Welcome to the best day of the year. With all due respect to my Irish brothers and sisters, today belongs to March Madness. I’m more excited than a kid on Christmas. I want to sit at the top of my steps and wait until 12 PM to come down and see what Santa left for us basketball fans in the opening slate of games. As the great Jon Rothstein likes to say, “This is March.”
Last year, the tournament returned to our lives after COVID robbed us in 2020. Without huge crowds, however, the tournament felt different. Plus, it started on a Friday, which was the worst move in sports since the ghost runner on second base in the MLB. Thankfully, the tournament is back to its normal start day on Thursday* and the crowds will be rocking.
*I still don’t count the First Four as part of the tournament. I might get their one day, but it won’t be today.
Take a step back and appreciate what we’re about to experience over the next 96 hours. It all starts with wall-to-wall coverage from 12 PM – 12 AM. Arguments about which 12-seed will beat a 5-seed will dominate your group chats. Buzzer beaters will go viral and light up social media. TUMS will be out of stock at your local CVS due to indigestion caused by wings and beer.
Is this heaven? No, it’s ̶I̶o̶w̶a̶ March Madness.
Now I know what you’re all thinking. Where are my picks? Everyone might fill out a bracket, but have they ever won a competition where they got to spend time on a national radio show?
In my best Norman Osborn voice, “You know, I’m something of a scientist myself.”
There is some science to the bracket. Some numbers to keep in mind:
All four 1-seeds haven’t made the Elite Eight since 2016.
Look at offensive and defensive field goal percentages – champions typically fall inside the top 30 for both offensive and defensive field goal percentage.
A 13-seed has beaten a 4-seed in 8 of the last 11 tournaments.
Multiple 12-seeds have beaten 5-seeds in five of the last nine tournmanets. In 2019, three 12-seeds defeated 5-seeds.
Numbers are important, but it truly all comes down to luck. The phrase “better lucky than good” could not be more true during this tournament. I rely on a few “feelings” when completing my bracket. Here are some things I look for in a championship team.
Veteran guard play
At least one future lottery pick
If they lost in their conference tournament, was it a fluke, or a sign of what’s to come?
When in doubt, chalk.
Worry about the Sweet 16, not the first round upsets. If you have 11-12 of 16 teams left after the weekend with one being your champion, you’re in great shape.
Fill out two brackets. Screw the “integrity” crowd. Those people probably have multiple fantasy football teams. I always make two brackets so plan accordingly.
After a two-year wait, the NCAA Tournament is finally upon us. As Upper East Side resident and CBS analyst, Jon Rothstein, likes to say…
The NCAA Tournament is one of my favorite events of the year. For three weeks, college basketball will dominate the sports world. In particular, the first day of the tournament is one of my best days of the year. 12 hours of basketball, food, gambling, and anarchy. Sign me up.
With the tournament comes the bracket. According to American Gaming Association, 36.7 million Americans say they will fill out a bracket. I’d venture to say that more than half of those people don’t watch college basketball, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means that a lot of people are going to fill out brackets and enter gambling pools.
Let’s just call a spade a spade. It takes a lot of luck to win your pool. However, there are some tips and trends to follow that could set you up for success. As someone who won a national tournament challenge and spoke on CBS Sports Radio about my victory, I may know a thing or two about the bracket…
This is my bracket manifesto.
I’m not going to tell you which teams to pick. However, I’m going to give you the keys on how to fill out your bracket. This manifesto is your tour guide. You still have to arrive at the destination, but I’m giving you the map to follow.
*Disclaimers are hot in the streets right now thanks to the “I am not a financial advisor, but I’m going to buy this stock” tweets. I want to state that I am not an expert. I’m just a guy who has found some success filling out brackets. This is MY strategy.
