Here's a time-waster
Almost down to "48 hours 'til the tournament," and frankly, the wait is killing me. Need something to make the time go faster, or, alternatively, to INCREASE ANTICIPATION. Not saying this'll do it, but it'll at least give us crap to think about in the interim.
So I found something like this about a year back, on the site Upstanding Fucking Citizens. And it reminded me of teams and players I had forgotten about, and I wanted to see what the gents at the MWB, as well as our five loyal readers, thought about the NCAA Champions going back to 1990. Why 1990? Mostly because it's the first tournament that I consciously remember. Also, we won't have to deal with people on here overrating or underrating the 1989 Michigan team; but mostly for the former reason: I don't remember anything about college basketball pre-1990. Now, most of the following material was directly stolen from last year's article, with me correcting what I knew was wrong and adding some of my own thoughts and observations.
Your job? RANK THE NCAA CHAMPIONS, going back to 1990!!
1990 - UNLV
Finals: Def. Duke 103-73
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 18.7
Starters: Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony, David Butler
Primary bench: Moses Scurry, Stacey Cvijanovich
The Runnin’ Rebels won their first and only national title by destroying Duke in the finals. UNLV recorded the biggest blowout in championship game history and became the first team to break 100 in the final.
Larry Johnson, who was a JuCo transfer, was a man among boys in the college game. He was basically the first gangsta in college hoops. Stacy Augmon was too long and athletic for most college shooting guards and small forwards. Hunt and Anthony formed a nasty backcourt. Butler was an undersized, athletic center.
These outlaws possessed an us-against-them mentality brought on by what they perceived as a witchhunt against Jerry Tarkanian by the NCAA. Said LJ of winning the championship: "We wanted to win this championship bad, so that the NCAA guys will have to stare at that trophy on Coach's desk while they ask all those questions during the next investigation."
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Hunt
On the All-Tourney Team: Hunt, Augmon, Johnson
Future First-Round Picks: Larry Johnson (1991, 1st, Charlotte), Stacey Augmon (1991, 9th, Atlanta), Greg Anthony (1991, 12th, New York)
1991 - Duke
Finals: Def. Kansas 72-65
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 14.0
Starters: Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Thomas Hill, Greg Koubek
Primary Bench: Billy McCaffrey, Antonio Lang, Brian Davis
Duke avenged the previous year's humiliating defeat in the final by upsetting heavily favored UNLV in the semis. Aside from Laettner, not a particularly big team but extremely athletic with the likes of Lang, G. Hill, and Davis. McCaffrey was the long range threat while Hurley was the glue. Laettner was simply one of the five or six best clutch players the college game has ever seen. I've written way too much about this anyway.
Defeated Kansas in a lackluster afterthought of a title game. The only thing anyone remembers about it is Grant Hill one-handing that alley-oop from Hurley.
Laettner, Hurley, McCaffrey and both Hills all averaged at least 11 ppg in the Dance, with Laettner leading the way at nearly 20 per.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Laettner
On the All-Tourney Team: Laettner, Hurley, McCaffrey
Future First-Round Picks: Christian Laettner (1992, 3rd, Minnesota), Bobby Hurley (1993, 7th, Sacramento), Grant Hill (1994, 3rd, Detroit)
1992 - Duke
Finals: Def. Michigan 71-51
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 12.5
Starters: Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Thomas Hill, Brian Davis
Primary Bench: Antonio Lang, Cherokee Parks, Marty Clark
People barely remember the Final Four from '92 because Duke's Elite Eight game against Kentucky ranks as possibly the greatest game in college basketball history, and pretty much overshadows the entire '92 tournament. This is not a misprint: In perhaps the most pressure-packed game in tournament history Christian Laettner shot the ball 20 times and 20 times the ball went through the hoop (10 from the field, 10 from the line). He also took a picture-perfect full-court pass from Grant Hill and calmly nailed an 18-foot turnaround jumper as time expired in overtime. Ridiculous.
Laettner averaged 21.5 ppg. The Hills went for 14, Hurley 13 and Brian Davis added 11.
Thrashed the Fab Five in the title game.
McCaffrey transferred at the beginning of the year, missing out on a chance at a second straight ring. Bobby Hurley apparently stood between him and getting to show his point guard skills to pro scouts. Woops.
