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Kansas State vs. Xavier: One of tourney's all-time great games

Published March 26, 2010 6:32 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jacob Pullen is still young, but that doesn't mean he's not smart or savvy enough to put Thursday's classic between Kansas State and Xavier into historical perspective.

On the contrary, the Wildcats guard, when talking about the thrilling 101-96 double overtime win, already has an eye on the future and his place in college basketball lore.

"Thirty years from now, they'll still look back on this game and talk about it as one of the greatest games that's been played in the Sweet 16."

Indeed, it hasn't taken long for the country to debate just how good the game was. The answer in the eyes of most, of course, is that it's one of the best NCAA Tournament games ever played, and also one of the best to be played on Utah soil, right up there with Indiana State-Michigan State in 1979 and Gonzaga vs. Arizona in 2001.

"It was definitely the best game that I've ever been a part of," Kansas State forward Jamar Samuels said.

"It was the one game that I've played in that's had the most at stake," Wildcats forward Curtis Kelly said.

"It's a game that had two winners, but only one team got to move on," Xavier coach Chris Mack said.

In reflection, this was a game that had everything. There were the heart-stopping bombs by Jordan Crawford, Terrell Holloway and Jacob Pullen. There was the unheralded contributions of Jason Love. There were heroic shots, pressure free throws. CBS Sports even got it right by putting Gus Johnson on the game, and his legendary reputation for historic calls was proved to be well warranted.

"I really didn't get that much sleep last night," KSU forward Dominique Sutton said. "I couldn't sleep, you know, because there were so many people text messaging us and congratulating us. I didn't go to sleep until about 3, 3:30 a.m."

So what were some of the greatest games in the history of the tournament? Duke-Kentucky of 1992 is the game that all other games are measured by. In comparison, Xavier-Kansas State comes close but didn't have the game-winner that will forever be famous like Christian Laettner's. Other than that, there wasn't much lacking on Thursday night.

When a few years have gone by, Xavier-Kansas State should easily go down as one of the top 10 or so games in overall tournament history, and may go down as the greatest game in Sweet 16 history.

But even with the debating, one thing for sure is that the two teams played a classic that won't soon be forgotten around Salt Lake City.

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Five great NCAA Tournament games

Duke 104, Kentucky 103 (1992 East Region final) » Christian Laettner forever etched himself a place in tournament history with his turnaround jumper from the free-throw line. That the game went into overtime only makes the game better.

Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 (1985 championship game) » Villanova shoots 79 percent from the field, and pulls off what many feel is the greatest upset in tournament history.

Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64 (1979 championship game) » In the game that many credit with making the NCAA Tournament what it has become today, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird engage in a shootout in Salt Lake City that generates the largest television rating ever for a tournament title game.

UCLA 75, Missouri 74 (1995 West Region second round) » Known for his quickness, tiny Tyus Edney goes the length of the floor for the game-winning layup that sends the Bruins to the next round.

Duke 95, Maryland 84 (2001 national semifinal) » Duke overcomes a 22-point deficit, which goes down as the biggest comeback in Final Four history.