Game 1 – (1) 1985 Villanova v. (32) 1986 Cleveland State
How would the ’85 Wildcats handle the shot clock? When they ran the table they took advantage of extending the game by handling the ball for indefinite periods on offense. The ’86 Vikings liked to force the action. It was clearly a contrast in styles but the key matchup would be Villanova forward Dwayne McClain against Cleveland State forward Clinton Ransey.
In the first half, Ransey was getting the better of the matchup. Villanova ran the shot clock down to a few seconds but was having trouble scoring. Meanwhile, State’s Mouse McFadden pushed it ahead and dumped it down to Ransey. By the four-minute mark Ransey had ten points, McClain had two fouls and Wildcat coach Rollie Massimino’s hair resembled an unholy union between the cult movie figure Eraserhead and cumulous clouds.
In the second half, Massimino combed his hair and sent super-sub Harold Jensen on the court to set up camp from three-point range. Down by twelve, Jensen followed his coach’s instructions to the letter and took advantage of some openings in the Viking defense. Meanwhile, Harold Pressley stayed on Ransey and limited the forward to four points in the second half.
Cleveland State led by two with three minutes left in the game, but Jensen and Gary McLain hit a couple of key baskets and took advantage of a McFadden turnover to snatch the lead back. Viking center Eric Mudd was forced to foul out against center Ed Pinckney, who salted the game away by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with forty seconds left.
Final Score: Villanova 61, Cleveland State 55.
Game 2 – (2) 1988 Kansas v. (31) 1997 Chattanooga
The Jayhawks had Danny and the Miracles. The Mocs had Johnny and the No-Names. It just wasn’t much of a game. Manning had little trouble with Mocs’ interior defense and Jayhawk guard Milt Newton got the better of opposite number Wes Moore. Ultimately, Mocs star Johnny Taylor’s poor shooting performance did them in. The Jayhawks emptied their bench with three minutes left.
Final Score: Kansas 84, Chattanooga 68.
Game 3 – (3) 1992 Michigan v. (30) 1988 Richmond
It was the battle of pure-bred Westminster finalists against Humane Society mutts. However, the junkyard dogs had been well-trained to follow instructions while the Kennel Club canines wouldn’t necessarily sit still.
Chris Webber may not have expected a battle from undersized Peter Woolfolk but got one anyway. Woolfolk’s desire helped him nab a few offensive rebounds despite Webber’s athleticism.
However, Jalen Rose made life difficult for opposite number Rodney Rice. Rice was noted for taking care of the ball but Rose hounded him relentlessly. The Spiders tried to slow the game down and Woolfolk managed 22 points with 13 rebounds before going to the pine with two minutes left. By then, the result was cemented.
Final Score: Michigan 77, Richmond 69.
Game 4 – (4) 2010 Butler v. (29) 2006 Bradley
The 2010 NCAA Tournament was Gordon Hayward’s coming-out party. The 2006 NCAA Tournament helped Patrick O’Bryant get nearly fifteen minutes of fame. But the luster on one’s celebrity doesn’t necessarily disguise shooting woes.
Matt Howard tried to get physical against O’Bryant but the young center was more than game to battle for paint space. Meanwhile, Braves guards Daniel Ruffin and Tony Bennett shot efficiently enough to combat Ronald Nored’s defense. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Hayward and Shelvin Mack had off-nights from the field, which finally caught up with them.
Final Score: Bradley 71, Butler 66.
Game 5 – (5) 1987 Providence v. (28) 1998 Valparaiso
Side-by-side, the marquee guards could have been plucked from an audition line for a 1980s sitcom. It’s doubtful that Ricky Schroeder or Kirk Cameron would have lasted long in one-on-one battles against Billy Donovan or Bryce Drew.
Donovan and the Friars may have been one of the first teams to use the three-point shot to their advantage but they didn’t have the Lollipop Guild up front. Marty Conlon and Steve Wright had a decided advantage over the Jenkins (Bill and Bob) and Zoran Viskovic.
If you were a fan of offense, you were in for a treat. Donovan, Delray Brooks and Darryl Wright traded baskets with Drew and Jamie Sykes, leading to a combined 89 points between the teams at the half. Shortly after the second half Viskovic picked up his third foul. Conlon used this to his advantage and began to get inside with more effectiveness. Drew did all he could but without an interior offense his one-man show closed early.
Final Score: Providence 88, Valparaiso 80.
Game 6 – (6) 2000 North Carolina v. (27) 1999 Oklahoma
Unlike Billy Tubbs’ Sooners, Kelvin Sampson’s bunch weren’t a well-oiled offensive machine, but if you finished a game against them you came away with an appreciation of tough defense and a few bruises. By contrast, Bill Guthridge’s Tar Heels, even though they were considered underachievers before their Final Four run, could shoot the ball well as a team (nearly 50 percent) and had four double digit scorers.
Along with the contrasting styles there was an interesting individual matchup. Jason Capel was a lithe swingman who was considered to be better than brother Jeff, a Duke guard who would eventually go on to coach the Sooners. Eduardo Najera was the standout for the Sooners in ’99, one of the few who could be counted on to put up points every night.
Indeed, Capel and Najera didn’t disappoint on the offensive end, but the other matchups dictated the result. Kris Lang, who split time with Max Owens during the regular season, got the bulk of the playing time thanks to Oklahoma’s bruising style. While Renzi Stone and Lang wrestled in the paint Michael Johnson, Alex Spaulding and Eric Martin made life difficult for scorer Joe Forte.
When it was over, the Tar Heels shot under 40 percent for the game, Lang emerged with a shiner and the Sooners scored the upset.
Final Score: Oklahoma 67, North Carolina 62.
Game 7 – (7) 2000 Wisconsin v. (26) 2002 Missouri
If the Badgers were Amish, the Tigers were the Kardashians. Surprisingly, the Badgers had more depth, regularly playing up to ten players. The Tigers iron-man five were occasionally supplemented by a football player. One wondered if the Tigers might actually step off the gas a bit in order to preserve their starters’ stamina. They didn’t.
Tiger point guard Wesley Stokes, he of the shoulder-length braids, orchestrated a well-fueled offense while Arthur Johnson mixed it up in the paint with Mark Vershaw and Andy Kowske. The difference proved to at the small forward position, where Maurice Linton tried to contain Kareem Rush but couldn’t provide much offense.
Final Score: Missouri 71, Wisconsin 64.
Game 8 – (8) 1986 LSU v. (25) 1990 Loyola Marymount
Yes, the Lions set new standards for offense in the college basketball universe. But if you took a closer look at their lineup and compared it to the Tigers, there wasn’t much difference. Neither team featured giants in the middle and relied on athletic players who could run all day.
Obviously, Loyola Marymount hoped they could leave their opponents on the side of the road like an overheated engine. However, the Tigers proved to be game. It also helped that Jeff Fryer, who torched Michigan in the second round, was unable to fill the net. John Williams and Don Redden each scored over 25 points for LSU while Loyola, even with Bo Kimble’s 37 points (a first-round high) wasn’t enough to keep the Lions in the hunt.
Final Score: LSU 93, Loyola Marymount 84.