Mark Story: Ranking the top 75 NCAA moments in state's history

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 16, 2013 

For the NCAA Tournament, 2013 is the diamond anniversary year. Across the decades, few states have had a more profound impact on March Madness than Kentucky.

Out of the 74 NCAA Tournaments before this year, teams from the commonwealth have been represented in 66 of them. There has been at least one Bluegrass State team in every NCAA tourney since 1963. At least one team from our state has won an NCAA tourney game in every season since 1991.

Our state has accounted for 10 NCAA titles, 25 Final Four berths (including Western Kentucky's 1971 trip which was subsequently vacated) and a whopping 202 tournament victories.

To commemorate the 75th edition of the Big Dance and our state's role in it, here is my list of the 75 most memorable moments for teams from Kentucky in NCAA Tournament history.

75. 2002 round of 32, Kentucky 87, Tulsa 82. A left-handed Kentucky forward who wore No. 21 scored 41 points in an NCAA tourney game played in St. Louis. For UK fans, Tayshaun Prince produced a pleasant case of deja vu.

74. 2008 East Region semifinals, Louisville 79, Tennessee 60. Stifling Louisville defense held Kentucky product Chris Lofton to 3-for-15 shooting and ended his stellar UT career.

73. The refs go to the TV replay, 1984 opening round, Morehead State 70, North Carolina A&T 69. With 26 seconds left, officials Mickey Crowley, Jim Burr and Tim Higgins — without the authority to do so — made college hoops history by going to the TV replay monitor to get the right N.C. A&T foul shooter. Meanwhile, Guy Minnifield's shot with four seconds left gave Morehead its first NCAA tourney win since 1961.

72. 1972 first round, Florida State 83, Eastern Kentucky 81. Louisville native Hugh Durham coached FSU to the 1972 national title game, but the Seminoles barely survived EKU, trailing 79-77 inside the last 3:30.

71. 1980 first round, Virginia Tech 89, Western Kentucky 85 (OT). Playing on its home court, WKU opened a 48-30 halftime lead. Led by big man Dale Solomon (10-13 field goals) the Hokies stormed back to win in OT. At the time, it was the largest halftime lead ever lost in the NCAAs.

70. 1956 first round, Morehead State 107, Marshall 92. Dan Swartz had 39 points and Steve Hamilton 23 as Morehead outraced its archrival in what was then the highest-scoring NCAA tourney game ever.

69. 2010 round of 32, Butler 54, Murray State 52. Lexington native Shelvin Mack helped Butler to the 2010 national title game, but the Bulldogs barely survived Murray. The Racers had the ball with a chance to win, but Gordon Hayward deflected freshman guard Isaiah Canaan's pass into the backcourt and MSU never got off a shot.

68. Derek Anderson's free throws, 1997 national semifinals, Kentucky 78, Minnesota 69. The Kentucky star's season had ended in January when he suffered a torn ACL. Then, with UK leading 47-42 in the second half at the Final Four, Minnesota Coach Clem Haskins got a technical foul. Rick Pitino inserted Anderson into the game to shoot the ensuing foul shots. Completing a nice moment, he made both.

67. 2009 round of 32, Gonzaga 83, Western Kentucky 81. Orlando Mendez-Valdez (25 points) and A.J. Slaughter (24) helped WKU erase all of a nine-point deficit in the final 2:14 — only to see the Zags win it on Demetri Goodson's running bank shot with 0.9 of a second left.

66. 1961 Mideast Region semifinals, Kentucky 71, Morehead State 64. Led by guard Granville Williams (20 points), the Eagles led regal UK 62-61 with 3:32 left — only to see the Cats end the game on a 10-2 run.

65. 1961 Mideast Region semifinals, Ohio State 56, Louisville 55. U of L led undefeated and defending national champ OSU 54-49 with less than three minutes left, but Ohio State escaped thanks to a John Havlicek jumper with five seconds left.

64. 2012 South Region semifinals, Kentucky 102, Indiana 90. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (24 points, 10 rebounds) helped UK avenge its only 2011-12 regular-season loss in an entertaining track meet of a game.