This was still Laettner’s team but G. Hill was starting to show signs of future greatness.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Hurley
On the All-Tourney Team: Hurley, G. Hill, Laettner
Future First-Round Picks: Christian Laettner (1992, 3rd, Minnesota), Bobby Hurley (1993, 7th, Sacramento), Grant Hill (1994, 3rd, Detroit), Cherokee Parks (1995, 12th, Dallas)
1993 - North Carolina
Seed: 1 Record: 34-4
Finals: Def. Michigan 77-71
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 15.7
Starters: Eric Montross, Donald Williams, George Lynch, Brian Reese, Derrick Phelps
Primary Bench: Henrik Rodl, Pat Sullivan, Kevin Salvadori
Montross and Lynch are probably more familiar to the casual fan but Donald Williams was the star of this tournament. He went 10/14 from 3 in the semis and final combined. Phelps was the floor general, forming a typically solid Dean Smith backcourt.
This was the "Chris Webber chokes for the first time on the big stage" game. First he took the inbounds pass, got the Chris Webber look on his face, and then dragged his foot about 3 feet down the court. Amazingly, the only people in the entire stadium that didn’t see his egregious travelling were the referees. Then he dribbled down court and called a timeout they didn’t have. He's been committing turnovers and clanking jump hooks off the front of the rim in crunch time ever since.
In my opinion, this UNC team is somewhat underrated in a historical sense because of the perception that it didn’t so much win the title as Michigan lost it. At one point Carolina won 18 straight. The next year, they only lost Lynch and Rodl, and they added a couple of freshmen you may have heard of: Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. That '94 team was wire-to-wire #1, until they inexplicably lost to 8-seeded and Jim O'Brien-coached Boston College in the second round. Huzzah for Billy Curley!
The victory over Michigan in the title game avenged a regular season 79-78 loss.
Montross was a complete stiff but people forget how good he was in the post at the college level. He had a solid dropstep and he had that little baby jumphook he could shoot with either hand. Very good college post player. Lynch was an awesome rebounder and consummate teammate. Brian Reese was just kind of there.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Williams
On the All-Tourney Team: Williams, Montross, Lynch
Future First-Round Picks: George Lynch (1993, 12th, L.A. Lakers), Eric Montross (1994, 9th, Boston)
1994 - Arkansas
Finals: Def. Duke 76-72
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 11.2
Starters: Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Dwight Stewart, Clint McDaniel
Primary Bench: Lee Wilson, Darnell Robinson
This was the title that allowed Nolan Richardson to be the insufferable jackass he always longed to be. But that can’t overshadow just how nasty the Razorbacks were in '94. Nobody could handle Big Nasty Williamson and Scotty Thurman was the best sleepy-eyed marksman since Sam Perkins was in his heyday. Beck and McDaniel were very good college players.
This was one of those "40 Minutes of Hell" teams that defended 94 feet of court all game long. Just wore other teams down. Duke forward Grant Hill, on being held to 12 in the championship game: "I see a bunch of Hogs in white uniforms, coming at me in waves." Amazing, because Williamson and Stewart were both clearly, uh, chubby.
Thurman hit a miracle 3 over Tony Lang's outstretched arm with 52 seconds left to break a 70-70 tie with Duke to give Arkansas a lead they would never relinquish.
It's probably a toss-up for "worst early-entry draft decision by a college player in the 90s," between Thurman and Dontonio Wingfield.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Williamson
On the All-Tourney Team: Williamson, Beck, Thurman
Future First-Round Picks: Corliss Williamson (1995, 13th, Sacramento)
1995 - UCLA
Seed: 1 Record: 31-2
Finals: Def. Arkansas 89-78
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 14.3
Starters: Ed O'Bannon, Charles O'Bannon, Toby Bailey, Tyus Edney, George Zidek
Primary Bench: Cameron Dollar, J.R Henderson
Jimmy Harrick finally put it all together. The guy was a pro bust, so people forget that Ed O’Bannon was a STUD in college. Put up a 30/17 dub-dub in the championship game. Edney couldn’t play because of injury but the Bruins still handled the defending champion Razorbacks in the final, making Corliss Williamson look awful in the process.
Zidek was the center, Edney and Dollar the PGs, and everyone else on the team was basically a small forward.
