The Four Best Final Fours of the "One Shining Moment" Era (w/ VIDEO)
Some of you mistook my piece on Monday as my not being excited for the Final Four this weekend in Houston. That couldn't be further from the truth. I am incredibly excited to have the event here in our town, for a couple reasons:
Hopefully more shining and less Hudson this year
1. I'm a Connecticut native, so my family is loading up the truck and heading to Houston to see if the Huskies can finish off an improbable postseason run. (It's a little like Beverly Hillbillies, but instead of a pickup truck, it's a Ford Explorer, and instead of dirty hats and shawls, it's golf hats and argyle sweaters.)
2. There will be parties. Oh yes, there will be parties.
These are off-the-court reasons I'm excited. I'll admit, maybe I need the pump primed a little bit to get fired up for VCU against Butler and the resulting final game on Monday if my Huskies aren't involved. What better way to do that than via some "One Shining Moment" videos from tourneys past ("basketball porn," as I like to call it)?
So to get you fired up, to get me fired up, here is an EXCELLENT time waster on a Wednesday morning. The CBS "One Shining Moment" videos (when available) for the tournaments with my favorite four Final Fours since 1986 (which is when they did all the spicing up of the tourney -- expansion to 64 teams, shot clock, one year later the three-pointer was in -- kinda like when WWF went from Monday Night Raw having clowns and neon lights to having a 200-foot movie screen, pyro and hard rock music. Same exact thing.)
So here we go. The ball is tipped....
4. 2008 FINAL FOUR -- Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT)
Semifinals: Kansas 84, North Carolina 68; Memphis 78, UCLA 63
The anti-Houston Final Four -- four number one seeds. And I guess in a way, it doesn't really support my argument that I want to see the heavyweights battle it out because both semifinals were blowouts. Of course, that was atoned for in the finals, where Memphis squandered a late lead by clanking several free throws and then Mario Chalmers sent the game to overtime with a three-pointer and Bill Self won his first and only title (which feels really strange to type, considering he's lost to Northern Iowa and Virginia Commonwealth as a one seed the last two years).
3. 1993 FINAL FOUR -- North Carolina 77, Michigan 71
Semifinals: North Carolina 78, Kansas 68; Michigan 81, Kentucky 78
The Chris Webber timeout game. The end of the Fab Five, who ultimately would garner the highest accolades per actual accomplishment ratio in NCAA history. And the only time Donald Williams's name would ever be relevant. In a Final Four that had about a dozen future NBA players, Williams was named Most Outstanding Player.
Can't find a "One Shining Moment" vid on this one, but I did find streaming video of the ENTIRE championship game. (Fast forward to the 1:23 mark to get to the timeout.
2. 1987 FINAL FOUR -- Indiana 74, Syracuse 73
Semifinals: Syracuse 77, Providence 63; Indiana 97, UNLV 93
The historical significance of this Final Four cannot be understated. First, it's the only final game of the shot clock era to have anything resembling a buzzer-beating shot to win a game (Mario Chalmers's shot sent 2008 to overtime), with Keith Smart's baseline jumper. Second, it's the first tournament in which the three-point shot was incorporated, and that (plus the shot clock being put in place in 1986) made for a much more exciting brand of basketball. Put it this way, Villanova picked the right year to win the title in 1985.
Also, look at the coaching lumber in this Final Four -- Tarkanian, Knight, Boeheim and Pitino before he became a lock Hall of Famer. Wow.
1. 1991 FINAL FOUR -- Duke 72, Kansas 65
Semifinals: Duke 79, UNLV 77; Kansas 79, UNC 73
So what did we have in this Final Four? Oh, only the following:
1. Four Hall of Fame caliber coaches: Coach K, Tark, Dean, Roy. Start there.
2. The power of this Final Four was built on the semifinal matchup between UNLV and Duke, with Duke avenging the most embarrassing loss in NCAA Finals history from the year before, where they were run off the court by UNLV by 30 points and Bobby Hurley was literally pooping himself. Honestly, the final on Monday was just gravy and almost an afterthought.
3. Maybe one of the most significant double turning points in college basketball history -- the relevance of UNLV coming to an end (Tarkanian would leave a year later amidst all sorts of allegations) and, with Duke winning their first title of the Coach K Era, the beginning of anybody without a degree from Duke utterly hating the Blue Devils. (This double turn would be topped only by Steve Austin going baby face and Bret Hart going heel in the same match six years later at Wrestlemania. Now THAT was surreal!)
Honestly, if you grew up in the '80s and you're looking for a place where college basketball jumped the shark, it was this weekend in 1991. Forget the Fab Five -- UNLV (and Georgetown before them) had the antiestablishment thing down pat. Baggy shorts, black shoes, blah blah blah.
Unfortunately, the 1991 One Shining Moment video for this season appears to be erased from the interwebs, so you'll have to settle for a Duke highlight video from that season and then a Duke specific "One Shining Moment" which, if you don't hate Duke, you will by the time you get to the first picture of J.J. Redick.
Okay, NOW I'm ready for the Final Four!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.