Apr 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; NCAA basketball former player Christian Laettner speaks during the 75 years of March madness press conference in preparation for the Final Four of the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

What if: Christian Laettner never made "The Shot"

Earlier in the month, ESPN did a series of “What if” blogs centered around pivotal moments or past players. What if Pistol Pete had a 3-point line? What if Bob Knight hadn’t been fired?

However, ESPN only did a handful of topics, and given it’s the off-season, we can certainly elaborate on more topics. To kick off the series, we’ll use one of the greatest moments in college basketball history.

On March 28 of 1992 in The Spectrum in Philadelphia, Duke and Kentucky engaged in one of the greatest contests in college basketball history. It was capped off not by Sean Woods’ floater for the Wildcats, but by the miracle turn-around jumper by Christian Laettner.

However, what if Laettner’s shot didn’t fall? Earlier in the season, Duke attempted the same full-court play that ended with the ball swerving out of bounds and Duke losing. With bigger implications and on a much bigger stage, Hill’s pass was pin-point, but what if his pass pulled him away from the basket or was over his head? What if Rick Pitino voted to front Laettner instead of allowing him to catch and avoiding fouling him?

Aside from the legacies that would be affected – Mike Krzyzewski, Pitino, Laettner, etc. – the immediate aftermath would be interesting. The 1992 Duke team was one of the best in college history, and this upset would be one of the biggest in NCAA history.

For Kentucky, their next game would have been against local rivals Indiana, who had met earlier in the season with Kentucky winning by two in Indianapolis. Adding to the history of the rivalry would be the Final Four contest between the two sides. It certainly wouldn’t have been an easy road for the Wildcats into the title game.

Furthermore, Duke met the Fab 5 and Michigan in the championship game that year. Without the Blue Devils to hurdle, the Fab 5 would likely be the favorites, whether they face Indiana for the third time that season or Kentucky for the first time. Either way, a title for Michigan would have solidified the Fab 5 as one of the greatest teams in history.

For Duke, it would certainly be a missed opportunity, winning just one title in four years of Laettner and Bobby Hurley. While Laettner and Hurley were apart of the biggest upset in tournament history the previous year, they would fall victim as UNLV did.

Instead, Laettner hit the most cold-blooded shot in college basketball history, Kentucky fans still have public enemy #1, and Krzyzewski is still a four-time national champion.

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Tags: Christian Laettner Duke Kentucky

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