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Holding Court

When you think back to the three previous times the NCAA Tournament has hit HSBC Arena, you're instantly struck by plenty of images.

There's been a great run of Hall of Fame coaches, last-second shots, overtime thrillers, a future national championship team, sellout crowds and gobs of national media.

Look for more of the same this weekend, especially with Syracuse among the eight teams slated to be here. This is the NCAA's fourth trip to Buffalo in 11 years, having also put the city on the March Madness brackets in 2000, 2004 and 2007.

Here's a look back at some of the great moments and wacky ones in the first three visits.

>Feast or famine

We have six games here this weekend. History shows you should expect three doozies and three duds. In the 18 previous NCAA games played in HSBC Arena, four have gone to overtime and four others have been decided in regulation by five points or less.

Of the other 10 games, however, seven have been decided by 17 points or more.

>In the house

The top three crowds in Buffalo basketball history attended in 2000 and those figures won't be broken this weekend because organizers changed the layout in later years to accommodate better sightlines for fans and more seating for bands and media. So the record of 19,357 from session I in 2000 (Seton Hall-Oregon/Temple-Lafayette) will stand.

There were plenty of interesting folks in the stands. Nike Chairman Phil Knight was here in 2000, wearing his signature green and gold Oregon hat, and so was longtime former Providence coach and Big East founder Dave Gavitt. The Rev. Jerry Falwell, president of Liberty, was here in 2004 to watch his team lose to Saint Joseph's.

Angola native Christian Laettner, the former Duke star, watched his alma mater lose to VCU in 2007. Former UConn star and longtime NBA player Donyell Marshall had a more enjoyable trip here in 2004 as the Huskies beat Vermont and DePaul en route to the national championship.

>Best games

*Seton Hall 72, Oregon 71 (2000): In the very first game, played before a packed house on a Thursday afternoon, the 10th-seeded Pirates pulled out an overtime win on Shaheen Holloway's court-length drive and layup in the final second. As dramatic a way possible to open Larry Quinn's vision of Buffalo as an NCAA host.

*Virginia Commonwealth 79, Duke 77 (2007): The 11th-seeded Rams hand coach Mike Krzyzewski & Co. their first defeat in the first round since 1996 on guard Eric Maynor's jump shot with 1.8 seconds left.

*Pittsburgh 84, VCU 79 (2007): The third-seeded Panthers blew a 19-point lead in regulation but guard Levance Fields made sure there was no upset as he spearheaded the Panthers' overtime survival.

*Saint Joseph's 70, Texas Tech 65 (2004): The top-seeded Hawks used a 24-2 first-half run and got to the Sweet 16 before a rabid throng of maroon-clad fans that packed much of the 100 level.

*Seton Hall 67, Temple 65 (2000): The Pirates upset the No. 2 Owls and became the first team to win back-to-back overtime games in the NCAAs since 1980. Backup point guard Ty Shine takes over after Holloway leaves with an ankle sprain and scores a career-high 26 points, including the decisive three-pointer with 18.9 seconds left in overtime.

*Pepperdine 77, Indiana 57 (2000): An ugly game more notable to what it meant for the coaches. It was Bob Knight's last game at Indiana and propelled Jan van Breda Kolff into enough of a spotlight that St. Bonaventure hired him 14 months later. We know how that turned out.

>Best players and coaches

*Players: Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, Saint Joseph's; Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, UConn; Stephen Curry, Davidson; Samuel Dalembert, Seton Hall; Desmond Mason, Oklahoma State; Speedy Claxton, Hofstra.

*Coaches: Jim Calhoun, UConn (who left for the final few minutes of his team's 2004 win over DePaul because of indigestion); John Chaney, Temple; Bob Knight, Indiana/Texas Tech; Eddie Sutton, Oklahoma State; Mike Krzyzewski, Duke; Gary Williams, Maryland; Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's; Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh; Jay Wright, Hofstra (now at Villanova).

>In a book

Lafayette's 2000 trip to Buffalo was chronicled in "The Last Amateurs," a fascinating book about the Patriot League by John Feinstein, the Washington Post writer who wrote the best-selling "A Season on the Brink" about Bob Knight and Indiana.

Vignettes included the Leopards' game-day shoot around in Canisius' Koessler Center and coach Fran O'Hanlon's frustration with arena security, who wouldn't let him enter the court area without his pass. In the book, a frustrated O'Hanlon grumbles that no one would be asking the widely known Chaney for his pass. In an interview with The Buffalo News during the 2000 games, Feinstein said he loved his experience with the Lafayette team.

"I was at Lafayette the day after the New Hampshire primary, and the kids in the locker room were saying, 'Wow, did you really think [John] McCain was going to beat [George] Bush by that much?' " Feinstein said. "If I was in an ACC locker room, they wouldn't care about McCain or Bush unless they could shoot the three."

>In the Knightly news

Bob Knight was in the middle of the Neil Reed choking scandal and his days with Indiana were dwindling when he got here for his first-round game in 2000. But more memorable than the loss to Pepperdine was his rambling, 25-minute press conference the day before.

The NCAA and the media got big shots from Knight in what's become known among basketball writers as "The Canasta Speech." Some samples:

*"I don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say or do. In the time I've been coaching, I've probably done over a thousand things to motivate kids and teams. And I'll guarantee a lot of them I wouldn't want to talk about at a church social or a PTA meeting or a garden party."

*"We're not teaching kids how to play canasta. This is a game where kids get bloody noses and get hurt."

*"I've had regrets about the way I've treated my wife sometimes."

*"What's an unnamed source? Somebody, please tell me. If I said 65 percent of the people in this room had sexual relations with a sheep, would that be coming from an unnamed source?"

