This weekend, right here in our own back yard over at NRG Stadium, four college basketball teams will take the floor to write the next chapter in the college basketball edition of the greatest reality TV show on earth — live sports.
We've been down this road before here in Houston, having hosted the Final Four just five years ago. However, unlike 2011, in which there were two Cinderella teams playing in the same semifinal (a death blow for ratings of half your Saturday event) and two souped down blue bloods in the other semifinal (4-seed and 3-seed UConn), the 2016 edition features two lively 2-seeds on one side (one with a national Player of the Year caliber star playing at a star level, Buddy Hield of Oklahoma) and a 1-seed versus a well known 10-seed on the other side.
In other words, this one should be tough to screw up. Now, that doesn't mean there won't be individual screw ups along the way. The Final Four brings out the best and the worst in these college kids. So if it happens to where a semifinal or, God forbid, the final game is swung on a massively boneheaded gaffe, let's not forget that there is plenty of historical company for that player or players.
Here are ten instances in Final Four history where defeat was snagged from the jaws of victory, where brains went numb, and America pointed and laughed....
10. Butler and UConn set basketball back decades (2011 Final)
We start with a stark reminder of just how tough the last Final Four in Houston was on the eyes. This leadoff item on the list isn't necessarily a singular gaffe by one player, but rather a collective effort by both teams, a 40 minute gaffe in which the halftime score was 22-19, and Butler shot under 19 percent FOR THE GAME on the way to a 53-41 loss. Relive the magic....
9. Syracuse's Derrick Coleman goes all "freshman" against IU (1987 Final)
Derrick Coleman was a freshman on the 1987 Syracuse team that included Rony Seikaly and Sherman Douglas, three eventually successful NBA players, against an Indiana team that was your standard Bobby Knight fare — scrappy, gritty sharpshooters with no NBA chops. Well, with Syracuse leading by one point, Coleman bricked the front end of a one-and-one, and then proceeded to let almost the entire five seconds remaining on the clock tick off after Keith Smart's winning shot before calling time out. Coleman would go on three years later to be the number one pick in the NBA Draft, but this was a bad minute of basketball for him early in his career....
8. Duke's Bobby Hurley has the runs in rout at hands of UNLV (1990 Final)
Bobby Hurley played in the 1990 Final with a horrific case of diarrhea, so he gets put on this list for eating whatever it is he ate before the most important game of his career to that point, a game Duke would lose by 30. In a solid redemption story, Duke would defeat UNLV in the semifinals the following season on their way to Coach K's first title....
7. Poor bastard picks exact 2016 Final Four but forgets to pick a winner
When it comes to things we care about just a little too much, our NCAA brackets certainly fit on that list. For me, I usually contend in the pools I'm in once every six or seven years, if that. And I feel that's fairly normal for most people, regardless of how much hoops they watch all year. That's what makes this story about this dude so sports-tragic:
Syracuse.com brings us the tale of James Kiki, a refugee from South Sudan now working at On Point For College, a non-profit dedicated to finding higher education opportunities for inner city youth. Kiki has correctly picked 48 of the 60 winners so far in the NCAA Tournament on his Yahoo! submitted bracket but did not select a winner in his championship game of Villanova-North Carolina.
Kiki said he's been watching the games without knowledge of what teams he picked, adding that he "does not want to think about" the bracket now knowing that he could have won prize money with the nation's best bracket.
"I haven't even thought about filling one out next year," Kiki told Syracuse.com. "If I do, I'm going to make sure everything is saved before I hit submit."
Plain and simple, I would want to kill myself if I were this guy.
6. Duke allows UConn 12-0 run in final three minutes (2004 Semifinal)
I was actually in attendance at this game, and the last three minutes were truly incredible to watch. In a game that Duke dominated for most of the afternoon, in part because of some bogus early foul calls on UConn's Emeka Okafor, they all of a sudden went brain dead with three minutes to go, began taking rushed jump shots, and allowed UConn to come back and win. The only silver lining for Duke fans is Chris Duhon's buzzer beater that made it a one point final score allowed Duke to cover the 1.5 spread....
5. Houston allows Lorenzo Charles to go unchecked (1983 Final)
Go back and watch the end of this game, and Hakeem Olajuwon (nee Akeem) is wandering in no man's land, allowing Lorenzo Charles to slam home the winning bucket off of the Derrick Whittenburg airball. I fully expect my house to get egged now, as I imply Olajuwon is at fault here...
4. Referee hands Michigan 1989 national title over Seton Hall (1989 Final)
This game was won on two foul shots by Rumeal Robinson on a foul call that is as phantom as it gets. In this bullet point, the gaffe committer is the referee who made this horrible call, almost like the fix was in....
3. Memphis free throw bricks allow Kansas to win title (2008 Final)
Free throws have always been an issue for John Calipari coached teams, and in 2008 it came back to bite him, as his team shot 1 for 5 from the line down the stretch, coached up a nine point lead, and went on to lose in overtime. I guess the one silver lining is that even if Memphis had won, the championship would've been redacted amid NCAA rules violations anyway....
2. Georgetown's Fred Brown throws ball right to UNC's James Worthy (1982 Final)
In one of the more star studded NCAA finals in history (two eventual number one overall picks plus the greatest player ever all played in the game), the final minute was decided when Georgetown's Fred Brown threw a pass to UNC's James Worthy, almost like he thought it was his teammate, to seal the deal for the Tar Heels....
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1. Michigan's Chris Webber calls timeout against UNC (1993 Final)
Pretty easy call here. Just watch the video, which is still painful to watch unless you're a UNC fan....
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