For as big a basketball fan as I used to be, I spend precious little time watching games on television anymore. My suspicion is that since I'm a college basketball coach, I'm so immersed in it as my job that I can't enjoy it as a fan so much anymore. My guess is that if I were a teacher, at the end of an eight hour day with the students, the last thing I'd be interested in doing is going and watching a professor teach an evening class for a couple of hours as a way to unwind. Same principle.
From 1985 to 1994, however, I was as big a junkie as there was out there. I bought a half-dozen preseason magazines each year, memorized all the teams and players throughout the nation, knew about all the upcoming prospective recruits to the elite teams, watched ballgames religiously...in other words, a freak. Maybe it was the downturn in the fortunes of my favorite teams (Indiana and Louisville), potentially the start of my own coaching career, who knows, but at best I evolved into a casual observer and nothing more.
But it was a great time to watch, with the NCAA Tournament being the best weekend of all. And so, the ten best games that I witnessed over the years, the intensity of which I hope will be matched this week:
Louisville vs. Duke (1986 championship)
Indiana vs. Syracuse (1987 championship)
Kansas vs. Oklahoma (1988 championship)
Michigan vs. Illinois (1989 semifinal)
Duke vs. UNLV (1991 semifinal)
Duke vs. Indiana (1992 semifinal)
North Carolina vs. Michigan (1993 championship)
UCLA vs. Arkansas (1995 championship)
Arizona vs. Kentucky (1997 championship)
Connecticut vs. Duke (1999 championship)
The best tournament, overall, that I saw was in 1990, even though it ended in a terribly anticlimatic way with three Final Four games decided by average margins of 17.7 points (including a brutal beatdown of Duke by UNLV in the championship). But of the 60 games during the first four rounds of the tournament, 29 were decided by four points or less. I'm fairly certain that I didn't miss a single minute of action on Thursday or Friday that year...which was an interesting trick because I was a sophomore in high school and had to try to find a television at NAHS to watch the games from 12:00 to 2:35.