I have lived in Indiana for nearly all of my life, but I didn't become an IU fan until I enrolled in autumn 1992. Growing up in Indiana as a sports fan, it was impossible to not follow IU, so I remember the 1987 title, "the chair," the amazing 1989 team that won the Big Ten over Illinois and NCAA champ Michigan, and so forth, but not in the capacity of a fan. So, from 1992-93, here are my top four and bottom four NCAA Tournament games:
1. IU over Duke, 2002 NCAA Sweet 16: Ultimately, the Mike Davis era did not end well, but clearly, this was the highlight, and is the highlight of IU basketball over the last 20 seasons. That particular IU team had some great games, but ultimately ended the regular season 20-9 and outside the AP top 25. IU knocked off Utah in round one, and profited from UNC-Wilmington's upset of USC, and prevailed over Wilmington in round two. IU was fortunate that the South Regional was held in Lexington, Kentucky, that year. Many IU fans found their way into the building, and Kentucky fans hate Duke even more than they hate IU. That particular IU team thrived on three point shooting, but how many recall that in the amazing 17-point second-half comeback against Duke, IU did not make a three pointer? I still cannot watch the Dane Fife foul on Jay Williams.
This was an important win for IU because it proved that there was life after Knight for IU basketball. Clearly, the Davis era turned out to be a disaster. But I'll always be grateful to Davis for that team. Given his failings, it's amazing that it ever happened.
2. IU over Oklahoma, 2002 NCAA Tournament national semifinal. It's hard to believe Kelvin Sampson is on our side now. IU held on in the first half, and went crazy from three point range in the second half. Oklahoma was plagued by foul trouble and poor shooting. Jeff Newton played the game of his life in his hometown.
This game was special to me because it was the first Final Four game I ever attended in person--indeed, the first IU NCAA Tournament game I ever attended. A buddy and I drove to Atlanta on a lark and without tickets. After five minutes on the largely deserted streets of downtown Atlanta, we somehow stumbled into face value tickets for the seminfinals and the championship game. I still remember when it really sunk in what that 5th seed team had managed to do. After the game ended, my buddy and I were just shaking our heads and saying, "Monday night." "Monday night." At that moment, the Georgia Dome jumbotron displayed the last single bracket with "Indiana" on the top line.
3. IU over Kent State, 2002 NCAA South Regional final. This one felt more like a coronation than anything else. Because my buddies and I didn't see much postseason success during our years in Bloomington, we drove down to watch this one at the house of a firend of a friend. The Hoosiers let Kent stick around too long, but thanks to some incredible three point shooting, the Flashes never led. We then flocked to downtown Bloomington to watch the youngsters celebrate on Kirkwood Avenue. Hours later, we shook hands with Jared Jeffries, who had come to celebrate after the team returned from Lexington. Kent State was a formidable opponent. The #10 Flashes knocked out the #2 seed Alabama and the #3 seed Pitt before playing IU. Still, losing the regional final to a MAC school two days after beating top-ranked Duke would have taken all of the luster off that upset win.
4. IU over Louisville, 1993 NCAA Sweet 16. The last win for a great team. That edition of the Hoosiers won the Big Ten with a 17-1 record, swept the Fab Five, and finished the regular season ranked first in both polls. Unfortunately, IU could not overcome Kansas and big oafs like Greg Ostertaag in the regional final, but that Thursday night, as an IU freshman, I was already plotting my Saturday dash to Showalter Fountain.
The bottom four, as well as a systematic look at the 'Zags, later to come tonight.