The Best Years of Our Basketball Lives

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Barring some conference tournament craziness, the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia area figures to be only modestly represented in the upcoming NCAA hoop-a-thon. Old Dominion is in, and Georgetown, George Mason and Richmond almost certainly will be, but beyond that … . Virginia Tech, maybe?

Which got me thinking: Which years have been the best hereabouts for March Madness – and which have been the worst? After plunging into the NCAA tourney record book for a bit, here’s what I came up with:

(Note: I extended my research back as far as 1980, by which time Maryland, Georgetown and Virginia were all going strong.)

BEST YEARS

1984 – Georgetown and Virginia both made the Final Four, with Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas beating the “Phi Slama Jama” contingent from Houston in the championship game. (It was so long ago, friends, that Hakeem Olajuwon, the Cougars’ stud center, was still known as Akeem Olajuwon.) In addition, Maryland reached the Sweet 16 (losing by two to Illinois) and Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond both advanced to the second round.

2001 – Maryland finally got to the Final Four (and had Duke down by 22 in the semis before running out of gas). The Sweet 16 gave us a matchup between the Terps and Georgetown, who’d spent most of the previous three decades avoiding each other. Finally, Hampton, a 15-seed, stunned Iowa State in the first round. Also making the tournament: Virginia and George Mason.

(That was the year the tournament committee, in its cleverness, sent Maryland, Georgetown, Mason and Hampton to the Boise subregional – along with Lefty Driesell’s Georgia State Panthers. Needless to say, a fun time was had by all, including me.)

1995 – Virginia knocked off 1-seed Kansas to reach the Elite Eight (where Arkansas took them out), and Maryland and Georgetown made the Sweet 16. Other tourney teams: Old Dominion (upset 3-seed Villanova in the first round in triple overtime) and Mount St. Mary’s.

(Yeah, I could have picked 2002, when Maryland took the title, but we’re talking about Group Achievement here. Only one other area team made the NCAAs that year – Hampton, which was quickly eliminated.)

BEST STORIES

2006 – George Mason, an 11-seed, toppling Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut en route to the Final Four (and getting to play the first-seeded Huskies at Verizon Center in the East Region final). It doesn’t get any better than that.

1986 – Navy, with David Robinson, whipping Syracuse by 12 at the Carrier Dome on the way to the Elite Eight.

1993 – George Washington, just four years removed from a 1-27 season, advancing to its first and only Sweet 16 … and giving Michigan’s Fab 5 a very competitive game (Wolverines 72, Colonials 64). Bonus points if you remembered the name of GW coach Mike Jarvis’ ferocious 7-foot freshman, Yinka Dare.

MOST SCHOOLS MAKING IT

1994 (8) – Maryland (Sweet 16), Georgetown (2nd round), GW (2nd round), Virginia (2nd round), Navy, James Madison, Loyola (Md.), Liberty.

2007 (7) – Georgetown (Final Four, T-3), Maryland (2nd round), Virginia (2nd round), Virginia Tech (2nd round), VCU (2nd round), GW, ODU.

1986 (7) – Navy (Elite 8), Maryland (2nd round), ODU (2nd round), Georgetown, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Richmond.

BEST HYPERLOCAL REPRESENTATION

1994 and ’96 (4) – Maryland, Georgetown, GW and Navy all made it.

FEWEST SCHOOLS MAKING IT

2000 and ’03 (1) – The Terps were the only ones who got in.

Obviously, there’s some subjectivity involved here. If you disagree with my rankings, by all means post a comment.

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About the Author
Dan Daly

Dan Daly

Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of "The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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