Memories of the Big Dance in Boise

<p>We're now just weeks away from the 1st and 2nd rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament,<i> (affectionately known as March Madness to those of us already afflicted)</i>...</p><p>..So, what better way to prepare for the madness than to reflect on the rich tradition of buzzer-beaters and David v. Goliath upsets that have happened in our very own Taco Bell Arena.</p>

In 1957, the NCAA Basketball Tournament came to Idaho for the first time.  The games were played in Reed Gymnasium on campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello , Idaho .   The NCAA Basketball Tournament returned to Idaho in 1972, when the sub-regionals were held in Pocatello again, but this time in the new Idaho State Minidome.   The Minidome would host the NCAA Basketball Tournament games 2 more times in the 1970's.

1983 – Ralph Samson in Boise and UCLA loses

The Boise State Taco Bell Arena was completed in May 1982 and Boise State had already submitted a bid to hold the NCAA Basketball Western Sub-regional in the Taco Bell Arena in 1983.

In 1983, only 52 teams were invited to the NCAA Division 1 Basketball Championships. Sixteen teams had first round byes and 8 teams had play-in games. The Selection Committee was very generous to Boise sending the number 2 rated Virginia Cavaliers with Ralph Sampson, 1983's best player and UCLA, the most successful NCAA basketball team of all time to play in Taco Bell Arena.

In the Thursday games, tenth seed Utah upset 7th seed Illinois 52 to 49, and 8th seed Washington State beat 9th seed Weber State College 62-52. The most popular player in the games played in Boise was Craig Elo of Washington State . The Boise crowd chanted "Elo, Elo, Elo" as the guard brought the ball up court.
On Saturday in Boise , Tenth seeded Utah upset the number 2 seeded UCLA Bruins 67-61. The Boise fans made Utah feel like they were playing at home as the pro-Utah crowd cheered the Utes on to their big upset. Although the Boise crowd was pulling for the Elo-lead Washington State Cougars, Ralph Simpson and the number 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers cruised to a 54 to 49 victory in the second game.

  Virginia would go on to lose to eventual National Champion, North Carolina State .

  1989 – Tark the Shark in Boise along with highly regarded Arizona

  Boise fans were again rewarded with a great bracket in 1989.  Number 1 Arizona with their superstar, Sean Elliot would play in Boise in a bracket that would include Tarkanian's UNLV Running Rebels and Clemson with their future superstar, Eldon Campbell.

  On Thursday, Arizona easily beat Robert Morris 94 to 60, Clemson ran past St. Mary's 83 to 70, 12th seeded DePaul upset 5th seeded Memphis 66-63 and UNLV stomped overmatched Idaho 68-56.

  In Saturdays games, Arizona drubbed Clemson 94 to 68 and UNLV out ran DePaul 85-70.  UNLV would beat Arizona the next week, before losing to eventual runner-up Seton Hall.   This same UNLV team would win it all in 1990.

1992 – Shaq in Boise and a Heisman Trophy Winner plays basketball

In 1992, Shaquille O'Neal came to Boise , Idaho and Boise fans would see Shaq play his last college game.  Shaq was the superstar for 7th seeded LSU.  Bobby Knight brought his 2nd seeded Indiana team to Boise for the first time.  Boise fans got to see Football's Heisman Trophy winner, Charlie Ward play guard for Florida State .  Fans would also see Georgetown 's Alonzo Mourning play his last college game.

Over 6,000 fans would come down to the Taco Bell Arena to see Shaq and his LSU team practice on Wednesday before the tournament started.  LSU coaches and players rewarded fans by putting on an impromptu Slam Dunk contest among their players, then Shaq and the LSU players stayed in Taco Bell Arena to autograph  programs for all the kids that came down to see the practice.

On Thursday, all the higher seed teams won, with Georgetown outscoring Southern Florida 70 to 60, Florida State edging a scrappy Montana team 78 to 68, LSU beating BYU 94 to 83 and Indiana stomping Eastern Illinois 94 to 55.  The higher seeds would also win on Saturday, as 3rd seeded Florida State beat Alonzo Morning's 6th seeded Georgetown 78 to 68 and Indiana beat Shaq and his 7th seeded LSU team 89 to 79.    Indiana would go on to lose to eventual National Champion, Duke.

1995:  - Bobby goes ballistic and UCLA goes Coast-To-Coast

The 1995 NCAA Basketball Tournament will always be remembered for UCLA's Tyus Edny's coast to coast layup to win the game for UCLA and allow UCLA to win the National Championship in 1995.  The Cheering after that game lasted a full ten minutes.