This was the tourney in which Edney went the length of the court in 4 seconds - and it certainly helped that nobody really tried to guard him - to steal a 75-74 win over Missouri in the 2nd round (that was when Mizzou had those 7-foot twins who stunk. Remember?). One of Todd's all-time favorite tournament moments.
True freshman Bailey was huge against UConn in the West Regional Final (a team-leading 26 points), and again in the championship game (26 points).
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: E. O’Bannon
On the All-Tourney Team: E. O’Bannon, Bailey
Future First-Round Picks: Ed O'Bannon (1995, 9th, New Jersey), George Zidek (1995, 22nd, Charlotte)
1996 - Kentucky
Finals: Def. Syracuse 76-67
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 23.2
Starters: Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Mark Pope, Anthony Epps
Primary Bench: Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, Jeff Sheppard
Only two losses on the season came to fellow Final Four teams Mississippi State and UMass. Jeff Sagarin has this bunch rated as one of the best EVER. They’re certainly one of the strongest in the past 30 years.
"Best" or not, this '96 UK team was inarguably one of the most talented ever. Not a misprint: 7 future first-round draft choices on this squad. It was so deep that Pitino allowed Rodrick Rhodes to transfer and redshirted Jared Prickett (who was a regular contributor the previous year) because he wasn’t going to be seeing the floor. Stacked is what I’m trying to say.
Beat the John Wallace-led Orangemen in the final. Delk hit 7 triples in the final and freshman Mercer came off the bench to score 20 points. But that game was an afterthought because the semifinal featured what were clearly the two best teams: UK and player-of-the-year Marcus Camby's UMass squad. The situation caused some of the first grumblings about possibly re-seeding the teams once they got to the Final Four.
UK won 27 straight games and scored 86 points in the first half against LSU, on the road.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Delk
On the All-Tourney Team: Delk, Mercer
Future First-Round Picks: Antoine Walker (1996, 6th, Boston), Tony Delk (1996, 16th, Charlotte), Walter McCarty (1996, 19th, New York), Ron Mercer (1997, 6th, Boston), Derek Anderson (1997, 13th, Cleveland), Nazr Mohammed (1998, 29th, Utah), Scott Padgett (1999, 28th, Utah)
1997 - Arizona
Finals: Def. Kentucky 84-79 in overtime.
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 5.3
Starters: Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Miles Simon, Bennett Davison, A.J. Bramlett
Primary Bench: Jason Terry, Eugene Edgerson, Donnell Harris
This is such a difficult team to rank on an historical basis. On the one hand they're the lowest seed since the beginning of the 90s to win the title (entered the tourney ranked #15). On the other hand they’re the only team to beat three #1 seeds (Kansas, UNC and Kentucky. Wow.) on their way to doing it.
Rotation basically consisted of 4 combo guards and 4 undersized power forwards. Really popularized the 3-guard attack. Bibby and Terry would have the pro success but Simon (and to a lesser extent Dickerson) was the star of this team.
Historians believe Bibby is the first freshman PG to ever lead a team to the championship. Impressive that he could change his game so quickly as he was a pure scorer in high school.
Dickerson played stellar defense on star sophomore Ron Mercer in the final.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Simon
On the All-Tourney Team: Simon, Bibby
Future First-Round Picks: Mike Bibby (1998, 2nd, Vancouver), Michael Dickerson (1998, 14th, Houston), Jason Terry (1999, 10th, Atlanta)
1998 - Kentucky
Finals: Def. Utah 78-69
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 13.3
Starters: Scott Padgett, Jeff Sheppard, Nazr Mohammed, Wayne Turner, Allen Edwards
Primary Bench: Heshimu Evans, Jamaal Magloire, Cameron Mills
First year post-Pitino, and Tubby Smith's debut leads to a title. He stressed pressure D (more than Pitino's "full-court man plus threes" philosophy) and his players bought into it immediately. This was Kentucky’s third straight year in the title game. Even UK fans were surprised as this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
The Wildcats had to overcome huge second-half deficits to Stanford and Duke (17 points), then against Utah they set the record for halftime deficit overcome in a championship game (10).
