STILL SEARCHING by Steve Tannen
I have a tendency to put sporting events into historical perspective as they happen. I took the night but still can't recall many, if any recent games to determine a champion like we witnessed between Louisville and Michigan. We've seen a last second three by Mario Chalmers push Kansas into overtime against Memphis 5 years ago with the Jayhawks capturing the crown, but the finish was a car wreck with the Tigers missing 3 of 4 foul shots the final :16 sec to keep the door open. Butler almost stole it from Duke in 2010 when Gordon Hayward's half court heave almost banked home in a 61-59 game that was certainly exciting at the finish. In that one the shooting was off and the Blue Devils managed one basket the final 5 minutes. The entertainment value wasn't even close to what we witnessed last night in Atlanta.
A decade ago when Carmello Anthony guided Syracuse to their lone title, the final against Kansas was pretty fun. It ended with Hakeem Warrick blocking a potential game tying 3 at the gun by Michael Lee. But again, Melo was held scoreless the final 13 minutes and Warrick bricked a pair of free throws with :14 seconds left.
With partial credit to Matt Prehm, I think you have to go back to the 1999 Final with UConn sneaking past Duke 77-74. The Blue Devils had Tray Langdon, Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Corey Maggette. They'd won 31 straight and were a big time 9 1/2 point favorite. The Huskies countered with Rip Hamilton, the portly Khalid El-Amin running the point, a quality big in Jake Voskuhl plus a tremendous defensive guard who could sting it from outside in Ricky Moore. Last night was about young guys willing to do any and everything to win a championship. The unyielding effort on defense, chasing loose balls and attacking rebounds. My lasting memory will be Louisville's 6'6" sophomore forward Chane Behanan grabbing 4 offensive rebounds the final 2:47, tipping one in and just refusing to allow Michigan what could have been a game altering defensive rebound and possession.
The short history of the BCS title game peaked with Vince Young's scramble past the gassed USC defense to win the '05 championship. Sure, Oregon & Auburn played a down to the wire tight game but it was not nearly as crisp and electrifying as last night.
I believe history will view this among the all timers. Up there with NC State's Lo Charles buzzer beating dunk of a Derrick Whittenburg airball to take down Houston & Phi Slamma Jamma 30 years ago, Keith Smart from the baseline in '87 as Indiana beats the Cuse, Carolina with Worthy & Jordan in 82 over Ewing and Georgetown by one. You get my point. This is locked into the Top 10.