Indianapolis is probably not on anyone’s top-ten list of tourist destinations, but it has its attractions. The annual Indy 500 motor race would certainly be one, and after that there’s… well, let’s see — the home of Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president of the United States. Oh, and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is right in the heart of downtown. Another reason to visit might be if you have relatives who live in the area.
Every once in a while the championship round — the Final Four — of the NCAA basketball tournament is played in Indianapolis, as is the case this year. That’s also what drew us there in 1997. The participating schools that year were North Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Arizona. Here are a few notes I made in my journal at the time…
The first of the two semifinal games, between Arizona and North Carolina, was a sloppily-played game; both teams shot just a little better than 30%. Mike Bibby, freshman guard for U of A, hit 6 three-pointers, and that carried the team to victory.
We were seated at mid-court on floor level, 38 rows up from the court. All around us were college coaches: Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Bill Frieder of Arizona State, Dr. Tom Davis of Iowa, Jerry Tarkanian of Fresno State, Gary Williams of Maryland, Bobby Cremins of Georgia Tech, and many others. Every head turned when the great Oscar Robertson walked in and sat across the aisle from us.
The second game was Kentucky vs. Minnesota. Clem Haskins, the Minnesota coach, got hit with a technical about 5 minutes into the second half. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino put in Derek Anderson to shoot the technicals. Anderson had been a pre-season All-American pick, but blew out a knee ligament in January, so was unable to play. He shot both free throws and was taken right out of the game, so he scored 2 points in 0 minutes as he ended his college career. Kentucky won, 78-69.
The championship game on Monday night was outstanding. It matched two teams of Wildcats, and they played like it. There were 16 ties and 18 lead changes. Kentucky hit two three-pointers in the last minute to tie the game and send it to overtime. Arizona did not make a field goal in the extra period, but sank 10 free throws. Arizona won 84-79 in what was widely praised as the most exciting championship game in recent memory. Arizona had come into the tournament as a number four seed. It became the first team in history to defeat three #1 seeds on the way to the championship: Kansas in the regional semifinal, North Carolina, and Kentucky. The Most Outstanding Player award was given to Miles Simon, who scored 23 in the semifinal game, and 30 in the championship.
After the game, we had drinks in the lobby of our hotel, which for some reason seemed to be filled with Kentucky fans. They were keeping the bartender busy.