My first memory of March Madness is of these UNLV basketball teams. They were, by far, one of the best and most feared teams in college basketball, then and ever since. They included Greg Anthony running the show, Stacey Augmon as their defensive specialist, Anderson Hunt as a deadly shooter, and, of course, Dallas’ own Larry Johnson.
Simply put, it was the first time I watched basketball, saw two teams in warm-ups, and knew a game was over before it even started.
In a 34-game span, they won by an average, AN AVERAGE, of 27.3 points per game. They would smash on people in the Big West Conference, smash on folks in the bigger conferences, so either way you looked at it, they were the real deal. The only other team that comes to mind, given them being in a small conference but still smashing on big schools, is the 2008 Memphis Tigers. Had they finished the job last year (I’m is still sick about that finish), they might have had the torched passed to them. Anyway…
Their swagger was that authentic; they were just that gangsta. The orchestrator of this collection of talent was Tark the Shark, Jerry Tarkanian. He was able to get the most out of all his players, allowing them to hoop and play at a pace that flustered, frustrated, and pretty much pissed off all their opponents, and even when the mainstream would hate on them (same thing that happened with the prior Georgetown Hoyas and Fab Five Michigan team soon after), he had his player’s backs. Nolan Richardson, the former Arkansas Razorbacks legend, says UNLV is the best team he’s ever seen, and is not sure that anyone else is even close. The Duke Blue Devils, the team most people love to hate (me included), had to see UNLV in the tournament twice. Even as much as I hate Duke, I’ve never accused them of being scared of anybody…except for those UNLV teams back in the day. UNLV destroyed them in the title game in 1990, but came up short in the semi-final the next year. To this day, I’m convinced UNLV lost that game, partly because they didn’t take Duke seriously.
So for me, this is my favorite time of the year, because it allows us to see great teams, great players, great stories, and it allows us to reminisce, and take trips down memory lane, and it’s impossible to take that trip without acknowledging one of the most dominant runs in modern college basketball history.
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