Men's Basketball

Boise: It’s where the NCAA Tournament goes for drama

'They're not gonna make it easy for us': Calipari on NCAA seeding

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari reacts to his team's seeding in the NCAA Tournament as the Cats watch the selection show from his Lexington home.
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University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari reacts to his team's seeding in the NCAA Tournament as the Cats watch the selection show from his Lexington home.

One of the most famous plays in NCAA Tournament history. One of its biggest upsets. Arguably its greatest day. And many of its larger-than-life participants.

All are part of the NCAA Tournament’s memorable run in Boise — one that, finally, continues this week with the ninth visit from March Madness. The NCAA began playing early-round games here in 1983 and followed in 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2009. The tournament ends its drought with a visit this year and will be back in 2021.

Here’s a look back at some of the top moments from previous NCAA games in Boise:

[Related: Four marquee programs headed to Boise]

▪  The greatest day: The four first-round games in Boise in 2001 were decided by an almost-incomprehensible seven points. Georgia State upset Wisconsin by one, Maryland held off George Mason by three, Georgetown made a buzzer-beater to top Arkansas by two — and, when everyone thought they couldn’t handle any more excitement, No. 15 seed Hampton stunned No. 2 Iowa State by a point. That was the fourth win by a 15 seed in history (four more have done that since).

The previous record for margin of victory for four games before that day: 17 points.

“We’re spoiled here,” former Idaho Statesman columnist Mike Prater wrote at the time. “Always have been.”

And the biggest star of that week wasn’t any of the teams. It was the fantastic Hampton band, which not only entertained basketball fans but made an appearance at an Idaho Steelheads game on the off-day.

▪  Forever in the montage: Few plays in NCAA Tournament history have been replayed as often as UCLA guard Tyus Edney’s game-winning layup in 1995. He went coast to coast in 4.8 seconds to beat the buzzer for a 75-74, second-round win against Missouri. Two weeks later, the Bruins were national champs.

“This is the sweetest feeling ... the biggest shot of my life so far,” Edney said. “I’m almost in awe. A great feeling came over me when I saw it go through the net.”

▪  The ‘Mountaineer-acle’: No. 10 seed West Virginia shocked No. 2 Cincinnati 75-74 in the second round in 1998. Jarrod West nailed a desperation shot from 22 feet for the win, moments after Cincinnati’s D’Juan Baker buried a fadeaway 3-pointer for the lead.

West’s shot banked high off the glass. “It took exactly 6.3 seconds for the halo to pass from Baker to West,” former Idaho Statesman reporter Stephen Dodge wrote.

“I’m dreaming,” West said. “It’s a fantasy world. Every athlete envisions something like this, but this is even better. The excitement. The laughing and the hugging. I’m so drained already.”

▪  All the big names: Bobby Knight, John Chaney, Lute Olson, Rick Majerus, Dale Brown, Jim Harrick, Lou Henson, Bob Huggins, Nolan Richardson, Jerry Tarkanian, John Thompson, Norm Stewart, Gary Williams, Lefty Driesell — they’ve all prowled the sidelines in Boise. Knight famously berated the moderator of his press conference after a 1995 loss to Missouri.

On the player side, we’ve had Shaquille O’Neal, Charlie Ward (a Heisman Trophy-winning QB), Sean Elliott, Ralph Sampson and Kenny Lofton (a major-league baseball player), to name a few. O’Neal recorded a triple-double of 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 blocks against BYU in 1992. He and Alonzo Mourning played their final college basketball games in Boise that year.

▪  A drama drought: That first-round session in 2001 might have been too good. The 14 NCAA games played in Boise since then have produced far less drama, with few memorable moments.

Perhaps the best was this: In a first-round game in 2009, Wisconsin point guard Trevon Hughes used a spin move and one-handed flip off the glass while being fouled for a three-point play with 2 seconds left. That gave the No. 12 Badgers a 61-59 win against No. 5 Florida State.

“It looked like a miracle shot,” Hughes said after watching the replay.

▪  What about the women? Boise State hosted the West Regional in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in 2002. Oklahoma beat Colorado 94-60 for a trip to the Final Four.

Chadd Cripe: 208-377-6398, @chaddcripe

NCAA schedule in Boise

Wednesday practices

▪  11 a.m. UNC Greensboro, 11:45 a.m. South Dakota State, 12:30 p.m. Gonzaga, 1:15 p.m. Ohio State, 3:25 p.m. Kentucky, 4:10 p.m. Arizona, 4:55 p.m. Davidson, 5:40 p.m. Buffalo. Practices at Taco Bell Arena are open to the public and free.

Thursday games

▪  No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro in the West Region, 11:30 a.m. (TNT)

▪  No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 South Dakota State in the West Region, approximately 2 p.m. (TNT)

▪  No. 5 seed Kentucky vs. No. 12 Davidson in the South Region, 5:10 p.m. (CBS)

▪  No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 13 Buffalo in the South Region, approximately 7:40 p.m. (CBS)