Saturday, March 9, 2013

Let's Get This Straight Pal...

    Ok, I'm gonna talk a little sports so if you ain't into sports (specifically b-ball), hit the road. We Americans are into lists, top ten lists, greatest this or that list. And why? Simple, we're a competitive people. A French lady once told me America was great because of our competing ethnic/cultural groups; Italians vs. the Irish, Poles vs. Germans, Rednecks vs. Yankees, Eastern NC chopped BBQ vs. that ketchup covered shit they make around Lexington, NC. Well that may or may not be true but what is absolutely true (with a nod to George C. Scott in Patton) is "All REAL Americans hate to lose!"
    So, that brings me to my point. Question: What is the greatest upset in NCAA Final Four history? Look I'm aware this is sports bar stuff but if it's important to me then by God it's IMPORTANT! And we're just talking basketball, I don't want to talk about the '69 Jets or Mets or the the USA Olympic team (granted, the greatest upset since Caesar beat Pompey Magnus, I forget the score). It's basketball season so let's just stick with hoops.

First let me give a tip of the hat to the runners up.

1964 UCLA Bruins 98-83 over the Duke Blue Devils. Duke had flown through the regionals led by All-American Jeff Mullins and future NBAers Jack Marin and Jay Buckley. They beat UConn in the East Regional final 101-54 and Cazzie Russell's Michigan by 11 points! This was arguably Coach Vic Bubas' (NCSU '51) greatest team, but the Bruins proved too quick for the much bigger Dukies. This was the first of Coach Wooden's string of NCAA titles and probably his favorite team. UCLA's All-American guard Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich and Keith Erickson all went on to have outstanding NBA careers.

1985 Villanova Wildcats 86, the Georgetown Hoyas 84. This is the game most often mentioned as the greatest upset in Final Four history (HBO did a documentary on the game, gimme a break). All I can say is BULLSHIT! To begin with, these were both outstanding teams deserving of a championship. They were both loaded with talent, Georgetown having Pat Ewing, Broadnax, Jackson, David Wingate, Reggie Williams. Hell any one of these kids could be an All-America if not all on the same team. Villanova was nearly as good on paper with Dwayne McClain, Ed Pinckney and Harold Pressley, but they just could never beat the Hoyas. So they meet in the finals and the Wildcats played a near perfect game shooting about 80% from the field with a freshman (Jensen) not missing a shot until the next Wednesday. But here's the deal, these teams had played each other A LOT! Villanova knew what it took to beat this team, but just hadn't done it yet. So even though this was a big upset, this was basically a rivalry game between conference opponents who knew each other very well. For that reason alone any disinterested observer cannot objectively say this is the greatest upset and ESPN (right in the middle of Big East country I might add) can go to Hell. Plus the 'Nova guard Gary McLain admitted he played coked up. Isn't there a rule against that?

1997 Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT), Wildcat vs. Wildcat. This is one Rick Pitino would like to forget. Kentucky won in '96 and later in '98 with what is unquestionably one of the greatest college basketball teams ever. During this three year run they averaged winning by 22 points! And it was a TEAM. There were no Lew Alcindors or Fab Fives, these guys were ALL good! But they ran into a well coached (Lute Olsen) talented Arizona squad that got hot at the right time. In fact, Arizona defeated three of the four number one seeds in the tournament, so it's not like they stole one. Mike Bibby (son of former NBA and UCLA All-American Henry Bibby) had an outstanding finals scoring 20 points and is one of only three father-son NCAA basketball champions.

So here we are, we have finally arrived at the greatest, most stupendous, most earth-shattering upset in the history of college basketball....(drum roll please)...

The North Carolina State Wolfpack 54, the Houston Cougars 52. (What did you expect?)

There can be no question this is one of the greatest upsets in American sports history, and certainly THE greatest in the history of college basketball. The Houston Cougars were an NBA caliber team, I know you hear that a lot but in this case it's true. They won the old SWC regular season title, the SWC tournament and were ranked #1 throughout much of the year in both the Coach's and AP polls (oh my, Ralph Sampson's Virginia was pre-season #1). Six were drafted by the pros with Clyde "The Glide" Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon (both All-Americans) being named by the NBA to the "Greatest 50 Players in NBA History" list (again with the lists). But the team was more than that with Benny Anders, Larry Michaux, Michael Young and a deep bench the best of which was hot shooting swingman Reid Gettys. They flew through the tournament beating one of Lefty Driesell's better Maryland teams by 10, Villanova by 18 and destroying Louisville by 13 with a running game that was like watching the carpet bombing of Hamburg. You know, Louisville could be beaten, but with the McCray brothers and Milt Wagner, nobody, and I mean NOBODY ran them off the court. But Houston did!

The 82-83 Wolfpack basketball team was a good team, but certainly not a great team (unlike the '74 NCAA Champions). They finished #16 in the AP polls (after winning the ACC Tournament) with a record of 26-10 (8-6 ACC). Respectable, but certainly not championship material. But Houston's advantage in talent was offset by State's advantage at coach. You've all heard the cliches about how this coach can win with good players, bad players or your players. Houston's Guy Lewis couldn't win with The Dream Team of '92. This guy was so inept, made so many mistakes with strategy and live game coaching that I'm surprised he wasn't run out of town.
There were exactly three dunks in this game, two by State to open the scoring and end the scoring, and ONE by Houston. This by a team that ran Denny Crum's #2 Louisville Cardinals into the ground! Jim Valvano played a ball control, half-court game that cranked up the pressure on Houston and frustrated the Cougars to distraction. Phi Slamma Jamma wanted to win, look pretty and fly high while doing it, but it was not to be. Therefore, this game is not only one of the most entertaining and exciting games in the history of this great sport, it is also without a shadow of a doubt the GREATEST UPSET IN FINAL FOUR HISTORY.

Addendum: It's been pointed out to me that due to my appalling bigotry towards all things UNC, I did not include the North Carolina Tar Heels triple overtime victory over the Kansas Jayhawks (and Wilt Chamberlain) in the 1957 finals. This allegation is patently false. Although the game was played in Kansas City, the Jayhawks were only a 3 point favorite. North Carolina triple-teamed Wilt most of the game because Kansas notoriously couldn't hit dick from the field (they routinely shot about 30%). The fact is Kansas was a one man show, they were not a good basketball team and this was NOT an upset.


The Conservative Wahoo said...

I agree with you on your choice--but disagree COMPLETELY with how you blithely dismiss its nearest competitor, the Gtown/Nova game. Everyone was loaded with Senior talent that year, but Nova's seniors weren't Gtown's seniors, or even St.John's seniors, Memhis state's. Nova was an #8 seed in 85, , NC State was a #6 in 83.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

And besides, State had no business winning that Western Regional in 83.

"The Hammer" said...

That's true, we had no business winning a good few of the games including UVA and UNLV. Hell Pepperdine should have beaten us the first game of the tournament.
And if you're gonna keep crying about that Western Regional loss I'll see if I can find Rick Carlisle's number.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Hell, what about the ACC tournament. Again, NCState no business winning it that year.

"The Hammer" said...

Yes yes, I agree, point conceded!
And UVA should have won at least SOMETHING that stretch with Othell Wilson, Sampson, Carlisle, Miller etc. The biggest bunch of underachieving bastards in the history of gaging choke artists!

Now what else you got?

Tom de Plume said...

Ah jeez, once again it's that time of year that you chubby white boys get all about basketball.

Anonymous said...

I still remember calling Houston, "Phi Choka Uppa."

Newer Post Older Post Home