63. 1975 Midwest Region finals, Louisville 96, Maryland 82. In a matchup of teams ranked No. 3 (U of L) and No. 4, Phil Bond scored 23 to help the Cardinals oust John Lucas and Co.

62. 1980 second round, Louisville 71, Kansas State 69 (OT). With star Darrell Griffith having fouled out, U of L dodged a major bullet when reserve Tony Branch's off-balance 15-footer that danced atop the rim turned into a game-winner.

61. Kyle Macy's socks, 1978 Mideast Region finals, Kentucky 52, Michigan State 49. After the UK guard hit his final 10 free throws, including six in the last 2:43 to subdue Magic Johnson's Spartans, Macy's pre-foul-shot ritual of rubbing his hands on his socks became a statewide phenomenon.

60. 1993 round of 32, Western Kentucky 72, Seton Hall 68. Mark Bell scored 20 points as WKU shocked the Big East champ and South Region No. 2 seed.

59. 1990 first round, Michigan State 75, Murray State 71 (OT). Murray big man Popeye Jones had 37 points and 11 rebounds as the Racers came achingly close to becoming the first No. 16 seed to ever beat a No. 1.

58. 1951 first round, Kentucky 79, Louisville 68. Shelby Linville (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Frank Ramsey (14 points, 15 boards) carried the Cats in the first-ever UK matchup with U of L in the NCAA tourney.

57. 1986 South Region finals, LSU 59, Kentucky 57. After it beat Alabama for a fourth time in the '85-86 season in the round of 16, Eddie Sutton's Cats needed to pin a fourth loss on LSU to make the Final Four. Instead, Ricky Blanton, John Williams and Co. ended the career of Kentucky star Kenny Walker.

56. 1988 round of 32, Kansas 61, Murray State 58. Everyone remembers Danny Manning leading Kansas on a Cinderella run to the '88 national title; few remember that KU needed a jump hook from Manning with 38 seconds left to take the lead for good over Jeff Martin, Don Mann and Murray.

55. 1983 Mideast Region semifinals, Louisville 65, Arkansas 63. There would not have been an original Dream Game had U of L not rallied from 16 down to beat the Hogs on Scooter McCray's last-second tip.

54. 1968 Mideast Region finals, Ohio State 82, Kentucky 81. With the game in Memorial Coliseum, Kentucky was so confident of beating Ohio State that many UK players already had their luggage packed to fly to Los Angeles for the Final Four. Ohio State's Dave Sorenson canceled the Cats' trip when he hit a jumper with three seconds left.

53. Hail to the Chief — and the Prime Minister, 2012 First Four, Western Kentucky 59, Mississippi Valley State 58. President Obama brought British Prime Minister David Cameron to the game to experience a slice of Americana. They got a full dose of March Madness when WKU rallied from 16 down inside the final five minutes to win.

52. What did Dean Smith call Rick Robey? 1977 East Region finals, North Carolina 79, Kentucky 72. Led by guard John Kuester, Dean Smith's Tar Heels were holding the ball and the lead with a Four Corners delay. Rick Robey fouled Kuester to stop the clock; UNC Coach Smith took exception to the force of that foul and verbally scolded the UK big man. To this day, Robey says Smith called him "a cheap S.O.B." Smith denied that he used bad language.

51. Milt Wagner's gloves. 1982 national semifinals, Georgetown 50, Louisville 46. In the week before U of L faced Patrick Ewing and Co., Cardinals star Milt Wagner contracted a virus that caused the skin to fall off his hands and feet. He tried to play wearing black golf gloves, but scored two points.

50. 2004 round of 32, UAB 76, Kentucky 75. As the No. 1 overall tourney seed, UK fell behind by 13, went up by six late, then lost on Mo Finley's 17-footer with 12.2 seconds left.

49. 2009 Midwest Region finals, Michigan State 64, Louisville 52. As the No. 1 overall tourney seed, U of L was taken down by an unheralded MSU big man (Goran Suton, 19 points,) and by a subpar showing by Cards star Terrence Williams (five points).

