We will never have the 2020 NCAA Tournament to see again. There will always be gaps in the notebook, and can be understood.
The corona virus pandemic has brought a new world, but hopefully 2021 will bring it back NCAA Tournament as we always know that.
Today, April 6th, it should be the day of the 2020 national title match. So without that, and with free time, opportunities arise to reflect the brilliance and fame of the most reliable dramatic sporting events in the world. The NCAA tournament has existed since 1939, but it changed forever for the better when it was upgraded to a 64-team template in 1985. That’s when it really became Tournament.
Its appeal and grandeur have only grown more unbearable and indelible in the years since. The large bracket manifests classically every year. There have been 2,251 matches of the NCAA Tournament played since 1985. An objective analysis found at least 500 matches – better than 22%! – very-good-for-great. In fact, 117 matches since ’85 (ie 5.2% or: one out of every 20 matches) have been determined by one point. There are 147 more decided by two points and 139 more decided by three points, which also includes many games that require additional time.
To be honest, I want to put 155 results in 101 points (because I can’t stand to reach 100). If you scan and see that the competitive game that you like is not on the list, I can confirm that you are considering it before cutting it. Also, I want to take part in a really great game, very contested or display a significant comeback / collapse factor. That is why meaningful results – such as the 20 points of the UMBC victory over Virginia in 2018, the UNLV destroyed the Duke in 1990 or run the Sweet 16 that runs on the Gulf Coast of Florida as seed No. 15 – to no avail. That is easy to remember but not great, or at least according to the conditions that I put forward.
Another thing I want to make sure of is representing each tournament with at least one match. Lastly, this is not 101-to-1 ranking. This is the overall offering of the most exciting battles in the modern era. If you want to rank at home, go ahead! The following is a chronological journey through the best given by Big Dance since developing into the perfect form of 64 teams in 1985, then 65 starting in 2001 and 68 in 2011.
1. Midwest second round: 2 Memphis State 67, No. 7 UAB 66 (OT)
We start in Houston, where two teams with a ton of talent from the wider Memphis area get ready and help introduce how special the opening of the 64 team tournament weekend is. Andre Turner Macan hit the jumper with six seconds left – it was still blaring to see tournament matches in the modern era without a 3-point line – and then UAB coach Gene Bartow chased an official after the match ended with “no-foul” calling Blazers last shot. The great Keith Lee of Memphis has 28 in this one, but Turner gives Tiger W. He will go to beat other winners at Sweet 16 to beat Boston College.
2. Midwest Sweet 16: 1 Oklahoma 86, No. 5 Louisiana Tech 84 (OT)
Oklahoma and Wayman Tisdale could not get rid of Louisiana Tech and Karl Malone (20 points and 16 boards) in regulation. These are the two teams with the highest scores in this tournament. OU provided large pillows at many points, creating urgency for Sweet 16’s business. Tisdale’s winning shot in the closing seconds of the OT bounced on the rim five times before falling right. This is how you do it Chicago Tribune Bob Sakamoto opened his story that night: “Basketball seems to have a mind of its own, but can’t decide what to do. Wayman Tisdale’s soft left hand kicks at the rim, bounces, starts bouncing, bounces back and then hangs on the edge when the capacity crowd 17.007 sits in tension. ”
3. Final Four: No. 8 Villanova 66, No. 1 Georgetown 64
If our list had to be cut down to the 10 biggest matches in tournament history, this would still make the cut. How interesting that the first team 64 team tournament produced the lowest winning team in history to win the national title. Eighth seed Villanova overcame Georgetown giants, preventing Patrick Ewing and Hoyas from winning back-to-back championships. VU famously shot 78.6% (22 for 28), which is still a record for every match in the Final Four or national championship. Villanova Senior Ed Pinckney has been named the Most Role Player. It always feels a little excessive in terms of being upset – the Wildcats lost a total of nine points in two defeats to Georgetown at the start of the season – but still one of the most memorable moments in the history of campus basketball and the second – the highest score in a game that has ever existed in sports (behind MSU-Indiana State in ’79).
4. East first round: 14 Cleveland State 83, No. 3 Indiana 79
Being this only the second year of the 64 team bracket, Cleveland State became the first true Cinderella in the modern era. Behind the heroism of Ken “Mouse” McFadden, the Vikings were the first small conference team to make Sweet 16, and of course the lowest seed to do so too. This game is also the first time the team was trained by Bob Knight in the first round. Oh, by the way, the ’86 tournament has two No. 14-over-No. 3 seeds: Arkansas-Little Rock above Notre Dame is the other.
5. Southeast first round: 11 LSU 94, No. 6 Purdue 87 (2OT)
There is a double legacy for the LSU ’86 team. First is to be No. 11 made the Final Four, a record he held himself until George Mason and VCU matched each in 2006 and 2011. But another plot point that could not be avoided with the run was the fact that LSU would play the first weekend at home. A rule was imposed immediately after that which prevented such gains again in men’s tournaments. For LSU, 25 points show Anthony Wilson proved great. There are 21 points scored in extra time, the fourth most in tournament history. LSU ended up playing another great one against Memphis in the second round, then won a tight match to defeat Kentucky 59-57 in Elite Eight.
6. Sweet Eastern 16: 7 Navy 71, No. 14 State of Cleveland 70
Imagine if the NCAA Tournament ushered in the Navy vs. the State of Cleveland today? Great as this bracket has survived for decades, which seems unlikely anymore. Of course, the Navy has succeeded so far because it has a unique star: David Robinson. Here he scored 22 points – including the winner with four seconds left – won 14 rebounds and blocked nine shots (second best in tournament history) in one of the Cinderella Sweet 16 battles of all time, held by Brendan of the New Jersey Byrne Arena. Robinson boasts the best of the tournament – 27.5 points and 11.8 rebounds on average – but Duke Johnny Dawkins (26.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) wins Eastern MOP.
7. Southeast second round: 6 Providence 90, No. 14 Austin Peay 87 (OT)
There are 19 steals in this game, a tournament record, with seven of them from Friar Delray Brooks. If Austin Peay withdraws, how will it change? Rick Pitino’s career trajectory? The Friar went on to make the ’87 Final Four thanks to a good part for Billy Donovan, who scored 25 and played 40 of the 45 minutes of the game, collecting a PC from a 10-point deficit with less than six minutes remaining. Lawrence Mitchell of Austin Peay did not sit down for a while and had a game as high as 27. Bob Thomas from APSU had a chance to win it in line with: 02 on the hour in regulation but missed a foul shot. Maddeningly, Austin Peay could not / did not commit an offense when it went down two (and there was no shot clock) until three seconds left.
8. Southeast Elite Eight: 1 Indiana 77, No. 10 LSU 76
LSU makes the Final Four as seed No. 11 in ’86, then came two more points from doing it as 10 in the following year. Ricky Calloway from IU caught the air ball of Daryl Thomas and put oranges in the circle with six seconds to send Bobby Knight to the final of the final Four Finals of his career. LSU failed to advance after short jumper Nikita Wilson stuck to the front end of the iron. Indiana rose from a nine-point deficit with five minutes remaining, reversing LSU four times in its last seven possession. Steve Alford gets 20 points. Knight is giving out T because of him “Hit the table in front of NCAA selection committee member Gene Corrigan, kicked a chair and cursed official Tom Fraim for five minutes.”
9. Championship: 1 Indiana 74, No. 2 Syracuse 73
Hey, remember Rony Seikaly? He looked aged 31 when he was in college and he played for Cuse’s troops. The Orange won this game if it wasn’t for the missed mini-parade of missed shots. Jim Boeheim, in his first Final Four, was helpless watching his team play 11-of-20 from the line. Winner Keith Smart with four seconds left is one of the 10 most famous shots in tournament history, but he also scored a big one with 32 seconds left to put the Hoosiers in one. A total of eight future The NBA the players are on the pitch in this game, and Alford’s seven 3-point shots are still tied at the most by one player in the Final Four.
10. First round Southeast: No. 4 BYU 98, No. 13 UNC-Charlotte 92 (OT)
The match took place at The Omni in Atlanta. In this one all five Brigham Young beginners hit double figures, led by 29 Michael Smith points. BYU extended its season and avoided being upset because 59.6% shot from 2-point range. The 49ers team has Byron Dinkins and Cedric Ball, two players who will play in the NBA. Dinkins violated the greedy attempt to steal with UNCC down one at the end of the second half, then the backcourt violation of BYU gave the 49ers the chance to tie him up – and they did with two seconds left. Jeff West fired a 3-pointer leaning from an angle. BYU withdrew in the bonus session. At this point, infection in the first round of the tournament has captured the imagination of the country.
11. Western first half: 10 Loyola Marymount 119, No. 7 Wyoming 115
This is the only LMU game on the list. 149 points vs. Michigan in 1990 was an unforgettable game because it was the highest scoring game in tournament history, but the game itself was not “great”. This is a track meeting and a strong reminder of Paul Westhead’s revelation plan. This game, two years before, was a sweet and legitimate game – and at 234 points was the second highest scoring game in Big Dance history. What’s forgotten: when the game was played, both LMU (15th) and Wyoming (13th) were ranked in the AP poll released earlier that week. This match is the 23rd and the last time that season the Lion reached 100 points; they fell 123-97 to UNC two days later in Salt Lake City. Wyoming legend Fennis Dembo has only 14 points and a foul with three minutes left, which destroys Cowboy’s chance to win. Bo Kimble scores 25 and Hank Gathers gets 19. The YouTube video below takes with this game.
12. Southeast first round: 1 Oklahoma 72, No. 16 State of East Tennessee 71
Some controversy here, maybe, but this is a better game than others No. 16-over-No. 1 fear from this tournament. Georgetown 50, Princeton 49 took place the same day (and that match was my last piece on this list). For Sooners, future NBA candidates Stacey King and Mookie Blaylock. For ETSU, the second tournament appearance in school history. ETSU is the fourth place team in the SoCon standings. This slope occurred at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym, and Oklahoma praised for the half-field shot that was deflected with one second left. ETSU could not survive after leading for the first 38 minutes of the match.
