When the calendar turns to March, the country’s eye turns to college basketball and NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament, which over the years has been given the nickname “March Madness”. Since the tournament’s inception in 1939, hundreds of venues in 39 states across the country have hosted games during the tournament. Luckily for Massachusetts residents, the Commonwealth has made a habit of hosting March Madness. Legends of basketball such as Carmelo Anthony, John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Jim Boehiem have played on and coached tournament teams in Massachusetts, with some of basketball’s most memorable moments happening in the Bay State.
Worcester got the ball rolling in 1992, when the DCU Center (then the Worcester Centrum) hosted first and second round games. The DCU Center then hosted the first and second round games for a second time in 2005 before hanging up their March Madness shoes. The newly opened TD Garden in Boston followed Worcester’s path, hosting the first and second rounds in both 1999 and 2003. The facility then hosted the 2009 and 2012 East Regional which sent a team to the Final Four, and are set to host the event again in 2018. However, the biggest March Madness event hosted in Massachusetts occurred in 2006, when the Women’s Final Four was hosted in Boston at the TD Garden
1992 First & Second Rounds (Worcester)
March Madness in Massachusetts got off to a bang, as John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim and Pete Carrill brought their UMass, Kentucky, Syracuse, and Princeton team’s to the Worcester Centrum (now DCU Center). Kentucky and UMass advanced to the Sweet 16 by way of Worcester, and then faced off against each other, a game that resulted in a 87-77 win for the Wildcats. All four coaches were later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, MA. UMass was just beginning their run of dominance that ended in a Final Four berth four seasons later. Kentucky won the national championship four seasons later, while Boeheim still coaches today and Pete Carrill developed the “Princeton Offense” that became popular and is still used to this day. The collection of coaching talent that fans in Worcester saw back in March 1992 is at a level that some Final Four’s may not see. What a way to introduce Massachusetts to March Madness.
1999 First & Second Rounds (Boston)
Just four years after opening its doors, the Fleetcenter (now TD Garden) got its first taste of March Madness. Again, renowned coaches paced the sidelines as they tried to lead their teams to the Final Four. Future Hall of Famer John Chaney led his Temple squad to a surprising run to the Elite 8, which included a second-round upset win over a Bob Huggins coached Cincinnati squad that featured Kenyon Martin. In the first round, Huggins squad beat George Mason who was coached by Jim Larranga, who later led the Patriots to a shocking Final Four run and now coaches at Miami (FL) in the ACC. The Hurricanes appeared in Boston in 2003 as well, led by Leonard Hamilton where they defeated Hall of Famer Gene Keady’s Purdue squad to advance to the Sweet 16. In the first round, Purdue defeated Texas, who was coached by Rick Barnes, who saw great success in his career with the Longhorns.
2003 First & Second Rounds (Boston)
In 2003, Boston once again hosted the first and second rounds and saw the start of the one of the most impressive runs in tournament history. Fans saw Syracuse, led by freshman Carmelo Anthony, start their run to the only national championship in school history. While in Boston, the Orange picked up wins over Manhattan and Oklahoma State, the latter of which who was led by a future Hall of Famer in Eddie Sutton. Oklahoma State themselves defeated a Fran Dunphy-led Temple squad in the first round. Syracuse advanced to Albany for the regionals and eventually to New Orleans for the Final Four, where they defeated Kansas in the national championship game, capturing the only championship of Jim Boeheim’s storied career. The Boston games also saw Pittsburgh advance to the Sweet 16 by defeating Indiana in the second round.
2005 First & Second Rounds (Worcester)
At the conclusion of the the first and second rounds in Worcester in 2005, everyone in the nation already knew the moment that everyone would remember. In a first round upset by Vermont over Syracuse, TJ Sorrentine pulled up from at least 10 feet behind the three-point line and hit a huge overtime three-pointer, to which Gus Johnson screamed on the CBS broadcast, “HE HIT THAT ONE FROM THE PARKING LOT.” That clip is still playing in highlight reels every March and is forever a park of the lore of the tournament. And that was not even the biggest upset that Worcester saw that weekend. Defending champion UConn, led by Rudy Gay and Charlie Villaneuva, was beaten in the second round by NC State. The other team that survived Worcester was Michigan State, who defeated Vermont in the second round and then made a surprise run to the Final Four in St. Louis.
2006 Women’s Final Four (Boston)
One of the biggest sporting events that Boston has ever hosted took place April 2-4, 2006 at the TD Garden. On top of the semifinal and championship games for the Women’s Division I championship, a three-day fan festival and the annual coaches conference with numerous coaches from across the women’s basketball world. The event had an estimated economic impact of $25 million for the Boston area, which is the highest of any event that the state has hosted. Three ACC schools in Maryland, Duke and North Carolina were joined by LSU for the first time women’s tournament games held in Boston. In the semifinals, Maryland knocked off North Carolina while Duke defeated LSU, which set up an All-ACC championship game. The final game went to overtime, and a final three-point shot by Duke fell shot and allowed Maryland to capture their first title in school history.
2009 East Regional (Boston)
For the first time in Massachusetts history, the state hosted a game that decided who was headed to the Men’s Final Four. In 2009, a Big East match-up between Pittsburgh and Villanova in the Elite 8 was an instant classic. Both teams have won Sweet 16 games in Boston against Xavier and Duke respectively, and had already faced off two months earlier, which was a Wildcats win. Pittsburgh was led by Dejuan Blair, who had averaged a double-double and made the Panthers a huge favorite to make the Final Four. With the game tied at 76 with 5.5 seconds left, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds received a pass and went from half-court into the paint and scored on a runner with almost no time left to put Villanova back in the Final Four for the first time in 24 years. The game was known by many as the best game seen in the 2009 tournament, with lots of back and forth action throughout the game.
2012 East Regional (Boston)
The East Regional returned to the TD Garden just three years after Reynolds heroics for Villanova. The Big East was well represented once-again, with Syracuse and Cincinnati reaching the Sweet 16, joined by Big Ten foes Ohio State and Wisconsin. In the Sweet 16 match-ups, Syracuse narrowly edged out Wisconsin while Ohio State defeated Cincinnati, setting up a match-up between the #2 and #1 seeds in the East Region. While Syracuse was ranked in the top five for the entirety of the college basketball season, it was clear that it was Ohio State’s night, as Jared Sullinger had a monster game in Boston just three months before the Celtics drafted him in the first round. Sullinger won the Most Outstanding Player in the East Region.
2018 East Regional (Boston)
In March of 2018, Boston will continue to add to its rich tradition of hosting March Madness by hosting the East Regional for the third time in nine years. Four teams from around the country will come to Boston with hopes of advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio, to be held one week later.