When In Doubt, Pick The Favorite
This is my number one rule. When in doubt, pick the favorite. It sounds simple, but so many of us fall into the trap of picking the perfect upset instead of focusing on who wins titles, which are the top seeds. There have been four champions since 1983 that have been seeded worse than five. The last team to do it was UCONN in 2014. If you picked UCONN in 2014 to win it all, you probably won your pool. Congrats, but that was an anomaly. Stick to a team in the top 5 as your champion.
Focus On Keeping Your Sweet Sixteen Intact
In most pools, brackets will be rewarded for advancement. If your pool rewards an upset win with more points, then pick more upsets. However, there are more points up for grabs in the later rounds. Don’t freak out if you don’t pick the correct #12 over #5 or #11 or #6 in the first round. If you had that team losing the next round, then it’s not a huge loss. Focus on having as many Sweet 16 teams as possible. If your bracket has 12 of 16 teams heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, then you’re in great shape.
First Time Final Four Participants Rarely Win It All
There’s a first for everything. Teams like Alabama and Tennessee may be trending in the right direction. Both squads are looking to reach their first Final Four in school history. However, only one team in the last 35 years has won a title during their first trip to the Final Four and that was UCONN in 1999. As someone who loves this Alabama team and will pick them to go far, it would be unwise to pick them as my champion.
The #11 over #6 Is The New #12 Over #5
One of the most popular pieces of advice shared during tournament week is the #12 over #5 upset. “You need to pick at least one 12-seed to win,” said one of your coworkers who thinks he’s an expert. Although your coworker is probably a snob, they’re right. In the past 40 years, at least one 12-seed beat a 5-seed in all but five tournaments. You should pick at least one 12-seed to win in the first round, but the 11-seeds are becoming the new must-have upset. 11-seeds are 21-19 against 6-seeds in the last 40 tournament games. So which Syracuse 11-seed wins a game in the first round?
Blue – The Color Of Champions
With apologies to red, orange, yellow, green, purple, white, and black, blue is the official color of champions. Since Syracuse won in 2003, only one other champion did not have a shade of blue on their uniform and that was Louisville in 2013. Technically, that championship never took place! This year, Gonzaga, Michigan, and Illinois are all 1-seeds not because of their resume, but because of the blue on their jerseys. Sorry, Baylor.
Cherish this NCAA Tournament. We were all robbed of March Madness last year. COVID-19 can’t ruin this one, right?
Please don’t ruin it, COVID.
What are your tips for filling out brackets? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.
If anyone is still wondering why lawmakers are so interested in college athletes’ rights, they got their answer last weekend. The NCAA once again demonstrated how unfair their rules are and how they are inconsistently enforced when they declared college football’s and men’s basketball top players ineligible. Ohio State University’s (OSU) defensive end and Heisman Trophy contender, Chase Young, was declared ineligible just ahead of OSU’s game against Maryland. Similarly, the University of Memphis (Memphis) men’s basketball center, James Wiseman, was declared ineligible prior to their game against Illinois-Chicago.
A reasonable fan may wonder why the NCAA would declare their top performers in their major revenue-producing sports ineligible? Did they get caught cheating on a test? Did they engage in illegal activity? Most would agree that if the answer to those questions is yes, the players deserve their punishment. However, that is not the case for Young nor Wiseman. Neither of them did anything clearly wrong. They were both declared ineligible for receiving financial assistance. Why would the NCAA declare a “student-athlete” ineligible for receiving needed financial assistance?
The answer is simple. The NCAA’s primary motive is to protect the farce of amateurism. For the NCAA, that means making sure athletes are not given any benefit that is not NCAA approved. No matter how dire an athletes’ need is. Chase Young’s and James Wiseman’s cases are textbook examples of the NCAA’s commitment to their rules; even when it defies all logic.
Chase Young’s Case
Young was suspended for accepting a loan from a family friend. He reportedly accepted the loan to pay for his girlfriend’s trip to watch him play in the Rose Bowl last season. That is right, Young was declared ineligible for getting a loan from a family friend so that someone he cares for could be there to support him. Here is the real kicker: Young repaid the loan in April. The person who gave Young the loan is not a booster nor an agent.
