... Cover story, continued
KRIS JENKINS FTW (2016)
CHRIS WEBBER’S TIMEOUT (1993)
the ensuing years, Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers would trade shots in an epic tussle for NBA supremacy, but it all started here.
The most stunning moment in recent tournament history came from Villanova’s forward Kris Jenkins and his team. The Philadelphia-area school had not won a title in more than 20 years when they made the championship game in 2016. Their duel with North Carolina in that game was one for the ages — a back-and-forth affair that was tied 74-74 before the final possession. The ball came to Jenkins, who chucked a deep three as time expired, and the buzzer sounded as the ball went through the rim. “When I get it,” Jenkins told reporters after the game, “it’s going up. I always think it’s going in, and this was no different.” It was no different, except for the fact that most shots aren’t destined to be remembered for decades. Which moments from this year will end up leaving an indelible imprint on the sport? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
Michigan’s Fab Five (Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson) are the most famous recruiting class in college basketball history. They transformed the sport by injecting a healthy dose of what we know today as “swag.” After reaching the finals of the tournament as freshmen — an unheard-of achievement at the time — the Wolverines were expected to romp to a title in 1993. Everything went according to plan until the final when Chris Webber committed basketball’s most famous blunder. Down by two points with 20 seconds left, Webber secured a rebound and headed up the court. The North Carolina defense smartly used a trap defense to funnel him into the corner. Panicked and out of real estate, Webber signaled for a timeout. The problem was that Michigan didn’t have any. As an automatic technical foul, Webber’s gaffe secured North Carolina’s victory.
N.C. STATE’S LAST-SECOND UPSET (1983)
March Madness is known for underdog stories, and few are more inspirational than N.C. State’s shocking upset of Houston in the 1983 title game. Houston, known as Phi Slamma Jamma for their above-the-rim playstyle, was on a 26-game winning streak and heavily favored to make mincemeat of the Wolfpack. But that’s not what happened. With the game tied and time expiring, N.C. State’s Dereck Whittenburg had the ball near the top of the key. He heaved up a prayer of a shot that came down well short of the basket. However, his teammate Lorenzo Charles caught the ball as if the errant shot were a perfectly placed alley-oop. He slammed the ball, time expired, and the entire stadium went wild. Jim Valvano, N.C. State’s coach, was so overcome that he ran around the court in utter disbelief.
The Cinderella Everyone Loved to Hate
The 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Formally a small state school known to locals as “Tumbleweed Tech,” UNLV wasn’t even a Division I school until 1970. When Tarkanian took over in ‘73, the school went from an institution most acclaimed for its hospitality program to an NCAA basketball tournament regular. After making their first Final Four appearance in 1977, the team started down a path that would take them to four Elite 8s in five years, and there would be no greater success than the season that came to pass in 1990. Most games are back-and-forth, with drama centering around every possession. That was not the case during the 1990 national championship game. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski guided his team to the final through steady stellar performances throughout the tournament, and all was well until the legendary program met UNLV’s rowdies. The opening tipoff was about as close as Duke ever got to controlling any part of that game. Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, and Larry Johnson ran the Blue Devils off the court, and the Cinderella team everyone came to hate won 103–73 in the biggest blowout in NCAA tournament history.
The early ‘90s was a contentious time in college basketball, full of pure amateur competition. The days of the “one and done” player were far ahead, which meant that all the top-level talent was bred in the hotbed of the NCAA. Players like Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and David Robinson had to prove their NBA mettle in the grueling basketball tournament we all know as March Madness. It has always showcased the best of the best, but America has always loved an underdog. Last year, audiences adored Loyola Chicago as they made their way to the Final Four. Cinderella teams fill our hearts with hope and optimism, but not all of them are loveable. Perhaps no small school is more polarizing than the UNLV squad that was put together by the late, great Jerry Tarkanian. The team was nasty, flashy, and, most importantly, downright impossible to beat. “The Runnin’ Rebels” ran the court like no team before. Reports have the 1991 Tarkanian squad referring to the Arkansas Razorbacks’“40 minutes of hell” as “40 minutes of vacation”when it beat the then second-ranked team on its home court. The team embodied swagger and wasn’t afraid to create a splash everywhere it went. Most of the noise wasn’t positive, but when you win the national championship the year prior, a little arrogance is necessary to maintain your “bad guy” image.
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