While those three 1997 NCAA Tournament games made me a full-blown fanatic of March Madness, there was another game that I was excited to review: the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. the No. 4 Clemson Tigers in the Midwest Region of the Sweet Sixteen.
I remember watching this game when it occurred and being amazed by the roller-coaster turn of events that took place throughout this double-overtime thriller on a Thursday night at The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX.
While I figured that the 28-3 Golden Gophers would have its way with the 23-9 Tigers, I would be proven wrong, with Clemson overcoming a 6-point halftime deficit and actually leading by 6 points in the game's first overtime.
Ultimately, Bobby Jackson would rally the Golden Gophers and go off in the second overtime with some absolutely unbelievable shots.
All in all, this game was flat out ridiculous, in a good way, as seen by the performances of these players from both teams:
- Jackson scored 34 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
- His Minnesota teammate Sam Jacobsen added 29 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
- Clemson forward and future NBA player Greg Buckner scored 22 points on an efficient 7-of-9 from the field.
- Tigers teammates Terrel McIntyre, a diminutive point guard, added 17 points while big man Tom Wideman hit all five of his field goals to go for 10 points and 10 boards.
Overall, the Minnesota 90-84 victory against Clemson was a classic game, a knockdown, drag-out war that is somehow NOT on YouTube, which seems to be a crime.
Oh, how I wish that I recorded this game.
Nonetheless, the best I could find from this game was the 1996-1997 Minnesota Golden Gophers team video (see below).
From this video, I also learned that Minnesota and Clemson played earlier that season, in the championship game of the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Shootout. The Gophers would take down Clemson, which had already beaten defending national champion and eventual No. 1 seed Kentucky at that point of the season, by 10 points. Highlights of this first game between the Golden Gophers and the Tigers can be seen @6:10 to @6:45.
If anyone has a copy of this game, I would love to see it, especially on YouTube. It is a must watch of the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
On the same night, another Sweet Sixteen game was playing at the same time, though with less fanfare.
In the West Regional, No. 6 Stanford was riding the momentum of knocking off No. 3 seed Wake Forest in the second round into its Sweet Sixteen game against No. 2 seed Utah.
In all honesty, I did not see a minute of this game when it took place as it was not being shown in Chicago. It's a shame because Stanford would rally from a 14-point halftime deficit to force overtime against the Utes, which would hold on to win 82-77.
Nonetheless, I am intrigued by this game for what it served as: a prelude to bigger and better things for both programs in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
In fact, had it not been for a Jeff Sheppard three late in Stanford's semifinal loss to Kentucky, the Cardinal would have played Utah, which surprisingly handled North Carolina in its Final Four game, in the national championship.
This final would have been highly unexpected, given the quality of teams like North Carolina, Arizona and Kansas in 1998.
In fact, a 1998 final of Stanford and Utah would have seemed more suited for the 1940s, as both schools won national championships in 1942 and 1944, respectively.
Ultimately, what could have been in 1998 was left to just my imagination, though I would love to have the recollection of watching this lost tournament game in 1997.
For now, this is the closest I can get to a Stanford - Utah title game.
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