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Despite those facts, the NCAA still suspended him. The NCAA felt it right to disrupted Young’s potentially Heisman Trophy-winning and record-breaking season to reaffirm their position on unapproved financial assistance. All Chase Young wanted was for his girlfriend to be there to support him while he gave his body to make millions of dollars for others. Young will serve a two-game suspension for taking a loan from a family friend and paying it back. Somehow, the NCAA believes that this is fair and is the right thing to do. It is precisely these type of decisions by the NCAA that makes lawmakers feel the need to get involved.
James Wiseman’s Case
James Wiseman’s eligibility issue stems from a rather complicated story. Here is the crux of his eligibility issue. Wiseman’s eligibility is in jeopardy due to an $11,500 payment that the current Memphis coach, Penny Hardaway, gave to Wiseman’s mother in 2017. At the time, Wiseman did not know about money. The money was intended to cover moving expenses when Wiseman’s family moved to Memphis.
However, this is not why the NCAA declared Wiseman ineligible. The NCAA declared him ineligible because they determined that Penny Hardaway was a booster due to a 1 million dollar donation he made to Memphis in 2008. The donation was made to fund the school’s Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame. Since the NCAA determined that Hardaway was a booster, the $11,500 that he gave to Wiseman’s mom is impermissible under NCAA rules.
According to NCAA rules, this would make Wiseman ineligible. However, the problem here is that the NCAA knew about the $11,500 payment. With that knowledge, the NCAA declared Wiseman eligible. For some reason, the NCAA has gone back on that decision and declared him ineligible. How is this fair? The answer is that it is not fair. James Wiseman’s case reaffirms how inconsistent the NCAA is in its rule enforcement. It is for this reason, that lawmakers have begun advocating for college athlete rights.
Wiseman’s Case is not Over Yet as he has Sued the NCAA
Wiseman has sued the NCAA and Memphis. He also obtained a temporary injunction on his suspension that has allowed him to continue to play. On Monday, the case will resume where Wiseman will as for an injunction to continue playing. If Wiseman is successful in this suit it could dire ramifications for the NCAA and their ability to enforce their eligibility rules.
The NCAA Continues to Prove that Legislative Action is Necessary
What point does the NCAA really think it is making by declaring Young and Wiseman ineligible? All the NCAA has done is further make themselves bad an unable to consistently enforce their rules. They have inadvertently strengthened the case for college athlete name, image, and likeness (NIL) compensation legislation. After all if Young had able to profit from his NIL he may not have needed the loan. As coaches’ salaries and television revenue continues to soar, the NCAA cannot continue to justify its actions in cases like Young’s and Wiseman’s. The NCAA’s unfairness and inconsistency in its rule enforcement are precisely why lawmakers have gotten involved. Their involvement appears to be necessary.
With just under two minutes left in the second round game between UCF and Duke, the Knights lead the Blue Devils 74-70. UCF had Duke on the ropes and were ready for the kill shot. UFC stole the ball and had a 2-on-1 fast break. UCF’s Dayon Griffin threw a lob pass to Aubrey Dawkins, who finished with 32 points, and had it been successful, the Knights would have been up 6 with all the momentum against one of the betting favorites to win it all. Instead, this happened.
We all know how the rest played out.
A couple questionable no-calls, some fortuitous bounces, and a missed put back helped Duke squeak out a 77-76 victory over UCF as the Blue Devils move on to the Sweet 16. Top seeds advancing to the Sweet 16 was the common theme this past weekend as all of the betting favorites won in the second round.
Although all of the favorites won, chalk is not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s say UCF beat Duke. That’s an awesome moment for UCF and its fans. However, to the common basketball fan, are you tuning in to watch UCF vs. Virginia Tech for a trip to the Elite 8? Or, would you rather watch Zion Williamson, Rj Barrett, and Duke play Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16? Unless you’re a UCF fan, my guess is that you’d rather watch Duke.
