The 15 Greatest Moments in NCAA Tournament History
The 15 Greatest Moments in NCAA Tournament History
The greatest moments in NCAA Tournament don't need any words to describe them. You can see when they happen they are special moments beyond the realm of comprehension. Approaching the tournament's 76th year of competition, fans every year reminisce on the previous tournaments to decide which moments were the best. This is exactly what I will try to do here.
Last year, the Louisville Cardinals had their own "one shining moment" as the team rallied to win the National Championship after guard Kevin Ware broke his leg in the Elite Eight game, and two years prior the VCU Rams became the first team to go from the First Four to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.
75 years of the NCAA tournament can invoke so many memories for different people. Therefore, choosing only 15 of the greatest moments from thousands of games was difficult to do, but I attempted this feat anyway. The 76th tournament this March will have just as much intrigue as the previous 75 with plenty more opportunities to create moments and memories that will etched in the history books forever.
I considered every aspect of the tournament in my countdown. I included some of the biggest upsets in tournament history. I also included the memorable shots and games that are still remembered to this day. Finally, I chose some moments that did not impact the final scores of any games, but these moments are applicable to everyone with memories and historical occurrences that have set the landscape for today's college basketball.
Here now is my list of the top 15 NCAA Tournament moments from the past 75 years and the hundreds, if not even thousands of games that have occurred in the greatest tournament in sports.
15. Bob Huggins Embraces Da'Sean Butler At 2010 Final Four
This is not the typical moment that basketball pundits and fans will remember, but West Virginia coach Bob Huggins brought the human aspect to the game of college basketball.
During their 2010 national semifinal against Duke, star player Da'Sean Butler suffered a torn ACL after colliding with Duke's Brian Zoubek. Butler fell to the court in clear and excruciating pain, and he knew that his season and college career was over. Coach Huggins walked over to Butler, knelt by his side and whispered encouraging words to a player who was in need.
14. Richmond Becomes First No. 15 Seed To Beat A No. 2 Against Syracuse
There has yet to be a 16 seed to stun a No. 1 seed, but there have been plenty of close calls over the years. In 1991, the Richmond Spiders were the first No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in the tournament when they pulled off a 73-69 upset over Syracuse.
The Spiders had an eight-point lead at halftime and held off multiple runs by Syracuse in the second half to pull the biggest upset at the time. Since then, there have been six No. 15 seeds to beat No. 2 seeds, including three in the past two tournaments.
13. Hakim Warrick's Game-Winning Block vs. Kansas
Syracuse's 2003 title run is also known as Carmelo Anthony's only college season, but he might not have been a champion unless fellow teammate Hakim Warrick made a great defensive play.
Syracuse held a three-point lead over the Kansas Jayhawks in the final seconds of the 2003 National Championship game. With the Jayhawks trying to send the game to overtime, Warrick, on a great defensive play, blocked Michael Lee's last second three-point attempt to seal Syracuse's only national championship.
12. George Mason Reaches Final Four As A No. 11 Seed
Nobody had heard of the George Mason Patriots before the 2006 tournament. Even more were outraged when the Patriots made the tournament as an at-large team despite not winning their conference tournament. The Patriots proved everyone wrong.
During their run to the Final Four, George Mason defeated national powers Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut en route to a surprise Final Four. The Patriots' run fell short against the eventual champion Florida Gators, but their Cinderella run won't be forgotten anytime soon.
11. Keith Smart's Game-Winner vs. Syracuse
The Indiana Hoosiers returned to their glory days in 1987. With star guard Steve Alford shut down by the Syracuse Orangemen, Keith Smart scored 12 of the team's final 15 points and the game-winning jumper to give Bob Knight his third national championship.
The Hoosiers have not won a championship since that game.
10. Bo Kimble Makes Left-Handed Free Throw In Honor Of Hank Gathers
In the late 1980s, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers led one of the most potent offenses in NCAA history at Loyola Marymount. Both averaged more than 25 PPG, but their season ended tragically after Gathers collapsed and died during the 1990 West Coast Conference tournament.
