Long Waiting List: NCAA Tourney Helps Natural Rivalries Out of Hibernation
Two seasons ago, we learned anew why Kansas seeks to avoid Wichita State year upon year after the Shockers clobbered KU in the Midwest Regional. Ditto Notre Dame and its frequent shunning this century of Butler, which took the Irish into overtime in the same regional. The results showed again why some major schools should be ashamed of themselves for ducking nearby quality opponents. Why in the world did they have to resort to a national tournament assignment hundreds of miles from their fan base to oppose each other?
In a "Days of Whine and Hoses" era when many cash-strapped athletic departments are begging for revenue, they still schedule numerous poorly-attended home games against inferior opponents. It defies logic as to why tradition-rich schools forsake entertaining non-conference contests with natural rivals while scheduling more than their share of meaningless "rout-a-matics" at home. Fans shouldn't have to wait for an entertaining contest such as Morehead State upsetting Louisville, 62-61, in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs or Florida Gulf Coast taking Florida State to the mat this campaign.
The normal intensity of an NCAA Tournament tilt escalates even more in "bragging rights" games between neighboring opponents that rarely if ever tangle on the same floor unless forced to compete against each other by a postseason bracket. Essentially, it is a sad state of affairs for fans in Kansas to need to hope KU and Wichita State oppose each other every 20 to 25 years in the NCAA tourney for them to meet on the hardwood.
A classic example of the scheduling neglect was an intense 2001 West Regional matchup between Maryland and Georgetown. Of course, the Washington, D.C., area isn't the only region with a scheduling complex. As emotional as it was, the Hoya Paranoia-Terrapin Trepidation confrontation didn't stack up among the following top dozen intrastate contests in NCAA playoff history including a couple of Kentucky/Louisville duels before they started meeting on a regular basis:
1. 1961 NCAA Championship Game (Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 in OT)
Paul Hogue, a 6-9 center who hit just 51.8% of his free-throw attempts during the season, sank only two of 10 foul shots in his two previous contests before putting Cincinnati ahead to stay with a pair of pivotal free throws in overtime in a victory over previously undefeated Ohio State.
2. 1998 East Regional second round (North Carolina 93, UNCC 83 in OT)
UNC Charlotte forward DeMarco Johnson outplayed national player of the year Antawn Jamison of the Tar Heels, but Carolina got a total of 55 points from Shammond Williams and Vince Carter to withstand the 49ers' bid for an upset.
3. 1983 Mideast Regional final (Louisville 80, Kentucky 68 in OT)
The first meeting between in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville in more than 24 years was memorable as the Cardinals outscored the Wildcats 18-6 in overtime to reach the Final Four. The next year in the same region's semifinals, UK erased a half-time deficit to upend the Cards, 72-67.
4. 1981 Midwest Regional semifinals (Wichita State 66, Kansas 65)
Mike Jones hit two long-range baskets in the last 50 seconds for Wichita State in the first game between the intrastate rivals in 36 years.
5. 1989 Southeast Regional first round (South Alabama 86, Alabama 84)
In an exciting intrastate battle, South Alabama erased a 16-point halftime deficit. Jeff Hodge and Gabe Estaba combined for 55 points for USA.
6. 1971 West Regional final (UCLA 57, Long Beach State 55)
The closest result for UCLA during the Bruins' 38-game playoff winning streak from 1967 to 1973 came when they had to erase an 11-point deficit despite 29 percent field-goal shooting to edge Jerry Tarkanian-coached Long Beach State.
7. 1971 Mideast Regional semifinals (Western Kentucky 107, Kentucky 83)
This year's game wasn't anything like when WKU, long regarded as poor country cousins by Kentucky, whipped the Wildcats in their first-ever meeting when All-American Jim McDaniels poured in 35 points for the Hilltoppers.
8. 1959 Mideast Regional semifinals (Louisville 76, Kentucky 61)
Second-ranked Kentucky (24-3) hit less than one-third of its field-goal attempts in blowing a 15-point lead against intrastate rival Louisville (19-12). The Cardinals had lost to Georgetown (KY) earlier in the season.
10. 1962 NCAA Championship Game (Cincinnati 71, Ohio State 59)
Ohio State All-American center Jerry Lucas wrenched his left knee in the national semifinals against Wake Forest, limiting his effectiveness against Cincinnati counterpart Paul Hogue in the Bearcats' 71-59 triumph in the final.
11. 1963 Mideast Regional final (Loyola of Chicago 79, Illinois 64)
Sparked by All-American Jerry Harkness' 33 points, Loyola's only meeting against the Illini in a 24-year span from 1955-56 through 1978-79 represented the Ramblers' lone win in their irregular series until 1984-85.
T12. 1974 East Regional first round (Furman 75, South Carolina 67)
Furman's Clyde Mayes collected 21 points and 16 rebounds to upend the Gamecocks' star-studded roster featuring Mike Dunleavy Sr., Alex English and Brian Winters.