What will you remember about the 2010 NCAA tournament? There’s been plenty to choose from.
Duke ending its mini-Final Four drought? Michigan State making an improbable run back to the Final Four? Butler giving a whole new meaning to “Final Four host school”? Conquering hometown hero Bob Huggins coaching his alma mater West Virginia past favorite Kentucky and into the Final Four for the first time in 51 years?
Or will you always think about the first two rounds, a series of head-spinning games that left you wanting more and more and more?
It’s hard not to remember this tournament for the greatness of those opening rounds:
• Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh hitting not just one but two shots to essentially ice games against UNLV and top-ranked Kansas in Oklahoma City.
• The finish of the Michigan State-Maryland second-round game in Spokane and its frenetic final 20 seconds. And let’s not forget Michigan State escaping against New Mexico State two nights before.
• Murray State’s Danero Thomas‘ buzzer-beater to knock out Vanderbilt in the upset that everyone either picked or claims they picked.
• BYU’s Jimmer Fredette pouring in 37 points in a thrilling double-overtime victory over Florida in the first round in Oklahoma City.
• No. 14 Ohio stunning No. 3 Georgetown by 14 points in a game that is still surreal to consider when pondering the domination by the ninth-place MAC school over the Big East tournament runner-up.
• Ishmael Smith‘s buzzer-beater for Wake Forest that knocked out Texas and mercifully end the Longhorns’ disastrous 2010 portion of their schedule.
• Cornell blasting past Temple and Wisconsin and into the Sweet 16 for the first time in Big Red history.
• Purdue’s Chris Kramer going to the basket to beat Texas A&M and send the Boilermakers, sans Robbie Hummel, to an improbable Sweet 16.
• Robert Morris not being pleased with the late-game calls in missing out on a regulation win over Villanova, and then losing to the Cats in overtime in the first round.
• Omar Samhan‘s dominating performances for Saint Mary’s in upsetting Richmond and Villanova en route to the Sweet 16.
Or maybe you’ll take with you the road to the Final Four that included:
• A magnificent double-overtime game between Kansas State and Xavier that goes down as one of the finest we’ve seen. The 101-96 win by K-State reminded me in some ways of those classic Gonzaga-Arizona or Illinois-Arizona games from previous tournaments. You didn’t want this one to end.
• Butler stunning top-ranked Syracuse in the West. That’s still hard to fathom.
• Michigan State beating Tennessee on a free throw by Raymar Morgan with a second left.
• Cornell opening up a 10-2 lead on Kentucky in the Sweet 16, only to get smashed by a 30-6 run to end the first half.
• Kentucky missing 28 straight 3s at one point against Cornell and West Virginia, and the Mountaineers being up by two at the half without making a 2-point basket in their Elite Eight victory over Kentucky.
That’s good stuff so far. No one seems to be whining about who wasn’t in the field, that’s for sure. Seeding the tournament was certainly a debatable point. Selections weren’t. And the excitement of this 65-team event, one that shouldn’t expand beyond maybe 68 in years to come, hasn’t disappointed. Will the Final Four continue the trend?