Game 1 – (1) 1985 Villanova v. (16) 1994 Boston College
Ed Pinckney was used to dealing with the likes of behemoths such as Patrick Ewing, Bill Wennington and Charles Smith. Therefore, Danya Abrams and Bill Curley didn’t provide a massive challenge for him. On the other hand, Howard Eisley and Malcolm Huckabay, would prove to be an obstacle for Dwight Wilbur and Gary McLain. In particular, Harold Jensen, who would be a savior from beyond the arc in the ’85 bracket, found the going rough.
As expected, Pinckney held his own despite the best attempts of Abrams to batter him in the paint. Harold Pressley wasn’t impressed with Curley’s attempts to draw him outside and defended him well. But the backcourt edge clearly went to the group from Chestnut Hill. Not only was Jensen handcuffed on offense he also struggled trying to defend Eisley though he had no choice as McLain was in constant foul trouble.
“Daddy Mass” had cajoled and managed a near-miracle twenty-five years ago when he took his underdog charges to the promised land. Miracles can happen twice in rare circumstances. Just not today.
Final Score: Boston College 74, Villanova 67.
Game 2 – (2) 1988 Kansas v. (18) 1990 Texas
Today, these teams are the cream of the Big 12 (though it was a close to a breakup recently). Back then, Texas hadn’t established itself as a college basketball power while Kansas was re-entering the picture as a trusted brand name (though probation would put them on the shelf for a couple years after their ’88 title).
Even though both teams liked to put up numbers neither one went deep into their bench. While Danny Manning had an advantage over Panama Myers Milt Newton and Lance Blanks proved to be the matchup of the game. They were even at fifteen points a piece with two minutes left in the game when Newton stripped Blanks as he went up for a jumper and Manning streaked ahead. The eventual number-one pick slammed it home as Myers futilely climbed on his back. This put the Jayhawks up by five. Manning and Kevin Pritchard nailed their free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
Final Score: Kansas 84, Texas 80.
Game 3 – (3) 1992 Michigan v. (14) 2004 Alabama
The first two games of the day were entertaining, close affairs. This one was entertaining if you enjoyed talented players putting on clinics.
In Alabama’s first game the Tide had to be concerned with one offensive threat in Stephen Curry. Today, they would not have that luxury. Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber all had to be respected for their offensive skills. Jermareo Davidson tried to be game against Howard but Chuck Davis and Kennedy Winston were no match for Webber. Rose used his height and skills advantage and lorded it over Kennedy Winston. By the time Rose went to the bench he nearly had a triple-double while Webber ended up with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Final Score: Michigan 85, Alabama 69.
Game 4 – (29) 2006 Bradley v. (13) 2004 Xavier
In some respects, Bradley may have been the Vinnie Vincent of this tournament. Their Cinderella brethren doubted their place but the Braves hoped their upset of the 2010 Butler squad would prove that they belonged. But like the former KISS guitarist the Braves would be reduced to a mere footnote in a long history.
Unlike the Butler game, Patrick O’Bryant found Anthony Myles’ and Justin Doellman’s style of defense not to his liking. In the backcourt, Daniel Ruffin and Tony Bennett’s couldn’t duplicate the offensive efficiency they produced in the first game while Romain Sato and Lionel Chalmers continued their production.
There would be no third game for the Braves’ this time.
Final Score: Xavier 77, Bradley 66.