13. The second half east: 5 NC State 102, No. 4 Iowa 96 (2OT)
For NC State fans disappointed about the 1985 cutoff, well here’s another big win for you – and given the double-overtime factor, I ended up choosing this one over 68-67 Sweet 16 UNLV victory against Arizona in ’89, which was beautiful. With Jim Valvano still in the lead, Wolfpack gets 40 burgers from Rodney Monroe. Ed Horton has 32 for the Iowa team, and oh yeah, the future of Chicago Bull B. Armstrong scores 20. Impressive: the 50-minute game features only 22 turnovers. This will be the last time NC State has won two NCAA Tournament matches in a row for 16 years.
14. Championship: 3 Michigan 80, No. 3 Seton Hall 79 (OT)
This is the 1,500th game in the history of the NCAA Tournament. Rumeal Robinson, which then has many stories later on, Carrying two foul shots with three seconds left in extra time to give Michigan a shocking national title. Steve Fisher, an interim coach who got the job only weeks before AD Bo Schembechler fired Bill Freider before Frieder accepted the Arizona State job, became the first coach to win a national title on his first trip to the NCAA since Cincinnati Ed Jucker in 1961. Glen Rice scored 31 points, ending the tournament with 184 total, a standing record (as well as 75 field goals). Seton Hall got 35 from John Morton, one of the strongest scoring efforts in defeat in the history of the title game.
15. Southeast first round: 1 Michigan State 75, No. 16 Murray State 71 (OT)
This is the only battle No. 1 vs No. 16 who need to work overtime. It feels strange to forget about years later. MSU escaped, but was almost eliminated thanks to Popeye Jones dropping 37 points and 11 rebounds on Jud Heathcote’s team, which featured Steve Smith and current Spartan assistant Dwayne Stephens. Murray State ties the game – played at the Tennessee Thompson-Boling Arena – with a 3-pointer shot by Greg Coble. Smith won 22 points, six of which came overtime and helped MSU get an important edge. In the next twenty-eight years, UMBC will ensure that we do not fully appreciate the few seeds. 1 was actually gained in the first 15 years of this amazing tournament.
16. Sweet Southeast 16: 4 Georgia Tech 81, No. 1 Michigan State 80 (OT)
Among the 50 biggest matches in NCAA Tournament history, extra wins at the Yellow Jackets session were not without controversy. Dennis Scott’s shot with seven seconds left in overtime gives the game a final score, but the final rule also has drama. Buzzer-beater Kenny Anderson ties the game in 75 but the shot carries questions about whether he got it on time, and if so, whether it’s 3-pointer or 2-pointer. Officials finally determined that it was a 2-pointer – but the basket was good. Overtime by default, basically. After the match, MSU coach Jud Heathcote stated, “We won the match on a regulatory basis but lost the match from time to time.” The Heathcote case is that the clock operator failed to start the clock at a previous time on previous ownership. Smith scores 32 in defeat. Many MSU fans cannot overcome losses until their team wins the national title a decade later, with Heathcote’s assistant at the helm. A man named Tom Izzo.
17. Sweet East 16: 1 Connecticut 71, No. 5 Clemson 70
The first indelible moment in UConn basketball history. But did you know: Tate George actually had the chance to win the game on previous Huskies possession before hitting a memorable winner two treasures later? First, David Young fired a beautiful shot from the left side, about 18 feet out, which gave Clemson the first lead since the match 5-4. Then, after George’s shot with four seconds remaining wrong, Clanson Sean Tyson missed the one-and-one front end, opening up UConn’s chances. This execution was even more impressive than Christian Laettner in ’92. Less time, play harder (next NBAer Elden Campbell guarding inbounders), harder shots. George buried him from the near base to send Husky to their first Elite Eight. What I like about this video: Hubie Brown does a color commentary, Dick Stockton plays around.
18. East Elite Eight: 3 Duke 79, No. 1 Connecticut 78 (OT)
If Duke-over-Kentucky in ’92 never happened, then this is the buzzer-beater known as Laettner. UConn’s swing from victory over Clemson to defeat against Duke is a microcosm of strength and drama as well as the glory and heartbreak of this tournament. Laettner, a sophomore, hit the ball 15 feet high on the OT bell to win it in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Alaa Abdelnaby scores the highest game for Coach K. Squad Blue’s squad making the Final Four for the fourth time in a span of five years. Duke and UConn have met five times in the NCAA Tournament, and as you will continue to read, they have provided several epics.
19. East first half: No. 15 Richmond 73, No. 2 Syracuse 69
Landmark results. The NCAA tournament witnessed its most astonishing, wise, disappointment in history to date. The Spiders are the No. seed. The first 15 to win the match, past the Orangemen at the time thanks to Curtis Blair’s 18 points and six assists. Syracuse never led; Michael Edwards missed the shoot at the last second that would tie him up. Jim Boeheim is 15 years in his coaching career now.
20. West second round: 4 Utah 85, No. 5 Michigan State 84 (2OT)
Utah, in his first full season under Rick Majerus, came out victorious despite whacking 18 dirty shots. The game took place in Arizona together, the McKale Center, and saw Josh Grant Utah go for game-high 29. This was the last game of MSU’s Steve Smith career; Smith finished with 28 points. Spartans are lucky to be working overtime. Smith was violated on a game which also provided a layup by MSU Matt Steigenga. Then, before Utah could rule out the match at OT, little Spartan forward Jon Zulauf, who played only six minutes, got an offensive rebound from foul fire to push him into another session. Utah then outperformed Michigan State 10-9 to reach the round of 16 for the 11th time in school history.
21. Final Four: 2 Duke 79, No. 1 UNLV 77
A game that changes the campus basketball trajectory. UNLV is 34-0 and is considered to be the key given Duke’s destruction of 30 points at the 1990 championship; their Runnin ‘Rebels are still the only team to reach the mark of the century in the last game of the season in tournament history. But in ’91, a different story. Christian Laettner got 20 points in the first round only. Anderson Hunt is a star for UNLV with 29, while the always valuable point guard Greg Anthony (19 points) commits a late offense, which complicates many things. Jerry Tarkanian was soaked through his shirt in the middle of the second half. In the final seconds, Larry Johnson misses the 3-pointer, then the Hunt 3-pointer becomes long, smashes the glass and the rim, and Vegas runs out of opportunities. That was considered one of the most shocking distractions that ever existed – and Duke was the No. 1 seed. 2! Blue Devils shot 52% to survive, and ended the fourth longest winning streak in men’s D-I history in 45 matches.
22. Eastern half: 4 Seton Hall 78, No. 13 La Salle 76
Terry Dehere redeemed himself after losing a potential winner in the Big East Tournament vs. Syracuse less than a week before. The opportunistic guard hit 2 lengths with three seconds left to lift SHU over La Salle inside the Greensboro Coliseum. Dehere finishes with 24 points. Seton Hall finally made 10 of his last 12 shots. At this point, La Salle is a member of MAAC. The Explorers wasted an eight point advantage with four minutes left. This was a stinger for La Salle, who averaged 9.5 3-pointers, the best in the country, but failed to open fire in the closing seconds.
23. Midwest second round: 7 Georgia Tech 79, No. 2 USC 78
One of the 10-12 most famous buzzer beaters in the history of the NCAA Tournament. This Trojan team is too ignored for how good the season was. Let’s go to the video recording. Al McGuire, you are very missed. “HOLY MACKEREL!”
And what about this: James Forrest’s 3-digit victory is the only trophy he made this season.
24. Eight Eastern Elite: 1 Duke 104, No. 2 Kentucky 103 (OT)
Not sure many recaps are needed here, because if you read this far you know your circle. This is the best basketball game of all time and almost everyone who has watched or covered college basketball for a long time recognizes that. The results serve as proof of the return of the Kentucky program after severe sanctions in the 1980s, and it encouraged Duke, and strengthened Mike Krzyzewski’s bonafide, regardless of whatever the rest of his career would bring. Christian Laettner’s perfect play (10 for 10 from the field, 10 for 10 from the foul line), along with the most repeated victory shot in the history of college basketball, solidified its status as one of the five best college basketball players ever.
25. Western first half: 15 Santa Clara 64, No. 2 Arizona 61
A freshman by the name of Steve Nash guided Santa Clara to the annoyance that, although surprisingly, it was not surprising because Arizona stumbled in the last season as a highly favored team. Amazingly, Arizona only scored once in the last 15 minutes. What about love for a man named Pete Eisenrich, who dropped 19 on the head of Arizona. Nash missed two foul shots with 7.3 seconds left, then Santa Clara took over and Kevin Dunne missed two foul shots … but Damon Stoudamire couldn’t hit the 3-pointer long because time ran out. What is forgotten about this game: Arizona at one point shouted run 25-0. Seed No. 2 – favorite bet 20 points at the end – lasts 25-0 and loses to seed No. 15? This is a classic result. This is the result of 1,700 in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
26. West second round: 1 Michigan 86, No. 9 UCLA 84 (OT)
Wolves overcame a 19-point deficit on their way to finally making the 1993 title game. Jalen Rose missed the potential winner at OT, but Jimmy King got the rebound and dropped the rabbit with two seconds left. UCLA’s coach, Jim Harrick, went on a rampage, insisting that Rose’s shot did not hit the rim and therefore was a time offense and UCLA had to master the ball. Officials convened for five minutes and Rose’s firing rules succeeded in using iron. Ed O’Bannon’s last shot failed. Chris Webber finished with 27 and 14 for UM.
27. Final Four: 1 Michigan 81, No. 1 Kentucky 78 (OT)
The ’93 title game is more remembered for Chris Webber’s deadline, but the best game played in 1993 in New Orleans was between Wolverine and Wildcats. Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina all make the national semifinals as 1 seed marks the first time three No. 1 gets to the Final Four. Here, nine changes to the lead in the second round were made for big drama in New Orleans. Behind the strength of Fab Five – Chris Webber scored 27, won 13 – Michigan scored the last six points of the match at OT. The Kentucky season dies when Gimel Martinez loses a 3-pointer on England’s last possession. An English team that relies on 3-point reliability only fires 7-from-21 from the inside, while Michigan wins despite not producing a 3-pointer in 45 minutes. Dale Brown’s shoulder injury at the end of the second half prevented Rick Pitino’s team. This is the last match of Kentucky’s career Jamal Mashburn; he scored 26 but committed an offense in extra time.
