I can't lose this game

By Doug Gorman

I'm not about to put the cart before the horse, but the second-round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament could bring back a flood of memories for me.

After all, my two favorite college basketball teams have always been the University of Louisville and Georgia Tech.

It was kind of a shocker for me when I looked at the bracket last Sunday night and realized the Jackets and Cardinals will probably meet in the second-round of the tournament.

At first, I wasn't happy with the possible match up. Although I moved away from Louisville nearly 25 years ago, and haven't followed the team too closely for almost 15 years, I've never lost my respect for the program, or its rich history.

When I moved to Atlanta in the 1980s, I jumped aboard the Georgia Tech bandwagon, catching the first wave of Yellow Jacket mania as former head coach Bobby Cremins turned the team from one of college basketball's biggest jokes into one of the nation's best teams.

I don't believe in fate, but the Cardinals could be destined to win the national championship again this year. After all, this is the silver anniversary of the Cardinals 1980 national championship.

Can it really be that long?

That was a great team, and Denny Crum was a great coach. Louisville finished 33-3 that season, but heading into the tournament I still didn't give the Cardinals a chance to win it all. When I filled out my bracket, I had the Cardinals exiting early. That decision cost me some much needed extra-credit points in my high school Algebra class because my teacher gave bonus points to anybody who picked the final four and the national champion.

Darrell Griffith remains one my favorite college basketball players. Griffith was the catalyst of that Cardinals' team. Griffith, who could leap out of the gym, was a human highlight film with his ability to dunk the basketball.

Griffth scored 2,333 career points long before the 3-point shot became part of the college basketball rule book. Derek Smith, who is tragically no longer with us, Jerry Eaves, and Rodney McCray were unbelievable scoring threats. Scooter McCray was hurt that season and didn't play, but also had an outstanding career with the Cardinals.

The Yellow Jackets caught my attention for the first time during 1984-85 season. Tech had never posted a winning ACC record, but broke through in that year, beating North Carolina in the ACC tournament championship game. Cremins was able to take players who weren't that highly recruited and turn them into all-America candidates. Tech fans should still be grateful Mark Price and John Salley came to town to help begin the Georgia Tech success story.

Like Griffith, Price remains one of my all-time favorite players. He looked like he could shoot the ball in his sleep.

The Yellow Jackets had a successful run during the 1980s, closing out the decade with a trip to the Final Four in 1989-90 season.

Boy, I loved that Final Four team too as Dennis Scott, Brian Oliver, and Kenny Anderson led Tech to a 28-7 season and a trip to Denver.

Cremins left Tech after 19 seasons and with 354 wins, and with a special place in the heart of Yellow Jacket fans.

Current coach Paul Hewitt is a great replacement. Last year's trip to the National championship game proves Hewitt has Tech in position to be a yearly contender for not just the ACC crown, but national titles. He is young, enthusiastic, and full of energy. When things didn't look so good midway through the season, Hewitt kept believing in his team.

He proved all of us skeptics wrong by the way the Yellow Jackets played in the ACC tournament. Two weeks ago, I thought Tech was headed to the NIT, now they might look like they could win it all.

As for a Tech-Louisville matchup, I guess either way I can't lose.

Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the daily. He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com