Game 9 – (9) 2006 George Mason v. (24)2001 Temple
If you look at most of the teams involved in this tournament you could make a case that the term “Cinderella” doesn’t apply to some of them. After all, Michigan had one of the most vaunted recruiting classes in history. Kansas had a number one NBA draft pick. Even Davidson had a recent Rookie of the Year contender.
There’s no one who understands the word underdog that could keep the 2005-06 George Mason Patriots off the list. They didn’t win their conference tournament and a lot of fans and writers wondered if they deserved one of the last at-large bids. None of their players had more than a cup of coffee in the NBA. In fact, their leading scorer tried to make it in the NFL so he could keep the dreams of a career in professional sports alive.
On the other hand, Temple had one of the more balanced teams in its long history. Kevin Lyde was a load to handle in the middle and Lynn Greer was capable of putting up twenty points every night. Factor in Quincy Wadley and three should have been enough, yet the Owls lost 13 games that season.
From the opening tip George Mason played composed despite Temple’s myriad of defenses. Would-be tight end Jai Lewis held his own against Lyde and neither was in foul trouble in the first half. Tony Skinn, who was the subject of the controversy in the CAA conference tournament, managed to lead the way with eight points but Greer compensated for Wadley’s woes from the floor with 13 points.
In the second half, Lyde started to gain an edge. Lewis picked up two quick fouls and backup Sammy Hernandez couldn’t sustain the momentum. When Patriots coach Jim Larranaga put Lewis back in Lyde was able to move without the hampering of equal girth. A couple more outside bombs from Greer sealed the deal.
Final Score: Temple 68, George Mason 57.
Game 10 – (10) 1993 Temple v. (23) 1991 Temple
John Chaney wouldn’t submit to cloning and even though the venerable coach had enough energy to pace the whole court for the entire 40 minutes long-time assistant Dean Demopoulos would coach the 1993 edition for this matchup.
Fortunately for the tournament committee, the stars of the show for each team were different. Mark Macon, Donald Hodge and Mark Strickland led the ’91 edition while Rick Brunson, Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones led the ’93 edition.
The ’93 Owls didn’t get squat on offense from their front line of Derrick Battie and William Cunningham but were satisfied as long as Hodge and Strickland were contained. Macon tried to distribute as much as score but Chaney begged him to take over as his taller teammates weren’t up to the task. Macon would end up shooting 31 times in the contest but only made nine. Conversely, the backcourt trio combined for 63 of the ’93 team’s 74 points. If they had put in five more, they could have won three on five.
Final Score: ’93 Temple 74, ’91 Temple 67.
Game 11 – (11) 2003 Michigan State v. (22) 1997 Providence
One of the main advantages that Michigan State had in 2003 is that several different players could be considered the one to take the shot if it was a close game. One of the main disadvantages is that very few of the Spartans had developed an offensive game to be considered a true threat.
That wasn’t the case with Providence. Austin Croshere had developed his game on the courts of Los Angeles while Ruben Garces and Jamel Thomas completed one of the more formidable frontcourts in this tournament. Clearly, Michigan State would have to rely on its defense to win.
True to form, Maurice Ager harassed Croshere into one of his worst games of his college career. Unfortunately, Garces and Thomas cleaned up the offensive glass to put up 18 points apiece. Anagonye, Davis and Lorbek weren’t able to match the Friars.
Final Score: Providence 78, Michigan State 64.
Game 12 – (12) 2005 West Virginia v. (21) 1999 Gonzaga
Today’s games featured some standout players but most of them had to go nearly the entire 40 minutes. That wouldn’t be the case in game twelve, where both contestants boasted lineups that could go nine or ten deep.
It also proved to be an instant classic.
Mountaineer guard Mike Gansey’s kamikaze style of play may have reminded some viewers of Loyola Marymount’s Tom Peabody but in fairness to “The Human Bruise” Peabody couldn’t equal Gansey’s offense. Undersized Gonzaga guard Quentin Hall had trouble with Gansey on defense but used his quickness to gain an advantage when he had the ball.
The more interesting matchup took place in the middle. Mountaineer coach John Beilein decided to limit shotblocker D’Or Fischer’s minutes in favor of three-point marksman Kevin Pittsnogle so he could draw counterpart Jeremy Eaton outside. It worked well in the first portion of the opening stanza until Zags coach Dan Monson put forward Casey Calvary on Pittsnogle. Pittsnogle would hit three threes before the defensive switch but only managed two free throws after.
The second half belonged to others. Matt Santangelo and Richie Frahm matched Tyrone Sally and Patrick Beilein point for point. With ten seconds left, Gonzaga was down by three and Hall was trying to fend off defensive specialist Darrius Nichols. Hall used a pick set by Calvary, floated a pass to Frahm in the corner and watched as it upset the net to tie the game.