>Old home days

No player has had a better homecoming than East Aurora native Dave Mallon, who was a key reserve for Saint Joseph's in 2004. Mallon's father met him at the airport when the Hawks hit town in a driving snowstorm and the player first thought Dad might put him to work before his team met Liberty.

"It's Buffalo and the snow just keeps coming down and I like that," Mallon said. "I kind of miss seeing it come down all the time out the window like it does here. But as soon as I got in, I was thinking, 'You know, he's going to want to take me home and shovel that driveway.' "

Mr. Mallon had no such thoughts. Instead, he was able to watch his son hit a key three-pointer to spark the big run against Texas Tech.

"It's the play that really got us going," said national player of the year Jameer Nelson. "Everyone wants to play great basketball. But with Dave being at home, making that shot had to be special. I'm happy for him and his family."

"It was a dream come true before, just being able to play in the NCAAs in my hometown," Mallon said. "But I never imagined this. It's an incredible feeling."

When Seton Hall upset Temple in overtime in 2000, the Pirates' Ty Shine had plenty of Buffalo-based support. Even though he was from Augusta, Ga., he had nine family members in the stands from Buffalo and Niagara Falls, most of whom had never seen him play.

Vermont coach Tom Brennan -- who lost out on the Canisius job to John Beilein in 1992 -- was thrilled to come to his old 1980s haunt in 2004 even though he regularly got pounded here by Canisius and Niagara.

Said Brennan: "This is a really great place. You got the snow and the nastiness to deal with, but other than that, I've always loved coming here. You got the Anchor Bar, thousands of great joints, Elmwood Avenue and Chippewa Street.

"Back in the day when I was running around, this was a very good place to go. Now I'm in my room getting room service. I'm not going out anywhere, but the memories will linger forever."

>They said it at HSBC

Temple coach John Chaney on finding good players in 2000: "Knowledge is everything. When I talk about teeth in the stomach, it means the kids just chew up the problems and don't get indigestion. Being stubborn and stupid is the worst mixture you can have. Anytime I run across a guy that's stubborn and stupid, it's 'See ya later man, gotta go.' I'm serious. You'll never end stupidity. Never."

*

"Always a bridesmaid. There's a lot of good bridesmaids, too." -- More Chaney, after his team's upset loss to Seton Hall in 2000.

*

"When we first got here, there wasn't more than two Pepperdine fans -- our [athletic director] and his wife. By today, three days later, half the building is chanting for us and they know some of the players." -- Pepperdine senior guard Tezale Archie after his team's 2000 loss to Oklahoma State that followed its upset of Indiana.

*

Knight after the loss to Pepperdine: "We just got beat badly. We just got pounded. They played really well."

*

Seton Hall's Holloway, after his court-length drive and winning layup in overtime beat Oregon in the 2000 opener: "Growing up as a little kid, you watch the NCAA Tournament and see people doing stuff like this and you say to yourself 'One day I want to be a part of that.' "

*

"To go to the Sweet 16, I'd beat a team coached by Homer Simpson." -- Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, when asked in 2004 how significant it was to beat Knight-coached Texas Tech.

*

"I had my camera snapping and we had a snowball fight. It was nice." -- Texas Tech forward Andre Emmett, recounting his team's visit to Niagara Falls the day before its first-round win over Charlotte.

*

"I'm so glad that the outcome of this replaces the outcome of the last game I coached in Buffalo." -- Knight after the Charlotte win, referring to the Indiana-Pepperdine debacle of 2000.

*

"Xavier I'm familiar with. The second name I'm not really that familiar with. Does he have something to do with basketball?" Martelli, when asked if Billy Packer's trashing of his team was unfair after a 2004 loss to Xavier.

>Around the rim

*On March 16, 2000, the day of the first NCAA games in the building, the facility's name was changed from Marine Midland Arena to HSBC Arena.

*Buffalo became the first site to play both the Canadian and United States national anthems before each session.

*Oklahoma State point guard Doug Gottlieb, now an ESPN analyst, had nine assists in his team's 2000 win over Pepperdine.

*DePaul and Dayton combined to go just 35 of 68 at the line in their 2004 double-overtime struggle. The teams combined to miss 10 straight at one point over the two overtimes, drawing loud boos from the stragglers left in a post-midnight crowd.

***

The NCAAs at HSBC

» FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2000

East Regional: 10-Seton Hall d. 7-Oregon, 72-71 OT, 2-Temple d. 15-Lafayette, 73-47, 3-Okla State d. 14-Hofstra, 86-66,
11-Pepperdine d. 6-Indiana, 77-57

Sunday, March 19: 3-Okla State d. 11-Pepperdine, 75-67, 10-Seton Hall d. 2-Temple, 67-65 OT

» THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 2004

East Rutherford Regional: 8-Texas Tech d. 9-Charlotte, 76-73, 1-Saint Joseph's d. 16-Liberty, 82-63

Phoenix Regional: 2-UConn d. 15-Vermont, 70-53, 7-DePaul d. 10-Dayton, 76-69 (2 OT)

SATURDAY, MARCH 20

East Rutherford Regional: 1-Saint Joseph's d. 8-Texas Tech, 70-65

Phoenix Regional: 2-UConn d. 7-DePaul, 72-55

» THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2007

St.Louis Regional: 4-Maryland d. 13-Davidson, 82-70, 5-Butler d. 12-Old Dominion, 57-46

San Jose Regional: 11-VCU d. 6-Duke, 79-77, 3-Pittsburgh d. 14-Wright State, 79-58

SATURDAY, MARCH 17

St.Louis Regional: 5-Butler d. 4-Maryland, 62-59

San Jose Regional: 3-Pittsburgh d. 11-VCU, 84-79 OT

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