28. Championship: 1 North Carolina 77, No. 1 Michigan 71
Michigan vs UNC is a rematch of the start of the season that made UM win 79-78 through buzzer-beater Jalen Rose. Before Webber’s timeout error, Michigan held a 67-63 advantage with 4:32 remaining, and then Carolina took a 9-0 run which made the game 72-67 supporting Heels with 58 ticks left. It was after Ray Jackson’s throw (the only foot inside the 3-point line) that Michigan took his final timeout with 46 seconds to go at 72-69. Carolina racer Brian Reese stepped out of bounds when receiving inbounds to continue his next possession, and then Webber scored on the offensive board after losing Jalen Rose. From there, you certainly know the story. But this is the last 20 seconds.
29. East second round: 9 Boston College 75, No. 1 North Carolina 72
Big, very upset. Boston College used to be good in college circles once, son. This upset stopped UNC from making Sweet 16 for the 14th straight tournament. Crazy. Guard Eagles, Gerrod Abram, scored 21 points, making six 3-point numbers. BC, trained by Jim O’Brien, continued thanks to starting four seniors. Bill Curley gets 10 of the last 11 Eagles points. At the time, this was the biggest win in program history. UNC lost despite having very talented new students, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse. It was Wallace who was tricked into a bad 3-point shot at Carolina’s main possession. In the postgame, Dean Smith regretted a bad escort, as did Stackhouse, who told reporters afterwards: “We expect them to play physically, but there are also lots of cheap shots.”
30. Championship: 1 Arkansas 76, No. 2 Duke 72
The relatively tame tournament is best remembered for this game. Thanks to the 10-point rally in the second round by Hogs, Duke could not win a third title in four seasons. Nolan Richardson became the second African-American coach to win the NCAA Tournament. Richardson also became the first coach to win the NCAA, NIT and junior college national championships. Hand-picked college writer Malcolm Moran, writes for The New York Times, provides a good lede: “Finally, for a long time, Nolan Richardson and his Arkansas Razorbacks got 40 minutes of heaven.” This is the last game of Grant Hill’s career. The most impressive highlight of this game is the late 3-pointer satellite dish Scotty Thurman. Arkansas native Bill Clinton became the first US President to attend the Final Four.
31. East first half: No. 14 Old Dominion 89, No. 3 Villanova 81 (3OT)
It has only been tripled since the tournament expanded. (VU played in the most recent before this, in 1982 against Northeastern.) Ten years into an expanded field, the idea of winning seeds number 14 and 15 was still rarely enough to produce a national buzz when the disturbance occurred. That said, it’s the second of two No. 14-over-No. 3 seeds that night: The State of Weber chose the State of Michigan in Tallahassee, Florida, while this one was in Albany, New York. Petey Sessoms from ODU dropped the 35 best points of his career. The loss was a hammer for Nova, who came from the Big East Tournament lifting tournament. Kerry Kittles got 22, while teammate Jason Lawson had 18 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks.
32. West second round: 1 UCLA 75, No. 8 Missouri 74
The Tyus Edney is over. The Bruin family would have zero championships since the era of John Wooden if it were not for the rescue of Edney at Boise, Idho, in 1995. And how does that change our view of this program? Much rests on the ’95 title. Six dribbles, one of them behind, were crucial in how Missouri’s defense was damaged and allowed ample opportunities for Edney to come out of the winner. Give subregional Boise every year to everything I care about.
33. Midwest Sweet 16: 2 Arkansas 96, No. 6 Memphis 91 (OT)
The Razorbacks reached Final Fours in a row, requiring overtime in back-to-back matches (they also defeated Syracuse in the second round) to get there. Here, Sweet 16 in Kansas City. Like many games, this game is registered because of a comeback. Arkansas followed 79-67 with 7:23 left. A controversial offense against Memphis with 11.5 seconds suggests sending Arkansas’ Corey Beck to the offense line. He made one of the two, tied the game, and went to OT in 83-all. Tigers coach Larry Finch said the following in a post-press presser: “That makes me angry – (11.5) seconds left in the wretch hour – and you call that wretched touch there when (we) were robbed all night. That’s ridiculous. I can see why people leave when they get on this podium. This is ridiculous! Really ridiculous! This is a national basketball tournament. This is ridiculous. “The Hogs finally made it to the title game and lost to UCLA, but 60 of their 3-pointers make a record (easily topped) for most in one Dance.
34. Western first half: 1 Purdue 73, No. 16 Western Carolina 71
Some still believe this is No. 1 vs No, 16 seed games actually shave closest to the No. 1 seed to survive in the first round. The affair was Thursday night, and the match was closed throughout. The Catamounts, down by two, get two chances in the reduced seconds to make history. Up two, Purdue Brad Miller missed the one-and-one front end with 11.6 seconds left. Joel Fleming from WCU took out a 3-pointer, then Joe Stafford took the board and jumped over the jumper on the horn. West Carolina coach Phil Hopkins has a young assistant on his staff by the name of Thad Matta; Hopkins will be fired in 2000 and dropped out of campus basketball a decade later. The Catamounts have not returned to the NCAA since. Purdue kalah di babak selanjutnya ke Georgia, yang memungkinkan pertandingan berikutnya menjadi mungkin.
35. Manis Barat 16: 4 Syracuse 83, No. 8 Georgia 81 (OT)
Salah satu dari lima atau enam Sweet 16 game terbaik dalam sejarah. Orangemen menang berkat catatan kaki 20 kaki oleh John Wallace dengan waktu kurang dari tiga detik di PL. Georgia, yang dilatih oleh Tubby Smith, meniupnya dalam peraturan dan dalam sesi bonus juga. SU berhasil membebaskannya berkat tembakan Jason Cipolla di detik terakhir. Setelah pertandingan, Smith berkata, “Saya kehilangan permainan tujuh kali lembur di sekolah menengah. Itu lebih sulit, tapi ini sudah dekat.” Urutan terakhir adalah hiruk-pikuk Turnamen NCAA yang terbaik. Wallace, yang menghindari pelanggaran meski memiliki empat pelanggaran selama 17 menit terakhir, memasang permainan yang hebat: 30 poin, 15 papan. Nama Pertha Robinson hilang dari sejarah. Apakah 3-pointer-nya menjadi ember terakhir, siapa yang tahu apa yang terjadi dengan Georgia? Bagaimanapun, Syracuse membuat semua jalan ke permainan judul. Nikmati gambar-dalam-gambar ini. Siapa pun yang membaca ini lahir setelah 1994 bahkan tidak TAHU.
36. Midwest Sweet 16: 1 Minnesota 90, No. 4 Clemson 84 (2OT)
Pertempuran beruntun dan kios, Clemson mengatasi defisit 15 poin dan membuat dasi pada akhir peraturan setelah tertinggal empat dengan sisa waktu 20 detik. Layup Tony Christie di bel memperpanjang permainan. MVP di sini adalah milik Bobby Jackson dari Minnesota (36 poin terbaik pribadi), sementara rekan setimnya Sam Jacobson memasang 29. Clemson dilatih oleh Rick Barnes muda, dan salah satu pemainnya yang lebih baik adalah seorang pemuda, Merl Code, yang akan menjadiClemson meniup keunggulan enam poin pada menit terakhir dan setengah, memungkinkan OT kedua. Wilayah ini juga memiliki UCLA 74-73 di OT atas Iowa State, layup Cameron Dollar di detik-detik penutupan mendorong UCLA bersama dengan Elite Eight.
37. Manis Tenggara 16: 4 Arizona 85, No. 1 Kansas 82
Arizona memenangkan kejuaraan ’97 agak meredam faktor kejutan dari kesal ini. Tim Jayhawks 1996-97, dipimpin oleh Paul Pierce dan Raef LaFrentz, dengan mudah melacak sebagai klub KU top-lima dalam sejarah sekolah dan mungkin tim non-Final Four terbaik yang pernah ada? The idea that fourth-seeded Arizona would upset this one-loss Kansas squad is loony. Arizona avenges its ’96 NCAA Tournament loss to Kansas, but it’s a skin-of-their-teeth win. KU storms back from down 10 late, then fails to get it to overtime after three missed 3-pointers. The game takes place in Birmingham, Alabama. Mike Bibby scores a team-best 21 for U of A. The Wildcats take 14 more foul shots than KU. This game is followed up by a Zona double-OT win over Providence in Elite Eight, the 2,000th game in NCAA Tournament history, and one that nearly made this list.
38. Championship: No. 4 Arizona 84, No. 1 Kentucky 79 (OT)
With the spread of coronavirus ceasing the 2020 NCAA Tournament, replays of past games have led to rediscovery of tournament classics. Perhaps no game has been given a more generous appraisal than this one, the sixth of eight title games to ever require overtime. Arizona features a team with five future NBA players (Miles Simon, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson, A.J. Bramlett). They will win this game, then all return to school in the fall. Anthony Epps’ up-and-under 3-pointer with 12.1 seconds to go ties the game and induces overtime. In retrospect, it’s a shot not given enough love. In the bonus session, Arizona wins despite not making a field goal; all its points come via foul shots. This is the final game at Kentucky for Epps, Ron Mercer and Rick Pitino. Arizona is still the only team to beat three No. 1 seeds in the same NCAA Tournament — and it’s still the most recent champion from the Pac-12.
39. Midwest first round: No. 13 Valparaiso 70, No. 4 Mississippi 69
There is no need to embed the video of Bryce Drew’s winner because you can already cue it up in your mind’s eye. Shouts to Ted Robinson, who makes the “Drew! For the win! Gooood!!” call. Since that highlight is so prevalent every mid-March, it’s key to remember the context that made it possible. First off, Drew misses a 3-point attempt with five seconds left. Then Ole Miss’ Ansu Sesay (did you know: the ’98 SEC Player of the Year) misses a foul shot. Valpo takes its last timeout, then Sesay proceeds to miss his second. Valpo is saved because the ball is deflected out of bounds on the miss. With 2.5 to go, “Pacer” is called and a play design for the ages is revealed. Initially, Bill Jenkins gets on the baseline to inbound the ball. Then Jamie Sykes — a former baseball player — is instructed to handle the toss. Jenkins — a former volleyball player — winds up catching Sykes’ inbounds pass, deftly gets it to Drew immediately and history in Oklahoma City happens.
