A season for Cinderella
The result was a Duke victory 78-61, but hats went off to the Bears from Southwest Missouri State.
"They played great," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told The Associated Press. "They played really good defense. They have good hands. They're always after it, chasing loose balls."
Hats off to Wally World, also. No, it's not a new theme park, rather, s enior forward Wally Szczerbiak, who led Miami of Ohio to the Sweet 16.
The 10th-seeded RedHawks upset No. 7 seed Washington behind Szczerbiak's 43 points and 12 rebounds, 59-58. As if that wasn't enough, the NBA-bound Szczerbiak pumped in 24 more in an upset against No. 2 seed Utah, 66-58.
The clock struck midnight against Kentucky in the Sweet 16, though. The Wildcats ended the RedHawks' Cinderella story, 58-43.
10th-seeded Gonzaga, the little Jesuit school out of Spokane, Wash., ro de its magic pumpkin-turned carriage, right to the doorstep of the Final Four, only to be turned back by top-seeded Connecticut, 67-62.
Gonzaga began its Cinderella run in the West Regional in Seattle against Minnesota, which had four players declared ineligible, including starters Kevin Clark and Miles Tarver, for alleged academic fraud. Needless to say, the Bulldogs had the Gophers trying to "dig" their way out of a 21-point, second half hole, but it was just too much for the depleted Gophers.
Gonzaga next took on second-seeded Stanford, which reached the Final Four last year.
The Bulldogs, led by Matt Santangelo's 22 points, defeated the Cardinal, 82-74. Stanford was the last of four PAC-10 teams to be eliminated from this year's tournament.
The Bulldogs continued their winning ways in the Sweet 16 by defeating Florida, 73-72, on Casey Calvary's tip-in with 4.4 seconds to play.
Gonzaga was just the fifth 10th-seeded team to make it to the Elite Eight none of which has ever made it to the Final Four.
Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton should be proud of his alma mater and so should Bing Crosby, who is probably smiling down from somewhere up above.
Cinderella's chance of dancing in the Final Four ended with Gonzaga's l oss. No matter though, because most of the Cinderella teams gave the country a tournament filled with memories, which makes March Madness so special.
Even the players who participated take home special memories that they will surely never forget.
"I'm from a little, little, little town that nobody ever heard of," Florida A&M shooting guard Morris Scott told Sports Illustrated. "I can still hear that starting line up announcement. 'At guard, from Fitzgerald, Ga...' Man, I'll never forget that."
Steven Moore, a reserve walk-on for Mount St. Mary's, scored one three-pointer during a 76-53 loss to Michigan State, something he never thought would happen.
"I wanted to pick up as many memories as I could while I'm here," Moore told S.I. "I got a media guide. I got an NCAA cup. But I never expected to leave with a three-pointer."
Thank you Cinderellas, for making this year's tournament so special.
Archived Months:September 1998