The NCAA Final Four returns to Atlanta for a fifth time in April 2020.
The April 4 semifinals will be the first played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — the first time the Final Four is played in a venue that has never hosted a basketball game before. Seating capacity for the event will top 80,000, which could allow Atlanta to break the Final Four attendance record of 79,444 set at the 2014 semifinals in the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
The previous championships in Atlanta were played at the now-defunct Omni Coliseum (home of the Hawks) and Georgia Dome (home of the Falcons).
Here’s a look at what happened in previous Final Fours in Atlanta:
• Marquette, North Carolina, UNLV, UNC Charlotte
Marquette 51, UNC Charlotte 49
The 1977 semifinal games featured two of the closest matchups in NCAA history at the time.
Marquette’s Jerome Whitehead put up a layup at the buzzer to put away UNC Charlotte — one of the first “Cinderella” teams in tournament history — 51-49 in their semifinal matchup.
North Carolina 84, UNLV 83
The meeting between UNLV and North Carolina featured 15 eventual NBA players. Jerry Tarkanian’s squad played an aggressive game to narrow the lead to 2 with 7 seconds left, but the Tar Heels hit their free throws to escape with a 84-83 win to advance to the final.
Marquette 67, North Carolina 59
Marquette point guard Butch Lee — the tournament’s most outstanding player — scored 19 points in the Warriors’ come-from-behind 67-59 victory for the championship.
Marquette delivered a final win for its retiring head coach, Al McGuire, while denying North Carolina’s Dean Smith a fifth attempt (1967, ’68, ’69, ’72 and ’77) at a national crown.
UNLV defeated UNC Charlotte 106-94 in the consolation game.
• Maryland, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma
Indiana 74, Oklahoma 64
The second-seeded Sooners were the quicker, more athletic team, but had a lackluster defensive effort, allowing Indiana to shoot 52% from the field. The Hoosiers advanced with a 73-64 win behind the second-half effort of Jared Jeffries, who played all but one minute in the second half, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal.
Maryland 97, Kansas 88
The Kansas-Maryland matchup featured the 11th time two No. 1 seeds would meet in a semifinal. Kansas took control early and built a 13-2 lead. Maryland recovered and built a 20-point lead with 6:08 to play and used the final moments of the clash of titans to prevent their second-straight Final Four exit.
Guard Juan Dixon — Maryland’s all-time leading scorer — carried the Terps on his shoulders, scoring 33 points on 10-for-18 shooting in Maryland’s 97-88 semifinal win over Kansas.
Maryland 64, Indiana 52
Indiana’s Jeffries gave the Hoosiers their first lead of the game, 44-42 with 9:53 left. The Georgia Dome crowd of 53,406 erupted and began to buzz with the possibility of an upset, but the Hoosiers hit only three of 16 shots during the rest of the game.
The Terrapins ended the game on a 22–8 run to bring home the school’s first national title.
The two teams combined for 116 points — the lowest championship game point total in the shot-clock era.
• Florida, Ohio State, UCLA, Georgetown
Florida 76, UCLA 66
A rematch of the Final Four game a year before had a similar outcome with the Bruins overmatched — their best players in foul trouble early certainly didn’t help.
Led by Al Horford’s 17 rebounds, Florida outboarded UCLA 43-26. The Gators blocked six shots and altered countless more. Joakim Noah, supposedly Florida’s best player, finished with only eight points but had 11 rebounds and four blocks.
UCLA’s Arron Afflalo finished with 17 points, but they all came after the game was out of reach.
Ohio State 67, Georgetown 60
Ohio States’ 22nd straight win was hardly one of the Buckeyes’ most palpitating experiences. It required no last-second comeback. What it required was a 6-foot-1, 175-pound freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. leading Ohio State in scoring (15 points) with one turnover and six assists.
Florida 84, Ohio State 75
Florida’s entire starting lineup put the NBA on hold and came back for a chance at a repeat. It paid off.
Center Greg Oden, often the only viable option for Ohio State, went for 25 points with 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. The Buckeyes were hurt by outside shooting — 4-for-23 on 3-pointers compared to Florida’s 10-for-18 — and could not sustain any extended comeback.
Florida led the entire final 32 minutes, by 11 at the half and by 12 with 7:40 to play, when the Gators began protecting their lead, making 9 of 10 free throws as time wound down, never letting the Buckeyes closer than six. A very vocal Florida contingent among the boisterous crowd of 51,458 grew louder as seconds slipped away.
The Gators became the first team to go back-to-back since Duke in 1992 and the first ever to do it with the same starting five. The basketball team’s win matched that of the Gators football team, which blew out Ohio State 41-14 to win college football’s national title months earlier.
• Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse, Wichita State
Louisville 72, Wichita State 68
Wichita State had knocked off No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State on its way to its first Final Four since 1965, and the Shockers had a 12-point lead on Louisville with 13:35 to play, but top-seeded Louisville grinded it out. Luke Hancock scored 20 points off the bench and Tim Henderson sparked a second-half rally with a pair of monster 3s.
The Cardinals were inspired by the presence of Rockdale County guard Kevin Ware, who a week before was sidelined with a broken tibia during regional final.
Michigan 61, Syracuse 56
Trailing 58-56, the Orange had a chance to force overtime. But Brandon Triche was called for a foul when Jordan Morgan stepped in to take the charge with 19.2 seconds left.
After Jon Horford made only one of two free throws, Syracuse called timeout and set up a play. Curiously, the Orange didn’t attempt a tying 3-pointer. Instead, Trevor Cooney drove the lane looking to put up an easier shot. But the ball was swatted away, Michigan saved it from going out of bounds and Morgan wound up taking a long pass the other way.
He threw down a thunderous slam with just over a second remaining to cap the triumph.
Louisville 82, Michigan 76
Before a record crowd of 74,326 fans at the Georgia Dome, Pitino paced, barked and willed his Louisville team to a 82-76 win over Michigan to become the first coach in NCAA history to win titles at two schools.
The Cardinals came back from 12 points down in the first half on the standout play of Luke Hancock, then outlasted a tough Michigan team that kept it close for most of the second half. Louisville contained point guard Trey Burke (24 points on 7-for-11 shooting) just enough to keep the Wolverines from a late comeback.
Backup point guard Spike Albrecht scored 17 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the second. He had scored no more than seven points in a game for Michigan all season.
• OF NOTE: Louisville’s participation in the 2013 tournament was later vacated by the Committee on Infractions. An investigation revealed a former Louisville staff member arranged for strippers to entertain players and recruits during parties at an on-campus dorm, leaving several players ineligible.
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