Looking back at the 1991 NCAA tournament 30 years later
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Looking back at the 1991 NCAA tournament 30 years later

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1991 NCAA tournament. That tournament was a turning point for a lot of what has happened (and didn't happen) over the last three decades.

One all-time dynasty was foiled while another just began. How we watched the tournament changed. Certain coaches made their big entrance on the national stage while others were seeing their careers in the spotlight wind down. There was more than one upset for the ages and we were nearly treated to the ultimate rivalry game.

So as we get into tournament mode, let's stroll down memory lane to another tournament that ended in Indianapolis.

 
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Mike Krzyzewski wins his first national championship

Mike Krzyzewski wins his first national championship
Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The 1991 tournament would end with Duke winning their first national championship. It was a coronation of sorts for Mike Krzyzewski, who went to four Final Fours in the previous five seasons but had come up short in each time. The win over Kansas was the first of what would be five national championships for Coach K ... who trails only John Wooden in that regard. In fact, the Blue Devils would win the following year's title, making Duke the first team since Wooden's UCLA Bruins to repeat as champions. 

 
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Duke ends UNLV's undefeated season

Duke ends UNLV's undefeated season
Rick Stewart/Allsport/Getty Images

UNLV entered their Final Four meeting against Duke with a lot of history on its side. For starters, the Rebels were defending national champions who pummeled Duke, 103-73, in the 1990 title game. They entered this meeting with a 34-0 record and were the overwhelming favorites to repeat as champions. After spending an entire season just blowing out opponents, UNLV found themselves in a fight with Duke. Down 79-77 after two Christian Laettner free throws, Anderson Hunt heaved an off-balance three that was off the mark and Duke pulled off the stunning upset.

This game is a turning point for both programs. Duke would become a juggernaut that would win five national championships over the next 25 years, while UNLV would go on to be sanctioned by the NCAA and have made just one Sweet 16 appearance in the 30 years since. 

 
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Roy Williams vs Dean Smith

Roy Williams vs Dean Smith
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Thirty years later, we know that Roy Williams would eventually take over Dean Smith's North Carolina program and win three national championships. But in 1991, it was mentor versus student as Smith faced Williams in the Final Four. Williams was in just his third season at Kansas while Smith was in his 30th at Carolina but this matchup was an arrival of sorts for both men. For Williams, he showed he could lead a program to the national stage while Smith reached his first Final Four since the 1982 championship team. Ol' Roy's Jayhawks would lead most of the game when Dean Smith would be ejected for leaving the coach's box with 35 seconds left in the game. On his way off the court, Smith congratulated Williams and Kansas' coaches and players on their win.

 
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Duke and North Carolina in Final Four

Duke and North Carolina in Final Four
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One of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports nearly was played on the ultimate stage. For the only time in the storied history of the schools, both Duke and North Carolina were in the same Final Four. The two were on opposite sides as Duke beat UNLV in one national semifinal while North Carolina couldn't get past Kansas in the other. If the Tar Heels would have won, it would have set up the ultimate showdown of the rivalry ... which possibly could've been detrimental to the seeming equality both sides have in bragging rights to their ongoing hatred.

Still, it is amazing these two have never met in an NCAA tournament. At least one of the schools were in 14 of 16 Final Fours between 1986 to 2001 ... and since 1981, at least one of the schools were in 24 of 39 Final Fours. 

 
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Greg Koubek reaches four Final Fours

Greg Koubek reaches four Final Fours
Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Duke's Greg Koubek (#22 in the photo) became the first player to ever play in four Final Fours. He averaged just 5.0 points and started just 26 games during his Blue Devils career, but he still became the answer to a trivia question. He would score a total of 19 points in six Final Four games.

Only teammates Brian Davis and Christian Laettner would also achieve that feat when both played in the 1992 Final Four. 

 
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Grant Hill's dunk

Grant Hill's dunk
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The play that is most remembered from that tournament came early in the national championship game. With Duke up 5-1, Bobby Hurley tossed up an alley-oop during a fast break that freshman Grant Hill somehow caught with one hand and dunked ... all in one motion.

Hill, a highly recruited freshman starter on a very experienced team, scored 10 points in the 1991 national championship game against Kansas. Those two points in that title game may be the most memorable of his Duke career.

 
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15-seed Richmond upsets Syracuse

15-seed Richmond upsets Syracuse
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Richmond Spiders became the first 15-seed to win an NCAA tournament game when they upset No. 2 seed Syracuse, 73-69. Richmond was led by Curtis Blair ... who is now an NBA official. Syracuse was ranked No. 3 in the country at one point during the season and was led by Big East Player of the Year Billy Owens, as well as Dave Johnson and LeRon Ellis. The Spiders jumped out to an 8-point halftime lead and held on for one of the most monumental upsets in NCAA tournament history. 