The NCAA Tournament is known as “March Madness,” but this year, it’s the furthest thing from chaos. There was a significant gap all season long between the top 10 teams and the rest of Division I. That growing sentiment came to fruition as all the top seeds took care of business this past weekend. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Cinderella stories are awesome. Watching a double digit seed fight their way through each round and advance to the Final Four is both entertaining and inspiring. Rooting for Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago last season was a great story. However, there’s a reason why upsets rarely happen and that’s because of the talent disparity between the blue blood programs like Duke and UNC and the mid-major Cinderella stories like Loyola-Chicago or Wichita State. A Cinderella story is most likely a flash in the pan. Remember when Tim Tebow made the playoffs or “Linsanity” took over the Knicks? Those two athletes took the world by storm for a brief period of time and it was spectacular to witness. However, just like in Cinderella, the clock always strikes midnight. Tim Tebow never got another chance to start at quarterback and Jeremy Lin hasn’t been a star since. You know why? Tim Tebow may have won a few games, but Tom Brady wins Super Bowls. Jeremy Lin may dazzle for a few weeks, but LeBron James wins championships. Loyola Chicago and George Mason may win a region, but Duke, UNC, and Kentucky are staples in the Final Four
And you know what? That’s ok. The biggest gripe with the tournament is that the best team in the country does not always win it all. This year, one of the best teams in the country will win. Duke, UNC, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Gonzaga have all been in the top 3 at some point this year. Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, LSU, Texas Tech, Houston, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Florida State have all been ranked inside the top 15. The only outlier is Oregon, but the Ducks have won 10 straight and are two years removed from a Final Four appearance.
The tournament has not been as exciting as year’s past, but there is hope on the horizon. There is a lot of good basketball to play from the best teams in the country. For now, chalk is fine by me.
March Madness 2019 is in full swing. The NCAA’s cash cow basketball tournament started on March 19th and is slated to make billions in revenue. The NCAA tournament has college basketball fans abuzz about who will be this year’s victor. In the midst of all of the excitement, the NCAA continues to face well-deserved criticism for its exploitive college athletics system. Even famed sports broadcaster Dick Vitale weighed in and stated that he believes that it is time that college basketball players get paid. Well-respected industry leaders addressing the injustices of college basketball’s premier event leads one to seriously question just how much money is at stake in March Madness?
March Madness is the NCAA’s Cash Cow
2017 was a monumental year for the NCAA. It was the first year the NCAA cleared one billion dollars in revenue. That is right the NCAA, a non-profit organization, cleared one billion dollars in revenue. Where on Earth did all of that money come from?
The Bulk of the Money Comes From Marketing and Television Rights for March Madness and a few Other Sources
A huge chunk of the NCAA’s revenue comes from its broadcasting deal for March Madness. In 2016, the NCAA extended their contract with CBS Sports and Turner, a division of Time Warner, for the broadcasting rights of the Men’s March Madness basketball tournament. The extension, which runs through 2032, added 8 years and 8.8 billion dollars to the original contract. Essentially, the new deal will pay an average of 1.1 billion dollars per season.
As a result of the contract extension, the NCAA made $817,517,801 from television and marketing rights fees in 2017. Also in 2017, the NCAA made $128,113,594 from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and other tournaments such as the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).The average price paid for tickets in 2018 was $1,845 for the full Final Four experience and a mere $1,010 for the championship game only.
From these numbers, it should be clear why Dick Vitale and college athlete rights advocates contend revenue generating athletes should be paid. Clearly, there is enough money. Without the athletes, the NCAA would not have a product to negotiate a deal like the one with CBS Sports and Turner. Fans tune in to see the best of the best compete. That very fact is what gave the NCAA the leverage for that billion dollar deal.
