The Old School Sports Blog

100 Most Memorable March Madness Moments(25-1)

By ajfoss2613
Mar. 17, 2016

And now the conclusion of the 100 Most Memorable March Madness Moments, with the Top 25:

25. 1991-Duke Ends UNLV’s Undefeated Season

In the 1990 championship game, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels demolished the Duke Blue Devils 103-73 in the largest margin of victory in a NCAA title game.

The two teams meet again in the Final Four the following year with an even stronger UNLV team as they held a 34-0 record entering the game and had an average margin of victory of 26.7 points per game.

But the Blue Devils avenge their humiliating loss from the year before and stun the Rebels 79-77 as they go on 8-1 run in the final minutes of the game, with Christian Laettner hitting the game-winning free throws with 12 seconds left.

Two days later, Duke defeated Kansas to win their first national championship.

24. 2012-Two #15 Seeds Win on the Same Day

It had been 11 years since a #15 seed won a NCAA tournament game until #15 seed Norfolk State out of the West Region stunned the #2 seed Missouri Tigers 86-84 thanks to Kyle O'Quinn's 26 points and 14 rebounds.

It only took a few hours for the next #15 seed to win a NCAA tournament game as Lehigh, led by C.J McCollum’s 30 points, defeated the South Region’s #2 seed Duke Blue Devils 75-70.

It is the only time, as of 2016, that two #15 seeds won games in the same tournament.

Norfolk State(top) and Lehigh pulled off monster upsets as #15 seeds on the same day.

23. 2011-From First Four to Final Four

In 2011, the NCAA expanded the field to 68 teams and introduced “The First Four”, four games in Dayton, Ohio that featured the four lowest automatic-bid qualifiers and last four at-large teams.

One of those at-large teams were the VCU Rams, which was seen as a controversial pick by most experts.

But the Rams proved the experts wrong as they beat USC in their “First Four” game, then travel to Chicago where they knock off Georgetown and Purdue to move on the second weekend of the tournament where they go to San Antonio for the Southwest Regional.

In the Sweet 16, the Rams pull out a 72-71 overtime win over Florida State and then in the Elite Eight shock #1 seed Kansas 71-61 to earn a trip to the Final Four.

Head Coach Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams celebrate after defeating Kansas in the Southwest Regional Final to reach the Final Four.

22. 1981-Ainge’s March Through Atlanta

Down by one point with eight seconds remaining, BYU guard Danny Ainge takes an inbounds pass and drives the length of the court to put up a layup that goes over the outstretched hands of Orlando Woolridge and in for the game-winning basket with two seconds left.

Notre Dame is unable to get a shot off before the buzzer as the Cougars fans in the Omni in Atlanta go wild as BYU wins 51-50 to earn a trip to the Elite Eight.

21. 1995-Edney’s Drive

In a play reminiscent of Ainge’s buzzer beater against Notre Dame in 1981, UCLA guard Tyus Edney takes an inbounds pass with 4.8 seconds left and dashes down the court until he puts up a scoop shot that bounces off the backboard and in the hoop for the game-winner as time expires to allow the Bruins to escape with a second round 75-74 victory against the Missouri Tigers.

Edney’s game-winner propels UCLA to their first national championship in 20 years.

20. 1990-It’s Late, It’s Great, It’s Tate

That was the headline in the Hartford Courant the day after Uconn’s Tate George made an improbable buzzer beater against Clemson in the Sweet 16.

With exactly one second left on the clock, Scott Burrell fired a full court pass to George, who caught the pass, turned and fired a 15-footer that went in at the buzzer to give the Huskies a 71-70 victory and send them to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

Ironically in the Elite Eight, UConn would lose on a buzzer beater, thanks to Christian Laettner(see moment 31).

19. 1998-Pacer

Down 69-67 with 2.5 seconds left and the ball underneath their basket, #13 seed Valparaiso pulls off a shocking play to stun #4 Ole Miss.

