TULSA - The First Four.
It doesn't have the same ring as Elite Eight, but the Tulsa Golden Hurricane will take it nonetheless. TU hits the hardwood against Michigan Wednesday at approximately 8 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio in the NCAA Tournament's First Four round.
The Golden Hurricane's inclusion into the NCAA Tournament this year was a surprise, and to many across the basketball landscape, undeserving. The same can't be said of the 2000 Tulsa squad.
It's been 16 years since that team's magical run to the Elite Eight.
Unlike this year when TU was regarded as a team better suited for the NIT, the 2000 team was viewed as under-seeded when the tournament brackets were released and the #7 was next to their name. It didn't matter.
Here's a look back at that team led by Eric Coley, David Shelton, Dante Swanson, Marcus Hill, Brandon Kurtz and of course, head coach Bill Self.
FIRST ROUND - #7 TULSA vs #10 UNLV
Placed in the South Region, the Golden Hurricane traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to play the Runnin' Rebels.
This game was over at halftime with Tulsa taking a 22-point lead into the break. David Shelton came off the bench to lead the team with 21 points. Tulsa was too much for Vegas and blew them out by 27 points, 89-62.
SECOND ROUND - #7 TULSA vs #2 CINCINNATI
Cincinnati was ranked No. 1 for most of the season, but the Bearcats were seeded No. 2 in the South region after star forward Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament.
Not intimidated by Cincinnati's athleticism or its regular season record, Tulsa jumped out to a 31-24 halftime lead before expanding it into an eight-point victory, 69-61. TU had a balanced scoring attack with Eric Coley getting 16 points, David Shelton and Dante Swanson contributing 14 each and Tony Heard scoring 10.
SWEET SIXTEEN - #7 TULSA vs #3 MIAMI
The South regional semifinal and final rounds were played in Austin, Texas. Up first for the Golden Hurricane was, the Hurricanes. Miami was coached by former Oklahoma State head coach, Leonard Hamilton.
Tulsa brought the storm with them, as they again went into the break with a lead and built on it in the second half. When the scoreboard hit 00:00, TU had a nine-point victory, 80-71, and found themselves in unchartered waters - the Elite Eight. Eric Coley and Brandon Kurtz scored 17 points apiece and led five TU players in double figures.
ELITE EIGHT - #7 TULSA vs #8 NORTH CAROLINA
When the brackets were set, no one could have envisioned a #7 vs #8 regional final for the right to go to the Final Four. But that was the case in the South region. North Carolina was having a down year, by their standards, but put together a run in the NCAA in which they knocked off #9 Missouri, #1 Stanford and #4 Tennessee before facing TU. The Tar Heels were led by two future NBA first round picks, Joseph Forte and Brendan Haywood, and future NFL first round pick, Julius Peppers.
True to their NCAA post-season form, the Golden Hurricane led at halftime, 31-30, but foul trouble and UNC's size advantage would have an effect in the second stanza. David Shelton and Eric Coley had four fouls each midway through the second half and were held to 11 and five points below their season averages, respectively.
Carolina scored the first six points of the second half and built a 51-41 lead with just over five minutes left in the game. During a nine-minute stretch, TU was held to one field goal and was outscored 12-2 during the span.
Freshman Dante Swanson led Tulsa with 15 points and was crucial for the Golden Hurricane late in the game. He was a one-man show scoring seven points in the final two minutes which included a three-pointer that brought TU to within two points, 57-55. But that was as close as Tulsa would get. Final score, 59-55.
Tulsa finished the 1999-2000 season 32-5 and a school record for victories. They lost to Fresno St. three times, Oral Roberts and North Carolina - all by a combined 11 points.
Shortly after the tournament run, Bill Self left for Illinois, before becoming the head Jayhawk in Lawrence. Buzz Peterson would coach the Golden Hurricane to the NIT Championship title in 2001.
Tulsa returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2002, 2003 and 2014.
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