When the Final Four comes to New Orleans, the Big Easy delivers
The Final Four returns to New Orleans in 2022, the sixth time The Big Easy is playing host to college’s basketball season-concluding drama.
In the Final Four’s five previous visits to New Orleans, the college game hasn’t disappointed, delivering some of the most memorable moments in March Madness history. The Chucker, 19nine’s resident historian, takes a look at New Orleans’ penchant for creating college basketball magic.
The Participants: Georgetown, Houston, Louisville, and North Carolina
The Biggest Question: Could Georgetown, a program on the rise under head coach John Thompson, legitimize the fledgling Big East Conference and capture the crown behind dominant freshman center Patrick Ewing?
The Semi-Finals: North Carolina 68-63 over Houston; Georgetown 50-46 over Louisville
The Final: North Carolina 63-62 over Georgetown
The Most Outstanding Player: James Worthy. Over two games in New Orleans, the Tar Heels’ junior forward shot 20-27 from the field and scored 42 points in propelling North Carolina to the title.
The Enduring Image: A svelte North Carolina freshman named “Mike” Jordan hit a 16-foot jumper from the left baseline with 16 seconds left to give North Carolina its second title in program history. That shot also launched the legend of Michael Jordan, the GOAT.
A Final Four Fun Fact: After nearly 40 years of awarding losers of the national semi-final game a shot at redemption in a third-place game, the 1982 NCAA Tournament was the first to ditch the consolation game.
The Participants: Indiana, Providence, Syracuse, and UNLV
The Biggest Question: Could any of the three upstart programs in New Orleans – Providence, Syracuse, or UNLV – take down mighty Indiana and Bob Knight?
The Semi-Finals: Indiana 97-93 over UNLV; Syracuse 77-63 over Providence
The Final: Indiana 74-73 over Syracuse
The Most Outstanding Player: Keith Smart. Though Hoosiers’ sharpshooter Steve Alford led Indiana in scoring at the Final Four, Smart came up clutch in the title game against Syracuse with a 21-point performance that included the game-winning jumper and game-sealing steal.
The Enduring Image: Ah, yes, Smart’s jumper from the right wing with 5 seconds remaining put the Hoosiers ahead by one. Moments later, Smart intercepted the resulting inbounds pass from Syracuse and heaved the ball toward the ceiling in celebration.
A Final Four Fun Fact: 1987 was the first Final Four to feature the three-point shot, though Indiana – with all of its shooters – used it sparingly en route to the title. In New Orleans, the Hoosiers attempted only 15 shots from behind the arc over two games. By contrast, Baylor launched 47 three-point attempts during its two games at the 2021 Final Four.
The Participants: Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and North Carolina
The Biggest Question: Could Michigan’s Fab Five, one year after falling to Duke in the NCAA title game as an all-freshman starting five, claim redemption and turn the ever-questioned hype into unquestioned hardwood history?
The Semi-Finals: North Carolina 78-68 over Kansas; Michigan 81-78 over Kentucky The Final: North Carolina 77-71 over Michigan
The Most Outstanding Player: Donald Williams. North Carolina’s sophomore guard dropped 25 in both of the Tar Heels’ wins, going 15-23 from the field over two games.
The Enduring Image: After North Carolina’s Pat Sullivan missed a free throw with 20 seconds remaining and the Tar Heels up two, Michigan star Chris Webber corralled the rebound. After an obvious travel missed by the refs, Webber rushed downcourt. Along the right sideline and directly in front of the Michigan bench, Webber called for a timeout Michigan didn’t have. The resulting technical foul sent Williams to the line, where he iced the game for North Carolina.
A Final Four Fun Fact: The 1993 Final Four nearly made history as the first to feature four #1 seeds. While Michigan, Kentucky, and North Carolina all advanced as top seeds, Kansas, a #2 seed, downed #1 Indiana in the Midwest regional finals to prevent a history-making Final Four.
The Participants: Kansas, Marquette, Syracuse, and Texas
The Biggest Question: Could Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, in a second trip to a New Orleans-based Final Four, finally win the big one and bring a national title back to his alma mater?
The Semi-Finals: Syracuse 95-84 over Texas; Kansas 94-61 over Marquette
The Final: Syracuse 81-78 over Kansas
The Most Outstanding Player: Carmelo Anthony. The Syracuse freshman followed an efficient 33-point, 14-rebound outing against Texas with a 20-point, 10-rebound title game performance.
The Enduring Image: With Syracuse clinging to a three-point lead in the closing seconds, Syracuse big man Hakim Warrick sprinted from the lane line to the left corner, soared into the air, and blocked a potential game-tying three by Michael Lee. Warrick’s effort remains among the most iconic defensive plays in NCAA Tournament history.
A Final Four Fun Fact: En route to its national title, Syracuse slayed one-third of the Big 12. The Orange recorded victories over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas.
The Participants: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, and Ohio State
The Biggest Question: After years of bringing in top prospects – and emerging the first king of the one-and-done era, could Kentucky coach John Calipari finally bring the Wildcats back to the college hoops mountaintop?
The Semi-Finals: Kentucky 69-61 over Louisville; Kansas 64-62 over Ohio State
The Final: Kentucky 67-59 over Kansas
The Most Outstanding Player: Anthony Davis. Kentucky’s freshman sensation stuffed the stat sheet over Kentucky’s two games in New Orleans with 24 points, 30 rebounds, 7 assists, and 11 blocks in bringing Big Blue Nation its first national title in 14 years.
The Enduring Image: Take your pick of blocked or altered shots by Anthony Davis. The lithe Chicago-bred big man dominated the game from the paint and never allowed Kansas to get on track as he disrupted any shot in his vicinity. Many regard it as the most dominating defensive performance in title-game history.
A Final Four Fun Fact: Davis won Most Outstanding Player honors despite only making one of his 10 shots in the championship game. That should tell you just how dominant The Brow was on the defensive end.