Sheppard was the emotional leader while Turner, Mohammed, Evans, and Padgett carried the majority of the scoring load.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Sheppard
On the All-Tourney Team: Sheppard, Padgett
Future First-Round Picks: Nazr Mohammed (1998, 29th, Utah), Scott Padgett (1999, 28th, Utah), Jamaal Magloire (2000, 19th, Charlotte), Michael Bradley (2001, 17th, Toronto)
1999 - UConn
Finals: Def. Duke 77-74
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 11.8
Starters: Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, Kevin Freeman, Ricky Moore, Jake Voskuhl
Primary Bench: Albert Mouring, Edmund Saunders, Rashamel Jones, Souleymane Wane
Hamilton was the star and El-Amin the floor general. Jake Voskuhl annoyed everyone. Kevin Freeman could dunk the ball and do little else (the next year he was supposed to step in for Rip and be the go-to stud. He failed miserably).
Beat heavily-favored Duke and concensus POY Elton Brand (and William Avery, Shane Battier, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette, etc.) in what's probably the best title game of the last ten years. Not sure anybody in the history of the game could get into foul trouble quicker than Voskuhl.
Clearly, Rip was coming up huge in pressure situations long before his runs in the NBA playoffs the last two years. Moore was the unheralded defensive stopper, forcing Trajan Langdon into the game-deciding turnover in the championship game.
I'm deliberately avoiding talking about UConn's Final Four game that year, because it still frustrates me. I will say this, though: Chris Porter sucked.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Hamilton
On the All-Tourney Team: Hamilton, El-Amin, Moore
Future First-Round Picks: Richard Hamilton (1999, 7th, Washington)
2000 - Michigan State
Finals: Def. Florida 89-76
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 15.3
Starters: Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Andre Hutson, Charlie Bell, A.J. Granger
Primary Bench: Jason Richardson, Mike Chappell, David Thomas, Al Anagonye
Everyone remembers this squad. The core of the team grew up together in Flint and dubbed themselves the Flintstones. Only thing that docks this team is that this was kind of a down year for the college game. Not a ton of super-good teams. On the other hand, their versatility can't be questioned: they thumped both Wisconsin and Florida in the Final Four, beating each team at their own game (slow-down for Wisky, run-and-gun for Florida).
Peterson (21), Granger (an unexpected 19) and Cleaves (18) handled most of the scoring load against Florida in the championship.
All five starters averaged between 9 and 16 ppg.
Trailed Syracuse by 14 in the second half of its Sweet 16 matchup. Finished the game on a 17-0 run.
Only team on the list to win ALL SIX tournament games by double-digits, thanks to Larry Eustachy's hissyfit in the Elite Eght.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Cleaves
On the All-Tournament Team: Cleaves, Peterson, Bell, Granger
Future First-Round Picks: Mateen Cleaves (2000, 14th, Detroit), Morris Peterson (2000, 21st, Toronto), Jason Richardson (2001, 5th, Golden State)
2001 - Duke
Finals: Def. Arizona 82-72
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 16.7
Starters: Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Nate James
Primary Bench: Chris Duhon, occasionally Casey Sanders
Few have ever had a senior year like Shane Battier did in 2001. I'll let this quote by then-Arizona star forward Richard Jefferson say it all: "He's the Player of the Year, Defender of the Year, Academic of the Year, Man of the Year. He's All-Everything. Some people rank Shane Battier right below Jesus Christ."
Like many Duke teams in recent years, they were not particularly deep (they often only played 6 guys) but that rotation is sick. Teams like this are the primary reason "depth" is overrated in college. Give me six or seven stud players, and I'll run them into the ground until they're in awesome shape and then beat your "deep" team 9 times out of 10.
Jason Williams was ridiculous in college. People forget because of what happened to his pro career but he was just unstoppable at Duke.
Beat a stacked Arizona in the final (Richard Jefferson, Loren Woods, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Garder, Michael Wright, Luke Walton). Sophomore Dunleavy went for 18 in a seven-minute span in the second half. Came back from 22 down to beat Maryland in the national semifinal.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Battier
On the All-Tourney Team: Battier, Dunleavy, Williams
Future First-Round Picks: Shane Battier (2001, 6th, Memphis), Jason Williams (2002, 2nd, Bulls), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (2002, 3rd, Warrios)
2002 - Maryland
Finals: Def. Indiana 64-52
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 14.0
Starters: Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton
Primary Bench: Drew Nicholas, Taj Holden
Dixon, Baxter and Mouton were the senior leaders, Blake the heady guard, and Wilcox the insanely athletic forward who could dunk and do little else but he dunked really forcefully so his stock went through the roof. Idiot pro GMs.
