Mar 18, 2021, 2:02 PM | Updated: 2:02 pm
With the 2021 NCAA tournament beginning, it brings back so many memories for me of one of my favorite sporting events.
I love the idea of the one and done. The pressure of every round, the upsets, the drama, the big plays, it’s what makes March Madness so special. With years of great moments, for me there is one that stands out above the rest.
The date was March 19, 1995.
The location: Boise, Idaho for round two of the West Region.
#1 UCLA had already polished off 16th seed Florida International and 8th seeded Missouri had edged 9th seed Indiana to set up a round 2 matchup. This was a UCLA basketball team that I really loved.
Ed and Charles O’Bannon, Tyus Edney, Cameron Dollar, George Zidek, Toby Bailey and JR Henderson. They were good, the were one of the favorites and Head Coach Jim Harrick felt like this team could be cutting down the nets to win it all.
The game would go back and forth, and the top seeded Bruins had so much trouble establishing control. Missouri would milk the clock late and take a one-point lead with just 4.8 left.
UCLA had won so many national championships but all of those were either before I was born or before I could remember.
This was my chance to see my favorite team win it all.
Were they going to go out like this? I saw potential land mines later in the bracket but not round 2 to Missouri! I was watching the game with a bunch of my college roommates and we had our own NCAA tournament pool with several family and friends involved.
In fact, we lined our hallway with all the completed brackets taped to the wall so we could see who was doing well. Yellow highlights signified wins with red ink slashes for all the losses.
At that moment I didn’t care about my bracket, I didn’t care about the pool, I only cared about my Bruins and how much my heart was hurting at that moment. My roommates were giving me crap during the timeout and hazing me saying that they were done and how could they lose to Missouri.
The phone rang at our place and one of my roommates said, “it’s for you.” My initial thought is who in the world is calling me now with 4.8 seconds to go? My spirit was down, my hopes seemed shattered, but it was like a call from above. It was one of my former roommates who wasn’t calling to razz me but just to say, “don’t worry, I think they are going to pull this out.”
Boom, that was what I needed. I immediately went from sulking to hopeful. Then I watched in anticipation as Tyus Edney did his magic.
Euphoria at our house.
Those same roommates that were dogging me, then turned and dog-piled on top of me and I completely lost it. Pure jubilation.
The dream was still alive.
Tyus Edney coast to coast was so incredible. The Bruins were off to the Sweet 16 and then they were on a mission. Wins over Mississippi State, then UConn to get to the Final 4.
In the Final 4 the Bruins took out Big Country Bryant Reaves and then won the National Championship after defeating Arkansas. The crowing moment doesn’t happen if 4.8 seconds doesn’t happen. A lot of things need to go right to win a championship and in the moment of deepest despair came a play for the ages.
I will never forget this and will always be grateful for that group of Bruins.