40. East Sweet 16: No. 2 Connecticut 75, No. 11 Washington 74
Best remembered for Sean McDonough’s “Hamilton … HAMILTON AT THE BUZZER!” call, as Richard Hamilton drops in to receive a loose-ball flare — off Jake Voskuhl’s miss — then he misses a would-be winner, only to discover the offensive rebound’s popped into the air. Hamilton snares it with his left hand with two seconds to go, then releases the clincher in a be-quick-but-don’t-hurry fashion. Cool nerves, cool winner. It’s the first buzzer-beater of Hamilton’s life, his shot just arcing over the right arm of 7-footer Patrick Femerling.
41. Final Four: No. 2 Kentucky 86, No. 3 Stanford 85 (OT)
This is among the most overlooked fantastic national semis of the past 30 years. Once upon a time, Stanford was a year-over-year national power, a top-10 program in the country. That was a generation ago. On this night, Tubby Smith-coached Kentucky gets on but not before falling behind for the first 30 minutes; it doesn’t lead until the game is 54-53. Jamaal Magloire’s late block on Arthur Lee proves pivotal, as does the possession arrow being in Kentucky’s favor after a jump-ball is called in the closing seconds. Jeff Sheppard scores 27, more than he’d ever done in a Wildcats uniform. Foul trouble limits Nazr Mohammed to four minutes in the first half. In beating Stanford, UK’s joins Duke in 1992 and UCLA in 1973 to make the title game three consecutive seasons.
42. West first round: No. 14 Weber State 76, No. 3 North Carolina 74
The shock value of this one maybe has worn away in the 21 years since, but a school like Weber State (with Harold “The Show” Arceneaux) giving the boot to a powerhouse like UNC was still not exceedingly common in terms of No. 14-over-No. 3 seed or No. 15-over-No. 2 upsets. UNC had a few dudes: Brendan Haywood, Ed Cota, Ronald Curry, Jason Capel. It was Arceneaux’s steal in the closing seconds to clinched the W. As I’ve detailed prior,.
43. Midwest first round: No. 10 Miami (Ohio) 59, No. 7 Washington 58
Senior power forward Wally Szczerbiak becomes an NCAA Tournament legend thanks to dropping a career-high 43 points — uh, hello: Miami-Ohio only totals 59 — plus 12 rebounds, then locks up the game with a block on UW’s Senque Carey. The game features five ties and five lead changes, with Szczerbiak playing 39 of 40 minutes. Donald Watts finishes with 28 for Washington, which suffers one-point defeats in back-to-back tournaments. It’s one of the 15-or-so best individual performances in tournament history. The RedHawks make it to the Sweet 16 and fall to third-seeded Kentucky.
44. West Sweet 16: No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 6 Florida 72
It is Dan Monson, not Mark Few, who is the coach when Gonzaga’s direction as a program changes forever. Florida’s Greg Stolt drills a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to put the Gators up three. They won’t score again. Jeremy Eaton converts a layup to cut it to one with less than 25 seconds to go. A travel on UF’s Ben Wright gives it back to the Zags. Quentin Hall’s missed shot opens the opportunity for Casey Calvary, whose put-back gives the ’99 tournament a true sense of magic. This is the game that features Gus Johnson’s first famous call, “The slipper STILL FITS!” This is the game that made Gonzaga Gonzaga. The Bulldogs’ run ends against the eventual champs two days later, but only by five points. After the season Monson leaves for Minnesota, Few gets promoted from within and the rest is history.
45. Championship: No. 1 Connecticut 77, No. 1 Duke 74
To my mind, one of the five most engrossing, can’t-turn-away national title games of the past 30 years. One-loss Duke is a 9.5-point favorite at tip against obviously under-appreciated Connecticut, which,oh by the way, was the only other team that season to be No. 1. (In 1999, a purveying thought is that this Duke team is so tacked, it’s second unit could win the title.) Richard Hamilton gets 27. Khalid El-Amin dekes Elton Brand and hits a tricky short shot to put UConn up three with 65 seconds to go. Ricky Moore has one of the strongest games of his career, made all the more interesting by the fact he Ds up William Avery — who he played high school basketball with — and helps keep contain on Duke’s most dangerous player, Trajan Langdon. Langdon’s college career ends with trip-ups: he travels on Duke’s penultimate possession, in which it could have won the game, and then can’t even get up a shot before time expires after El-Amin’s two foul shots give UConn a three-point cushion. In the postgame, Langdon refuses to insinuate a foul should have been called. For the ninth time that season, UConn wins after trailing at the half. Jim Calhoun, 27 years into his head-coaching career, gets to the top of the mountain.
46. Midwest first round: No. 5 Kentucky 85, No. 12 St. Bonaventure 80 (2OT)
You might see a few on this list that you’ve forgotten about, and maybe this one qualifies. (I’ll scoot in a quick mention of another 2000 first-rounder that received real consideration: Kansas over DePaul in an No. 8 vs. No. 9 that featured no lead bigger than five for either side.) This one was the first tip of that ’00 tournament. Kentucky loses this game if Tayshaun Prince (game-high 28 points in 48 minutes) isn’t on the roster. The Bonnies have the ball and a three-point lead with 25 seconds to go, but a missed 3-pointer by J.R. Bremer allows an opportunity for Prince, who hits a wing 3-pointer off a screen with seven seconds remaining. In OT, UK’s Marvin Stone fouls David Capers with 0.4 left, and Capers hits all three to get it to double OT. The great Kevin Harlan on the call.
47. East first round: No. 5 Florida 69, No. 12 Butler 68 (OT)
There are certain games that attach themselves to our memories because of where they were played. You say Wake Forest’s court, and I think about Florida and Mike Miller getting past Butler as much as I do any Demon Deacon game ever played in Winston-Salem. At the time of this one, Butler’s very much so the trendy No. 12-over-No. 5 pick. If you want to make the argument Florida didn’t deserve to win, you could build a solid case. But it’s an epic either way, and I’m glad that’s the case because the 2000 tournament on the whole is meek on compelling games.
48. West first round: No. 15 Hampton 58, No. 2 Iowa State 57
If 2000 was thin, then maybe the 2001 NCAA Tournament was the weakest one overall in terms of close games and memorable finishes. But if that’s the case, it is so with the exception of not just one game but one subregion. Hampton (17.5-point dogs) overcoming Iowa State is unforgettable, but that Boise, Idaho, site was probably the best single-day, four-game site in tournament history. Four games were decided by a total of seven points: No. 11 Georgia State 50, No. 6 Wisconsin 49; No. 3 Maryland 83, No. 14 George Mason 80; No. 10 Georgetown 63, No. 7 Arkansas 61; and the Hampton finish, which is sort of more amazing because of the fact it was the last game played that day in Boise and in fact the final tip on that opening Thursday. Something special that day in Idaho.
49. Midwest first round: No. 12 Creighton 83, No. 5 Florida 82 (2OT)
Creighton overcomes an eight-point deficit with 2:40 in regulation. Florida gives it up in part because of a five-second call with 29.4 seconds left. Brett Nelson’s would-be game-winner doesn’t fall. The United Center in Chicago is host to a No. 23-wearing, smooth-jump-shooting junior named Terrell Taylor, who hits a beautiful 3-pointer with 0.2 left in double OT. Taylor, who has a Michael Jordan tattoo, finishes with 28 points. Kyle Korver, who will go on to be one of the best shooters in the NBA, is not on the floor; he’s fouled out. Gators guard Justin Hamilton sums up the upset this way: “We accomplished none of our goals. To me, this season was all for nothing. To me, we lost every game the same way.”
50. South Sweet 16: No. 5 Indiana 74, No. 1 Duke 73
The final images of Jason Williams’ Duke career include him cursing to himself after he releases a foul shot an immediately recognizes it’s not going to go in. Inside Rupp Arena, Indiana does it. Duke (13-point favorites in a Sweet 16 game) blows a 17-point lead, as IU sophomore Jared Jeffries picks a beautiful time for one of his best games in crimson and cream: 24 points, 15 rebounds. Tom Coverdale’s performance gives hope to pudgy white boys across the country. (Redheads, too.) IU wins despite 23 turnovers. It’s the only true stunner of the ’02 tournament. IU is fueled by the win and makes it to the national title game, where it falls to Maryland, which had its previous tournament run end at the hands of … Duke.
51. South first round: No. 6 Maryland 75, No. 11 UNC Wilmington 73
A year after Maryland wins its first national championship, Juan Dixon, Lonnie Baxter, Byron Mouton and Chris Wilcox are gone. But Drew Nicholas is there. And Nicholas’ knee-pump, off-balance, drifting-right 3-pointer from the wing swishes. He hops and hops and skips out of the exposure of the arena and runs to the locker room. Forgotten record from this game: UNC Wilmington’s John Goldsberry goes 8 for 8 from 3-point land, the most made 3-pointer’s without a miss in tourney history.
52. West second round: No. 1 Arizona 96, No. 9 Gonzaga 95 (2OT)
There are many wonderful candidates, but I think this is the best second-round game I’ve ever seen. Crazy energy, and persistent doubt Arizona can escape Gonzaga. It goes down in Salt Lake City at the Huntsman Center on a Saturday night. Arizona is a powerhouse program, boasting the likes of Salim Stoudamire, Jason Gardner, Channing Frye (22 and 12) and Luke Walton (16 points, nine assists, three steals, two blocks). Walton’s bucket with 4.1 left in OT extends the game, but only because Blake Stepp just misses a 40-footer at the end of OT. Tony Skinner gets a career-best 25 points but can’t hit a shot in the closing seconds to pull an upset that would have bested anything prior in Gonzaga’s history. Stepp, who also scores 25, has the game’s final shot that just comes off wrong and smacks glass before rolling off the rim. Ironically, the game’s last points come via Stoudamire with 2:03 to go. The great Dick Enberg on the call here.
