If it’s late March, then we’re talking NCAA tournament basketball. We’re talking college hoops. In San Antonio, we have a history with the game, and so there are plenty of reasons to like the prospect of a Sweet 16 featuring Michigan-Villanova and Houston-Arizona, starting on Thursday night at the AT&T Center.
Here are my top 30 college basketball moments from an Alamo City fans’ historical perspective, in chronological order:
1960 – Former Edison High School standout Rudy Davalos plays point guard and leads the Southwest Texas State Bobcats to the NAIA title. Later, Davalos serves three years as an assistant coach with the Spurs before he is hired in 1976 as UTSA’s first athletic director.
1961 – St. Mary’s University freshman Herman ‘Buddy’ Meyer suits up to play his first game for the St. Mary’s Rattlers to begin a 41-year association with the school. Meyer made all-conference all four years and would later coach the team to its first national title.
March 8, 1969 – Trinity University is the first team from San Antonio to play in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers lose 81-66 to the Texas A&M Aggies in the first round of a 25-team event.
Jan. 24, 1970 – St. Mary’s University’s Doug Williams produces 24 points and 18 rebounds for the NAIA Rattlers, who defeat NCAA Division I Houston, 76-66, in San Antonio. The Alabama native and three-time All-American scored 2,246 points in his career, which remains as the school record.
1977 – Former Clemens High School and St. Mary’s star Robert Reid is selected on the second round of the NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets.
1978 – Former Burbank High School center Gilbert Salinas plays off the bench for a Notre Dame University team that reaches the NCAA Final Four.
March 1, 1980 – Texas A&M beats Arkansas, 52-50, for the Southwest Conference post-season title at HemisFair Arena. Aggies coach Shelby Metcalf wins a close one over Eddie Sutton of the Razorbacks.
Nov. 30, 1981 – The UTSA Roadrunners play their inaugural men’s game at HemisFair Arena and lose 71-42 to Sutton and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
1982 – UTSA signs Derrick Gervin, the younger brother of Spurs guard George Gervin. Turning pro after three years in college, Gervin leaves the Roadrunners with averages of 21.1 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Feb. 6, 1984 – UTSA, under coach Don Eddy, beats Meyer-coached St. Mary’s 69-61 in the first Mayor’s Challenge Cup at HemisFair Arena.
1986 – Former John Jay High School student Clarissa Davis, as a University of Texas freshman, leads the Longhorns to the NCAA Division I women’s basketball title. Arizona assistant coach Ken Burmeister takes over as head coach of the men’s basketball program at UTSA.
November 1987 – “A Dazzling Dude.” Former Fox Tech High School star Fennis Dembo, who played at the University of Wyoming, appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Dembo is recruited to Wyoming by Jim Brandenburg, a former high school coach in San Antonio. Dembo leads the Cowboys to two NCAA tournaments, scores more than 2,300 points in four years and is selected in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft.
March 18, 1988 – Led by coach Ken Burmeister and players such as Frank Hampton and Clarence McGee, the UTSA Roadrunners win the Trans America Athletic Conference championship in Daytona Beach, Florida, and compete in their first NCAA tournament game against Illinois. The Illini down the Roadrunners, who were in only their seventh year as a program, 81-72.
1989 – In the spring, the Buddy Meyer-coached Rattlers score a 61-58 victory over East Central, Okla., in the NAIA championship game at Kansas City, and guard Anthony Houston is a first-team All-American. In the fall, seven-foot center Shaquille O’Neal, from Cole High School, opens his career at LSU. O’Neal becomes a two-time All-American.
1993 – In a push led by businessman Bob Coleman, sports administrator Robert Marbut, Jr., and others, San Antonio for the first time is named as a host city for the NCAA Men’s Final Four. The NCAA says the event will be played in 1998 at the Alamodome.
1998 – Tubby Smith-coached Kentucky downs Rick Majerus-coached Utah, 78-69, in the first NCAA title game played in the city. In San Antonio’s first Final Four, Kentucky defeats Stanford, and Utah edges North Carolina in the semifinals.
1999 – UTSA reaches the NCAA tournament under Coach Tim Carter. The Roadrunners are led by freshman Devin Brown from West Campus High School.
2000 – Mexico native Eduardo Najera, who played at Cornerstone in San Antonio, averages 21.5 and 10.8 rebounds in his senior year at Oklahoma. He is named first-team, all-Big 12. As a junior in 1999, he leads the Sooners to the NCAA Sweet 16. Najera’s coach? Kelvin Sampson, now the head coach at Houston.
March 31, 2002 – With Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi in the backcourt, the Geno Auriemma-coached Connecticut Huskies beat Oklahoma 82-70 to win the title, capping a 39-0 season in the first NCAA women’s Final Four held at the Alamodome.
March/April, 2003 – Texas wins the South region title in San Antonio and then gets knocked off in the Final Four by Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse. Former Sam Houston High School standout Jeremy McNeil comes off the bench in 35 games for the Orange, who win the NCAA title with an 81-78 victory over Kansas at the Louisiana Superdome.
2004 – UTSA reaches the NCAA tournament for a second time under Carter. Connecticut, under Jim Calhoun, wins the title at the Final Four in the Alamodome.
2008 – The Rae Rippetoe-Blair coached UTSA women play in their first NCAA tournament. In the men’s tournament, Lanier High School-ex Orlando Mendez-Valdez leads 12th-seeded Western Kentucky to the Sweet 16, and the Kansas Jayhawks beat the Memphis Tigers to clinch the NCAA title at the Alamodome. Mario Chalmers is the hero, hitting a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
2009 – The UTSA women, under Rippetoe-Blair, play in their second NCAA tournament and take No. 2 seed Baylor to overtime.
2010 – San Antonio hosts the second NCAA women’s Final Four at the Alamodome. Paced by guard Maya Moore, Connecticut beats Stanford, 53-47, for the title.
2011 – In UTSA’s fourth trip to the Big Dance, the Brooks Thompson-led Roadrunners win their first NCAA game with a 70-61 victory over Alabama State. UTSA is ousted in the Round of 64 by the Ohio State Buckeyes, 75-46.
2017 – The University of the Incarnate Word completes its four-year transition from Division II and becomes eligible in the 2017-18 season to compete in both the Southland Conference and NCAA Division I tournaments.
April 2, 2018 – Villanova, with coach Jay Wright and players such as Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, downs Michigan for the NCAA men’s title at the Alamodome. The men’s Final Four was played in San Antonio for the fourth time.
April 7, 2019 – Baylor freshman NaLyssa Smith, from East Central High School, scores 14 points off the bench in an NCAA women’s title game victory over Notre Dame.
2021 – Paced by point guard Kiana Williams from Wagner High School, the Stanford women win the NCAA title in San Antonio, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith wins the Wade Trophy as the national Player of the Year and two UTSA men’s players become career 2,000-point scorers. Jhivvan Jackson, from Puerto Rico, finishes with 2,551 for the most points by a Latin American-born player in Division I history, while Keaton Wallace, from Richardson, scores 2,080.
March 16, 2022 – The Incarnate Word women, under coach Jeff Dow, win the Southland tournament with three victories in three days. They reach the NCAA tournament for the first time and lose to the Howard University Bison in the round of 68.