March Memories--Early 90's Blues

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

1990 was better for the Big Ten than 1991, but they both were disappointing overall, so let's just get this over with.


The Big Ten sent 7 teams to the tournament, but only went 8-7 (come 1995 and 1996, this will seem like success). In the first round, Indiana lost an 8/9 game to Cal and Illinois went out a victim to Dayton in the dreaded 5/12 upset. Each team lost by a bucket.

In the second round--and stop me if you've heard this before--a Purdue team that had a very good regular season ran into a talented, athletic squad and lost earlier than their seed would've suggested they should have. This time, Texas Longhorns (10) beat the 2-seeded Boilermakers 73-72. The Longhorns were led by their "BMW": Lance Blanks, Travis Mays, and Joey Wright, who combined for 55 of their 73 points.

Ohio State (8) had a one-point OT victory over Providence in the first round before losing to eventual national champion UNLV in the second round.

The Big Ten's final round of 32 loser was Michigan. The third-seeded Wolverines fell to the ultimate Cinderella, 11-seed Loyola-Marymount. As you probably already know, Hank Gathers had collapsed and died just before the tournament started and lifelong friend Bo Kimble shot his first free throw of each tournament game left-handed to honor Gathers. What tends to be forgotten is that they both transferred to Loyola from USC and they were not your normal mid-major players. In any event, they ran Michigan off the court 149-114 (that's not a misprint). I don't want to say that Michigan gave up, but what would you call surrendering 84 points in the second half?

Roll tape (the avalanche begins at 59:00 or so...Michigan is making FTs that cut it to 84-76...after that, good night):

Michigan had 27 turnovers. Loyola was 21-40 from three. (Jeff Fryer was 11-15!) Loyola was coached by Paul Westhead, who had led the L.A. Lakers to the NBA title in 1980 before losing a power struggle with Magic Johnson (enter Pat Riley). He reinvented himself as a prophet of frenetic run-and-gun hoops, which culminated with Loyola AVERAGING 124 ppg this year.

That leaves Michigan State and Minnesota as the lone Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16. Each would fall to Georgia Tech in successive games.

MSU won their final 10 conference games to take the title going away at 15-3. Not bad for a team that lost to Illinois-Chicago and Bowling Green in non-conference play. MSU wasn't a fraud--Steve Smith was awesome--but they didn't have the horsepower to blow many teams out, as evidenced by their path to the Sweet 16. Despite being a 1-seed, they were taken to OT by 16-seed Murray State and then eased past 9-seed UC-Santa Barbara in the second round by 4 (to be fair UCSB was good enough to beat UNLV that year). Which brings us to Georgia Tech.

There are two ways to explain how MSU lost this game, and they're both true. 1) MSU led 75-71 with 13 seconds to go and blew it. 2) MSU got royally screwed. [There's an unnecessarily long lead-in, but it's only a 5 minute clip]:

Aren't you glad we have lights behind the backboards now, kids? [Also, Kenny Anderson, who spent one year at GT, was an electrifying PG.] GT won in OT by 1. You can find the OT online I'm sure, but the story was the shot that shouldn't have counted.

So it was Minnesota (6) who made the deepest run of Big Ten teams this year. As a Wisconsin fan, I'm fine with this. In fact, let me just tell it to the world: Willie Burton was a stud. For example, he dropped 36 and 12 on Northern Iowa (14...upset 3-seed Missouri...find that game-winning shot) in the second round. This followed a 64-61 OT win over UTEP in the first round.

However, Minnesota proved it was more than just the beneficiary of a lucky draw by beating 2-seed Syracuse in the Sweet 16 (this marked the fifth time in a nine-appearance stretch that a Big Ten team did God's work and knocked Jim Boeheim out of the tournament).

Unfortunately, I can't find video of either game. Sorry Gopher fans. Your moment should come later.

Minnesota's run ended in the Elite Eight in a 93-91 loss to Georgia Tech loss. Burton poured in 35 points, but Dennis Scott scored 40 and Kenny Anderson had 30 for Tech. In fact, adding in Bryan Oliver's 19, "Lethal Weapon 3" (that was the for poster) scored 89 of GT's 93 points. (The 35-11 advantage from the FT line helped GT's chances.) Still, Minnesota's run was impressive and deserves to be remembered.

Finally, there were a couple of fantastic game-winning shots in the East Regional. Christian Laettner's shot beat UConn in the Elite Eight and sent Duke to the Final Four. However, it's only the second-most famous Elite Eight game-winner in Laettner's career. And it was Christian Laettner, so go find it yourself if you haven't seen it already. However, you all should see how UConn beat Clemson in the Sweet 16:

[MSU fans, realize it wasn't just you...]


Indiana and OSU tied for the Big Ten title at 15-3 and each was in the top 5 at season's end. OSU was a 1-seed and lost by 17 to 4-seed St. John's in the Sweet 16 (and trailed by 19 at halftime. Indiana was a 2-seed and lost by 18 to 3-seed Kansas in the Sweet 16 (and trailed by 22 at halftime). Those were dogshit performances, and I won't comment on them further.

Purdue (7) lost to Temple Owls (10) by 17 in the first round. Iowa (7) lost to Duke (2) by 15 in the second round. MSU (5) saved face a little, only falling by 1 (in double OT) to Utah (4) in the second round. Add it all up and it's a 6-5 performance for a league thought to have two legit Final Four contenders.

Great job, everybody!

Nationally, this was the first time a 15 upset a 2. Richmond knocked off Syracuse. Take a bow, Jim Boeheim.

The real story was that UNLV was trying to go undefeated and repeat as champs. They were #1 all season, but fell to Duke in the Final Four, a year after beating the Blue Devils by 30 in the title game. This historic upset has been picked over pretty well over the years, so, instead of me adding anything, just enjoy this truly incredible dunk by Grant Hill (then a freshman!) in the title game: