To the NCAA bigwigs this round is known as the Regional Semifinals, but to the average fan – the second Thursday and Friday of March Madness is known affectionately as the Sweet Sixteen. Usually this is the round where the clock strikes midnight for Cinderella, however, with upsets finding a way to destroy brackets throughout this tournament, would anyone be surprised to see a high seed continue to dance toward Indianapolis? I certainly wouldn’t be too shocked. The Sweet Sixteen is a special round and in order to pay it the respect it deserves, The Campus Socialite is here to honor the five greatest “Regional Semifinal” games of all-time.
5. 1981 – (6) BYU 51, (2) Notre Dame 50: Known simply as “The Danny Ainge Game.” The Irish were led by current ESPN analyst Digger Phelps and appeared to have smooth sailing to the next round of the tournament. However a pesky BYU team led by current Celtics general manager Danny Ainge kept the game close. With the final seconds ticking away, Ainge went coast to coast and drained the game-winner to beat Notre Dame, 51-50.
4. 1998 – (2) Connecticut 75, (11) Washington 74: Huskies vs. Huskies did not disappoint. UConn’s Rip Hamilton finished off a wild game against Washington in dramatic fashion. After the Huskies missed three put-back attempts, the ball bounced out to Hamilton, who launched a 15-footer as he tripped and fell backward.
3. 2002 – (5) Indiana 74, (1) Duke 73: This game was amazing. Duke had absolutely no right to lose it. My Maryland friends tell me “The worst thing about that game was that everyone from Maryland wanted to beat Duke the year we won it, because of what happened in 2001.” I tell them to just take their ring and enjoy it.
2. 2006 – (2) UCLA 73, (3) Gonzaga 71: We’re probably more swayed by the call at the end than anything (“HEARTBREAK CITY!!!”), but one of the coolest things about this game is that earlier in the night, J.J. Redick and Duke had gone down to LSU, and now Adam Morrison was also eliminated. And with that, the main storylines of the ’05-’06 college basketball season went up in smoke, to be replaced that Sunday by the George Mason Patriots.
1. 1990 – (1) Connecticut 71, (5) Clemson 70: Tate George forever etched his name into Huskies lore with his last-second turnaround jumper to beat Clemson in 1990. What made this play so difficult was not just the shot, but the pass. Trailing 70-69 with 1 second left, Scott Burrell heaved a full-court pass to George, who caught, turned, and fired, all in enough time to get the shot off. Ironically, UConn would lose two days later in the Regional Finals to Duke in overtime on…you guessed it, a buzzer beater by Christian Laettner.