The play known as “Pacer” has Jaime Sykes inbounds the pass and throw a half court pass to Bill Jenkins, who catches the pass, then lobs it Bryce Drew, son of head coach Homer Drew, who drills a 23-foot 3-pointer as time runs out to give the Crusaders a 70-69 win on one of the most memorable buzzer beaters in NCAA tournament history.

18. 1974-NC State Ends UCLA’s Dominance

After seven straight national titles and 38 tournament wins in a row, the UCLA Bruins finally lose in the Tournament as they are knocked off by David Thompson and the N.C. State Wolfpack in the Final Four.

NC State came back from a 11-point deficit in the second half to force the game into overtime where both teams scored only two points, sending the game into a second overtime where the Bruins built a seemingly insurmountable seven point lead until the Wolfpack go on a 13-3 run, with Thompson hitting the go-ahead basket with 53 seconds left as NC State goes on to win the game 80-77 in what some experts consider to be the greatest national semifinal ever played.

Two days later, the Wolfpack defeat Marquette to win the school’s first national championship.

17. 1981-Three Buzzer Beaters in One Day

March 14, 1981 is seen as the birth of “March Madness” as two #1 seeds and the defending national champion went down with dramatic last-second shots.

The first buzzer beater comes courtesy of St. Joseph’s, the #9 seed in the Mideast Regional, as John Smith makes a layup with three seconds left to give the Hawks a 49-48 win over the #1 seed DePaul.

The second buzzer beater was the most shocking of them all as Arkansas’s U.S. Reed hits a shot from beyond halfcourt, giving the Razorbacks a 74-73 win over the defending champion Louisville Cardinals.

The third and final buzzer beater comes from Kansas State’s Ronaldo Blackmon as he hits a 16-foot jumper with two seconds left to give the Wildcats a 50-48 win over the West Region’s #1 seed, Oregon State.

16. 2008-Super Mario

The Memphis Tigers seemed to be on their way to winning their first national title as they held a 60-51 lead with 2:12 left in the game.

However, poor free throw shooting by the Tigers gave the Jayhawks a chance to tie the game as they trailed 63-60 with 10 seconds left in regulation.

That is when a falling down Sherron Collins fired a pass to Mario Chalmers, who hits a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left, to send the game into overtime.

Kansas carries the momentum of Chalmers’ shot as they score the first six points of the overtime period and go on to win the game 75-68 for the school’s first national title since “Danny & The Miracles” in 1988(see moment 32).

15. 1963-Loyola Denies Cincy’s Three-Peat

After defeating Mississippi State in the “Game of Change”(see moment 35), Loyola of Chicago made all the way to the championship game where they faced off with the two-time defending champion Cincinnati Bearcats.

It appeared that the Bearcats were on their way to becoming the first team to win three straight national championships as they held a 45-30 lead with 13:56 left in the second half.

But the Ramblers go on a 24-9 run over the final 13:56 with Jerry Harkness hitting a 12-foot jumper with four seconds to go to tie the game at 54 and send the game into overtime.

Then in the final seconds of overtime with the game tied at 58, Les Hunter took a shot from the foul line that bounced off the rim, only to have teammate Vic Rouse grab the rebound and put it back in for the game-winner as time expired, giving Loyola a 60-58 win and the national championship.

14. 1973-Walton’s Almost Perfect Performance

In arguably the greatest performance in NCAA Tournament history, UCLA center Bill Walton scores a championship game record 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting as the Bruins win their seventh straight national title by defeating the Memphis Tigers 87-66.

13. 1975-Wooden Goes out on Top

Following his team’s win 75-74 overtime win over Louisville in the national semifinals, UCLA head coach announced that the upcoming championship game with Kentucky would be his final game.

The Bruins send “The Wizard of Westwood” out in style with a 92-85 win , giving Wooden his 10th national championship in 12 years.

UCLA head coach John Wooden with the net around his neck following his team's win in his final game.

