15 Greatest Individual Performances in NCAA Tournament History
The 15 Greatest Individual Performances In NCAA Tournament History
March Madness is quickly approaching, meaning that a new year means the potential for new heroes to make their mark on the biggest stage of the sport. The NCAA tournament gave the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, David Thompson and Patrick Ewing the first stepping stone in their Hall of Fame careers.
In the 76th installment of the NCAA tournament, there will be great individual players who make clutch plays for their respective teams, and will join the great players before them in March Madness lore.
Plenty of questions will come up in the following weeks. Will any of the fantastic freshmen (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle) carry their teams on their backs (ala Carmelo Anthony in 2003)? Will Doug McDermott improve his already impressive career resume with a great postseason? Will the Wichita State Shockers "shock" the world by continuing their quest for the first undefeated season in 30 years? These are just a few of the many. While the brackets have not been determined yet and teams are still fighting for their proverbial lives, now is a great time to reminisce on the greatest individual performances in NCAA tournament history.
Some individual performances certainly warrant strong consideration here, but in narrowing this list down to 15, I had to make some tough decisions and some great players and performances unfortunately could not make the cut. I narrowed my list down to the greatest individual game performances, not the greatest single-game moments that have stayed in our memory banks for quite some time. Some of the players in my 15 greatest performances are household names who even the casual fan can remember, while some have been lost in time. The following is my list of the top 15 greatest individual performances in NCAA tournament history.
15. Dave Corzine
Former NBA player Dave Corzine put his name on the map in college with an impressive performance in the tournament. In the Sweet 16 against the Louisville Cardinals, Corzine, playing for DePaul, put up stats that were too good for any video game.
Corzine led the Blue Demons to an 90-89 double-overtime victory, scoring 46 points, grabbing nine rebounds and most importantly, played every minute of the game. Corzine hit a hook shot with just six seconds remaining to seal the win.
14. Harold Arceneaux
Before current NBA star Damian Lillard became a household name at Weber State, the Wildcats had tournament success under Harold Arceneaux. In the 1999 first-round game, Arceneaux and the 14-seed Wildcats would face the third seeded and national power North Carolina Tar Heels.
Arceneaux did what no one anyone could do, beating the Tar Heels almost by himself. He ended up with 36 points, including 20 in the second half, and he also sank two free throws late to seal the upset.
13. Fennis Dembo
Former NBA player Fennis Dembo (34) only spent one season in the league with the Detroit Pistons, but Dembo made his name in the 1987 NCAA tournament. In the second round, Dembo and the Wyoming Cowboys would go head-to-head with Reggie Miller and the UCLA Bruins.
Dembo outscored and outplayed Miller as he led the Cowboys to a 78-68 victory. Dembo would record 41 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Miller would score 24 points, grab nine rebounds and dish out only one assist.
12. Bryce Drew
The 1998 NCAA tournament will mostly be remembered for Bryce Drew's buzzer-beater against Ole Miss, but Drew had an even better overall game than just his buzzer-beater.
Drew would score 22 points against the fourth-seeded Rebels, and with his game-winning three, the 13-seed Valparaiso Crusaders would launch their own Cinderella run and reached the Sweet 16.
11. Austin Carr
In 1970, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rode star scorer Austin Carr through three tournament games, two of which were losses. Carr would score 158 points in the Irish's three games. but his performance against Ohio makes this list.
Carr scored 61 of Notre Dame's 112 points on 25-for-44 shooting against the Bobcats. Carr would also score 61 against Kentucky and 45 against Iowa to complete this historic scoring run.
10. Andre Miller
Now a successful NBA player, Andre Miller had his coming out party in the NCAA tournament. As part of the Utah Utes, Miller led an upset of the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats, who also were the defending national champions on the way to the Utes playing in the championship game.
Miller recorded a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists in a 75-51 blowout. The Utes would ultimately lose by nine to Tubby Smith and the Kentucky Wildcats
9. Rumeal Robinson
Former Atlanta Hawk guard Rumeal Robinson could not repeat his college success into the pros, but his final college game was one of the most memorable in tournament history. Robinson along with future All-Star Glen Rice would lead the Michigan Wolverines to a title after their coach was fired before the tournament.
