While I know some Big Ten fans that might argue the “last great”, there’s no question that one of the greatest games in the history of college basketball took place on March 28, 1992, the final of the NCAA East Regional, Duke vs. Kentucky. The 17,848 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia and the millions watching on TV could say they saw the greatest game and the greatest shot in the history of college basketball. But it wasn’t just the final play of the game – an 80-foot inbounds pass from Grant Hill to Christian Laettner with 2.1 seconds left in overtime – that made Duke’s 104-103 victory so memorable. The Kentucky and Duke players and coaches arrived at that point from very different places, each with a unique story to tell.
In The Last Great Game , acclaimed ESPN columnist Gene Wojciechowski tells their stories in vivid detail, turning the game we think we remember into a drama filled with suspense, humor, revelations and reverberations. The cast alone is worth meeting again: Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Bobby Hurley, Jamal Mashburn, Christian Laettner, Sean Woods, Grant Hill, and Bobby Knight. Celebrating the game’s 20th anniversary, The Last Great Game isn’t a book just for Duke or Kentucky or even basketball fans. It’s a book for any reader who can appreciate that great moments in sports are the result of hard work, careful preparation, group psychology, and a little luck. (description from the publisher)
If you like basketball, then look for our March Madness display. Not only do we have books about college basketball and the final four, but also about the pro teams and individual biographies. There’s a new Rick Pitino title that should prove popular, Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0, but I also found a few other gems hidden in the stacks.
I’d never envisioned the author of Prince of Tides and Beach Music as being particularly athletic, but My Losing Season by Pat Conroy is his rendition of what happened on the court during his senior year of college at the Citadel. It reads more like a novel than a basketball book, and if you’ve liked his other works, you’ll like this, too. One unexpected tidbit is a reference to his father playing basketball at St. Ambrose, right here in Davenport, Iowa!
Counting Coup: A True Story of Honor and Basketball on the Little Big Horn, by Larry Colton, also reads like fiction. This story is a journalist’s peek into the profound effect of girls’ basketball on an impoverished Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Though he focuses on one especially talented player, Sharon LaForge, he also brings the reader along into the struggles of her family and her teammates as well.
With yesterday’s announcement of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets, March Madness can officially begin. Have you got your bracket filled out yet? Most newspaper sports sections print a bracket, but there are also many online sites that allow you to join or create a group. My nephew has created a group on Yahoo’s Basketball Tournament Pick’em for the family for several years; after the lineups are announced on Sunday, he sends an invitation to each of us with a password. We pick our winners by the deadline (tip-off of the first game on Thursday); Yahoo takes care of keeping track of points and who’s leading in the group (our family has been continually amused by the fact that my sister-in-law beats out her sports-loving husband and sons almost every year)
College basketball has inspired some excellent books that bring the color and drama of the game to you. John Feinstein has written some of the best including Season on the Brink about Indiana and coach Bobby Knight’s run through the Big Ten schedule, The Last Amateurs about Division I basketball and A March to Madness about the Atlantic Coast Conference. Other books worth reading include To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever by Will Blyth about the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, Cinderella: inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball by Michael Litos and The Men of March: a Season Inside the Lives of College Basketball Coaches by Brian Curtis.
And don’t forget, the womens NCAA Tournament is also being held beginning March 22 and concluding April 8. More information, including schedules and results for all collegiate championships can be found at NCAA.com.