12. 1990-For Hank

Just days after the death of Hank Gathers, the Loyola Marymount Lions go to the NCAA Tournament where there face off with New Mexico State in a first round matchup in the West Regional.

With the Lions leading 64-50 five minutes into the second half, Bo Kimble is fouled and sent to the free throw line for two foul shots where he pays tribute to Gathers by shooting his first free throw left-handed, the way Hank shot his free throws.

The free throw is good and helps the Lions go on to a 111-92 win win over New Mexico State.

Kimble performed this gesture again in LMU’s second round game against the defending national champion Michigan Wolverines and makes the free throw again in the highest scoring game in NCAA Tournament history as the Lions win 149-115 to move on the Sweet 16.

Kimble does not get a chance to do his tribute against Alabama, but he doesn’t need to as the Lions knock off the Crimson Tide 62-60.

The Lions’ emotional run ends in the Elite Eight as they defeated by UNLV 131-101, but Kimble gets to pay tribute to Gathers one more time as he makes his first free throw left-handed, going 3-for-3 in the tournament.

11. 1987-The Smart Shot

After being benched in the second half of the 1987 title game for turnovers, Indiana guard Keith Smart comes back on the floor with a vengeance as he scores 12 of the Hoosiers’ last 15 points, including the final two points on 17-foot baseline jumper with five seconds left, that gives Indiana a 74-73 win over the Syracuse Orangemen and head coach Bob Knight his third national title.

10. 1993-Webber’s Timeout

With 20 seconds left and the Tar Heels leading 73-71 in the championship game, UNC’s Pat Sullivan misses a free throw that is rebounded by Michigan forward Chris Webber, his 11th of the game.

After getting away with a traveling violation, Webber races down the court into his cornered in front of the Michigan bench by two UNC players.

Webber signals for timeout with 11 seconds left, but the Wolverines are out of timeouts resulting in a technical foul and two free throws for the Tar Heels.

UNC’s Donald Williams sinks both free throws and then makes two more free throws to seal the 77-71 win for the Tar Heels and coach Dean Smith’s second national championship.

9. 2006-George Mason’s Run

It’s become the question asked before every NCAA Tournament: Who is going be to this year’s George Mason?

The question refers to the George Mason Patriots, who come out of the Colonial Athletic Association, to stun the college basketball world as they make all the way to the Final Four by beating powerhouses Michigan State and North Carolina in the first weekend to advance to the Sweet 16 in the East Region where they defeat fellow mid-major Wichita State, setting up a matchup with #1 seed UConn in the Elite 8.

The Patriots stun the heavily-favored Huskies 86-84 in overtime to become the 2nd double digit seed, (they were a #11 seed) to make all the way to the Final Four.

The Sports Illustrated cover after George Mason completed its shocking run to the Final Four.

8. 2010-A Matter of Inches

In 2010, Butler was that year’s George Mason, as they came out of the Horizon League to advance all the way to the national championship game where they faced off with Duke.

The Bulldogs play the Devils tough and have a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but Gordon Hayward misses a 15-foot fadeaway shot that is rebounded by Duke’s Brian Zoubek with his team leading 60-59 with 3.9 seconds left.

Zoubek makes the first free throw, but misses the second free throw on purpose, which is rebounded by Hayward, who dribbles it to half court where he fires a desperation that bounces off the backboard and then the front rim, barely going in the basket for what would have been the greatest game-winner in NCAA tournament history.

Instead, the Blue Devils escape with a 61-59 and Mike Krzyzewski's fourth national title.

7. 1985-The Perfect Upset

Most basketball experts thought a team would have to play a perfect game to beat Georgetown in 1985.

The Villanova Wildcats, the #8 seed out of the Southeast Regional, almost did that as they shot 22-of-28 from the field, including 9-of-10 in the second half(this was the last NCAA tournament game without a shot clock) and 22-of-27 from the free throw line as they stun the defending champion Hoyas 66-64 to become the lowest seed ever to win a national championship in the NCAA tournament.