In overtime, Calvary fouled out as he made a mental mistake by fouling Pittsnogle on a deep attempt. Monson quickly brought in Mike Leasure, who gave five inches to Pittsnogle, but since Pittsnogle wasn’t a big rebounding threat Monson must have thought he could get away with it. He was right – to a point. It turned out the Mountaineers didn’t need an extra man on the glass as Gansey made a nifty move around Hall and Santangelo to bank in a layup that put the Mountaineers up by two with seven seconds left. Hall tried to hustle down and get a good shot for his teammates but Nichols stripped Hall. As the ball trickled out of the bounds the clock expired and West Virginia survived.
Final Score: West Virginia 88, Gonzaga 86 (OT).
Game 13 – (13) 2004 Xavier v. (20) 2002 Kent State
If only the Clippers were still plying their trade in San Diego. The die-hard Clipper fan (assuming that some exist) has to entertain the thought of Antonio Gates suiting up following football season. While they’re fantasizing about that possibility they can enjoy this battle of Ohio.
Aside from Gates the Flashes depended on guards Trevor Huffman and Andrew Mitchell for their offense, much like the Musketeers who relied on Romain Sato and Lionel Chalmers. Because Xavier Anthony Myles could chip in as a fifth option Kent State coach Stan Heath decided to start freshman Nate Gerwig at center and move Gates to the four spot. Eventually Gerwig would emerge as a solid starter but in this game he was overmatched against upperclassmen Myles and Justin Doellman. Gerwig would get in early foul trouble and usual starter Eric Thomas had to go in while giving several inches.
Huffman and Mitchell tried to keep the Flashes in but Sato and Chalmers won that battle as well.
Final Score: Xavier 76, Kent State 65.
Game 14 – (14) 2004 Alabama v. (19) 2008 Davidson
Stephen Curry doesn’t look like he could carry a good-sized grade schooler on his shoulders but he has managed to carry a college team on those same shoulders on several occasions. Outside of point guard Jason Richards no other Wildcat averaged double figures in scoring. On the Tide’s side, balanced scoring wasn’t an issue as five players averaged between nine and seventeen points a game. However, they could be careless with the ball, something that could play into Davidson’s hands.
It was a dangerous strategy but the Tide figured that Curry would get twenty, possibly thirty by the time the night was over. It focused attention on Curry’s fellow starters. Antoine Pettway and Demetrius Smith harassed Richards while Kennedy Winston, Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson held Max Paulhus-Gosselin, Andrew Lovedale and Thomas Sander to a combined sixteen points for the game. Curry had more than thirty (38, to be exact) but his shoulders didn’t betray him this time. His teammates just couldn’t respond enough.
Final Score: Alabama 72, Davidson 63.
Game 15 – (15) 1998 Rhode Island v. (18) 1990 Texas
Those fans who harkened back to the day of dominant big men who painted the glass with sky hooks or punished the rim with ferocious dunks wouldn’t have looked to this game for a reminder of the way things used to be. No, this game was for those waved the baton in the backcourt and plied their trade away from the paint area.
Tyson Wheeler, Cuttino Mobley, Travis Mays, Lance Blanks and Joey Wright may have looked like blurs but there was no need to adjust the TV screen. A lumbering big man would have been hard-pressed to keep pace for more than five minutes, which explains why 7-2 Longhorn George Muller merely stood and clapped for the duration of this contest.
While the guards got the spotlight it ended up being a fourth option that made the difference. Mays missed a seventeen-footer with five seconds left. Guillermo ‘Panama’ Myers timed his jump perfectly as the ball caromed off the rim and tipped home the rebound just before the red light district opened for business. As he swarmed coaches Jim Harrick and Tom Penders gathered around the replay monitor to confirm the inevitable. Penders pumped his fist in exultation while Harrick walked briskly back to console his team.
Final Score: Texas 84, Rhode Island 83.
Game 16 – (16) 1994 Boston College v. (17) 1987 LSU
This time, Nikita Wilson paid attention to the books and was able to play in the Big Dance. He would be needed against Eagle Danya Abrams, who infuriated Dean Smith with his physical play in the paint. The other intriguing matchup featured Darryl Joe against Howard Eisley at the point.
True to form, those matchups evened out. What made the difference was Bill Curley. Nikita Wilson had his hands full with Abrams and Curley was able to exploit a matchup against his overmatched opposite number. At the end, Dale Brown didn’t have the same complaints that Smith did (maybe because none of his players got pancaked) but he also ended up on the losing end.
Final Score: Boston College 77, LSU 66.