48. 2003 Midwest Region finals, Marquette 83, Kentucky 69. As the No. 1 overall tourney seed, UK saw its 26-game winning streak snapped by emerging superstar Dwyane Wade (29 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).

47. Joe B. Hall's guts, 1978 first round, Kentucky 85, Florida State 76. Down 39-32 at halftime with a team expected to win it all, Hall risked his job by benching three starters (including stars Jack Givens and Rick Robey) to start the second half. UK reserves Freddie Cowan, LaVon Williams and Dwane Casey helped turn the tide and the Cats starters returned to erase a 53-48 deficit with a 14-0 run.

46. 2010 round of 64, Murray State 66, Vanderbilt 65. Down one with 4.2 seconds left, Murray had the ball under its own goal. Jeffrey McClain inbounded to Isacc Miles, who swung the ball to Danero Thomas right of the foul line. The 6-foot-5 Thomas bounced the ball once, pulled back and let fly with a 15-footer that ripped the net as the final buzzer sounded.

45. Tony Branch's deliberately missed free throw, 1980 Midwest Region semifinals, Louisville 66, Texas A&M 55 (OT). In 1975, Louisville had a senior guard who entered the NCAA Tournament having not missed a free throw all year. With a chance to clinch a Final Four victory over UCLA, Terry Howard missed the front end of the bonus. In 1980, Louisville had a senior guard who entered the NCAAs having not missed a free throw all year. Refusing to tempt fate, Denny Crum had Tony Branch intentionally miss against Texas A&M once U of L's victory was assured.

44. 1972 Mideast Region finals, Florida State 73, Kentucky 54. Though he was still trying to fight UK's mandatory retirement age, Adolph Rupp had to know that his final loss in 1972 would be his last game as Kentucky coach. That defeat came in Rupp's 1,066th contest on the UK bench, one victory short of a final trip to the Final Four.

43. 1951 national championship game, Kentucky 68, Kansas State 58. Playing with an ailing throat, Cliff Hagan (10 points) came off the bench to help Bill Spivey (22 points) lead UK to its third NCAA title.

42. 1959 national semifinals, West Virginia 94, Louisville 79. U of L's first-ever trip to the Final Four was foiled by Jerry West's 38 points.

41. Clarence Glover's shoelaces, 1971 first round, Western Kentucky 74, Jacksonville 72. Once down 17 to Artis Gilmore and crew, WKU rallied to force a tie. With six seconds left, Western had the ball out of bounds in its front court. On the baseline, Glover got down on his knee as if tying his shoe. Jacksonville overlooked him, Glover stood up and was wide open for the game-winning layup.

40. 2005 Austin Region finals, Michigan State 94, Kentucky 88 (2OT). Patrick Sparks hit an epic around-and-around-the-rim three-pointer to force OT, but UK lost a four-point lead in the first extra period and a Final Four berth in the second.

39. 2012 West Region finals, Louisville 72, Florida 68. U of L finished the game on a 23-8 run and Rick Pitino returned to the Final Four at the expense of his protégé Billy Donovan.

38. 1949 national championship game, Kentucky 46, Oklahoma A&M 36. In the only NCAA Tournament matchup ever between hoops coaching titans Adolph Rupp and Henry Iba, Alex Groza scored 25 points to make Rupp the victor.

37. Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.'s red/blue sport coat, 1983 Mideast Region finals, Louisville 80, Kentucky 68 (OT). For the first UK-U of L hoops game in 24 years, the Kentucky governor came decked out in a sport coat that was half UK blue and half U of L red. Brown says he thinks more people remember that coat than anything else he did as governor.

36. 1971 national semifinals, Villanova 92, Western Kentucky 89 (2OT). WKU had a chance to win in regulation, but Jerry Dunn missed the front end of the bonus with four seconds left. Villanova's Howard Porter tied it at the end of the first OT and put the Wildcats ahead to stay in the second.

35. 1980 national semifinals, Louisville 80, Iowa 72. Darrell Griffith dropped 34 points on Lute Olson's Hawkeyes to lift U of L into its first NCAA title game.

34. 1996 national championship game, Kentucky 76, Syracuse 67. Tony Delk's seven three-pointers (24 points) and Ron Mercer's 20 points off the bench gave UK its first NCAA title in 18 years.

