Paul Pierce reminisces about his NCAA Tournament exit in '97

The Kansas Jayhawks logo might not be imprinted in the Final Four this weekend, but a Sweet 16 loss in 1997 is still burned inside former Celtics Captain Paul Pierce's memory. The veteran reflected on one of the worst losses of his career in the The Players Tribune.
We entered the 1997 NCAA tournament that year as the No. 1 overall seed and won our first two games convincingly. In the Sweet 16, we were set to face No. 4 Arizona. We had beaten them the previous season in the Sweet 16, so I felt like we were ready.

The 1997 Arizona Wildcats were led by a very talented backcourt of Jason Terry and Mike Bibby.

At one point, they had a 13 point lead on the Jayhawks, but two steals by Pierce on back-to-back possessions helped Kansas get it to within three with a minute left.
With 18 seconds left we were still down by three. I wanted the ball in that situation. I’ve always loved those moments, from the time that I was in high school to today as a 17-year NBA veteran. I found an open spot on the perimeter, but the ball never came to me and we missed our last shot. 

Pierce said he used to talk to Jason Terry about their classic matchup while playing together in Boston and Brooklyn, but each have very different feelings while strolling down memory lane.
Coming all the way back from a big deficit and me not having a crack at the final shot made it hurt that much worse. I just remember crying in the locker room after that game. All of us were crying — the entire team was completely devastated. To us, it was a wasted season.
Throughout my career I’ve had many losses, but all these years later, this is one that still stings.

Pierce ended up leaving Kansas a year later after his junior year, eventually drafted by the Celtics and the rest is history. As a Jayhawk, Pierce averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn / Allsport

Follow Tyler on Twitter: @TylerSully 
Read more of my work at here