March begins in two days, and that can mean only one thing: Madness will soon be upon us.
Yes, that three-week extravaganza of buzzer-beating 3-pointers, hand-clapping coaches and giant-slaying underdogs known as the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship is just around the corner.
If you're like me, no sporting event in the world can match it — not the Super Bowl, not the World Cup, not even the Olympics. And each of them has had some spectacular moments.
Remember David Tyree's acrobatic catch as the Giants upset the unbeaten Patriots three years ago in Super Bowl XLII? Or Landon Donovan's game-winning goal for the U.S. against Algeria in the first minute of stoppage time in last summer's World Cup? How about Kerri Strug's courageous vault, which she landed on one leg because her other ankle was severely injured, that clinched team gold for the U.S women's gymnastics team in 1996 in Atlanta?
Exciting moments all, but they can't match some of the greatest performances from March Madness. In order of occurrence, here are five of my favorites:
• April 1, 1985: Played before the advent of the shot clock, the national championship game between Big East rivals Villanova and Georgetown is considered among the greatest upsets in tournament history. The top-seeded Hoyas beat the Wildcats twice during the regular season, but Villanova used a patient, spread offense to create easy shots and made 22 of their 28 attempts (78.6 percent, a record that still stands) from the field. The Wildcats, who missed only one shot in the second half, remain the only No. 8 seed to win a national title.
• March 14, 1991: In a game played in College Park, Md., Richmond led from start to finish in becoming the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed. Terry Connolly, a graduate of Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Md., had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Spiders knocked off seventh-ranked Syracuse, 73-69. The feat has been accomplished three times since — in 1993, 1997 and 2001.
• March 28, 1992: With 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime in the East Regional Finals, Duke trailed Kentucky, 103-102. Grant Hill threw a pass the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who dribbled once, turned and hit a jump shot from the foul line as time expired, giving the top-seeded Blue Devils a one-point win over the second-seeded Wildcats. Laettner didn't miss a shot in the game, making all 10 of his attempts from the field and all 10 of his free throws. Duke went on to win its second consecutive national championship.
• March 19, 1995: point guard Tyus Edney of UCLA took the inbounds pass with 4.8 seconds remaining and his top-seeded Bruins trailing No. 8 seed Missouri by a point. He dribbled up the sideline, shook two defenders at midcourt with a behind-the-back dribble, then launched a shot around the outstretched arms of a defender nearly a foot taller than he. The shot banked off the backboard and went through the net, giving UCLA a 75-74 victory on its way to an 11th national title.
• March 13, 1998: No. 13 seed Valparaiso trailed No. 4 Ole Miss by two points with 4.1 seconds left. After a pair of missed free throws, the Crusaders gained possession and called timeout with 2.5 seconds remaining. The ball was inbounded to midcourt, where it was tipped to a running Bryce Drew, who had missed a 3-pointer just before the free throws. Drew, the head coach's son, made good on his second chance, nailing a 3-pointer as time expired for a 70-69 win.
Now, I can't promise that this year's tournament will provide any moments as exciting as those. But, knowing that last week the top four teams in The Associated Press Top 25 each suffered a loss, I think it's a pretty safe bet that some exciting games are ahead.
Tipoff for the first round is March 15. Let the games begin.
Joel Huffer is design editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 301-791-7796.