In honor of the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament and one the best weeks of sports all year, I wanted to look back and remember the best Elite 8 game and possibly one of the craziest NCAA Tournament games of all time.
This game was so emotional for me, not only as a Kentucky fan, but also as a young sports fan. It was one of the very rare games that you knew was a timeless classic while it was still happening. The game I am speaking of is the March 27, 2005, matchup of Kentucky and Michigan State.
The setting: Austin, Texas. The stakes: a trip to the Final Four. The beer: I wouldn’t know; I was 9. I sat in my neighbor’s living room in my #10 Keith Bogans jersey that I converted into an Lukasz Obrzut kit since Bogans went pro. Surprisingly, I actually worried about what was going to happen in the game instead of worrying what a redshirt junior was going to wear.
This was Tubby Smith’s best team he had had since he won the title in 1998. Rajon Rondo, Kelenna Azubuike, Patrick Sparks, Chuck Hayes and Randolph Morris made up the starting line up. Probably the most impressive team Kentucky would have until John Calipari arrived. On the other side was Tom Izzo’s Michigan State squad. Consisting of future NBA players like Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and other names you haven’t heard in years, it easy to tell this was going to come down to the wire.
And that it did. It was back and forth all game. No team pulling too far ahead before the other came storming back. It was going to come down to one team making an unbelievable shot at the buzzer. And Kentucky did just that.
Not only did the shot feel like it took a couple years for it to finally fall, but the replay review afterwards took an eternity. I have cheered louder very few times in my life then when they finally made the right call and sent the game to overtime.
It took two OT periods to decide a winner. Michigan State ended up the winner, 94-88. This was the first heartbreak I experienced as a Kentucky fan and it was certainly not the last.
Of course, Michigan State did not go on to win the NCAA Championship, because they were and still are coached by Tom Izzo. Titles just aren’t his thing.