The NCAA is not the Only Beneficiaries – Colleges, Conferences, and Coaches Benefit too
The Big Payday for Colleges and Conferences
After the net is cut and the trophy is presented, colleges and their respective conferences await a big payday. A portion of the March Madness revenue is paid out to the colleges and conferences. Colleges use the money for a variety of things, including scholarships and funding for non-revenue sports. Division 1 conferences get the bulk of the money. The NCAA considers a variety of factors when distributing the money.Those factors include support of non-revenue sports, performance in the tournament over six years, and the number of full-rides given to athletes.
In 2016, the Big 10 received the biggest payout at $57,540,348.The Western Coast Conference came in at number ten on the list at $8,192,085.The conferences funnel the money down to the schools.The largest payment to a school came in 2016 when Stanford University was paid $3,250,544.From these numbers, is it is clear why the debate regarding payment for revenue-generating college athletes is such a hot topic. Clearly, there is enough money.
Coaches Receive Huge Bonus Incentives
Similar to Division 1 college football coaches receiving bonuses for bowl game appearances, Division 1 college basketball coaches receive bonuses for March Madness appearances. Basketball coaches receive bonuses for merely advancing to the tournament. Some even receive a bonus for a victory in the first round of the tournament. The bonus incentive increases as the team progresses to each level of the tournament. The levels include the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and the Final Four.
If Arizona State’s head coach Bobby Hurley won the 2018 title, he would have received up to $1.4 million in bonuses above his base salary. The simple fact that $1.4 million in bonuses could have been paid to Hurley for coaching a winning team totally disproves the argument that there is not enough money floating around to pay the athletes. Clearly, there is enough money.
March Madness is Big Business for Everyone Except the Athletes
It appears that everyone, expect the labor force is able to profit from March Madness. Everyone from the NCAA down to the locales where the games are held rake in millions of dollars from the tournament. Even the least watched games will generate millions of dollars for their universities. However, the players will be limited to their scholarship. For the next few weeks, fans will be bombarded with March Madness ads using the likeness of athletes who would be guilty of NCAA violations if they individually promoted that same image. This is March Madness, the NCAA’s billion-dollar cash cow.
The SAP Center in San Jose, Ca hosted round 1 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament in San Jose, Ca. The March Madness round of 64 was without a doubt some of the most exciting showcases we have seen in a while. It was a joy to watch from nearly the front row.
Walking in on the arena floor and staring up into the seats it was easy to feel the buzz in the air. To misquote the great Jim Nance, The NCAA Tournament is a tradition like no other. Parents, friends, families, alumni, and fans all gather from various places and descend to take part in March Madness.
To pull back the curtain of separation between fan and sportswriter just a bit, I have covered many different events in my short time as a sportswriter but nothing quite like this. I have covered chalk talks, football games, conference championship games, and nothing gave me the jitters and feelings of sentiment quite like this.
The Tournament is a special thing yet continued to be a generational bridge in love of sports. Everyone appreciates the pageantry of March Madness. The passion of college athletics and fandoms alike as 64 teams are all equal in search of achieving the same common goal, cutting down the nets in US Bank Stadium.
UC Irvine vs Kansas State
The UC Irvine Anteaters took on the Kansas State Wildcats in the opening game of the day. In what was a back and forth contest all the way up until the last 1:25 seconds of the game we were treated to run and counter run. Junior guards Max Hazzard #2 and Evan Leonard both scored 19 points in the contest and were the last scorers in the first and second halves.
The Anteaters achieved their first ever NCAA tournament win and a classic #13 seed over #4 seed upset 70-64. It took a complete team effort every man on the bench was of vital importance as they wore down the Wildcats with their open court attack.
Nothing is better in the NCAA tourney than an upset. It brings out the best in fans and underdogs whom nobody gave a chance. The Anteaters had very little belief outside of their players and fanbase but it was clear they belonged from the start.
