Chattanooga-(WDEF-TV) We’re supposed to be deep in March Madness at this point, but the coronavirus has stolen that joy. So why not relive some of the fun times with the ’97 Mocs. They’re still the only team in school history to make the Sweet 16. Guard Wes Moore and the Voice of the Mocs Jim Reynolds take us back to the Madness 23 years ago.
Said Moore:”We were definitely the Cinderella team.”
A Cinderella team with an NBA first round draft pick in Johnny Taylor.
So the Mocs were ready for the big stage in the Big Dance.
Said Moore:”For some reason whenever they pulled up Georgia, we all just kind of looked at each other like we had just watched them play in the SEC Tournament, and we were like. We knew we were pretty good, but we thought that it was a great draw that we definitely had a chance.”
Said Reynolds:”Georgia wasn’t huge. They were good. They were talented under Tubby Smith, but they weren’t just physically intimidating over the Mocs, so you thought UTC could compete and had a good chance.”
UTC beat Georgia in the first round, and Illinois in the second round.
Hello Sweet 16 baby.
Said Reynolds:”That’s when it became crazy time.”
Said Moore:”And then we fly home, and we get off the plane, and the airport is packed. It was a late flight. People just came out in droves to congratulate us. I mean we just kind of took over the airport. It was kind of a surreal scene.”
Said Reynolds:”All of a sudden, you are down to just 16 teams. That’s when all of a sudden USA Today is coming to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was doing a bunch of interviews and all that kind of stuff. Not as good as this one by the way.”
Of course not.
The Mocs were no longer media darlings.
They were the darlings of the dance.
Said Moore:”The game before us was Kansas-Arizona. That was like the game that everybody was talking about the Sweet 16. We walked in. There were like probably nine or ten minutes left in the second half. We went out to watch a little bit of the game just to kind of relax. It’s like everybody stopped watching that game, and everybody gave us a standing ovation.”
In the Sweet 16, the Mocs faced maybe another Cinderella bunch in Providence.
Said Moore:”Providence was the tenth seed, and in the round of 32 in Charlotte, which is in Duke’s backyard. They upset Duke. We were the last game of the Sweet 16. We were the late game on the second night of the Sweet 16, so when we tipped it up, there were only nine teams left. And we knew that going in, and we were like guys, this is. This is really special.
Providence prevailed 71-65, but the Mocs Madness memory lives on.
Said Reynolds:”Just when you step back and take a look, and people that have never watched Mocs athletics or cared about basketball. They were wrapped up in it. That was the definition of March Madness in 1997 no question.”