1983 and 1984
The Houston Cougars were called Texas’ Tallest Fraternity, Phi Slama Jama, by Houston Post columnist Tommy Bonk, and the phrase went virile before virile was a buzzword the world of social social media.
Houston was one of the four No. seeds and beat Maryland, Memphis and Villanova to make it to Albuquerque and a show town with Louisville, who they dispatched 94-81 and were all but declared the national champs as only No. 6 seed North Carolina State was left.
The Wolfpack had literally squeaked into the Final Four with two one-point victories and another by two points. Luck smiled on them again when they beat No. 4 seed Georgia, but then they had to face the high flying Cougars that featured Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
It wasn’t learned until days later that on championship Monday Houston coach Guy Lewis got antsy in the hotel and took his team to The Pit and a cramped locker room more than three hours before the tip.
After sitting around looking at each other for more than a hour, Lewis installed an offense he called Loco-Motion. Until that night the Cougars had averaged more than 78 points per game in the tournament.
Against NC State they scored 52 points and Lorenzo Charles grabbed a long launch by Dereck Whittenburg that was short and slammed it home for a 54-52 win at the buzzer.
Olajuwon was the last player named MVP of the Final Four from a losing team and to this day the Cougars remain the best team I’ve ever seen lose the championship game.
The 1984 Final Four in Seattle was anti-climatic, although it didn’t rain the entire weekend and I got to hear Brent Musburger tell his cameraman to turn on the light to the camera so people would notice him when he walked through the hotel lobby.
Georgetown was great. The Hoyas eased by SMU in the tournanent opener and then waltzed to the Final Four where they blasted Kentucky and then beat Houston 84-75 and it wasn’t as close as the score. The Hoyas finished the season 34-3 and eventually had five players drafted by the NBA.
And I was convinced there is no better sporting event than the Final Four.
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