The Georgia Dome came down Monday.
That should have been worth a moment of reflection, for guys like Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo. For a lot of guys with national championship rings from Maryland and Florida and Louisville. A good many college basketball memories have been made beneath that roof.
There was also the gymnastics competition in the 1996 Olympics, when Kerri Strug became America’s sweetheart by landing a team gold medal-clinching vault on a bad ankle. And the tornado in 2008. The one that blew off part of the roof, forcing the SEC basketball tournament to finish at Georgia Tech.
But the NCAA tournament had its moments in there, too. So while the dust clears from the implosion, let's take a trip down memory lane.
Remember the time in the Georgia Dome . . .
Izzo coached Michigan State to its third consecutive Final Four in 2001? To get there, the Spartans had to beat Temple 69-62, the fifth and last time John Chaney fell in the Elite Eight. He never did see his Final Four dream. “It’s a tragedy,” Temple’s Quincy Wadley said that day, “we couldn’t do it for him.”
Remember when . .
Maryland won the national championship in 2002, slashing through heavyweight names, beating Kansas by nine in the semifinals and Indiana by 12 in the final? The Terrapins’ lineup was filled with seniors, including Juan Dixon, who led the way. The year before, Maryland had blown a 22-point lead over Duke in the Final Four, the biggest comeback in the history of the event. The Terrapins returned in 2002, having labored under the weight of one mission: Win it all to atone, or else. “It’s been tough at times,” coach Gary Williams said. “I think that’s why we won tonight. It made everybody a little tougher.”
Mighty Duke and all-everything J.J. Redick crashed in the 2006 Sweet 16 against LSU? It ended 62-54, the fewest points the Blue Devils had scored in a game in 10 years, with Redick missing 15 of his 18 shots. “You don’t win all the time,” Krzyzewski said that night in the Dome. “You lose, too.” LSU, a team that started the season a wobbly 8-5, beat Texas in overtime two days later to advance to a most unexpected Final Four. Coach John Brady likened his Tigers to the author of one of boxing’s greatest upsets, Buster Douglas: “We knocked out Mike Tyson.”
Remember when . . .
Florida made it back-to-back national championships in 2007, the last time any team has done it? All the Gator stars who won in 2006 had put off NBA plans to stick around for the repeat mission. “It’s what we came back to do,” Corey Bewer said. They polished off UCLA by 10 and Ohio State by nine on a weekend that felt more like a coronation than a Final Four, and then proclaimed themselves one of the best teams ever. “You can argue it, but you’ve got to put us up there,” Brewer said. “The numbers don’t lie.”
Kentucky plowed over Indiana and Baylor by 12 points each to win the regional, and move toward its appointed destiny in the 2012 Final Four? About two seconds after the Baylor game, the Wildcats were asked to discuss their Final Four opponent — their neighbors from Louisville. Kentucky would end up winning that Bluegrass bash, and then the championship game against Kansas. Like Delta flyers with a layover at the nearby Atlanta airport, the Wildcats had used the Georgia Dome for their connection.
And finally, remember when . . .
Louisville won the 2013 national championship, with strange plot twists all over the place?
The Cardinals’ most inspirational player was in street clothes, Kevin Ware having shattered his leg in a horrific injury in the regional.
Louisville spent nearly all the entire Final Four in comeback mode, trailing Wichita State by 12 points in the semifinals, and Michigan by 12 in the title game.
And the end, the Cardinals had to be saved twice by a sub, Luke Hancock, coming off the bench to score 20 and 22 points, good for Most Outstanding Player.
Quite the unlikely weekend — and the last one in the NCAA tournament history of the Georgia Dome.