Winning in the tournament meant the world to their fanbase who made the trek down to support their team. The Anteaters haven’t lot since January, however they find themselves with a difficult round two matchup in the University of Oregon. The Anteaters expected this outcome because they know how much work they have put in to get here. Victory is the ultimate reward for focus dedication and execution.
Oregon Ducks vs Wisconsin Badgers
The Oregon Ducks did battle with the Wisconsin Badgers in the second matchup of the afternoon. Early on it was a chess match, as the two teams felt each other out. Back and forth it would go in a bit of a defensive struggle, at the half the teams would find themselves tied at 25.
And then Oregon head coach Dana Altman would go into the locker room and whatever he said, whatever he drew up on the whiteboard was absolute magic. It would spark the #12 seeded Ducks to produce the second upset of the day in a runaway over #5 ranked Wisconsin 72-54.
RS Sr. Paul White opened up the half on absolute fire. He scored in the paint he scored from behind the three-point line, and he scored from the free throw line. Within 9 minutes of the second half, White went 4-4 from the field, 2-2 from deep, and 2-2 at the line. Providing the Ducks the spark they needed to take flight.
Kenny Wooten Jr. was sensational and a major reason why the Ducks were able to go on a run and nearly double up the Badgers in the second half. Wooten was the defensive enforcer and no shot or layup was safe when he was in proximity. Wooten possesses the unique ability of being able to damn near jump out of the gym.
His bounce was magnificent and he soared up and over all of the Badgers futile shot attempts. Wooten slapped layups off the backboard, he got clean stuffs, and this one time at March Madness he swatted a shot off the court from just outside the paint.
Winners of four straight and the Pac-12 Championship the Ducks are thrilled to have this moment yet remain focused on the larger picture, winning a championship.
Liberty Eagles vs Mississippi State Bulldogs
#12 seed Liberty University Eagles and #5 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs was a true underdog story. The Bulldogs led for 29:34 seconds of the game. They held the lead up until about the final 2:30 seconds of the game. The Eagles dug deep and when they needed stops and timely shooting they got them.
Redshirt Jr. Caleb Homesley drop a region-leading 30 points on the Bulldogs, going 10-16 from the field, 5-11 from deep, and 5-6 at the charity stripe. Myo Baxter-Bell was a beast down low and out of his 13 points the last four free-throws actually sealed the game for the Eagles by continuing to extend the score in the closing moments of regulation.
The Bulldogs played a great game for 36 minutes but the lone 10 point run they gave up was the difference in the game. Guards Lamar Peters #2 and Quinndary Weatherspoon #11 scored 21 and 27 points respectively and kept their team moving along in the led. Unfortunately down the stretch when they couldn’t score nobody else stepped up for the Bulldogs.
Saint Louis Billikens vs Virginia Tech Hokies
The final game of the evening pit the #15 seed Saint Louis University Billikins against the #4 seed Virginia Tech Hokies. After an upsetting evening to the favorites the Hokies restored the natural selection balance. SLU was outclassed across the board, the court and the sideline and it showed.
Lacking a low post scoring presence allowed the Hokies to run a defense which looked like a combination of a 3-2 zone and a half court trap and it completely baffled the Billikin’s offense.
It took the SLU offense nearly 15 minutes to acquire double digits in points. Up close it appeared they only were allowed to score because the coach of the Hokies chose not to employ his trap strategy on every possession.
Meanwhile there was nothing the SLU defense could throw at the Hokies that they weren’t ready for. The Hokies went to the rack at will, had no problems locating and converting shots, and to further assert dominance went coast to coast on inbounds numerous times.
SLU trailed by 15-20 points for the majority of the game until they began making a push halfway through the 2nd half to cut the lead to ten. The Hokies responded by going back to the trap defense and it re-stymied the Billikin offense all over again. 66-52 would be the final score and conclude an excellent opening round of basketball.
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.