It was a huge wake up call for UCLA.  The Bruins did not have another close game the remainder of the tournament to claim their 11th Basketball National Championship.

Bobby Knight and his Indiana team were back in Boise and after they were upset by Missouri in the first round, Coach Knight verbally abused one Rance Pugmire, a volunteer news conference moderator.  The Coach Knight tirade was picked up by the national media and gave Mr. Pugmire (who went on to become the Athletic Director at Utah State ) his 15 minutes of fame.

All the higher seeded teams won in the first round with Missouri edging Indiana 65 to 60, UCLA stomping little Florida International 92 to 56, Mississippi State beating the Santa Clara Broncos 75 to 67, and Utah pulling away from Long Beach State 76-64.

In the second round, Mississippi State upset the higher seed Utah 78 to 64, much to disappointment of the pro-Utah crowd.  Then Tyus Edny made history for UCLA as the Bruins edged Missouri with his last second layup 75 to 74.

1998 - Another "Bobby", An underdog from West Virginia , and "Little Red"

No Bobby Knight in Boise for the 1998 First Round, but Boise did get Bobby Huggins and his 2nd seeded Cincinnati team.  The Bearcats were loaded with gifted athletes and heavily favored to survive the first 2 rounds in Boise .  Utah coached by Rick Majerus returned to Boise for their third time with a feisty little guard named Andre Miller.

The first round in Boise in the past had been ruled by the higher seeded teams, but that changed in 1998.  Second seeded Cincinnati nearly lost to 15th seeded Northern Arizona , but held on to win 65 to 62 after NAU missed a last second three point shot.  Bobby Huggins was very upset with the close game and was critical of all the Boise fans cheering for NAU like they were the home team.  It would only get worse for Huggins.

Later the first day, 10th seeded West Virginia easily upset 7th seeded Temple 82 - 52 to set up a West Virginia/Cincinnati contest in the second round.   Utah won their game over San Francisco 85-68 and Arkansas beat crowd favorite Nebraska 74-65.  The main reason the crowd adopted Nebraska for their home team was the Nebraska Mascot, "Little Red"!  Little Red was an air filled mascot that would do tricks.  The person inside actually stood on his head and walked around on his hands then reversed position inside the inflated suit.  The fans wanted to see Little Red on Saturday, so they cheered for Nebraska to win.

The second round featured two of the most exciting tournament games ever played in Boise .  Utah beat Arkansas in a very strongly contested game 75 to 69 that saw Utah have 20 turnovers and still survive.   But it was the second game in the session where most of the crowd lost their voices.  Bobby Huggins had made no friends in Boise and was openly critical of Boise hosting the NCAA's.  The crowd was on him and his team from the beginning.  When West Virginia beat the Bearcats 75 to 74, Bobby Huggins kicked the chair he was sitting on and his players refused to shake hands with the West Virginia team with one Cincinnati player tearing off his Jersey and stomping on it.  Just like the Bobby Knight incident three years earlier, film of the meltdown was broadcast repeatedly on ESPN.

2001 – Hampton and the Miracle in Boise , Idaho    

Everyone knows the story of Hampton and Boise , so I won't spend any time on it.  I will just provide the link to the national media stories.  After having several negative stories coming out of Boise in the prior two NCAA 1st and 2nd round tournaments, it was unbelievable that the most heart warming story in the history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament would come out of Boise, Idaho.

Prior to 2001, most of the games played in Boise were won by the higher seeded teams.  That would all change as a tournament record would be set for the closest scores in one round of the tournament.  Georgia State, seeded 11th, upset 6th seeded Wisconsin 50 to 49, 3rd seeded Maryland escaped with a 83-80 win over 14th seeded George Mason, 10th seeded Georgetown upended Arkansas 63 to 61, and then in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history,  15th seeded Hampton knocked off  Larry Eustacy's 2nd seeded Iowa State.   Larry Eustacy would never recover from the loss and would leave Iowa State in discrace.

The games in the second round were not nearly as exciting as the first round.  Maryland pounded Georgia State 79 to 60 and Georgetown upended Boise 's beloved Hampton 76 to 57.  But those that were at the NCAA 1st round in Boise , Idaho will never forget the magic that day.

2005 – To Be Determined in the TBA

Link to the Hampton Story

Link to the Boise Brackets with Results.

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