33. 1970 Mideast Region finals, Jacksonville 106, Kentucky 100. UK fans of a certain vintage still fume about Jacksonville's Vaughn Wedeking sneaking up behind Kentucky star Dan Issel to draw Issel's fifth foul on a charge midway through the second half. The loss meant Big Dan never played in a Final Four.

32. 2012 national championship game, Kentucky 67, Kansas 59. Anthony Davis hit one of 10 shots yet dominated with 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals.

31. 1959 Mideast Region semifinals, Louisville 76, Kentucky 61. Don Goldstein (19 points, 13 rebounds) and U of L roared back from a 36-28 halftime deficit to eliminate Adolph Rupp's defending NCAA champions.

30. 1988 first round, Murray State 78, North Carolina State 75. Murray State's M & M Boys, Jeff Martin and Donald Mann, scored 23 and 17 points, respectively, and the No. 14-seeded Racers stunned Jimmy Valvano's No. 3-seeded Wolfpack.

29. 2008 round of 64, Western Kentucky 101, Drake 99 (OT). Having lost a 16-point second-half lead, WKU was down one with 5.7 seconds left. Western point guard Tyrone Brazelton drove into the front court, drew the defense, then kicked to Ty Rogers on the deep right wing. His game-winning 26-footer swished after the final horn sounded.

28. 2011 East Region semifinals, Kentucky 62, Ohio State 60. Brandon Knight's pull-up 16-footer with 5.4 seconds left eliminated the No. 1 overall seed.

27. 1951 national semifinals, Kentucky 76, Illinois 74. With Bill Spivey and Cliff Hagan having each fouled out, 6-5 junior Shelby Linville scored UK's final six points, including the game winner with 12 seconds left.

26. 1972 national semifinals, UCLA 96, Louisville 77. Denny Crum's first trip to the Final Four led to a matchup with — and whipping by — his coaching mentor, John Wooden.

25. 1982 Mideast Region first round, Middle Tennessee 50, Kentucky 44. Needing only to defeat the OVC champions to earn a second-round meeting with Louisville, UK laid a dinosaur egg.

24. 2011 round of 64, Morehead State 62, Louisville 61. Demonte Harper buried a 22-foot trey with 4.2 seconds left to give Morehead the lead, then Kenneth Faried preserved the biggest win in MSU history by blocking Mike Marra's three-point try at the final buzzer.

23. 1998 national championship game, Kentucky 78, Utah 69. Down 41-31 at halftime, UK clawed back to take the lead for good on Jeff Sheppard's baseline jumper with 4:54 left.

22. 1996 national semifinals, Kentucky 81, Massachusetts 74. In a game many felt was the de facto title game, UK's vast depth saved the Cats. After leading scorer Tony Delk (20 points) left with cramps, his backup, Jeff Sheppard, scored seven crucial points.

21. 1983 national semifinals, Houston 94, Louisville 81. In a Final Four aerial show, Phi Slama Jama subdued the Doctors of Dunk behind 21 points each from Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

20. 1948 national championship game, Kentucky 58, Baylor 42. Alex Groza had 14 points and Ralph Beard 12 to help Kentucky — the university and the state — to its first-ever NCAA hoops title.

19. 1958 national semifinals, Kentucky 61, Temple 60. Vernon Hatton's layup with 17 seconds left put UK into the national title game.

18. 1997 national championship game, Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT). Anthony Epps sent an NCAA finals into overtime with a contested, double-clutch three-pointer but, in the OT, Miles Simon and "the other Wildcats" prevailed.

17. 1986 national championship game, Louisville 72, Duke 69. "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison had 25 points and 11 rebounds to help lead Denny Crum to his second national title.

16. 2005 West Region finals, Louisville 93, West Virginia 85 (OT). Larry O'Bannon (24 points) hit the shot that forced overtime as U of L erased a 20-point first-half deficit to earn the school's first Final Four trip in 19 years.