53. Midwest second round: No. 9 UAB 76, No. 1 Kentucky 75
One of the few great Kentucky teams to fail to make it to the Sweet 16. Kentucky is listed as the No. 1 overall seed in the inaugural year of the selection committee making that distinction. Mo Finley’s 17-footer with 12.2 seconds to go pushes the Blazers past the Wildcats; Gerald Fitch’s 3-pointer with 2.2 to go, and Chuck Hayes’ put-back, rolls wrong. It’s UAB’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 22 years and almost 23 years to the day since UAB beat Kentucky in the ’81 tourney. The tournament fails to get two of its No. 1 seeds to the second weekend; earlier in the day, Stanford falls to Alabama. The defining play is Ronell Taylor’s fast-break steal and instinctual/no-look over-the-head pass to his twin brother, Donell, whose dunk puts UAB up 10 midway through the second half.
54. East Elite Eight: No. 2 Oklahoma State 64, No. 1 Saint Joseph’s 62
If Saint Joe’s was going to have its season end before getting to the Final Four, it deserved this kind of game. A fantastic minute-long close to the game (no timeouts called) is capped by a John Lucas 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds to lift Oklahoma State to its sixth Final Four. The Hawks get their shot, and appropriately it’s Jameer Nelson who takes it, but it’s just to the right. Given the hubbub around SJU and its undefeated regular season — and the critical evaluation put forth by Billy Packer of Phil Martelli’s team; on Selection Sunday he said Oklahoma State should have been the No. 1 seed — this regional final becomes the most anticipated game of the first two weekends of the tournament.
55. Final Four: No. 2 Connecticut 79, No. 1 Duke 78
The Huskies pull the rug out from under the Blue Devils by scoring the game’s final 12 points. National Player of the Year Emeka Okafor — who missed most of the first half with foul trouble — puts on a defensive clinic in the closing four minutes to save his team’s season. Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph and Nick Horvath all foul out for Duke. Luol Deng and J.J. Redick, who misses a key late 3-pointer, are also on this team. Mike Krzyzewski is heard yelling, “You cheated us!” at official Ted Hillary late in the contest. The scare is a wakeup for UConn, which won its previous four games by 17 points on average. This one is also remembered for its bad-beat finish: Chris Duhon cashes a running 30-footer as time expires, allowing Duke to cover the 3-point spread.
56. East first round: No. 14 Bucknell 64, No. 3 Kansas 63
The first NCAA Tournament win in Bucknell — and Patriot League — history arrives thanks to Chris McNaughton pulling off a hook shot over the great Wayne Simien with 10.5 seconds to go. Simien (24 points, 10 rebounds) misses on the next possession, and Kansas loses in the first round for the first time since 1978. Bucknell’s band never even shows (the school is on spring break) so Northern Iowa’s pep band steps in. It’s the final college game for Simien, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford. This is a late tip on a Thursday night in Oklahoma City; Kansas a 13.5-point favorite. A couple of hours earlier, Vermont upsets Syracuse in Worcester, Massachusetts.
57. West second round: No. 7 West Virginia, No. 2 Wake Forest (2OT)
John Beilein-coached West Virginia trails by 13 at halftime but gets 19 points from Mike Gansey alone (29 in all) in two overtimes to pull off one of the most entertaining wins in second-round history. It’s somewhat forgotten how good this Wake Forest team was. Chris Paul was on this team, as was Justin Gray, Eric Williams and Taron Downey, whose 3-pointer with 13 seconds left ties the game in regulation. A second OT is needed after Williams blocks Johannes Herber’s layup. It’s 2005 and Wake Forest has the No. 1 offense in the country. WVU wins its sixth game in 11 days, doing so two days removed from barely getting by Creighton. The game is played on the beautifully hideous court of Cleveland State and the 34 points in both overtimes set an NCAA Tournament record.
58. South Elite Eight: No. 5 Michigan State 94, No. 2 Kentucky 88 (2OT)
This game is associated with Texas’ home floor and Patrick Sparks just barely stepping beyond the 3-point line and sinking a hit-the-rim-four-times 3-pointer to send the game to overtime. But the entire sequence is bonkers. Sparks has his first 3-point attempt nipped by Matt Trannon, then Kelenna Azubuike gets the board, puts up a fallaway 3-pointer but it hits just the right part of the front of the rim to carom back to Sparks for one more go-go-go 3-point attempt that drops. It’s brief redemption for Sparks, who missed a foul shot to tie the game on UK’s prior possession. But as these things sometimes go: Michigan State actually wins the game. Shannon Brown leads all scorers with 24.
59. Midwest Elite Eight: No. 1 Illinois 90, No. 2 Arizona 89 (OT)
On an epic weekend for the Elite Eight, this game is remembered above all others. Another joyfully loaded Arizona team (Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire, Hassan Adams, Mustafa Shakur) gives up a 15-point lead with a quickness. Arizona leads 75-60 with 3:55 to go, then it chops from 77-68 — Arizona ball, with 1:30 remaining — to 80-77 only 45 seconds later. A classic not just because of the comeback, but because of the talent. The best Illinois team ever, led by the three-guard attack of Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head. Williams’ 3-pointer, after a brutal Arizona turnover, ties the game at 80. The game features 23 steals, 23 3-pointers, and Arizona loses despite 85% foul shooting — and only 10 fouls committed. Illinois shoots better from 3-point range (45.7%) than 2 (45.1%). (Forgive me for not including Louisville’s 93-85 overtime Elite Eight win over West Virginia. The Cards come back from 20 down to beat the Mountaineers, and the ’05 Elite Eight is probably the best ever, but I can’t squeeze ’em all in.)
60. South first round: No. 14 Northwestern State 64, No. 3 Iowa 63
The No. 1-ranked defense in the country is upset when Jermaine Wallace buries a miraculous 3-pointer from the lower-left-hand corner of Oakland’s absolutely hideous home floor. Few winners in NCAA Tournament history are as unlikely as Wallace’s prayer. He tells reporters afterward that he saw the shot fall through by looking behind the backboard glass, due to where he landed. The upset comes as the crescendo of a 17-point rally in the final eight-plus minutes. It’s the seventh time Northwestern State wins after trailing by double digits that season. The Iowa loss leads to speculation that Steve Alford will leave for the newly vacant Indiana job.
61. South Sweet 16: No. 2 Texas 74, No. 6 West Virginia 71
It’s the second win that season for UT over WVU: The Longhorns won 76-75 in November. The final game of John Beilein’s West Virginia career ends with a semi-splayed-and-made 3-pointer by Texas’ Kenton Paulino, one of the best sharpshooters in program history. The shot comes after Kevin Pittsnogle’s 3-pointer with five seconds left ties the game at 71. WVU makes 15 3-pointers; Texas makes four. LaMarcus Aldridge scores a game-high 26. It’s also the final game at West Virginia for Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey. The ’06 bracket was quality.
62. West Sweet 16: No. 2 UCLA 73, No. 3 Gonzaga 71
One of the biggest choke jobs, as Gonzaga blows a nine-point lead with three minutes remaining (and a 17-point lead carried over from the first half). The enduring image of Adam Morrison folding over and crying, face down at midcourt in Oakland, defines the agony element of this tournament. Morrison’s GU career ends as frustratingly as maybe any National Player of the Year ever — and it happens on the same night J.J. Redick and Duke get done in by LSU. Credit to UCLA’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, whose layup with 10 seconds left gives the Bruins the lead, capping an 11-0 UCLA Run. Mbah a Moute’s steal on Derek Raivio is the arrow to the heart. “Batista with the CAA-AAATCH!!!” But J.P. Batista’s shot doesn’t even hit rim.
63. East Elite Eight: No. 11 George Mason 86, No. 1 Connecticut 84 (OT)
George Mason’s bus crashes into a parked car on the way to the arena. Undersized but big-hearted GMU outplays a UConn frontline that led the nation in blocks. It’s Washington, D.C., so there’s no shortage of Patriot fans (from nearby Fairfax, Virginia) in the building. It’s objectively a terrifically played game: 20 total turnovers, 49% shooting, no foul-outs. Huge plays, big blocks, mood swings every 60-100 seconds. Mason plays only its starters for the final 15:37 and overtime and runs the same play about 20 times. Denham Brown’s reverse layup with 0.2 seconds gets UConn to OT. It’s Brown who misses the final shot of the game. Years later, Jim Larranaga admits to me he was tempted, on a primal level, to steal the ball away from Brown on that play. George Mason becomes the first double-digit seed in 20 years to make the Final Four. Six players on UConn’s roster will play in the NBA. It’s a top-three Elite Eight game in tournament history. If you want to learn more about George Mason’s incredible run,.
64. South second round: No. 1 Ohio State State 78, No. 9 Xavier 71 (OT)
Don’t let the seven-point margin fool you. This was a beaut at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. It’s the second meeting in 73 years between two schools separated by a two hour drive in Ohio. OSU would have been another No. 1-seed piece of prey had Ron Lewis not made a booming 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in regulation. Xavier can’t hold on to an 11-point lead with seven-plus minutes lingering, as Thad Matta beats his former team. Greg Oden fouls out with 2:54 remaining and OSU down nine. It seems done. Xavier, coached by Sean Miller, is going to the Sweet 16. But there’s this other star, Mike Conley Jr., who saves the day and takes over in OT. Justin Cage, who was recruited by Matta to play at Xavier, finishes with 25 points in the loss.
65. South Sweet 16: No. 1 Ohio State 85, No. 5 Tennessee 84
The Buckeyes survive back-to-back thrillers, needing double-digit comebacks in both games. Again, Oden can’t dodge foul trouble. Again, Lewis (25 points) has to help save hide, this time in San Antonio. OSU comes back from trailing by 20, eventually tying the game at 79 with 2:44, thanks to a 3-pointer by David Lighty. Conley Jr. hits the winning shot via the foul line, 6.5 seconds showing on the clock. Tennessee’s Ramar Smith grabs Conley’s miss on the second shot, worms his way up the floor then fails to convert on the last possession. It’s Oden flying in wait, swatting the attempt. SEC Player of the Year Chris Loften’s scores 24. The game also features Wayne Chism and his highly placed headband.
66. West first round: No. 12 Western Kentucky 101, No. 5 Drake 99
Start to finish, the best game of the 2008 tournament. Remember that one season where Drake was randomly ridiculously good? Drake got a NO. 5 SEED, PEOPLE! At the time this game sets the record for most made 3-pointers in a tournament game (30). Ty Rogers’ winning 3-pointer is the memorable moment. How about this: Rogers only scored 11 of WKU’s 101 points, and in fact his winning shot in OT was the only buzzer-beater of that tourney. Even wilder: it was the first game-winning shot in the NCAA Tournament at that point since Nicholas for Maryland in ’03. Tyrone Brazelton put up 33 for WKU and in fact decided to pass to Rogers, who was nonetheless draped by Drake. Cash. The 42 3-point attempts is second most in tournament history (Saint Joe’s-Boston College, 1997).
