As College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein likes to say, “This is March.” Welcome to one of the best times of the year, March Madness. For my money, the first two days of the NCAA Tournament are the two best sporting days of the year. There’s nothing better than 32 basketball games that are full of non-stop action, buzzer beaters, and the agony of defeat. I challenge you to name anything better in sports than those two days.
There are so many unforgettable March Madness moments that you began to lose track of them. It seems that every buzzer-beater gets better and better. Narrowing the list down to five is almost impossible, but I’m going to give you my most top 5 moments in NCAA Tournament History. Let the debate begin.
5. George Mason’s Magical Run To The Final Four
George Mason walked so that Sister Jean could run. Before VCU, Wichita State, and Loyola Chicago made their magical runs to the Final Four; there was George Mason. In 2006, the George Mason Patriots made one of the greatest runs to the Final Four as an 11 seed. Keep in mind that George Mason did not even win their conference that year. The Patriots lost in the CAA semis to Hofstra and had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. The committee granted George Mason with an 11 seed, and the rest was history. On their historic run, George Mason knocked off Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Gregg Marshall, and Jim Calhoun. Beating three Hall of Fame coaches on the way to the Final Four is pretty damn impressive. It wasn’t always pretty, but George Mason’s grit and toughness overcame the odds to reach the Final Four.
4. The Legend Of Steph Curry
There’s putting on a show, and then there’s what Steph Curry did in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Steph Curry was not on any NBA radars back in 2008. Steph was a talented shooter, but most people only recognized him because of his last name and his father, Dell, who played in the NBA. That all changed with one legendary NCAA tournament run. Look at these numbers that Steph posted in a four game stretch.
128 points in 4 games is insane. Keep in mind that Davidson was a #10 seed and was one shot away from making the Final Four. Steph’s range and ability to create his own shot were put on full display, and NBA scouts took notice. Now, Curry is arguably the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA. It all started with a magical run in the tournament.
3. Kris Jenkins Wins The National Championship For Villanova
Not all buzzer beaters are created equal. Winning in the first round from a buzzer beater is cool, but winning the National Championship with a buzzer beater is iconic. Under Jay Wright, Villanova was always a solid team, but could never put it all together when it really mattered. It wasn’t until 2013 that Villanova consistently became one of the best teams in the country. From 2013-2018, Villanova accumulated a record of 165 wins and 21 with two National Championships. Everything about this play is awesome. The presence of mind to flip back to Jenkins as Grant Hill says to “watch Jenkins.” Nantz says “for the championship” as the ball goes in is such a perfect moment. Plus, the confetti cannons going off while pandemonium ensues is incredible.
2. Jimmy V Looks For A Hug
I mentioned that George Mason walked so that the other Cinderellas could run. Well, Jim Valvano and NC State crawled so that George Mason could walk. NC State upsetting Houston in the championship of the 1983 NCAA Tournament is one of the greatest upsets of all time. I highly recommend watching Survive and Advance, an ESPN 30 for 30 which chronicles Jimmy V and that 1983 NC State team that won it all. NC State was able to overcome a “Phi Slama Jama” which had two future Hall of Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Lorenzo Charles’s dunk at the last second to win the title was special, but Jimmy V looking for someone to hug after the game is the defining image from this game.
1. Christian Laettner Hits The Shot
Love him or hate him, and most people hate him, there’s no denying the fact that Christian Laettner was one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. In 1992, Mike Krzyzewski and the number one seed Duke squared off against Rick Pitino and the number two seed Kentucky in the Elite 8 to determine the last spot in the Final Four. With 2.1 seconds in overtime, Duke, the defending National Champion, was down 1 point with the ball. Grant Hill threw a full court heave to Laettner, who caught the ball at the free throw line, had the presence of mind to take a dribble, and nailed the game winning shot as time expired. This game is widely considered as the greatest game in the history of the NCAA Tournament. What’s so underrated about the game is Laettner’s stat line. Laettner finished the game with 31 points and 7 rebounds, which sounds like a good day from the office. However, Laettner was 10 for 10 from the field and 10 for 10 from the free throw line. Laettner was perfect and so was his shot.
What are your most unforgettable moments from the NCAA Tournament? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.