The 1990 NCAA Tournament wasn’t particularly kind to the Big 10. Cases in point:
- #1 seed Michigan State loses to Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16, when Kenny Anderson hits a shot after time expired.
- #2 seed Purdue is knocked off by Texas in the round of 32.
- #3 seed and defending National Champion Michigan loses to #11 seed Loyola Marrimount in the round of 32.
- #5 seed Illinois falls victim to #12 seed Dayton in the first round.
- #8 seed Indiana bows out to #9 seed California in the first round.
- #8 seed Ohio State is knocked off by eventual National Champion UNLV in the round of 32.
The lone exception was Clem Haskins’ Minnesota Golden Gophers. This team, a somewhat unspectacular 20-8 and 11-7 in conference play advanced all of the way to the Southeast (now South) Regional Finals.
Minnesota did get some quality wins for 1989-90; primarily home victories against #4 Illinois, #10 Purdue, and a 108-89 blowout of #12 Indiana. The only non-conference loss was against Cincinnati in the opener. This netted the Gophers the #6 seed in the Southeast Region. After dispatching Texas El-Paso and Northern Iowa, Minnesota upset #2 seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16. This should have resulted in game 3 against #1 seed Michigan State; however, the after-the-clock-expired shot by Kenny Anderson had Georgia Tech advance to the Elite 8 in the Louisiana Superdome.
For 1989-90 Bobby Cremins’ Yellow Jackets were literally a 3-man show. Forward Dennis Scott and guards Kenny Anderson and Brian Oliver - known as “Lethal Weapon 3” - all averaged more than 20 points and 37 minutes per game. They led Georgia Tech to the 1990 ACC Tournament despite an 8-6 conference record (21-6 overall prior to the ACC Tournament). The Yellow Jackets got to the Elite by coming back from being 19 points down to an LSU team featuring Shaquille O’Neal, and a controversial upset of #1 seed Michigan State with Kenny Anderson hitting the game-winning shot after time expired.
As the game got underway Minnesota used a balanced attack to take an early lead. Behind Willie Burton the Gophers jumped out to a 42-30 first half lead; maintaining a 49-47 halftime advantage. Minnesota continued lo lead 58-53 in the second half. However, Georgia Tech started hitting from 3-point range. Led by Dennis Scott the Jackets took the lead and held on - despite some missed free throws in crunch time - to pull off a 93-91 victory. One thing that hurt Minnesota was free throw shooting: the Gophers only went 5-for-11 from the charity stripe.
For Georgia Tech “Lethal Weapon 3” scored 89 of their 93 points: 40 for Dennis Scott, 30 for Kenny Anderson, and 19 for Brian Oliver. These 3 attempted 52 of the 56 shots the Yellow Jackets took from the field.
The 1990 Elite 8 would represent the apex of Clem Haskins’ tenure in Minneapolis. Several years later Haskins would be forced out amid academic scandal; vacating a 1997 Final 4 appearance. The 1989-90 team though nearly got to the Final Four, losing by 2 points to a team they shouldn’t have been playing in the first place.