March 21st is a pretty legendary day in NCAA Tournament history. You could play this game for any day this week and find a slew of incredible games (and we will!), but March 21st has to be up there. Consider these games:
Arizona vs Kansas, March 21, 1997. I fondly remember this game because I called the upset in one of my best bracket performance of all-time. I won a college bracket contest because I was in this super nerdy college basketball fantasy league, and I loved the Mike Bibby-Miles Simon-Michael Dickerson trio, having followed them closely all year.
Those Wildcats were swept by UCLA in the regular season, and came into the tournament with low expectations, having lost two straight. They squeaked by the College of Charleston in the 2nd round, and then in the Sweet 16 were up against a Kansas squad that featured four future NBA players: point guard Jacque Vaughn, forward Paul Pierce (27 points), and centers Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard.
It was the ultimate “guards rule” game in March: Dickerson scored 20, Simon had 17 and Bibby had 21. Arizona would go on to beat Providence (which also had three future NBA players in Austin Croshere, Jamel Thomas and God Shammgod) in overtime, and then North Carolina (Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter) in the Final Four before beating defending champion Kentucky (Ron Mercer, Wayne Turner, Jamaal Magloire, Derek Anderson) in overtime for the title.
[Ed. Yes, we’re aware the photo at the top is from the Kentucky game. We don’t have access to any photos from Arizona/Kansas.]
If that’s not one of the greatest March Madness runs of all-time – beating three #1 seeds with a ton of future NBA players – it’s certainly among the best.
March 21st, 1992: Names that don’t carry immediate recognition among sports fans, except for NCAA tournament geeks: James Forrest, Georgia Tech. He hit this buzzer beater for the Yellow Jackets as they pulled a 2nd round upset of 2nd seeded Harold Miner and USC.
Dick Stockton and Al McGuire were on the call! Here’s the full game:
You could fast-forward to 1:39 (but then you’d miss Harold Miner, who at the time was being dubbed Baby Jordan because he could jump) when Rodney Chatman hit a clutch shot with two seconds left to take the lead.
The Yellow Jackets had to go the length of the floor, but the pass was deflected out of bounds away from Jon Barry, leaving 0.8 seconds left. And then Forrest, a freshman (15 points), hit a miracle shot.
March 21st, 2002: Who can forget Indiana 74, Duke 73 in the Sweet 16? That Blue Devils team was loaded – all five starters had NBA careers. But Duke was playing in Lexington, and thus Indiana had a decided home-court advantage. Also, the Hoosiers had Jared Jeffries, who basically got himself into the lottery by dominating Carlos Boozer to the tune of 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Tom Coverdale gave Indiana its first lead of the game in the final minute (9-minute mark in the video below), and then things got crazy. Indiana went up four, but Jay Williams hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with four seconds left!
Watch Indiana coach Mike Davis dive into the bench after the foul. But Williams missed the FT. Still, Boozer got the rebound! He also missed, and Duke lost.