Andy E. Lin was three rows behind the bench the day James Forrest launched the improbable heave that sent USC home.
In March of 1992, I was a sophomore at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. I had survived two years in the midwest after spending most of my life in Southern California. A friend's older sister worked for a TV network (I think it was Fox), and she had two extra tickets to the second round. As basketball fans, another friend (Joel) and I jumped on the chance to see a few games for free. We had a difficult time finding parking near the Bradley Center, so we ended up about 4-5 blocks away and already late for the first game. Despite the bitterly cold, snowy and icy conditions, we decided to make a run for it and sprinted through the bleak Milwaukee landscape to arrive at the warm arena awaiting us.
Our jaws dropped to the floor when we ushered to seats that were three rows behind the home team's bench. The first game was a premier match-up between Anfernee Hardaway's Memphis State team and the May-Day (Lee Mayberry-Todd Day) Arkansas Razorbacks. David Vaughn hit the game winner with 8 seconds left as the 6th seeded Tigers upset the 3rd seeded Razorbacks. But that was just a precursor of the events that would transpire soon after.
The 24-6 USC Trojans had perhaps their best regular season in history in 1992. The team was led by one Harold Miner, aka "Baby Jordan", who mesmerized the basketball world with his high-flying dunks and his strange way of cradling the ball like a baby before shooting free throws.
I was one of those that drank the Kool-Aide in all the "Baby Jordan" talk, and had religiously followed his exploits on the court since his first days at USC in 1989. I was willing to overlook his suspect perimeter shot and ball-handling skills, and focus on the raw talent and excitement he brought to the floor.
The 2nd seeded Trojans were heavy favorites against the 7th seeded Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Tech didn't have the star power of past teams with Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott, and Brian Oliver all now in the NBA. Despite this, Coach Bobby Cremins managed to put together a gritty young team (Jon Barry, Travis Best) who thrived under his leadership and frenetic energy.
The game was close throughout, as Miner was not his dominate self while facing double and triple teams almost every time he touched the ball. Cremins had drawn up a great pre-game strategy, bent on playing smart and not letting USC's best player get into a good offensive rhythm.
When Rodney Chatman hit a shot with 2 seconds left, it seemed like this was going to put an end to the nice story that was the plucky young Tech team. After a deflection at midcourt, 0.8 seconds remained on the clock. For what seemed like an eternity (at least more than 5 seconds), Tech finally inbounded the ball to James Forrest near the left side of the 3 point line. With one quick motion, James lifted a shot that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
I distinctly recall how wild the crowd went, with everyone jumping to their feet as James was mobbed by his teammates and his crazy coach. As people all around me stood up when the shot dropped, I remained in my chair with my head in my hands, shaking my head in utter disbelief and despair.
I had no idea how unlikely a shot this was. I found out later that James had only attempted three three-pointers all year, and that this would end up as his only make that season. I didn't care.... My team lost. Cinderella was able to dance into the Sweet 16. The long walk back to the car in the sub-freezing night did not help matters.
This particular game is as a perfect example of what makes the tournament great- a heavy underdog pulling out a huge upset with a buzzer beater by an unsung hero.
Looking back now, I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to experience March Madness up close and personal on that frigid evening in Milwaukee. I always reflect upon that game whenever the next Cinderella appears on my TV screen.