The south was fairly chalky. In the opening round, Detroit upset UCLA in a 13-4 game. UCLA lead for the first 38 minutes with a roster stocked full of NBA players. Also, in this region, Bobby Knight and Indiana beat George Washington in the opening round. It would be the last tournament win for Bobby Knight at Indiana.
The 1-seed was Auburn, the last time Auburn has achieved a 1-seed but lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual regional champ, Ohio State. Like many achievements of Ohio State, this doesn’t technically exist.
Maryland was a 2-seed and considered a favorite by many to come out of this region. They were beaten by a very good St. John’s team in the Sweet 16. At the time, whispers got louder Gary Williams couldn’t get the Terps over the hump. 3 years later, they won a national title.
Duke was the 1-seed and the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets. They’d have four players selected in the top 14 of the following NBA draft. They went undefeated in the ACC and their only regular season loss was in the Great Alaskan Shootout to Cincinnati. They would win their first two tourney games by 41 points, the sweet 16 over SW Missouri State by 16 and the regional final over Temple by 21. This is arguably one of the greatest teams ever not to cut down the nets.
Steve Alford was the coach of SW Missouri State and his team was a 12-seed. In the opening round, they beat Wisconsin 43-32 in one of the worst tournament games in history.
- SW Missouri State lead at half, 21-12
- It is the fewest combined points in an NCAA Tournament game game in the shot clock era
- Wisconsin shot 12-47
- The Badgers 32 points were the fewest of any team in any NCAA Tournament game since 1949
Remarkably, the Bears would rout Tennessee, 81-51 in the 2nd round and Steve Alford would move into Iowa and places beyond
Michigan State would make the first of 3 consecutive winning the Midwest, starting in Milwaukee. Milwaukee produced a 12-5 upset, with Oklahoma beating Arizona. It was the first ever tournament win for Kelvin Sampson. That game is remembered for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Michael Wright, turning the ball over late by stepping over the inbound line giving OU the chance to win, which they would on a tip-in. They’d also upset UNC-Charlotte to advance to the Sweet 16.
This region also produced the moment where we saw the Spartans Matean Cleaves collide violently with the Sooners Eduardo Nájera in a Sweet 16 clash knocking both players out.
We were also introduced to Wally Szczerbiak of Miami (OH). He poured in 43 points to lead the RedHawks past Washington in the first round. They would upset 2-seed and ‘98 national runner-up Utah in the 2nd round behind Wally and his 24 points bringing an end to the incredible college career of Andre Miller.
The West Region was incredible. Another ‘98 Final 4 team failed to make it out of the first weekend when 3-seed North Carolina was shocked by bracket buster, Weber State. The Wildcats were lead by Harold “The Show” Arceneaux who scored 36 points. Though UNC made it close, Weber State lead by 10 with 3:59 left. It was no fluky win. In the 2nd round, Weber State would lose to Florida in overtime despite 32 from “The Show”. The drama was not over for Florida.
Innocently enough, Gonzaga defeated Minnesota in the opening round. It was a slight upset, as the Zags were a 10-seed to a 7-seed for the Gophers. The Gophers has also just had a report dropped on them about widespread academic fraud days before the game. Interestingly enough, Dan Monson would leave Gonzaga for this job. His top assistant, Mark Few would take over for the 99-00 season. Worked out for one of them.
The Zags story became bigger after they eliminated Stanford, the 4th of the ‘98 Final 4 teams to be eliminated. This Cardinal team was largely intact from the previous season and the Zags dominated them on the boards and served notice they were no fluke.
In the Sweet 16, as Gus Johnson would declare, the slipper would still fit. Against Florida, the Zags wee down by 3 with :45 seconds left. Gonzaga big man Jeremy Eaton would make a layup to bring them within 1. Florida has the ball but turned it over when freshman C Ben Wright travelers giving Gonzaga a chance to win. Bulldog G Quentin Hall would miss a shot for the lead but F Casey Calvary would tip the ball in and a desperate Florida scramble would fall short. Midnight arrived against UConn but Gonzaga would never look back and had arrived.
Quentin Hall, Matt Santagelo, Richie Frahm, Axel Dench and Casey Calvary changed Gonzaga from John Stockton’s alma mater into the premier basketball school on the West coast.