 
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Every seed, but 16, represented in second round

Every seed, but 16, represented in second round
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With 15th-seeded Richmond winning, all seeds (except a No. 16) were represented in the second round of the tournament. All the No. 1 seeds, three No. 2s, No. 3s, No. 4s, and No. 5s, two No. 6s and No. 7s, three No. 8s, one No. 9, a pair of No. 10s and 11s, and one each of No. 12, 13, 14, and 15.

The East Region alone was a mess. A 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15 seed advanced into the second round. 

 
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No upsets in second round

No upsets in second round
Damian Strohmeyer/Allsport/Getty Images

As topsy-turvy as the first round was, the second round was ... calm. There were zero upsets. None. All of the higher seeds won their games in the second round and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In fact, the Southeast Region saw no upsets in the first three rounds of the tournament.

Of course, that second round had some odd matchups. There was No. 12 Eastern Michigan facing No. 13 Penn State, No. 10 Temple up against No. 15 Richmond, and No. 11 UConn versus No. 14 Xavier. Only four second-round games were decided by less than eight points.

There were nine seed upsets in the first round. There were only seven for the rest of the tournament. 

 
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Sweet 16 coaches

Sweet 16 coaches
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Check out the stable of coaches who reached the Sweet 16 in 1991: Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Dean Smith, Jerry Tarkanian, John Chaney, Norm Richardson, Bobby Knight, Jim Calhoun, Rick Majerus, Lou Carnesecca, Lute Olson, Eddie Sutton, P.J. Carlesimo, and Wimp Sanderson.

Those coaches have accounted for 19 national championships and 10 Hall of Fame inductees. 

 
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Shawn Bradley blocks ten shots

Shawn Bradley blocks ten shots
Allsport-Getty Images

Shawn Bradley gained a lot of national attention for his height (7'6) and his ability to block shots. He set a freshman record in 1991 with 117 blocks (5.2 per game) for BYU and the Cougars win over Utah in the WAC championship game got them into the tournament. The 10th seeded BYU stifled Virginia in the first round in large part by Bradley's shot-blocking. He set a tournament record by blocking ten Cavaliers shots in the 61-48 victory. Bradley scored just 8 points and grabbed just 5 rebounds, but he was the star of the game.

Bradley got into foul trouble in their second-round loss to Arizona. That would prove to be his final college game as he would spend the next two years doing missionary work before declaring for the 1993 NBA Draft. 

 
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Lou Carnesecca's last run

Lou Carnesecca's last run
Bob Stowell/Getty Images

Lou Carnesecca coached St. John's for 24 seasons (with a break in the early 70s to coach in the ABA) and led them to the 1985 Final Four. In what would be his penultimate season, Carnesecca's Redmen finished second to Syracuse in the Big East and would enter the tournament as a 4-seed. St. John's, led by Malik Sealy and Robert Werdann, would dispose of Northern Illinois and Texas before taking on top seed Ohio State. St. John's would pummel the Buckeyes, 91-74, and advance to take on Duke. Lou's bunch ran out of gas and lost to Duke by 17, but it was a fun run that had New York buzzing.

Carnesecca would coach one more season (tying for first in the Big East before losing in the first round of the tournament) before retiring. 

 
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Steve Smith's buzzer beater to beat Green Bay

Steve Smith's buzzer beater to beat Green Bay
Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images

With Michigan State tied with Wisconsin-Green Bay at 58-58 in their first-round battle, Spartans guard Steve Smith dribbled to the top of the key and hit the game-winner as time expired. Smith scored the final eight points for Sparty. UWGB's leading scorer, Tony Bennett (yes, the current Virginia coach) struggled, hitting just 3 of 12 shots.

 
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Shaq gets no help

Shaq gets no help
Brad Messina/Allsport/Getty Images

SEC Player of the Year Shaquille O'Neal was an All-American, a future NBA superstar, and a constant on highlight shows. He was also alone. Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and Stanley Roberts left the program to go pro after the previous season. In 1991, Shaq's best teammates were Vernel Singleton and Mike Hansen. LSU was a 6-seed in the NCAA tournament but were crushed by No. 11 UConn. Shaq had 27 points, 16 rebounds, and 5 blocks but the rest of the Tigers struggled. They shot 13-of-53 from the field (28%) as LSU lost to UConn by 17.

O'Neal won only two tournament games in his three-year LSU career. 

 
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"Hello, friends": CBS broadcasts every game

"Hello, friends": CBS broadcasts every game
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The 1991 tournament was the first one that CBS showed the entire tournament. The first weekend and the Sweet 16 featured games that were of more local interest to the affiliates while all the games in the final three rounds were shown nationally. That would be the way the tournament would be televised for about 20 years before Turner Sports got involved. Before then, CBS would only show primetime games.

Jim Nantz would take over the reins as CBS's lead play-by-play announcer for the Final Four in 1991. Brent Musburger was fired by CBS during the 1990 Final Four and Nantz took on the responsibility of being paired with Billy Packer. Nantz will call his 30th Final Four this year.

Oh, and here is the "One Shining Moment" from that tournament. Enjoy!

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