In the first installment of “Tuesday Turnover,” The College Basketball Nostalgic will review the 1999 NCAA Tournament.
So why begin with this tournament?
Well, there are several reasons.
At the time, I was a junior in high school, which possibly meant missing the first two days of the tournament. As that was not going to happen, I was usually able to convince my parents to skip school for at least the first Friday of the tournament. As for the Thursday, that was much harder, thus leading to my decision to start recording as many games as possible, which meant a run to Best Buy to load up on tapes.
Second, this tournament marked an important transition in my basketball fandom. Having grown up in Chicago, I was naturally a huge Bulls and bigger NBA fan up until this point.
However, this changed in
Knowing that the Bulls would no longer be worth watching, I turned my attention to college basketball, which had slowly begun to steal my interest around the 1997 NCAA Tournament, when Arizona won the title as a four seed and became my favorite non-Illinois team for the next ten years.
Of course, in 1999, DePaul had a stud recruiting class of Quentin Richardson from Whitney Young High School, Bobby Simmons of Simeon fame, and Lance Williams from Carver. While seemingly headed to Kansas, Richardson had been a late get for DePaul and predicted a Final Four that season, which did not happen. DePaul did not even make the tournament in 1999.
As for the Fighting Illini, I began taking notice in 1998, when an unheralded team of five seniors got the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In 1999, Illinois had a ton of promising freshmen that finished last in the Big Ten but made it to the final of the Big Ten Tournament, just missing out on the 1999 tourney.
Nonetheless, 1999 holds a special place in my heart as the year college basketball surpassed the NBA.
With all of this said, here is brief recollection of the major story lines that come to mind from the 1999 NCAA Tournament.
1. UCONN Shocked the World
After never making the Final Four under Jim Calhoun, UCONN finally broke through in 1999 and then did what seemed unthinkable, knocking off a 37-1 Duke team that last lost in November to Cincinnati at the Great Alaska Shootout. As portly point guard Khalid El-Amin
2. Duke Did Not Win the Title
To this day, Duke’s loss in the title game is still a shocker. With all due respect to my 2004-2005 Fighting Illini, the 1998-1999 Duke team was the best college basketball team that I had seen at that point in my life. (Editor’s Note: I have seen the 1990-1991 UNLV team on tape and consider them better than the 98-99 Duke team, but I was only in third grade at the time). In my
Heading into the tournament, it was seemingly a matter of not if Duke would win the title but how dominant would the Blue Devils be in doing so. However, such an outlook does great disservice to a UCONN team that I remember watching early on CBS in the 1998-1999 season. In that game, UCONN hosted and destroyed a very good Michigan State team shortly after Thanksgiving. I remember thinking that UCONN could win it all that year, which the Huskies did. As for Michigan State…
4. The Spartans Made the Final Four for the First Time Since Magic Johnson’s Title in 1979
More importantly, this was Tom Izzo’s first Final Four. In the 18 years since, he has only reached 6 more Final Fours. Izzo’s Spartans would return in 2000 and win the title with Mateen Cleaves, Mo Peterson and others. To get to the 1999 Final Four, Michigan State would have to do something quite impressive in the Elite Eight.
5. Kentucky’s Bid for Four Straight Final Fours Ends against the Spartans
Somehow, someway, Kentucky was seeking its fourth straight Final Four and back-to-back national championships. The Wildcats would fall short in a very underrated Midwest Regional Final against Michigan State in St. Louis. Speaking of Elite Eights…
7. The Florida Gators Lurk Under the Surface with Billy Donovan
After Lon Kruger left Florida for Illinois prior to the 1996-1997 season, the Gators made a shrewd hire in Billy Donovan, the former Providence shooting guard who starred in the 1987 NCAA Tournament. Donovan’s hire forever changed Florida basketball, with 1999 being an important year. Had it not been for Calvary’s late game tip-in during the Sweet Sixteen, Florida would have made the Elite Eight. In 1999, the Gators were quietly setting themselves up with Donovan, freshman Mike Miller and sophomore Udonis Haslem for a then-surprise run to the title game in 2000. During his time at Florida, Donovan would reach four Final Fours and win back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. To get to the Sweet Sixteen…
8. Florida Ends the Harold Arceneaux Show in Round Two
Each NCAA Tournament seems to produce a player or two in the first weekend who reach legendary lore. In 1999, there was Weber State forward, Harold Arceneaux, who slayed North Carolina with 36
9. Arceneaux Denies North Carolina’s Bid for Three-Straight Final Fours
While Carolina had lost Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Shammond Williams after the 1998 Final Four, and was down in 1999, the Tar Heels still earned a three seed. For heaven’s sake, UNC would make the 2000 Final Four as an eight seed. While the 1999 UNC team would not have made the Final Four if getting past Weber State, Arceneaux made sure that possibility ended.
10. Wally World Comes to the NCAA Tournament
Honestly, this last memory should not be number ten, but just falls that way based on the flow of my narrative. While Arceneaux was the story after the first day of the