15. 1998 South Region finals, Kentucky 86, Duke 84. Down 17 inside the game's final 10 minutes, UK rallied and prevailed thanks to clutch three-pointers from Cameron Mills and Scott Padgett.

14. 1958 national championship game, Kentucky 84, Seattle 72. Vernon Hatton scored 30 points and Johnny Cox 24 as UK beat Seattle and Elgin Baylor in Freedom Hall. It is the only time a team from Kentucky won the NCAA crown inside the commonwealth.

13. 1971 Mideast Region round of 16, Western Kentucky 107, Kentucky 83. In a game WKU had waited on forever, Western humiliated UK in the first-ever meeting between the schools behind Jim McDaniels (35 points) and Jim Rose (25).

12. 1984 national semifinals, Georgetown 53, Kentucky 40. Leading Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas 29-22 at halftime, UK produced the most embarrassing second half in school history by shooting a horrid 3-for-33.

11. 1975 national semifinals, UCLA 75, Louisville 74 (OT). With Kentucky already having advanced to the NCAA title game, U of L lost its chance to play the Cats for all the marbles after Cards guard Terry Howard missed the front end of what could have been a game-clinching one-and-one. It was Howard's first missed foul shot of the season, and opened the door for UCLA's Richard Washington to hit a winning jump shot with two seconds left.

10. 1975 national championship game, UCLA 92, Kentucky 85. In John Wooden's final game, the Bruins rode Richard Washington (28 points, 12 rebounds) and Dave Meyers (24 points, 11 rebounds) to a 10th NCAA title.

9. 1981 Midwest Region round of 32, Arkansas 74, Louisville 73. U.S. Reed's 49-foot, half-court shot eliminated the defending national champions.

8. 1966 Mideast Region round of 16, Michigan 80, Western Kentucky 79. With 11 seconds left and WKU up one — in a game where a win would set up a round-of-eight meeting with UK's Rupp's Runts — Western's Greg Smith and Michigan's Cazzie Russell were to contest a jump ball. Rather than jump to control the tip, Russell grabbed Smith by the arm, pulling the Western player into his shoulder. Referee Steve Honzo called Smith for a foul. Russell hit both foul shots and WKU star Clem Haskins missed a potential game-winning jumper. In 2008, a New York Times article described Honzo's foul call as "one of the worst calls in NCAA Tournament history."

7. 1980 national championship game, Louisville 59, UCLA 54. Darrell Griffith's 23 points and Rodney McCray's 11 rebounds helped Louisville become the second school from Kentucky to win an NCAA crown.

6. 1978 national championship game, Kentucky 94, Duke 88. A left-handed Kentucky forward wearing No. 21, Jack Givens, scored 41 points in the title game in St. Louis to help Joe B. Hall bring UK its first NCAA crown in 20 years.

5. 1966 national championship game, Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65. The Miners' all-black starting lineup claimed the NCAA championship over UK's all-white team in a game that seems only to grow in social significance with time.

4. 1975 Mideast Region finals, Kentucky 92, Indiana 90. Humiliated by IU (98-74) during the season, senior-laden UK tasted sweet revenge by handing Bob Knight's Hoosiers (31-1) their first loss.

3. 1992 East Region finals, Duke 104, Kentucky 103, OT. Any UK fan old enough to remember Christian Laettner's famous buzzer beater can tell you where they were when it broke The Unforgettables' hearts. Adding to the poignancy, it was the final game behind the mike for legendary UK radio play-by-play man Cawood Ledford.

2. 2012 national semifinals, Kentucky 69, Louisville 61. It took 74 NCAA Tournaments to produce a UK-U of L Final Four showdown. Anthony Davis (18 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks) made it a happy occurrence for the Blue.

1. 1983 Mideast Region finals, Louisville 80, Kentucky 68 (OT). The "Original Dream Game" had it all: an early big UK lead, a furious U of L rally, a Kentucky buzzer beater (Jim Master) to force overtime and, finally, a Louisville overtime breakout.

The game was so stirring, political pressure forced UK to begin playing U of L annually. Eventually, Kentucky started playing other in-state schools, too. That makes this the NCAA Tournament game with the most memorable impact on college basketball inside the commonwealth.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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