the Indiana program take a shot at Bobby Knight, showing him that IU can survive without him. Even though I donít like Knight, I do have to admit heís a good coach, taking Texas Tech from eight wins in 2001 to 23 wins and an NCAA Tournament appearance (though it was a short one) in 2002.
And you also had to root for Marylandís Gary Williams. Heís a coach with a lot of fire and passion for the game. Heís also one of those good guys whoís coaching at the school he graduated from, a person you know is truly committed to that team and school. And besides, the Terps had never won a NCAA Tournament (and the sick taste from last seasonís loss to Duke was still lingering around).
But on to the game itself, and could it have been a little more sloppy, please? Has Steve Blake ever had a worse 10 minutes to start a game? Not surprisingly, the Terps jumped out to a quick lead. What was surprising, however, was that after Indiana big-man Jared Jeffries went out with foul trouble, Maryland was unable to expand the lead. And by the half, Indiana had cut the deficit to four and felt they had a great shot to win the game. The two teams came out and played close for the first 10-12 minutes, with Indiana taking the lead for a brief 13 seconds. In the final 6-8 minutes, however, Maryland was able to expand the lead back out to double-digits and finish off the Hoosiers. The Terrapins were crowned this seasonís National Champs. And the road to the Championship was not easy. The Terps had to face (16) Siena, (8) Tulsa, (4) Kentucky, (2) Connecticut, (1) Kansas, and (5) Indiana. Maryland faced the best possible team in each round up until the championship game, and by then, Indiana had proved themselves worthy of a better than a #5 seed.
Hereís a look at some of the awards of this yearís Tournament given out by me:
MVP: Juan Dixon, Maryland
MVC (Most Valuable Coach): Mike Davis, Indiana
Biggest Disappointments: Duke, Cincinnati (again), Gonzaga, Florida (you could see it coming), Oklahoma State (two years in a row)
Biggest Surprises: Kent State, Missouri, Southern Illinois
Rating the Regions (Toughest to Easiest): (1) West, (2) South, (t3) East, (t3) Midwest
Best Game: Florida vs Creighton
Worst Game: Duke vs Winthrop
So far the college baseball season has been overshadowed by March Madness, but now that the hoops season is over, the action on the bases will catch some more attention. Iím trying to add some useful links to the site (and theyíre hard to come by in the college baseball world) so if you have any youíd like to share, Iíd appreciate it.
Hereís a look at who has jumped out early and looked impressive in several of the traditional baseball power conferences:In the ACC, North Carolina (7-0/18-8) has an early lead over Clemson (1-0/21-1) and Wake Forest (5-1/21-4).