6. 1982-Jordan’s Shot and Brown’s Pass

With his 7th team to reach the Final Four, North Carolina head coach Dean Smith finally wins his first national championship with one of the most memorable finishes in NCAA tournament history.

With 17 seconds left and the Tar Heels trailing 62-61 to the Georgetown Hoyas, a freshman by the name of Michael Jordan hits a 16-foot jumper that puts UNC ahead 63-62.

After Jordan’s jumper, Georgetown guard Fred Brown brings the ball up to the court, trying to set up a final shot for the Hoyas, but throws it to UNC’s James Worthy, which seals the victory and the title for the Tar Heels.

5. 1979-Magic vs. Bird

The 1979 National Championship Game was the most anticipated game in NCAA Tournament history as the Michigan State Spartans led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson faced with the undefeated Indiana State Sycamores led by player of the year Larry Bird.

40 million viewers tune in to see Johnson and the Spartans end the Sycamores’ dream of a perfect season by defeating Indiana State 75-64 as Johnson was the game’s leading scorer with 24 points while Bird scored 19 on 7-of-21 shooting.

While the game might not have lived up to the hype, it created new interest in the NCAA tournament and also began one of the greatest individual rivalries in all of sports as Johnson would be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and Bird by the Boston Celtics.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in a pregame meeting before their historic meeting in the 1979 national championship game.

4. 1966-Glory Road

Texas Western(now Texas-El Paso or UTEP) and their all black starting lineup face with off the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats and their all white starting lineup for the 1966 national title.

Most experts expected the Wildcats to win the game easily, even though the Miners were ranked #3 entering the game.

However, Texas Western stuns Kentucky 72-65 to win the game and the national title.

The game is seen as a turning point in college basketball race relations as four years later Rupp would dress his first black player at Kentucky.

Head coach Don Haskins(second from left) hoists the national championship trophy with some of his players after their win over Kentucky in the 1966 title game.

3. 2016-Super Nova

Villanova appears on its way to its first national title since 1985 as they lead North Carolina 67-57 with 4:47 remaining in the game until the Tar Heels go on a 17-7 run to tie the game with Marcus Paige's off-balance three-pointer with 4.7 seconds to go in regulation.

The Wildcats got one last chance to win the game in regulation as they ran a play called "Nova", as Kris Jenkins inbounds the ball to Ryan Arcidiacano, who dribbles the ball to upcourt and then passes it back to Jenkins, who takes a three-pointer that sails through the net as time expires to give Villanova its second national championship in school history.

2. 1983-Lorenzo Charles’ Dunk

NC State guard Derrick Whittenburg still insists it was a pass, but with time running out in the 1983 title game and the game tied at 52, Wittenberg heaves a desperation shot 35 feet away from the basket that is going to fall short until Lorenzo Charles catches the would-be airball and dunks for the game-winning basket as time expires to give the Wolfpack a shocking 54-52 win over the heavily favored Houston Cougars.

The win completes an incredible run for NC State as they come out of the West Region as a #6 seed as they pull off incredible come-from-behind wins over Pepperdine, UNLV, Virginia, and Houston during their run to the title that earns the team the nickname “Cardiac Pack”.

1. 1992-The Shot

It was the perfect ending to a perfect game from Christian Laettner(as long as you don’t count his stomp on Aminu Timberlake on his chest resulting in a technical foul).

With 2.1 seconds left in overtime and his team trailing 103-102, the Blue Devils center catches Grant Hill’s 70-foot pass at the free throw line, stopped, dribbled once, and turned to fire a shot that sailed through the net as time expired to give Duke a 104-103 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in the East Regional Final, sending the defending national champions back to the Final Four.

Laettner finishes the game with 31 points as he is 10-of-10 from the field(including one 3-pointer) and 10-of-10 from the free throw line in what many experts consider to be the greatest game in NCAA tournament history.

For the rest of the list, click on the numbers below:

(100-76) (75-51) (50-26)