As March Madness is almost here, we take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the best viral moments in NCAA tournament history. Here is VTF’s take on Jimmer Fredette’s Sweet 16 team:
March is upon us, which means it is almost time for one of the best sports stretches of the year — March Madness. BYU has made several NCAA Tournaments over the years, but hasn’t had the success in March as other teams with a similar number of NCAA Tournament appearances. The Danny Ainge Elite 8 run is best NCAA Tournament run in BYU history, and Jimmer Fredette’s Sweet 16 team is the best BYU tournament performance in recent memory.
I wasn’t alive for the Danny Ainge run and was in my freshman year of college during Jimmer’s senior season. That BYU-San Diego State game was the best Marriott Center atmosphere I’ve ever seen, and that whole season in general was truly surreal. Jimmer was a nightly staple on SportsCenter and made appearances on shows such as PTI. I think BYU playing on obscure channels like The MTN, Versus, and CSTV (now CBS Sports Network) helped add to the aura of Jimmer since a lot of the country couldn’t watch him, but would see these insane highlight of Jimmer pulling up from 30 feet.
That whole season was absolutely wild, and I sometimes think what it would be like if it happened today with social media 11 years older. Twitter was still in its infancy, but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from tweeting that Jimmer was “the best scorer” in the world after his 43-point performance versus San Diego State and Kawhi Leonard put Jimmermania into another stratosphere.
Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world!!— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) January 27, 2011
Not only was Jimmer the best player in college basketball, he was also one of the most popular athletes. His NCAA Tournament run gave us two great Sports Illustrated covers. First, the tournament preview edition when he was front and center.
BYU didn’t have Brandon Davies the last month of the season, but BYU had a solid finish to wind up with a 3 seed and a matchup with Wofford in the first round. The Wofford game was kind of a ho-hum performance from BYU — BYU led by 4 at halftime and ended up winning 74-66 behind 32 points from Jimmer.
That set up a round of 32 matchup with Gonzaga, who had just pulled the upset over 6 seed St. John’s. Gonzaga was a sexy upset pick due to their bigger frontcourt of Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, and Kelly Olynyk. They had smashed the Johnnies on the boards 45-22 and many figured they’d to the same versus BYU’s shorthanded front line.
Gonzaga came up punching, but Jimmer quickly took over. Jimmer finished the game with 34 points on 7-12 shooting, including a barrage of shots from 25+ feet. Mark Few said after the game that he thought they did a good job defending Jimmer, but they just had no answer for him.
The highlights of that game are still bananas to me. At the time, BYU fans were just used to Jimmer hitting these insane shots. Looking back 11 years later, it’s hard to believe BYU had a guy like this on their roster.
That win gave BYU fans a false sense of hope of what would happen in the WCC. BYU would join the WCC a few months later, and most BYU fans expected battles with Gonzaga and many WCC titles. BYU has never won a WCC title, and the Zags have become arguably the best program in college basketball the past decade while BYU has become a team mostly on the bubble.
That win gave us another epic Sports Illustrated cover and eventually a heartbreaking OT loss to Florida in the Sweet 16.
I will go to my grave saying BYU would have won the national title had Brandon Davies not been suspended. We’ll always have Jimmer’s magical senior season and that Gonzaga performance, but BYU fans everywhere will always have a little “what if?”