67. Midwest first round: No. 10 Davidson 82, No. 7 Gonzaga 76
Three nominees for Stephen Curry (he wasn’t Steph yet) in the ’08 Dance. This was the best of Davidson’s four games. (The Kansas one was close, but low-scoring, and KU had rickety control for most of that one.) Gonzaga in fact should have won here. Mark Few’s team led for the first 32-plus minutes. Gonzaga was consistent from deep, and then Curry dropped 30 of his 40 points in the final 20 minutes. This is the game that elevated Curry to oh-that-guy status, and then the Elite Eight run made him a household name.
68. Championship: No. 1 Kansas 75, No. 1 Memphis 68 (OT)
A fever-pitched game with incredible athletes: 11 players in this game will play in the NBA. Chalmers for the tie: YES! Mario Chalmers hits an angled 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds showing to cement Kansas’ nine-point comeback in the final 2:12 on Memphis, which would have won if not for key missed foul shots by Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose. Robert Dozier’s mid-court heave for the championship goes begging. Rose (18 points) plays all 45 minutes. KU’s Darrell Arthur is a stud, going for 20 and 10. In the extra session, Kansas scores the first six points, insurance it needs as Memphis sneaks closer but never overthrows. Afterward, Kansas coach Bill Self says of Chalmers’ 3-pointer, “It’ll probably be the biggest shot ever made in Kansas history.”
69. Midwest first round: No. 9 Siena 74, No. 8 Ohio State 72 (2OT)
Best known for Bill Raftery’s “Oh! Onions! Double order!” call after Ronald Moore’s 3-pointer helps Siena seal the game in the second overtime. A lot of drama in this one, a rare case in which a No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup has a Cinderella/underdog feel to it. How about a MAAC team getting a No. 9 seed? When are we going to see something like that again? This one was the final tip of the first round back in ’09 and had loads of lead changes to boot. Interesting Ohio State team: Evan Turner, Jon Diebler, William Buford among the starters. Siena grabs 21 offensive rebounds, giving the program its second straight first-round win.
70. East Elite Eight: No. 3 Villanova 78, No. 1 Pittsburgh 76
The Scottie Reynolds winner, and had Villanova not won titles in 2016 or 2018, Reynolds’ coast-to-coast scoot to the hoop would probably be the second-biggest moment in Nova history. But don’t let recent VU successes overshadow how big this win was and how titanic a matchup we had here. The Big East in 2009 was arguably the best conference in the country: UConn, Louisville and Pitt, all in the league then, all receive No. 1 seeds. Quality Pitt club (Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields) that Nova upends in Boston. And this was the best game of the ’09 bracket.
71. West first round: No. 7 BYU 99, No. 10 Florida 92 (2OT)
Strap in, because the 2010 tournament’s among the five best in history. (Eight double-digit seeds won in the first round.) This is prime Jimmer Fredette. He goes for 37 points, making two 3-pointers in double OT to get BYU past Chandler Parsons and the Gators. Parsons (20 points) is a March hero if either of his attempts at the end of regulation or OT fall. Kenny Boynton gets 27 points, carrying Florida from down 13 to taking the lead before OT. It’s Florida’s first tourney appearance since winning the 2007 title. BYU had lost seven straight first round games before this one.
72. Midwest second round: No. 9 Northern Iowa 69, No. 1 Kansas 67
The night “Farokhmanesh” became a verb — no, a lifestyle. The No. 1 overall seed is overthrown in Oklahoma City. This is the monumental upset of 2010. Kansas was a machine in 2009-10. Northern Iowa was no shrinking violet — getting a No. 9 seed out of the MVC is a signal of its ability — but this was nonetheless not predicted by anybody. Ali Farokhmanesh’s no-no-OH!! 3-pointer to put UNI up 66-62, with more than 30 seconds left on the shot clock, is “onions!” defined. You may not realize: Farokhmanesh hit a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds two days prior to get UNI past UNLV. Kansas’ loss is the first in six years by a No. 1 seed prior to the Sweet 16. It’s the Jayhawks’ third loss in six tournaments to a mid-major team in the opening weekend.
73. Midwest second round: No. 5 Michigan State 85, No. 4 Maryland 83
Very few instances where two of the top 100 games happened in the same region, same part of the bracket like this one happening right below UNI-Kansas (they were in different cities, though, due to podding). Here, a Sunday afternoon run in Spokane, Washington. Whiplash ending, interesting game. Michigan State controls most of the way despite losing Kalin Lucas in the first half to a torn Achilles. It also doesn’t have Chris Allen (foot) most of the game — and Durrell Summers is suddenly awesome (26 points). Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez (26 points) helps eradicate a 16-point deficit by hitting a crafty turn-and-shoot mid-range jumper with seven seconds to go, capping a spurt in which he scored nine of Maryland’s final 11. No timeout. Draymond Green brings the ball up the floor. Korie Lucious catches his eye to the right. Green fires a pass, but he doesn’t see teammate Delvon Roe, who goes Neo-in-the-Matrix and ducks to avoid the ball hitting his head. Lucious catches — and cashes. Buzzer. Game. Nobody realizes these teams will share the same conference in 15 months.
74. West Sweet 16: No. 2 Kansas State 101, No. 6 Xavier 96 (2OT)
The fifth OT game of the 2010 tourney. K-State holds three-point leads with less than 10 seconds to go at the end of regulation and OT but can’t clinch. First, Xavier’s Tu Holloway (who goes by Terrell at the time) hits three foul shots with five seconds remaining after K-State’s Denis Clemente fouls him prior to the field goal attempt ,but it’s not caught by the officials; the second is, as he’s shooting. In OT, X’s Jordan Crawford (career-high 32 points) sinks a 34-footer with the clock dying for five more minutes of free hoop. Jacob Pullen’s 3-pointers in the second overtime gets Kansas State to its first Elite Eight since 1988. Huge shots, amazing atmosphere, Gus Johnson on the call in Salt Lake City. Afterward, Xavier coach Chris Mack proclaims it’s “as good a game as I’ve ever coached or been a part of.” It’s the fourth game in as many seasons between these teams.
75. Championship: No. 1 Duke 61, No. 5 Butler 59
The most famous missed shot in NCAA Tournament history. Butler overcomes a two-point win against Murray State, a four-point win against Syracuse, a seven-point win vs. K-State and a two-point victory over Michigan State to meet with college hoops royalty. The head-to-head alone is meaningful. The title game is in Indianapolis, home city to Butler. Some players go to class that morning. The game is an anxious but physical affair; the lead never swells to more than six points. Butler has the ball with 13 seconds remaining. Gordon Hayward tries to make the play but misses a fallaway jumper, over Brian Zoubek, on the baseline. After Zoubek makes his first free throw, Mike Krzyzewski instructs him to intentionally miss his second foul shot to induce Butler — no timeouts — into a scramble play. That’s what makes the Greatest Miss in Tournament History possible.
76. Southeast second round: No. 8 Butler 71, No. 1 Pittsburgh 70
The final 7.1 seconds take more than 10 minutes to complete, due to reviews. All that transpires could inspire a masochistic novella. The game itself is a great one, but we’ll boil it down to the final tainted seconds. Pitt leads 69-68. Butler ball. Shawn Vanzant dishes over his head to Andrew Smith, who converts in traffic with 2.2 left. No timeouts for either team. Gilbert Brown takes an angle to accept a pass, is cut off by Shelvin Mack, and the officials call a foul. Brad Stevens is so mad he might run his hands through his hair. Brown makes his first free throw, but after he misses the second, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson fouls Matt Howard on the loose ball chase. Howard actually attempts to get off a shot 84 feet from the rim. It’s spaz-tastic. The clock slips from 1.4 to 0.8. Farcical. Howard makes the first and intentionally misses the second — calling an echo to Butler’s loss in the title game a season prior.
77. Southwest Sweet 16: No. 11 VCU 72, No. 10 Florida State 71 (OT)
VCU, which played in the First Four, needs five wins to make the Final Four. It’s fourth one is the most compelling. This is the first No. 10 vs. No. 11 matchup in NCAA Tournament history. The teams switch leads and runs, FSU never going up by more than four. Bradford Burgess’ layup with 7.1 in OT, and Rob Branderberg’s block on Derwin Kitchen, seal the deal. Burgess is outstanding, scoring 26 and making six 3-pointers. VCU relies on 3-pointers after being an average team from distance most of the season. Florida State’s Bernard James says afterward, “The game was decided in the first 30 minutes when we didn’t play defense.”
78. Southeast Elite Eight: No. 8 Butler 74, No. 2 Florida 71 (OT)
Butler’s run to a second straight Final Four includes an escape vs. Old Dominion, an unreal finish vs. Pitt and this wild ride over Florida in New Orleans. BU steams back from down 11 with 10 to go. Mack, who scores 27 on a tender left ankle, hits a 3-pointer with 81 seconds remaining in overtime that gives Butler a lead it won’t relinquish. Erving Walker’s final triple attempt goes begging. Remember how good Vernon Macklin was? He scores 25. The win is sweet for Butler fans, who saw their team get bumped out of the bracket by Florida in 2000 and 2007. Butler wins despite shooting 39.6%.
79. West | First Four: No. 14 BYU 78, No. 14 Iona 72
BYU pulls off the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. The Cougars overcome a 25-point deficit to beat the highest-scoring offense in hoops. (Three years later, BYU will blow a 17-point lead in the First Four and lose to Ole Miss.) Noah Hartsock scores 23, Brandon Davies 18. BYU, weirdly placed as an at-large No. 14 seed, a practice/guideline which is soon abandoned by the selection committee, beats the previous deficit record of 22 (Duke over Maryland in the ’01 Final Four). Interestingly, the game that precedes this one — WKU over Mississippi Valley State, 59-58 — sets the tournament record for largest deficit overcome in the final five minutes (16). President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are courtside for that one, but leave before BYU and Iona get going. The Gaels score 55 points in the game’s first 16 minutes then only seven in the next near-17 minutes. BYU takes its first lead on a Hartsock 3-pointer with 2:26 remaining. Iona, still, has never officially won an NCAA Tournament game (0-14).
