In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
UConn stands as the undisputed kings and queens of March. As both programs with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. For the UConn Women, it is the third straight National Championship and fifth overall under coach Geno Auriemma. For the Men’s team, it is their second National Championship with coach Jim Calhoun leading the way. In the Final of the Men’s Tournament, the Huskies beat Georgia Tech 82-73 at the Alamodome.
UConn entered the Men’s Basketball Tournament as the #2 seed in Phoenix Regional at a 27-6 season. They reached the Sweet 16 thanks to a 70-53 win over Vermont and a 72-55 win over DePaul. In the Regional Semifinals, the Huskies beat Vanderbilt 73-53 before downing Alabama 87-71 in the Elite Eight. Georgia Tech meanwhile began the tournament as the #3 seed in the St. Louis Region after posting a 23-9 record under Paul Hewitt. The Yellow Jackets had to scrap just to get through the first weekend, beating Northern Iowa 65-60 and Boston College 57-54. In the Sweet 16, Georgia Tech beat Nevada 72-67 which was followed by a 79-71 win overtime win against Kansas in the Regional Final.
It had been an unusual season n Men’s Basketball. The team of the year was St. Joseph’s who did not lose a game under coach Phil Martelli until the final of the A-10 Tournament. The Eagles were still the #1 seed in East Rutherford Region. The Hawks began the tournament with an 82-63 win over Liberty before surviving scares over Texas Tech 70-65 and Wake Forest 84-80. They would go to meet Oklahoma State in the Regional Final. The Cowboys under Eddie Sutton went 27-3 on the season. They got to the Elite Eight with a 75-55 win over Eastern Washington a 70-53 win over Memphis and a 63-51 over Pittsburgh. In the Regional Final, the skill of Oklahoma State was too much for St. Joe’s to handle as they won the game 64-62 as Jameer Nelson was unable to hit on a final shot at the buzzer.
Duke was the lone #1 seed in the Final Four, getting the top seed after a 27-4 season. Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils started the tournament with a 96-61 win over Alabama State. It was followed by wins over Seton Hall (90-62), Illinois (72-62) before they took down Xavier 66-63 in the Regional Finals.
In one semifinal Georgia Tech beat Oklahoma State 67-65 to reach the first NCAA Basketball Championship Game. All eyes were on the second semifinal however, at the Alamodome in San Antonio as Duke and UConn were considered the best remaining teams. Duke led by Luol Deng and J.J. Reddick were in control most of the night, holding a 41-35 lead at the half. The Blue Devils looked to be well on their way to the championship game 75-67 with under three minutes left. Needing to get back in the game, the Huskies got a big three-point shot from Rashad Anderson Ben Gordon made it closer on the next possession with a pair of free throws. While Duke went ice cold, Emeka Okafor hit back-to-back buckets for the Huskies to give UConn their first lead since early in the game. The Blue Devils were unable to answer as Connecticut added to the lead at the free throw line. Chris Duhon would hit a late three, which was too late indeed as the Huskie won the game 79-78.
In the championship, it was clear from the start that UConn was the superior team as they jumped out a 21-12 lead midway through the first half on the power of a 10-0 behind the three-point shooting of Ben Gordon. The Huskies led at the half 41-26 and but in cruise the rest of the way, as they were never really in danger of losing the game as they won their second title 82-73.
Emeka Okafor would be named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, scoring a game-high 24 points with 15 rebounds, while Ben Gordon added 21. Will Bynum meanwhile was high man on Georgia Tech with 17 points.
As fans in Storrs, Connecticut celebrated the Men’s Basketball Championship 24 hours later, they became the first school to win both Men’s and Women’s Tournament in the same year. The UConn women’s team had won the last two tournaments and showed the ability to continue to dominate the sport as they again reached the final for a showdown with archrival Tennessee. The showdown would turn out to out to be all Huskies, as UConn won the game 70-61. A decade later in 2014 UConn repeated the Men’s and Women’s double glory.