Against Seton Hall, the game would go into overtime. Trailing by one with time running out, Robinson was fouled, sank two free throws and gave Michigan the title. Robinson would finish with 21 points and 11 assists.
8. Keith Smart
The Bobby Knight teams in Indiana in the mid-to-late 1980s were known mostly for having guard Steve Alford, but an unheralded player helped Knight win his third title. With the Syracuse Orangemen shutting down Alford late in the game, Keith Smart turned into a tournament hero.
Smart scored 12 of the Hoosiers' last 15 points, including a game-winning jumper to give the Hoosiers a 74-73 victory in one of the most exciting title games in recent memory.
7. Stephen Curry
The Davidson Wildcats barely registered on the college basketball scene before or after Stephen Curry. After pulling an upset over Gonzaga, the Wildcats seemingly had no shot against second-seeded Georgetown and their star center Roy Hibbert.
Georgetown dominated Davidson early, building an 11-point halftime lead. Curry would dominate the rest of the way. The guard had 25 second-half points after being held to only five in the first as Davidson rallied from a 17-point deficit to win 74-70. The Wildcats would ultimately lose to the national champion Kansas Jayhawks by only two in the Elite Eight.
6. Bill Bradley
Former NBA champion and New York Knick Bill Bradley started his storied basketball career with the Princeton Tigers in the 1966 tournament. In the regional final against Providence, Bradley had one of the greatest games in tournament history.
Bradley went 14-for-20 from the field and a perfect 13-for-13 from the line, scoring 41 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out nine assists in a 109-69 rout of the Friars. The Tigers would lose to Michigan the next game, but in the consolation, Bradley only scored 58 against Wichita State, which was a tournament record at the time.
5. Larry Bird
The Indiana State Sycamores would not have made it to the historic 1979 National Championship game without a great performance from Larry Bird. The Sycamores were undefeated going into their Final Four matchup against DePaul, one of the greatest teams in that era.
Bird scored 35 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and had nine assists, all of which were needed in a close 76-74 win. The Sycamores would lose to Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans in the title game, but would not have made it there without Bird.
4. Danny Manning
It was a "Miracle" that the Kansas Jayhawks in 1988 were able to just reach the title game. Led by Danny Manning and coach Larry Brown, the Jayhawks would defeat rival Kansas State and powerhouse Duke to play in the final game against the high-powered Oklahoma Sooners.
In the title game against one of the best teams ever, Manning had a game for the ages, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds to lead the Jayhawks to an 83-79 victory. Manning's performance was one of the best in title game history.
3. Dwyane Wade
Not since 1977 and the days of Al McGuire had Marquette been on the map in terms of basketball. In 2003, Dwyane Wade revived this great program. Wade put on a performance that would translate to this current NBA success.
Against the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in the 2003 Regional Final, Wade was dominant, recording a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to single-handedly beat the Wildcats 83-69. The Golden Eagles would lost to Kansas in the Final Four, but Wade paved the way for his future Hall of Fame NBA career with the Miami Heat.
2. Christian Laettner
In the greatest NCAA tournament game of all-time, Duke forward Christian Laettner had a perfect game that will last the test of time. Against the Kentucky Wildcats, the Blue Devils would need all of Laettner's contributions to defeat a scrappy Kentucky team that had Jamal Mashburn.
Laettner was a perfect 10-for-10 in field-goal attempts and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, including his buzzer-beater in overtime that helped Duke beat Kentucky 104-103. After this performance, the Blue Devils would cruise to a national title, cementing their place among college basketball's greatest teams and solidifying Laettner as one of the greatest college players of all-time.
1. Bill Walton
The single greatest tournament performance in tournament history came in the biggest game of them all. In the 1973 National Championship game, UCLA center Bill Walton pulled off a near perfect game.
Against Memphis, Walton had 44 points on 21-for-22 shooting in an 87-66 rout. Walton also had 13 rebounds, cementing the greatest individual performance in NCAA tournament history.