80. West first round: No. 15 Norfolk State 86, No. 2 Missouri 84
By point spread, this is the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. Missouri enters the game out in Omaha, Nebraska, favored by 21.5. Norfolk State, out of the MEAC, has never played in the NCAA Tournament. Then, in short order, Kyle O’Quinn becomes the face of the opening two days of the tournament after getting 26 points and 14 rebounds. His and-one in the final minute puts NSU ahead. Phil Pressey misses a 3-pointer to win it, and Mizzou is devastated. Quinn sings “One Shining Moment” off-key in his on-court postgame interview. Spartan players take glee over blowing up President Obama’s bracket; he picked Missouri to make the Final Four. The win comes hours before No. 15 Lehigh, led by 30 points from C.J. McCollum, beats Duke 75-70 (a late cut on this list) and provides the only example in tournament history that two No. 15 seeds win in the same year.
81. South Sweet 16: No. 4 Michigan 87, No. 1 Kansas 85 (OT)
Another top-seeded Jayhawks team that fails to make the Final Four. For about the first 37 minutes, KU controls the game. But it’s more comeback than a collapse. Trey Burke doesn’t get a point in the first half. Michigan’s down 68-54 with less than seven minutes remaining. Burke gets 23 in the second half and OT. His long-distance triple near the end of regulation saves Michigan’s season and will ultimately help the program make its first Final Four in 20 years. Five years after Kansas benefits from Memphis’ free-throw woes in the title game, the reverse happens here. In OT, the first and only game of this tourney with an extra session, there are five lead changes. Mitch McGary gives Michigan the go-ahead basket late in OT. Naadir Tharpe misses at the horn. The 2013 NCAA Tournament watches three No. 1 seeds fail to make the Elite Eight.
82. Midwest second round: No. 8 Kentucky 78, No. 1 Wichita State 76
The greatest compliment I can ever give to a truly epic game is to say each team brought out the best in the other. That happened here, and if this list was to be a top-20 of the greatest tournament games of all time, this tilt would still make the cut. Remember, Wichita State’s undefeated. It gets the No. 1 seed. There’s fuss and buzz over the fact a rocky-but-dangerous UK team is put in the same pod, setting up this potential matchup. Then St. Louis is witness to a stone-cold classic. The only thing this didn’t have: a buzzer-beater. Fred VanVleet’s shot goes just long and UK holds on, but before that: Cleanthony Early’s 3-pointer puts WSU up 69-64; UK goes on 6-0 run; Early takes the lead back on a tough jumper; a James Young 3-pointer with 1:37 left puts UK up 73-71; Ron Baker sinks an absurd bank-shot 3-pointer to make it 75-74 with 29 seconds to go; UK and Wichita State trade points once more before VanVleet’s 3-pointer misses. Early finishes with a season-high 31 points, while Andrew Harrison goes for 20. The teams combine to shoot 54.5%. Wichita State makes back-to-back Final Fours if it faces any other team besides Kentucky?
83. West Elite Eight: No. 2 Wisconsin 64, No. 1 Arizona 63 (OT)
The only regional final this tournament between a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed. No team leads by more than three in the final 18 minutes. Frank Kaminksy (28 and 11) vs. Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski. Kaminsky’s just tremendous here while the rest of his team is skittish from the field. The Badgers win thanks to a timely tip from Frank the Tank with more than a minute remaining in OT. Jordin Mayes cuts the lead on the next possession and then the teams never score again. Arizona loses its fourth straight Elite Eight game dating back to 2005, those four Ls by a total of five points. WHAT? This game is the seventh overtime affair of the 2014 tourney, which ties a record at the time.
84. Final Four: No. 8 Kentucky 74, No. 2 Wisconsin 73
You’ll notice there aren’t a lot of national semifinal games on this list: the title game is historically more reliable for greatness than the semis despite having half the inventory. So with all due respect to Virginia vs. Auburn in 2019, the last great Final Four game we’ve had was this one. Wisconsin goes for 40 in the first half, and UK stays close thanks to Julius Randle. The Badgers set a Final Four record by making 95% (19 for 20) of their foul shots. The only miss comes from Traveon Jackson with 16.4 seconds remaining. Wisconsin makes eight 3-pointers, UK only two — but it’s Aaron Harrison again who saves the day in carbon copy-type fashion. Another game that came close to making the list — Kentucky over Michigan in the Elite Eight — ends almost the same way, and from the same spot, as this one. Harrison is a Wildcats legend for his back-to-back winners from the left wing.
85. West first round: No. 14 Georgia State 57, No. 3 Baylor 56
The video/image of Ron Hunter being detonated off his rolling stool after his son, R.J., hits a deeeeeep 3-pointer to win the game for Georgia State over Baylor is one of the most joyful, risible things this tournament has ever given us. R.J. Hunter’s 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left gives GSU the game’s final score and puts a bow on a 12-0 rally in the final 2:54. Ron Hunter is partially immobilized because of a torn Achilles that he suffered while celebrating his team’s auto-bid clinch in the Sun Belt Tournament championship. (This sport is the best.) This game is also the first tournament game for Kevin Ware, who gruesomely broke his leg in the Elite Eight at Louisville two years prior but returns as a member of Georgia State’s roster. Georgia State and UAB both win games on this Thursday as No. 14 seeds; ridiculously, the first 10 games of the 2015 tournament see underdogs cover, and the opening Thursday sets a record for games decided by one point (five).
86. Midwest Elite Eight: No. 1 Kentucky 68, No. 3 Notre Dame 66
Incontestably. Undefeated Kentucky, with the No. 1 defense, playing five-loss Notre Dame and the No. 2 offense. The game has 20 lead changes and 12 ties, the lead never swelling beyond six. Notre Dame’s a smaller team yet manages to score 40 points in the paint: exactly as many as Kentucky. Karl-Anthony Towns has a wonderful game (25 points) and doesn’t miss an attempt in the second half. Kentucky needs to make its final nine shots and four free throws to escape in the final 12:05. It does. UK keeps Notre Dame scoreless for the game’s final 2:35. Andrew Harrison’s two foul shots with six seconds remaining win it. But it’s 7-footer Wille Cauley-Stein’s ability to stay stride-for-stride for 85-or-so feet with Jerian Grant, before Harrison and Trey Lyles converge on him, that ends the evening’s events. It’s Notre Dame’s first Elite Eight game in 36 years. Kentucky is two wins away from being the first team in 39 years to run the table. Wisconsin kills the dream a week later in Indianapolis, but UK becomes just the third team ever to win 38 games in a season, joining Memphis in 2008 and Kentucky in 2012, which were also coached by John Calipari.
87. Midwest first round: No. 12 Little Rock 85, No. 5 Purdue 83 (2OT)
A year after Georgia State, the Sun Belt gets a first-round win in back-to-back seasons. Little Rock overcomes a 13-point deficit with 3:33 left to stay alive, punctuated by Josh Hagins cashing a super-deep 3-pointer to get the game to overtime. He hits another pretty shot, a bank, to push it to a second OT. Hagins scores 31 points, gets six assists and five steals. The game is played in Denver and finishes in that transitional 5 p.m. ET window but nonetheless is a highlight among highlights in a fantastic first weekend of ’16. The win leads Chris Beard — who coaches this game with a splint on his hand after he broke it punching a whiteboard days prior — to get the UNLV job, which he’ll leave days later to take over at Texas Tech.
88. East second round: No. 6 Notre Dame 76, No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 75
. Highly competitive, impressive basketball for 40 minutes, with under-seeded SFA trying to become just the third 14 seed to make the Sweet 16 in history. The lead never gets larger than seven points; the game has eight ties and nine lead changes. After Notre Dame misses three chances on a winner, Rex Pflueger’s put-back with 1.5 seconds to go gets it done. It’s his first made basket in two weeks. After the game, Mike Brey calls this win “a flat-out theft.” Stephen F. Austin star/2016 tourney cult hero Thomas Walkup closes his career with 21 points. SFA leads for most of the second half, but can’t hold on because Notre Dame shoots 67.6% from 2-point range. It’s the first loss for the Lumberjacks in 2016.
89. West second round: No. 3 Texas A&M 92, No. 11 Northern Iowa 88 (2OT)
Not sure any team has had a wilder swing of fates in any first weekend than 2016 Northern Iowa. This collapse comes less than 48 hours removed from UNI winning by half-court heave in the first round over Texas, courtesy of Paul Jesperson. And even that was one game removed from Wes Washpun sending UNI to the NCAAs on a bouncy shot to win the Valley tournament. What we have here is the largest comeback in the shortest amount of time in the history of college basketball. From 12 down with 40 seconds remaining to getting the game to OT — and another OT on top of it. The Panthers turn the ball over four times in 44 seconds. A&M in fact is down by 10 with less than 30 ticks to go. Admon Gilder’s steal-then-layup with 1.9 seconds left send it to overtime at 71-all. Northern Iowa wins the game in OT if not for Alex Caruso’s layup with 5.9 seconds remaining. Ironically, Jesperson loses his sense of place and time and releases a prayer beyond half court with more than four seconds remaining. Huge 3-pointer after huge 3-pointer dot the overtime sessions. Jeremy Morgan scores 36 for UNI, Caruso and Danuel House combine for 47.
90. Championship: No. 2 Villanova 77, No. 1 North Carolina 74
It has a claim as the best title game in tournament history. It’s the only one to end on a true buzzer-beater (whereas NC State in ’83 was just a tick before). And there’s Marcus Paige’s twisty, gravity-clinging 3-pointer the possession before Kris Jenkins becomes an all-time legend. The teams are tied for more than seven minutes of game time, with nine ties and nine lead changes in all. The Wildcats and Tar Heels make 51% of their shots and shoot an outlandish 61% from 3-pointer. Ryan Arcidiacono could have easily kept the ball for himself and tried to take the would-be winner. But a trailing Jenkins — yelling “Arch! Arch!” — receives the pass, steps in rhythm and releases. This is on the short list of greatest shots in college basketball history, made all the more memorable for Jay Wright blankly saying “bang.” to himself right before the trey drops and Nova wins its second title in school history.
