Traditional rivalries during the regular season are the stuff of indelible memory: After a bitter New Mexico-New Mexico State contest in 1971, 1 asked the Lobos' Willie Long why he had coldcocked an opponent. "When a man's gotta be hit, I gotta hit him," said Long. In the mid-to late '80s, the Big Eight triumvirate of Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas always seemed to be playing for the No. 1 ranking. Then there was Ohio State's 97-95 double-overtime thriller over Indiana last February. Was that the game of the year, or of the decade?
Intersectional matchups also have upstaged the NCAA tournament—such as underdog Maryland losing at UCLA 65-64 in the Terps' 1973-74 season opener. "It ain't got a W after it, but I sure am proud," said Maryland coach Lefty Driesell. Then there was 15-0 Vegas losing at Oklahoma 89-88 in '87 after a Rebel trey at the end of the first half was ruled a deuce, even after the refs viewed a replay of the shot.
For noise no NCAA final ever matched the game at North Carolina in 1974 in which Walter Davis led the Tar Heels from eight points down with 17 seconds left in regulation to beat Duke in overtime, unless it was the night in '83 when Michael Jordan brought Carolina from 16 points behind with 8:43 left to defeat Ralph Sampson and Virginia.
So hold the clock on the Final Four. We've got all this: Georgetown vs. St. John's...vs. Duke...vs. LSU...vs. Arkansas...vs. Arizona...vs. UCLA...vs. Notre Dame...vs. West Virginia...vs. Temple...vs. Wake Forest...vs. Tulane...vs. Louisville...vs. Kansas...vs. Missouri...vs. Memphis State...vs. Minnesota...vs. Illinois...vs. Indiana...vs. Kentucky...whew!... before the tournament tips off.
Plenty of grape before the wine.