Rooting for the Rams and remembering St. Patrick’s Day, 1989

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The Ram mascot

If it’s March, get ready to get Rammed!

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Lamar Odom at URI, 1998–1999

This year, one of my schools, the Rhode Island Rams, have made the Madness. At one point ranked as high as # 17 nationally, our 7th seeded Rams will face Oklahoma in the Midwest Region.

My URI claim to basketball claim resides in Lamar Odom, former NBA star and former husband of Khloé Kardashian. Superbly talented, in 1997 Odom ran into academic trouble for questionable ACT scores at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas as well as a citation for soliciting prostitution following a Las Vegas police undercover operation.

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Lamar and Khloé

After a dismissal from UNLV, Odom was in search of a team.  Lamar visited URI and was personally interviewed by President Robert Carruthers.  An English professor and poet, Carruthers sat Odom down to write a three paragraph essay explaining why he should be accepted to URI.  Having read thousands of student essays in his career, Carruthers determined Odom’s paragraphs merited his acceptance as a non-matriculating student. Carruthers said three impromptu paragraphs can tell you what you need to know.

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At the Otter Lodge in Brighton, NCAA Championship game, April 6th, 2015. In vintage Pink Flamingo Wisconsin shirt. [Photo: Bucky Badger]

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3/15/18 Rhody beats Oklahoma in overtime, 83 -78, in first round of the tournament. Mr. Ram leads the cheer with the URI Ramettes.

And, lo and behold, the first day of school into my Writing 101 class walked Lamar.  The class exchanged meet-and-greets while I pondered a potential claim to fame:  the teacher who inspired Lamar Odom to become one of URI’s greatest players, an NBA star, to marry Khloé Kardashian — and to be an English major!

Alas, scheduling problems forced Lamar to switch to another section.  I remember Lamar as being tall. My then girlfriend from Manhattan thought Lamar was hot when we met him at the Coast Guard House‘s salad bar in Narragansett overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

My other school, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, did not make the tournament this year.  But three years ago led by Frank the Tank, my Badgers made it all the way to the championship game.

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Patrick Lynch’s free throws gave Brown a 21 – 20 lead over Syracuse in the 1986 NCAA tournament.

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New York Times, 3/13/18. On 3/14/18, Penn lost to Kansas 76 -60.

At the Otter Lodge on April 6th, 2015, about 30 members of the UW alumni club cheered as we lost a close one to Duke, 68 – 63 — and reminisced about rad Mad City and watching Michael Feldman’s radio show, Whatta Ya Know? on the Monona Terrace.

My other school, Brown University, faced Jim Boeheim’s # 1 seeded Syracuse in the opening round in 1986 at the Carrier Dome. We lost 101 – 52 but people forget we were actually ahead at 21 -20.

Speaking of # 1 vs. # 16, today is the day to revisit St. Patrick’s Day, 1989 in Providence, Rhode Island  (BELOW) when we almost had the greatest upset ever.  This year, I’ll be rooting for # 16 Pennsylvania vs. # 1 Kansas. The impressive Quakers are only 14 point underdogs.

One final shot at the greatest March Madness upset, Providence, St. Patricks Day, 1989

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The last shot

March 20, 2015

Everyone has their favorite March Madness memory. Mine was March 17th, 1989, watching live one of the greatest games in tournament history. David v. Goliath. #16 seed Princeton v. # 1 seed Georgetown. Well, sort of watching it.

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Sports Illustrated seems to give Wolff all the Princeton stories

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Thompson had to sweat it out that St. Patrick’s Day

Described by Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff as The Game That Saved March Madness, the game matched two legendary coaches: Princeton’s Pete Carrill — he of the back door pass and milking the clock — and Georgetown’s John Thompson, he of trademark white towel carried on his shoulder.

(Of note, Wolff ’75 is one of Brighton High School’s most accomplished alums, co-captain of the basketball team and award winning author. He also went to Princeton so may be biased.)

Before the game, Carrill had said, “I think we’re a billion-to-one to win the whole tournament,” adding, “To beat Georgetown, we’re only 450 million to one.”

But, as the game progressed it became clear the plucky Tigers — back door passing, taking nearly all 45 seconds of the shot clock, playing tough team defense — would take the Hoyas down to the wire. And maybe pull off something never done been before or since: a # 16 beating a # 1.

Having graduated from Brown, I was then living in Providence (the game was at the Civic Center). Princeton normally trounced Brown, although we had snuck into the tournament in 1986 only to be pounded by Syracuse 52 – 101. But that night I was rooting for our rival, the 450 million to 1 underdog.ticket

Initially, I listened on the radio. But as the game was tight and the announcer kept talking about history in the making, I decided to go to the Civic Center, sans ticket.

Not having a usable car, I had to walk, the whole time listening on my radio. It was a long walk and up in the air whether I would make the Civic Center in time.

When I got there, there was only maybe 30 seconds or less left on the clock. The game sold out, a group of people had gathered outside one of the entrances on the second level. The ushers would not let us in because another game was scheduled at 10:10!

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Characteristically, Carrill only played 7 men, 3 for the whole game. I don’t know why the starter Eastwick only played 6 minutes.

All we could see was the ceiling scoreboard reading 40 something to 40 something when I arrived. My radio did not work indoors; all we had to go on was the roar of the crowd and the scoreboard when it changed.

I distinctly remember home 50, away 49 with five seconds left. Then, one second left, still 50 – 49.

Suddenly, a huge roar at what must have been the last shot. The scoreboard stayed the same. Goliath had won, 50 – 49.

Later I learned what happened. Following a time out, Princeton inbounded the ball at mid-court. Bob Scrabis’ shot was blocked by Alonzo Mourning. After a scramble for the ball and with one second remaining, Princeton, still down by only one point, inbounded the ball from the sideline. Kit Mueller’s shot at the buzzer missed.

That was my one and only NCAA March Madness game.