Darn it. The Memphis Tigers were a few seconds and a few free throws away from their first National Championship but couldn’t nail it down. I never really became a Memphis fan when I was living there. When it comes to college sports, I pull for one set of Tigers. In the other games I pull, not necessarily for a team, but for the players or coaches.
I was pulling for Coach Cal in this one because, well I like the guy. I was also pulling for Memphis because of what a National Championship would mean to that city.
I lived and worked in Memphis 25 years after the Tigers lost to Bill Walton and UCLA and people were still talking about what that team did for the city. Still bragging about Larry Finch and Larry Kenon and Gene Bartow.
That 1973 runner-up finish still means a lot to Memphis. It put the city on the map for something other than the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior and the bathroom death of another King.
This loss will hurt. The game was won. Free throws would have put it out of reach. Make 1 and the city would have its first national championship ticker tape parade. One free throw might have been able to do more to unite the city than anything or anyone in the past 40 years.
Congratulations Memphis on a terrific season. Wish it would have ended with a win.