Jenni Carlson: Missing the Sweet 16? Here's the Sweetest 16 memories of March Madness
Late last weekend, Colorado State shared a video featuring assistant men's basketball coach Ali Farokhmanesh.
Maybe that name rings a bell.
Ten years ago, Farokhmanesh and his Northern Iowa teammates shocked Kansas and the college basketball world with one of those upsets that make Madness in March. He buried a 3-pointer that buried a Jayhawk team with five future NBA Draft picks.
And he did it in Oklahoma City.
At the start of a week we should be readying for the Sweet 16, we are instead battening down the hatches even tighter against the coronavirus pandemic. We know what needs to be done, and yet it doesn't change our lament for what we are missing.
That Farokhmanesh shot is one of my favorite memories of March Madness. Yes, he hit that shot against my alma mater, but I put away the crimson-and-blue pom poms long ago. And when you get to witness one of the tournament's iconic shots and you get to turn around and see the shot-maker's parents going berserk, it's pretty hard to beat.
Colorado State had Farokhmanesh recreate the shot with his wife and their three young children. The video is as charming as it is funny. Well worth your time to go find it if you haven't seen it.
But that shot brings up other great memories of the NCAA Tournament. Some, I saw live. Some, I watched on TV. Others, I have only seen because of the magic of video archives.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my Sweetest 16 memories of March Madness:
1. Tyus Edney's mad dash, 1995: UCLA was down one to Missouri with 4.8 seconds to play, and instead of passing, Edney drove the length of the floor, into the defense and made an extremely tough shot at the buzzer.
Smallest guy on the floor made one of the biggest shots in tournament history.
2. Jim Valvano's mad dash, 1983: A different kind of mad dash, but as much fun as North Carolina State's win over highly favored Houston was, the most memorable moment was Valvano's reaction to the game-winning shot. The Wolfpack's head coach sprinted onto the court looking for someone to hug.
He sprinted. He stopped. He turned. He sprinted again.
Haven't we all had a moment of joy when we felt like Jimmy V looked?
3. John Lucas' shot, 2004: Oklahoma State fans remember this one fondly. Down one with less than 30 seconds to play, the point guard nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing and propelled the Cowboys to the Final Four.
Oh, what fun.
4. Bryce Drew's shot, 1998: The greatest game-winner of them all. I know, that's a high bar, but it checked all the boxes. Valparaiso was a huge underdog, a 13-seed facing 4-seed Mississippi. Time was short; Drew and Valpo needed to go the length of the court in 2.5 seconds.
And the play itself was basketball's version of the "Hail Mary." A three-quarter court pass to an up man who flipped the ball over to Drew, who was streaking toward the arc.
So many things could go wrong before he even took the shot.
But everything went perfectly that day in OKC, including the shot.
5. Villanova upsets Georgetown, 1985: Georgetown wasn't just the defending national champ. It was a monolith. How was anyone supposed to beat John Thompson and Patrick Ewing and that bunch?
They won the first five games of the tournament by an average of 15.6 points.
What chance did 8-seed Villanova stand?
Rollie Massimino's bunch shot 78 percent from the floor, which remains a title-game record. It also still holds the distinction of being the lowest seeded team to win the championship.
6. OU-Kansas title game, 1988: Now, you might be thinking, "Oh, she's picking this one because of the Jayhawks." Well, there's a hint of truth in that. I was still a kid then, and yes, I still knew where my crimson-and-blue pom poms were.
But as much as anything, I remember this game because Kansas was able to do something no one thought possible — it ran with OU.
Those Billy Tubbs teams went up and down, fast and furious. Everyone thought Kansas would have to slow down the tempo to stand a chance. Instead, the score was 50-50 at halftime (on the 50th anniversary of the Final Four) and the Jayhawks were able to beat a superb Sooners team at its own game.
7. Buddy Love, 2016: Here's something to make Sooner fans smile a bit. Buddy Hield smiled his way to the Final Four. There might not be any one moment that stands out, though OU's wins in Oklahoma City and Buddy's 37 points against Oregon in the Elite Eight were pretty spectacular, but Buddy made that whole run fun.
He just seemed to enjoy every moment. He was a joy to watch.
8. Keith Smart and Indiana, 1987: In my mind's eye, I can still see Smart making that corner jumper and sending Indiana to a title against Syracuse.
9. Princeton backdoor, 1996: Princeton nearly scored the 16-seed-over-a-1-seed upset against Georgetown in 1989, but seven years later, the 15-seed Tigers finally scored a big upset. They upended 2-seed UCLA with Pete Carril's pass-and-cut offense.
For the Bruins, it was death by a thousand backdoor cuts.
10. Michigan timeout, 1993: Chris Webber called a timeout the Wolverines didn't have, and North Carolina won the title.
11. Butler's half-court miss, 2010: The same way Webber's blunder was an iconic mistake, Gordon Hayward's half-court heave was an iconic miss. Butler went toe-to-toe with mighty Duke and nearly scored the knockout.
12. Christian Laettner's shot, 1992: A classic shot at the end of a classic game. Duke and Kentucky went overtime in the Elite Eight, and much like Drew and Valpo, Duke had the length of the court to go in only 2.1 seconds.
Maybe the best part, though, were the reactions. Antonio Lang falling down under the basket like he'd knocked out. Thomas Hill, hands on head, saying, "Oh, my God." Grant Hill hopping around like a bunny rabbit. Fun stuff.
13. Mercer upsetting Duke, 2014: Can't have too much Blue Devil love. Mercer not only upset 3-seed Duke in the first round but also had one heck of a dance party on the floor afterwards.
Thank you, Bob Hoffman.
14. Ron Hunter's fall, 2015: There are great reactions, and then there was Georgia State coach Ron Hunter falling off his stool when his son R.J. hit a deep game-winning 3-pointer against Baylor. Not sure why he was sitting on a stool with wheels, but it made for an iconic moment.
15. Texas A&M comeback, 2017: The greatest comeback in tournament history. It happened in OKC, too. The Aggies trailed by 12 points with 44 seconds left against Northern Iowa. Texas A&M not only forced overtime but also won in double overtime.
To think that came two days after Northern Iowa beat Texas at the buzzer with a half-court heave.
16. Farokhmanesh, 2010: Farokhmanesh became a bad word among Jayhawk fans that day. I talked to his mom shortly after and told her that her son and his teammates had become the darlings of the tournament.
"We always thought they were darlings," she said with a smile.
No wonder we miss March Madness.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.