91. Midwest first round: No. 7 Michigan 92, No. 10 Oklahoma State 91
Two of the five best offenses in college basketball square up and agree to a footrace. For the first time in 52 years, an NCAA Tournament game that features both teams getting to at least 90 points is decided by one. Indianapolis is witness to a 65-possession game that ends with 183 points! Oklahoma State loses despite shooting 58% from 2-point range, 44% from 3-point range and 88% from the foul line. It grabs 16 offensive rebounds — and loses. Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. gets 26 points and 11 assists, as Michigan makes a school-record 16 3-pointers, 11 of them in the second half. UM is guided to a win in part because it only turns the ball over four times. Oklahoma State averages 1.40 points per possession, Michigan 1.42. Let us not forget this first-round classic.
92. East Sweet 16: No. 4 Florida 84, No. 8 Wisconsin 83 (OT)
The only buzzer-beater of the 2017 tournament comes courtesy of Chris Chiozza in Madison Square Garden on a galloping 3-pointer that boots Bucky out of the bracket. It’s yet another indelible NCAA Tournament highlight made possible because Florida is required to go the full length of the court in order to get the shot off. Never change this rule, NCAA. It’s the most memorable game-winning shot in Florida history, eclipsing Mike Miller’s in 2000. It’s the stamp on the game after Wisconsin comes back from being down 12 with 4:20 remaining. Zak Showalter nails an impaired 3-pointer with 2.1 left in regulation — after Florida opts not to foul — and in overtime Wisconsin swells with momentum until a tremendous breakaway block by Canyon Barry with 36 seconds left puts the game on a pivot. It’s the final Wisconsin game for Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, whose foul shots give Wisconsin a two-point lead before Chiozza goes legend.
93. South Elite Eight: No. 1 North Carolina 75, No. 2 Kentucky 73
It’s asking a lot of the two winningest schools in NCAA Tournament history to meet expectations when they face off in a regional final — and when both are the top two seeds. But this game pulls it off, despite some iffy officiating. Emotional swings, as Memphis, Tennessee, is witness to an epic. Earlier in the season UK’s Malik Monk drops 47 points on UNC in Vegas. He has merely 12 here. Carolina reels away a 12-0 run in the final five minutes, then John Calipari’s team — led by Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo — pushes back from a seven-point deficit with 50 seconds remaining. A Fox 3-pointer, then a pair of treys from Monk, the second while double-teamed atop the key, tie the game with 7.2 to go. Calipari and Roy Williams opt not to call timeouts in the final minute. Theo Pinson tosses to Luke Maye, who steps back for a long 2-pointer and hits, finishing the game with a then-career-high 17 points. It’s the shot that’s most remembered along UNC’s run to the 2017 national title.
94. South second round: No. 7 Nevada 75, No. 2 Cincinnati 73
Narrowing down the 2018 tournament was excruciating,. Two days after overcoming a 14-point hole against Texas, the Wolf Pack boom back from down 22 with 11 minutes to go to tie the second-biggest come-from-behind win in tournament history. Nevada takes its first lead of the game with 9.1 seconds left, when Josh Hall hits the put-back. Cody Martin’s line: 25 points, seven dimes, six boards. Nevada’s into the Sweet 16 for just the second time in its history. Making the outcome all the more stunning: Cincinnati’s defense is No. 2 in college basketball. Mick Cronin’s team can’t make a basket for the game’s final 5:45. Nevada ends the game on a 32-8 run. Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman eagerly takes off his shirt before barging into the locker room.
95. West second round: No. 3 Michigan 64, No. 6 Houston 63
Wolverines freshman Jordan Poole is the anti-Jim Valvano. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Wichita, Kansas, causes him to instinctively run away from his teammates because, as he admits afterward, he doesn’t want to get tackled and be on the bottom of a huge pile of bodies. The outcome is only possible because UH’s Devin Davis misses both his foul shots with 3.6 seconds showing. This superb first-rounder is a fervent affair thanks to 17 lead changes and 12 ties. Neither team is ever in control. Poole’s splayed 3-pointer is unforgettable, the latest huge win for a U-M team that’s gone 11 straight without an L.
96. South Sweet 16: No. 11 Loyola Chicago 63, No. 2 Nevada 62
When it came to some teams/years on this list and I couldn’t squeeze in multiple games from a single run, some coaches in essence did the picking for me. That’s the case here, as Loyola-Chicago’s victory over Tennessee wins out over its first round defeat of Miami and its Sweet 16 win against Nevada, both of which were tremendous. But this one’s played at an efficient level: the teams shoot better than 50% from 2-point range, 37% from 3-point range and commit 17 turnovers. The Ramblers knock off the SEC champs thanks to Clayton Custer’s star-kissed/winning shot, a save after they led by 10 with four minutes to go, only to let Tennessee all the way back and take its first lead of the second half with 20 seconds left. What’s more, this one capped off something that I believe is a one-time-only thing in tourney history: two final-seconds game-winners by an underdog/Cinderella in their first two games of a tournament.
97. Midwest Elite Eight: No. 1 Kansas 85, No. 2 Duke 81 (OT)
Do not sleep on this chef-d’œuvre. Malik Newman scores all 13 points for Kansas in overtime out in Omaha, finishing with a career-best 32 and ending one of the best games in tournament history to feature two bluebloods. With 18 lead changes and 11 ties, Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski trade tactics and bring out the best in each other. It’s Kansas’ best rebounding performance (47) of the season. Svi Mykhailiuk hits a big 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, and the game almost ends on Grayson Allen’s bank shot attempt at the end of regulation. Marvin Bagley III gets 16 and 10, but it’s Trevon Duval whose 20 points lead Duke. This loss, like Duke’s 2019 Elite Eight ending against Michigan State, keeps Krzyzewski level with John Wooden for the most Final Four appearances (12). This is the last game of Allen’s Duke career.
98. East second round: No. 1 Duke 77, No. 9 UCF 76
The head-to-head matchup the world wanted to see: Zion Williams vs. 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall. And the game is totally enrapturing. Krzyzewski coaching against his former player, Johnny Dawkins. Williamson scores 32, but so does UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins, who picks a hell of a time to have the best game of his life. Duke trails by four in the final minute but gets the lead thanks to the will of Williamson, who gets a bucket by going right at Fall with 14.4 seconds remaining, fouling him out, and then when Williamson can’t make the foul shot, RJ Barrett gets the offensive board. UCF pulls off an all-time upset if either B.J. Taylor or Dawkins can make close-range shots on the game’s butt-clenching last possession. It doesn’t happen. Duke survives, and barely, and maybe doesn’t if Fall is in the game. Fall blocks Williamson three times on this night; Zion never dunks on the big man.
99. South Sweet 16: No. 3 Purdue 99, No. 2 Tennessee 94 (OT)
One of the three or four best Sweet 16 games of the past decade, if not longer. Tennessee swims back from an 18-point deficit. Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline team up for 56 points and 12-of-24 shooting from 3-point range, with Cline out of his mind. After one of the more gripping second halves in recent memory — Admiral Schofield scoring 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting; Grant Williams putting Tennessee up with 8.8 seconds to go; Williams blocking Edwards and nearly ending the game then and there — Edwards is fouled on a corner 3-pointer by Lamonte Turner with 1.7 to go. Tennessee fans go ballistic.
Edwards then misses his first foul shot, hits the next two to get us to OT. Purdue finishes the game shooting 48.4% from 3-point range and 48.5% from the foul line. Matt Painter makes the first Elite Eight of his career. The win opens a portal for an even better game in Louisville two nights later.
100. South Elite Eight: No. 1 Virginia 80, No. 3 Purdue 75 (OT)
Purdue fans outnumber Virginia backers by about 7-to-1 inside the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Carsen Edwards puts up one of the best performances in a losing effort we’ll ever see. He scores 42 and makes 10 3-pointers, about four of which seem to rattle the universe. It’s so ridiculous, that at one point UVA coach Tony Bennett rips his play card apart in disbelief. Nevertheless, Virginia comes back from down 10. It’s an all-time escape. The highlight from this game that will live on forever: Purdue fouls up three. Ty Jerome misses the second one, a forceful back-tap by Mamadi Diakite into the backcourt. Kihei Clark chases it down, the clock vanishing, he has the wits and confidence to pass to Diakite, who calmly (HOW?) accepts and sinks the first buzzer-beater of the 2019 tournament.
It’s Diakite’s only made basket of the half. Kyle Guy scores a team-high 25, plus grabs a career-best 10 rebounds. Jerome gets 24. De’Andre Hunter gives Virginia its final lead in OT with 29 seconds left. Bennett takes Virginia to its first Final Four in 35 years. His father is on hand, andEdwards, appropriately, is named South Regional MOP despite not advancing. He makes 28 3-pointers in four games, a tournament record — beating Glen Rice’s mark of 27, in which he needed six to get that far. Edwards goes for 25-plus in five straight tournament games, dating back to 2018, which is also a record. His 139 points through four games is the most since 2000.
101. Championship: No. 1 Virginia 85, No. 3 Texas Tech 77 (OT)
That If I tell you what happens, it won’t happen.”) This is the first OT title game since 2008. On the final night of the 2018-19 season, Virginia goes up by 10 twice, entirely gives up those leads each time, and is only able to get it to overtime thanks to a 3-pointer by De’Andre Hunter with 12 seconds left. Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy combine for 67 of UVA’s 85 points, helping Virginia get 1.21 points per possession on the best college basketball defense in two decades. Hunter’s emergence is the story within the story because he doesn’t even get a bucket until a minute and a half remains in the first half — then he winds up with a career-high 27 points, including a 3-pointer to put UVA up 75-73 in OT and keep the Hoos ahead for good. Because both teams are elite defensively, the game is expected to be a grinder. Instead, the over of 118 is bested by 44 points — it’s the highest-scoring title game in 19 years — and the first championship game in history to have both teams make at least 10 3-pointers.not just because of the UMBC loss from a year prior, but the road needed to get there in postseason play. Every game with the exception of Oregon in the Sweet 16 provides legitimate scares and doubts. Play out those sequences again a hundred times and Virginia likely loses at some point in the other 99. (“