College basketball history. So deep in so many ways.
The same holds true for the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament, a place in the bracket that Las Vegas will host this year when the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight play out Thursday and Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
Here are some West Regional memories from years past, beginning in 1985 when the field was expanded to 64 teams.
Top five players
1. Chris Mullin, St. John’s (1985): The three-time Big East Player of the Year and winner of that season’s Wooden Award saved some of his best work for the West Regional in Denver. Mullin scored 55 points in the two games to lead the program to its second Final Four and first since 1952. The sharpshooter followed a 30-point effort in a win over Kentucky with 25 in a victory over North Carolina State. Imagine if the 3-point line was in use at the time.
2. Stacey Augmon, UNLV (1990): The Runnin’ Rebels star combined to score 53 points in regional wins against Ball State and Loyola Marymount at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. He had 20 when the Rebels escaped the Cardinals 69-67 in the Sweet 16.
3. Andre Miller, Utah (1998): In its first Final Four run since 1942, Utah was led by Miller at point guard in victories against West Virginia and Arizona in Anaheim, California. He had a triple double — 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists — against the Wildcats in the Elite Eight.
4. Kemba Walker, Connecticut (2009, 2011): Both times Walker led the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament, they were placed in the West Regional. Both times, Walker led Connecticut to the Final Four. As a freshman, Walker came off the bench to hit 8 of 11 shots to score 28 points and added nine assists over two games in wins against Purdue and Missouri in Glendale, Arizona. Two years later in Anaheim, Walker combined for 56 points and 10 assists in wins over San Diego State and Arizona before going on to lead the Huskies to the national title. He was particularly good against the Aztecs, making eight 3-pointers to total 36 points.
5. Gordon Hayward, Butler (2010): A No. 5 seed out of the Horizon League, Butler rode the outstanding play of Hayward all the way to a national championship game. He had 39 points and 13 rebounds total in regional wins against top-seed Syracuse and No. 2 Kansas State in Salt Lake City.
Top five games
1. UNLV 84, Iowa 81 (1987): Nearly 30 years later, a Cedar Rapids columnist called this the most painful loss in Iowa history. Armon Gilliam went 11 of 16 from the field to finish with 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Rebels used a 24-2 run to rally back from a 17-point deficit with 16:29 left to advance to the second Final Four in program history. The Hawkeyes trailed by one in Seattle with 14 seconds remaining and had Brad Lohaus open under the basket, but the pass was well off the mark and ricocheted off the backboard and out of bounds. Then Iowa missed a contested 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
2. UNLV 69, Ball State 67 (1990): Along their way to a national championship, the Rebels found themselves in a serious Sweet 16 battle with the Cardinals. Ball State cut a late nine-point lead by UNLV down to three in the final minutes. It took UNLV center David Butler intercepting a lob pass in the waning seconds, never allowing Ball State to attempt a final shot.
3. Louisville 93, West Virginia 85 (OT) (2005): After the Mountaineers drained 10 3-pointers and built a 20-point lead in the first half, the Cardinals decided to start trapping and pressing even though they were concerned about exerting so much energy in the altitude of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It worked. Louisville was able to get close several times and finally tied the game in the final minute of regulation. Neither team could convert on one final possession in regulation, and then Louisville took over in the extra session to advance to the Final Four.
4. UCLA 73, Gonzaga 71 (2006): A Sweet 16 game known for crying as much as anything. UCLA scored the final 11 points after once trailing by 17 in Oakland. The Bruins’ first lead came with 9.1 seconds remaining. Overcome with emotion, Zags star Adam Morrison cried while time still remained and fell to the court once things became official. Morrison was one of the nation’s top scorers at 28 points per game but was left crumpled in defeat.
5. Kansas State 101, Xavier 96 (2OT) (2010): One of the more exciting games in tournament history, this Sweet 16 matchup in Salt Lake City was an instant classic. Jordan Crawford of Xavier hit a 3-pointer with seconds remaining in the first overtime to force a second. Jacob Pullen scored 28 for Kansas State, making two 3-pointers late in the second overtime to help seal the win.
Top five moments
1. UNLV (1989): If you listen closely at the right time of night, the screams for a charge can still be heard wafting up through the desert from Tucson. Anderson Hunt found himself dribbling the ball on the wing with UNLV down two points in the closing seconds when Arizona defender Kenny Lofton went flying to the ground as they came together in an attempt to draw a call. Almost appearing shocked to be so wide open after the theatrics, Hunt pivoted and calmly sank a 3-pointer to give the Rebels a 68-67 victory in Denver over the nation’s top-ranked team. It was another chapter in the storied rivalry between Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson, who called the loss perhaps his biggest disappointment. UNLV went on to lose the regional final to Seton Hall, but won the national championship the next year. Lofton went on to a great baseball career.
2. Loyola Marymount (1990): Much of the tournament was remembered for the emotional run by the Lions to the Elite Eight, where they fell to eventual champion UNLV. In the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament, star LMU forward Hank Gathers collapsed and died due to a heart condition. Bo Kimble, Gathers’ childhood friend and LMU’s floor general, Bo Kimble, paid tribute by attempting his first free throw in each game left-handed despite being right-handed.
3. Gonzaga (1999): At a time when much of the country still didn’t know how to pronounce the school’s name, Casey Calvary helped put Gonzaga on the college basketball map with a tip-in in the final five seconds to lift the Bulldogs past Florida in a Sweet 16 game in Phoenix in what was just the second tournament appearance in program history. Gonzaga lost to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Elite Eight, but it has made the field every year since that first magical run.
4. Wichita State (2013): The ninth-seeded Shockers defeated La Salle and Ohio State in Los Angeles to advance to the second Final Four in program history and the first since 1965. It was the first time a Missouri Valley team had made the Final Four since Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in 1979. Malcolm Armstead led Wichita State in scoring in each of its West Regional victories.
5. Duke (2022): The second-seeded Blue Devils beat Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 and then Arkansas in the Elite Eight in San Francisco to make a Final Four in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season on the bench. In his lone year of college ball, Duke star Paolo Banchero was named the region’s Most Outstanding Player. Krzyzewksi coached Duke for 42 seasons.
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