Indy’s Had Unlikely Final Fours Before

With the Final Four in Indianapolis this season, it should come as no surprise that the surviving teams advanced to the Circle City with a twist. Although New Orleans (another frequent Final Four destination) is the city known for Voodoo, it is Indiana's capital city that seems to produce unlikely results.

UCLA, Florida, LSU, and George Mason are as unlikely Final Four as we have ever seen. Indianapolis produced the only other Final Four without a number one seed, as well as the only Final Four to produce two number eight seeds.

The only other Final Four without a number one seed since seeding began in 1979 was also staged in Indianapolis. UCLA was the national runner-up that season. They and Iowa traveled to Indianapolis unranked. The next Final Four with unranked teams wouldn't occur again until the 2000 edition, also in Indianapolis. The millennium Final Four had eight seeds North Carolina and Wisconsin advance.

The history of basketball in Indiana has been over documented. It's Final Fours and the participants who have made unlikely runs to the Final Four, or captured unlikely wins once there.

The 1980 Final Four was the year Louisville and Denny Crum finally got over the hump. The Doctors of Dunk and Dr. Dunkenstein himself, Darrell Griffith, knocked off Iowa and UCLA to earn Crum and the 'Ville's first title. It was especially sweet for Crum, who had apprenticed under John Wooden at UCLA in the '60s. The title was especially strange considering what happened to Cardinals forward Wiley Brown on the Sunday between the semifinals and final. Brown lost his prosthetic thumb at the UL training table. He left it on his tray. After an extensive search, thankfully it was found and Brown was able to play in the championship game.

Griffith scored 57 points in Louisville's two tournament games and was the Cardinals only double-figure scorer in their 59-54 victory over Bruins. Griffith was named the 1980 NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player. The game foreshadowed the 2000 Final Four in Indianapolis 20 years later. Louisville held UCLA to only 36.5 percent from the floor in bringing home the title.

The second Final Four to visit Indianapolis, in 1991, involved two highly anticipated matchups. The first game matched teacher against pupil, Roy Williams and Kansas versus Dean Smith and North Carolina. Williams' first trip to the Final Four was memorable for its strange ending. Williams' Jayhawks prevailed 79-73 as Smith was ejected after receiving his second technical with 35 seconds remaining.

The nightcap became one of the most memorable games in NCAA tournament history. Christian Laettner free throws with 11 seconds remaining gave Duke a 79-77 victory over UNLV a year after losing to the Runnin' Rebels 103-73 in the championship game. Jerry Tarkanian was seeking to lead UNLV to the nation's first undefeated season since Indiana last accomplished the feat in 1976.

In the title game, and his fifth Final Four, Krzyzewski and Duke captured their first national championship with a 72-65 victory over Kansas.

Six years later, three Goliaths and one David earned trips to the Final Four. Minnesota, Kentucky, and North Carolina arrived in Indy as number one seeds. Arizona crashed the party. The Wildcats defeated a one loss Kansas team in the Sweet 16 on their way to the Southeast regional title. Olson had brought higher ranked teams to the tournament that had fallen early in the tournament.

Arizona fell behind early in the first half against North Carolina before seizing control in the second half behind hot-shooting freshman point guard Mike Bibby on their way to a 66-58 victory.

Kentucky controlled its game with Minnesota, winning 78-69 to advance to its second consecutive national championship game with a chance to become only the second team to repeat as champions in 24 years. The championship game was an epic battle with neither team leasing by more than six points. A last-second three from Anthony Epps of Kentucky forced overtime. Arizona cashed in its first national championship from the free throw line. Their 84-77 victory was led by junior Miles Simon, who finished the title game with 30 points and earned the NCAA's Most Outstanding Player award. Bennett Davison provided the exclamation point by tussling Olson's hair at the conclusion of the game.

Arizona's run was remarkable. The championship included becoming the only team to defeat three number one seeds in the same tournament and ending the tenure of three coaches. South Alabama's Bill Musselman retired after the loss to the Wildcats in the first round. Dean Smith announced his retirement the following October and Rick Pitino left Kentucky to accept the job as Celtics general manager and coach that summer.

Prior to this season, the 2000 Final Four might have been the most unlikely foursome in NCAA tournament history. North Carolina advanced to its second Final Four in three seasons under Bill Guthridge, Dick Bennett led Wisconsin to the Final Four after a long career, and Billy Donovan brought an extremely young Florida team to Indy. Michigan State was the only team expected to be there.

The Wisconsin/Michigan State game produced an ugly, but typical Big 10 slugfest before the Spartans prevailed, 53-41. MSU led only 19-17 at halftime, by far the lowest scoring half in the Final Four during the shot clock era. Florida ended NC's most surprising Final Four run to set up a Spartans/Gators national championship game.

It was too much Flintstones, as Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and company ended a four-year quest of continual improvement to bring home Michigan State's second national championship. Cleaves was named the Most Outstanding Player, and the Spartans brought home the title by playing Wisconsin's slow-down game in the semifinal and then Florida's run-and-gun in the championship game.

The unusual foursome of George Mason, LSU, Florida, and UCLA makes the 2006 Final Four a memorable one. LSU's tough inside game of Tyrus Thomas and Glen "Big Baby" Davis, UCLA's outstanding sophomore backcourt of Jordan Farmar and Aaron Afflalo, and Florida's remarkable diaper dandies and terrific toddlers are the players that most people will remember when reminiscing about the 2006 Final Four.

George Mason's advancement to the Final Four in Indianapolis could not wax any more poetic. If it wasn't taking place in the land of Hoosiers, only a Hollywood script could put a program like George Mason in the Final Four. The inside-outside balance and tough defense just might make it possible for them to bring home a title against three schools from power conferences. If they dream just a bit more, they might be the biggest Cinderella team to win since Villanova in 1985 or North Carolina State in 1983. Only time will tell if Jim Larranaga can dance like the late Jim Valvano.

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