LINN: The Memorable 1992 NCAA Tournament

Written by Andrew Linn on March 15, 2022

Last week I wrote about the 1992 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. I will now focus on the 1992 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which is perhaps one of the most memorable tournaments in NCAA history. UNLV (a basketball powerhouse from the previous seasons) was on probation, while Kentucky was just coming off probation. Duke was the defending national champion and would be a number one seed, along with Kansas, UCLA, and Ohio State. Indiana would have been the Big Ten Champion (and most likely a number one seed) but a loss to Purdue in the final game of the regular season (since the Big Ten Conference did not have a conference tournament at the time) resulted in Ohio State being the Big Ten Champion. As a result, Indiana’s Coach Bobby Knight canceled the team’s banquet (thus upsetting the caterer) and brought a bullwhip to practice. Although the bullwhip was used more as a motivational tool instead of a form of punishment, the use of the bullwhip brought criticism from various individuals.

The tournament had its share of upsets. In the first round, New Mexico State defeated DePaul, Southwest Louisiana (later Louisiana-Lafayette, and then later Louisiana) defeated Oklahoma, and East Tennessee State defeated Arizona. The second round upsets consisted of UTEP defeating Kansas, Memphis State (now Memphis) defeating Arkansas, and Georgia Tech defeating USC. All three second-round upsets occurred in the Midwest, enabling Cincinnati to advance to the Final Four, where they lost to Michigan and its Fab Five (who had defeated Ohio State in the Elite Eight).

Meanwhile, Indiana advanced to the Elite Eight and defeated UCLA (whom they lost to during the regular season), thus advancing to the Final Four. But the most memorable game of the tournament was between Duke and Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Duke’s center Christian Laettner ignited controversy (and a comeback by the Wildcats) by stepping on Kentucky’s Aminu Timberlake after the latter had been knocked down during the second half. Laettner drew a technical foul, but was not ejected. The game would go into overtime, in which both teams exchanged the lead several times. With 7.8 seconds left and Duke leading 102-101, Kentucky’s Sean Woods scored to give Kentucky a 103-102 lead. Duke called timeout with 2.1 seconds left, and during the ensuing play, the Blue Devils’ Grant Hill threw the ball to Laettner who was standing at the opposite foul line. Laettner then turned and scored, thus giving Duke a 104-103 win.

There was some debate as to whether the Wildcats should have risked fouling Laettner and letting him shoot two free throws, thus giving them one last chance to win the game. But nevertheless, this game was among the most memorable games in the history of the NCAA.

Duke would go to defeat Indiana in the Final Four, and then defeat Michigan for its second straight national championship.

Thus, it was a tournament to remember.

Andrew Linn
Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to and Right Impulse Media.