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Streak stalled at 23, here are some March Madness memories

Updated April 3, 2020 - 7:30 pm

So it’s not the streaks of Joe DiMaggio at 56 or Cal Ripken Jr. at 2,632 or Brett Favre at 297.

It’s not even how many husbands Carole Baskin — “allegedly” — might feed to tigers in the Netflix documentary phenomenon “Tiger King.” After all, current beau Howard is still breathing and you never know when Shere Khan might need another snack.

Welcome to Final Four weekend. It will have come and gone without ever having taking place in Atlanta.

It’s also the first of 23 straight I won’t have attended and covered.

Where is Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago with a little divine intervention when I need it?

The NCAA Tournament rightly bowed to the coronavirus, meaning we were left to either invent fictitious brackets from this year’s crop of likely entrants or recall those of the past.

My colleague Adam Hill did a terrific job creating the former for the Review-Journal, even though the kid missed badly on eliminating Florida State in the first round.

I blame Starbucks. Hill is a walking, talking, breathing venti cold brew with a splash of coconut milk.

I’ve chosen the latter approach when it comes to the tournament, ranking three of my fondest Final Four memories from those 23 years.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the best teams or games.

Well, one might.

Feel free to send me your own memories via email or Twitter.

Nothing elicits creative banter like the madness.

Please go in

I could cover another 23 straight Final Fours and not be as crushed as in 2010. Writers need emotion, especially when it’s raw and spontaneous.

Oh, the tales we could have spun had Butler star Gordon Hayward made that shot.

It would have only been the greatest finish in college basketball (sports?) history.

I was several feet from Hayward when the half-court heave took flight, suspended in air like a floating sphere of hope for all who embrace the underdog … and despise Duke.

Man, it looked true the whole way.

Instead, Hayward’s prayer hit the backboard, banked off the rim, fell away and the Blue Devils prevailed 61-59.

And so with it died the magical scene promised beforehand by Butler players. Had they won a national title, they would have carried the championship trophy back through the streets of Indianapolis — all six glorious miles — to campus.

To, yes, Hinkle Fieldhouse.

To, yes, where the final scene of “Hoosiers” was filmed and Jimmy Chitwood made good on his promise.

The movie I have watched more than 100 times.

I would have blown deadline like crazy that night.

Might have even been worth it.

Simply, the best

Here we go again with subjective lists.

One such laughable poll recently named Michael Jordan the best college player of all time, which I’m sure made Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many others then ask His Airness to hold their beers.

The best team I have seen, live or otherwise?

Kentucky of 1996.

Nine names from it played in the NBA. Ron Mercer came off the bench. Nazr Mohammed was the 13th guy.

Wayne Turner averaged just 13 minutes.

The Wildcats won six NCAA games by an average of 21.5 points.

They had 86 in a regular-season half against Louisiana State. Eight. Six. At halftime.

Most teams couldn’t do that against air.

Kentucky suffocated opponents with waves of talent. Its press was devastating.

Rick Pitino, among the finest head coaches at any level in history, roamed the sidelines.

Tony Delk. Anthony Epps. Antoine Walker. Walter McCarty. Derek Anderson.

The Wildcats beat Syracuse 76-67 to claim the title that evening in East Rutherford, N.J.

I will never forget watching that Kentucky team. Superior in so many ways.

Arch-to-Jenkins

Funny what can be accomplished in 4.7 seconds.

Villanova coach Jay Wright said his team worked on the late-game play daily in practice, putting the ball in guard Ryan Arcidiacono’s hands and having him advance the length of a court.

Kris Jenkins was trailing and told Arcidiacono he would be open.

The junior was, because North Carolina amazingly failed to pick up and left a known outside scoring threat alone.

Isaiah Hicks tried helping and closing out, but it was too late. Jenkins had already stepped into his 3-pointer and let it fly for history.

The ball hit net, Villanova had beaten the Tar Heels 77-74 and 74,340 at NRG Stadium in Houston lost their collective minds.

One Shining Moment became One Legendary Shot, joining the likes of Keith Smart against Syracuse in 1987 and Mario Chalmers saving Kansas against Memphis in 2008 and Jordan against Georgetown in 1982.

Water cooler argument sort of stuff.

A lot of this is.

That’s what makes March Madness so incredible.

We miss thee, for sure.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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