1981 early rounds
Seeds/teams: 1-LSU; 4-Louisville; 5-Arkansas; 8-Lamar; 9-Missouri; 12-Mercer
Recap: March 14, 1981, is regarded by many as the most exciting day in NCAA tournament history. Two No. 1 seeds plus the defending national champion were eliminated in buzzer-beaters that Saturday afternoon, and NBC changed television forever by switching to each site and capturing all the drama.
In Austin, U.S. Reed nailed a halfcourt shot to give Arkansas a 74-73 win over Louisville, the 1980 national champ. Elsewhere, St. Joseph’s took out No. 1 DePaul on a John Smith layup, and Rolando Blackmon hit a last-second jumper to lift Kansas State over Oregon State, the West’s top seed.
And so the concept of “March Madness” was born.
“Champions die hard,” Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton famously told the media after Reed’s 49-footer knocked out Louisville, which appeared in four Final Fours between 1980 to 1986.
Back in those days, it was a 48-team tournament with first-round byes for top teams. Louisville, DePaul and Oregon State each had those byes. LSU clobbered Lamar 100-78 in the other second-round Midwest Region game played in Austin that day.
1990 early rounds
Seeds/teams: 1-Oklahoma; 4-Arkansas; 5-Illinois; 8-North Carolina; 9-Southwest Missouri State; 12-Dayton; 13-Princeton; 16-Towson State
Recap: This was the most competitive tournament ever in Austin as four of the six Midwest Region games were decided by four or fewer points, including both second-round games. Texas fans had two of their favorite villains in town, Oklahoma and Arkansas, who each brought boatloads of fans, making the atmosphere even more charged.
In the first round, Ivy League champ Princeton scared the daylights out of SWC power Arkansas before falling 68-64. Dayton pulled a 12-over-5 upset, nipping Kendall Gill-led Illinois 88-86.
The second-round doubleheader captivated the nation. One of Dean Smith’s worst North Carolina teams shocked top-ranked Oklahoma 79-77 on Rick Fox’s buzzer-beating shot. Fox went on to play in the NBA and became even better known as an actor. Arkansas, meanwhile, needed Todd Day’s late heroics to edge Dayton 86-84.
1995, early rounds
Seeds/teams: 2-Arkansas; 3-Purdue; 6-Memphis; 7-Syracuse; 10-Southern Illinois; 11-Louisville; 14-Wis. Green Bay; 15-Texas Southern
Recap: In terms of sheer entertainment and drama, this one ranks right up there with 1990. The Erwin Center has seldom been louder than it was when fearless underdog Texas Southern played UT arch-enemy Arkansas. This was the year fiery Razorbacks coach Strollin’ Nolan Richardson stormed off the Erwin Center court during the heated Texas game. And now it was the impossible underdog vs. the defending national champs. The Hogs had beaten the Tigers by 66 points in 1994.
Texas Southern’s funky, soulful band set the tone with an unforgettable entrance into the Drum, snaking down the concourse steps, all the while blasting out music and dance steps. The crowd went nuts, save for 3,000 to 4,000 Razorback fans. When the Tigers wiped out a 17-point second-half deficit and took the lead, the building practically shook with chants of “Let’s Go Texas,” and “TSU! … TSU!”
In the end, TSU’s Randy Bolden missed a potential game-tying free throw with 6.1 seconds to play, and Arkansas held on 79-78.
Just as in 1990, both second-round games were decided to two points. Memphis beat Purdue 75-73, but the game nobody will forget was Arkansas’ 96-94 overtime win over Syracuse. The Hogs were able to get the frenetically paced classic to OT because Orange star Lawrence Moten was hit with a technical for calling a timeout the team didn’t have. He did a Chris Webber, circa 1993 national title game.
In the final seconds of overtime, Syracuse missed two three-pointers that would have won it.
2000 Sweet 16
Seeds/teams: 4-Tennessee; 6-Miami; 7-Tulsa; 8-North Carolina
Recap: Austin’s first taste of the Sweet 16 saw North Carolina rally in the second half to beat Tulsa 59-55 in the title game of the South Regional. The Tar Heels became one of only four No. 8 seeds to reach the Final Four. That UNC team, led by 7-footer Brendan Haywood, had a 6-7, 265-pound key reserve named Julius Peppers, who went on to become one of the great pass rushers in the NFL.
Tulsa, coached by Bill Self, stopped Miami 80-71 in the round of 16. That was the Hurricanes’ only trip to the Sweet 16 until this year.
2005 Sweet 16
Seeds/teams: 1-Duke; 2-Kentucky; 5-Michigan State; 6-Utah
Recap: Three bluebloods of the sport, along with Rick Majerus’ Utes, put on a good show that culminated in a classic final. First, Michigan State broke a 32-32 halftime tie to pull away from top seed Duke. Utah big man Andrew Bogut gave Kentucky trouble for a while before the Cats prevailed 62-52.
The title game was as riveting as can be. Kentucky erased a 70-62 deficit in the last 5 minutes and 30 seconds. MSU led 75-72 when UK’s Patrick Sparks heaved a desperation shot that rattled around the rim four times before falling in. Refs looked at replays for 10 minutes to make sure it was a three-pointer. The first overtime ended 81-81. Finally, Shannon Brown and the Spartans wore out the Cats in the second OT, winning 94-88.
2013 early rounds
Seeds/teams: 2-Miami; 3-Florida; 6-UCLA; 7-Illinois; 10-Colorado; 11-Minnesota; 14-Northwestern State; 15-Pacific
Recap: Unlike past experiences here, this tournament was full of blowouts … until the finale.
Illinois, which had a highly energized crowd on its side, pushed Miami to the limit before tumbling 59-55. A remarkable, fallaway three-point jumper by Hurricane point guard Shane Larkin — — along with a blown out-of-bounds call that went the Canes’ way — made the difference.