During an NCAA tournament second-round matchup against the defending champion Michigan Wolverines, Kimble shot a free throw with his left hand to honor his fallen teammate and made it.
9. The Game Of Change
It is now called the "Game of Change." The 1963 game between Mississippi State and Loyola Illinois did not produce any individual memories, but the sport was changed forever three years before Texas Western.
During the Civil Rights era, the Bulldogs played outside the racially charged state of Mississippi and played Loyola under threats. Loyola would go on to win the national championship that year, but not without the help of Mississippi State.
8. Bill Walton's Perfect Performance vs. Memphis State
Center Bill Walton turned in the greatest individual performance in NCAA tournament history. During the end of the UCLA dynasty, Walton made 21-of-22 shots en route to a 44-point, 13-rebound effort against Memphis State in the 1973 title game.
Walton's performance sealed his place among college basketball's greatest players of all time. The Bruins have only won two national championships since the John Wooden years.
7. Mario Chalmers' Game-Tying 3-Pointer vs. Memphis
Kansas trailed the Memphis Tigers by nine points with barely over two minutes remaining in the 2008 title game. The Jayhawks battled back to within three late in the game, and after Derrick Rose split a pair of free throws, Kansas had a chance to tie with just 10 seconds remaining. Guard Sherron Collins made a great play while falling down, giving the ball to Mario Chalmers who in turn nailed a three-pointer to send the game to overtime.
Chalmers and the Jayhawks dominated Memphis in overtime with Chalmers being named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player.
6. Villanova Upsets Georgetown
The 1985 Villanova Wildcats came into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed. No one could have predicted that this team would win the entire tournament and defeat one of the greatest teams of all time in Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas.
The Wildcats played a perfect game, shooting 79 percent from the field and an incredible 9-for-10 in the second half. The Wildcats have not won a championship since that incredible upset.
5. NC State Upsets Houston
The NC State Wolfpack of 1983 became the dictionary definition of Cinderella teams. In the final month of the regular season, the Wolfpack had to be perfect just to ensure a tournament appearance. The team did just that and earned a No. 6 seed.
Playing in the championship game against the Houston Cougars of Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and "Phi Slama Jama," the Wolfpack won with a game-ending dunk by Lorenzo Charles to complete the greatest underdog run in NCAA tournament history.
4. Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird
The 1979 National Championship Game between Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans and Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores not only elevated the game of college basketball; it elevated the NBA as well. The Sycamores were looking to complete a perfect season against the best team in the nation in Johnson's Spartans.
Magic and Michigan State pulled away from Bird and Indiana State, winning 75-64. Both players would finally be put on the map after this historic matchup.
3. Texas Western Upsets Kentucky With Five Black Starters
The Texas Western Miners (now UTEP) won the 1966 national championship, marking the first time a team with five African-American players started in a title game. Against the all-white Kentucky Wildcats and legendary coach Adolph Rupp, the Wildcats were one of the premier programs in the nation and one of the last to integrate.
Texas Western and Don Haskins defeated the then 27-1 Wildcats 72-65. The film Glory Road was based off that team, and the entire team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
2. Michael Jordan's Game-Winner vs. Georgetown
Before Michael Jordan became the greatest player in NBA history, Jordan was a freshman on a loaded North Carolina squad that also featured NBA players James Worthy and Sam Perkins. Even with all this talent, the Tar Heels were heavy underdogs against Patrick Ewing, John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas.
With 15 seconds left and trailing by one, Jordan hit a baseline jumper to give the Tar Heels the lead, and eventually the Tar Heels would prevail by one with a 63-62 victory.
1. Christian Laettner's Game-Winner vs. Kentucky
In the greatest game in NCAA history, Christian Laettner and the Duke Blue Devils pulled off the greatest finish in tournament history. Down by one in overtime to the scrappy Kentucky Wildcats, Laettner received a full-court pass from Grant Hill, faded away and scored the winning basket with no time remaining.
The shot would turn Laettner into one of the greatest college basketball players of all time and cement the Blue Devils as a national powerhouse.