Auburn and Texas Tech received much praise over the weekend after advancing to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
It’s been a few years ago - 36 to be exact - but when Georgia advanced to its one and only Final Four, it was in its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
Yes, Final Four in its first tournament appearance in 1983 - the season after Dominique Wilkins left for the NBA.
Coach Hugh Durham’s SEC Championship squad was the No. 4 seed in the East Region and escaped with a 56-54 win over VCU in its tournament opener. The Bulldogs then defeated No. 2 St. John’s 70-67 behind 27 points from senior Terry Fair and top-seed North Carolina 82-77 in the region final behind 20 points from junior James Banks.
“The day before we played North Carolina, Sam Perkins said he didn't know what conference Georgia was in. We kind of took it personally,” Banks recalled in an 2013 AJC article on the 30th anniversary of the Final Four team. “We decided on a self-imposed curfew. We said, "We're going to bed early." We didn't want anyone to disrespect our program.
Added Banks, “When we got back to Athens (from the regional site of Syracuse, N.Y.), there were 3,000 to 4,000 people welcoming us at the airport. It was crazy. I was almost in tears.”
Georgia’s dream run ended on April 2, 1983 with a 67-60 loss to N.C. State in Albuquerque, N.M. - the same N.C. State which upset heavily-favored Houston 54-52 two nights later in the 1983 championship game.
“We were happy just to be going to the Final Four. We were a good, solid team that had some luck,” Banks recalled. “We just soaked it all in out there. By the time we woke up and said we could win this thing, it was too late.”
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