Beat a "just happy to be here" IU squad in the final. Yeah, that was the year IU decided to go nuts and make every three they shot for five straight games. If memory holds, I'm pretty sure they went 15-for-20 on triples against Nate Huffman, Antonio Gates (yes, that one) and Kent State in the Elite Eight.
Dixon was underrated in college and is underutilized in the pros. Someone please give Juan Dixon a chance. "JUAN SHINING MOMENT!" I hate Jim Nantz.
Since McDonald’s started handing out "All-American" awards to high school basketball players back in 1978, the 2002 Maryland Terrapins are the only school to win a national title without a single one on its roster. That's either incredibly astute recruiting or fantastic coaching by Gary Williams.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Dixon
On the All-Tourney Team: Dixon, Baxter, Wilcox
Future First-Round Picks: Chris Wilcox (2002, 8th, Clippers), Juan Dixon (2002, 17th, Wizards)
2003 - Syracuse
Finals: Def. Kansas 81-78
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 9.2
Starters: Gerry McNamara, Billy Edelin, Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Craig Forth
Primary Bench: Josh Pace, Kueth Duany, Jeremy McNeil
Carmelo Anthony comes in and takes everyone but Joe Dumars by storm. College coaches will forever recruit possible early-entry draft picks because of what Anthony did in his one year of college. He was a man among boys.
Gerry McNamara, a fellow freshman, hit a ridiculous 6 first-half threes in the championship game.
This was the first year of the "pod system," and poor Oklahoma got screwed big-time. Despite being the 1-seed in the region, they got stuck playing 3-seed Syracuse in the Elite Eight IN ALBANY. The 'Cuse home game led to a relatively easy win.
Warrick was much more of a defensive specialist in '03 than the all-around monster he became later in college.
I thought for sure that Jim Boeheim was destined to reach the title game 2 or 3 more times and never win. Bummer. It's always fun to have "perennial runner-ups" around. We've had two get titles in the last three years now.
Will someone please explain to me why more teams don’t run that Cuse 2-3?
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Anthony
On the All-Tourney Team: Anthony, McNamara
Future First-Round Picks: Carmelo Anthony (2003, 3rd, Nuggets), Hakim Warrick (2005, 19th, Grizzlies)* (* = means that some players from that team are still in college)
2004 - UConn
Finals: Def. Georgia Tech 82-73
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 13.3
Starters: Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Josh Boone, Rashad Anderson, Taliek Brown
Primary Bench: Denham Brown, Hilton Armstrong, Charlie Villanueva
I think appreciation for how good this team was will only grow over time. They were positively stacked. That record is misleading because Okafor missed some games and/or played hurt for about 1/3 of the season. And I don’t think most people outside of the Northeast realized just how good Gordon was until he started lighting up NBA defenders last year.
Okafor was one of the most dominant defenders in NCAA history. Okafor, Gordon, and Villanueva were lottery picks. Boone could join them soon.
UConn cruised through their first four tournament games, winning all four by no less than 16 points. Their mettle was tested in the national semifinal as the Huskies had to overcome a 75-67 deficit against Duke with under 3:30 to play. They won 79-78.
In a bit of a letdown after the classic Duke matchup, UConn beat GT in one of the most boring title games ever. The score doesn't indicate how much better they were than they Yellow Jackets, or how much of a blowout the game was.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Okafor
On the All-Tourney Team: Okafor, Anderson, Gordon
Future First-Round Picks: Connecticut-Emeka Okafor (2004, 2nd, Bobcats), Ben Gordon (2004, 3rd, Bulls), Charlie Villanueva (2005, 7th, Raptors)*
2005 - North Carolina
Finals: Def. Illinois 75-70
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 13.8
Starters: Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Rashad McCants, Jackie Manuel, Sean May
Primary Bench: Marvin Williams, David Noel, Melvin Scott
Dude, everyone remembers this team, so you get nothing from me. Except that Allan Ray DID NOT TRAVEL on that game-tying basket in the Sweet Sixteen. 'Nova got screwed on that one.
So ... who's the best? The worst? The middle? Rank 'em, 1-16.
IT'S TOURNEY TIME!!