I was ten and the "Orange Express was rolling." This was the oh-so familiar phrase, describing the wonderment that was the Number 1 college basketball team in the nation for most of 1980/81 season: The Oregon State Beavers. In the early 80s, the state of Oregon had no more than 3 million residents. We were small, often times provincial and proud. The rise of the Beavers to national prominence made the state's chest swell with pride. We were beating UCLA, St. Johns, and so many other traditional national powers with some ease.
Then came March. We--as a state--were ready to take that next step toward the grail of grails. A national championship and a sort of rarefied air that we Oregonians so seldom breathed. The Beavers were paired with Kansas State, a team that wore amusing, duo-tone lavender/purple-colored uniforms. The setting was Pauley Pavillion on the campus of UCLA. National TV. Dick Enberg. Our Beavers -- Steve Johnson, Ray Blume, Mark Radford, Charlie Sitton, and Mark Radford -- looked ready. At least they looked ready.
K-State, a clear underdog, was able to hang with the Beavers. As the game went on, the Beavers seemed to play with more and more timidity while the Wildcats became increasingly confident. This season, one which had been so cherished, was ended when future NBA star Rolando Blackman hit a fall away jumper with two seconds left to give the Wildcats a 62-60 win.
I cried. And when I was done crying, I cried some more. The Beavers had lost and our dreams were dashed. Next year. Wow. We love it when the underdog wins, unless we happen to be the team that they vanquish.
For video of the that fateful day for Beaver fans and glorious one for Wildcat fans, click on the box below:
The K-States of this year's tourney are Davidson, Western Kentucky and Villanova. They beat higher seeds, bucking the odds. These teams and their accomplishments make the tournament such a spectacle.
See below a list of works that are held at the Sacramento Public Library on the beauty that is the NCAA Basketball Tournament, click here.