Tyrone Hill, Derek Strong spark Xavier to Sweet Sixteen
Before Xavier University made its run of two Elite Eight appearances and another Sweet 16 run last decade, the tandem of Tyrone Hill and Derek Strong helped transform the Musketeers from a perennial first-round loser in the NCAA Tournament into a Sweet 16 appearance in 1990. In their two previous NCAA appearances in 1988 and 1989, the Musketeers lost to eventual national champions Kansas and Michigan in the first round respectively.
Captured in this 1993 Topps Stadium Club is part of the foundation of a college basketball program that is now one of the nation’s top programs with Hill battling Strong for a rebound in the NBA.
Heading into the 1990 tourney, the Muskies earned a Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular season (MCC, now the Horizon League) title. This time they grabbed the sixth seed in the Midwest Region. Sent to the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Xavier downed Kansas State 87-79. Just a year earlier, at the same venue, Pete Gillen’s club upset fourth seeded Missouri 70-69.
Behind the two towering forwards, Xavier upset third seeded Georgetown University, led by Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo 74-71, to make it out of the tournament’s first weekend for the first time in program history. Xavier led by 16 points at halftime, but had to hold off Mourning and the Hoyas. Strong led the way for Xavier with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Jumpin’ Jamal Walker added 15 points and nine assists and Hill contributed 13 points.
The unprecedented run helped Hill, a Cincinnati native, become Xavier’s first NBA Lottery pick just a few months later when he was selected with the 11th pick in the 1990 draft by the Golden State Warriors. Hill spent 14 seasons in the NBA and was an all-star selection in 1995 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Strong was also selected in the same draft going in the second round to the Philadelphia 76ers. However it would take Strong another year before he final latched onto an NBA roster. He went on to spend 10 seasons in the league.
Xavier’s roster also included freshman Aaron Williams who went on to play 14 seasons in the NBA.
This voyage into the Sweet Sixteen helped propel Xavier into the national spotlight, the Atlantic 10 Conference and a much brighter future in March. Prior to 1990, the Muskies was just 1-6 in the NCAA tournament. Since this memorable run 20 years ago, Xavier is 16-14 in the tournament and has advanced to at least the second round in 10 of its last 14 NCAA Tournament appearances.