With Selection Sunday less than a week away, March Madness is finally almost upon us. But before you bust out your brackets and determine which of the 68 teams will go all the way, let’s take a look back at the 9 greatest March Madness games ever.
Known formally as the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament, March Madness has seen its fair share of buzzer beaters and big-time upsets since its inception, but these 9 games are the best of the best. Keep reading to see if your favorite big matchup made the list.
8. Duke over UNLV (1991)
Mike Krzyzewski may be one of most celebrated college basketball coaches in history, but no one expected his Duke Blue Devils to win their semifinals matchup against UNLV in the 1991 NCAA tournament.
Heading into the game, the Runnin’ Rebels had won 45 straight games dating back to the prior season and seemed poised to go undefeated. In a game that saw 25 lead changes, Duke came out on top 79-77 thanks to a pair of last-second free throws by Christian Laettner and a missed three pointer by UNLV’s Anderson Hunt. Duke would go on to win their first national title by defeating Kansas 72-65.
6. Arkansas over Louisville (1981)
In what’s remembered as one of the greatest last-second shots in college basketball history, Ulysses “U.S.” Reed’s half court heave helped Arizona knock defending champion Louisville out of the tournament in 1981.
With just five seconds left in the game, the Razorbacks inbounded the ball to Reed who launched a 49-foot shot into the air, which astonishingly went in. Reed never played in the NBA and is now a minister.
4. Loyola Marymount over Michigan (1990)
Coming off the devastating loss of their star forward Hank Gathers, Loyola Marymount came into the second round of the NCAA tournament with heavy hearts. Gathers, who had led the NCAA in scoring and rebounding, collapsed and died from a heart condition just two weeks prior to the game.
Despite the loss of Gathers, LMU beat Michigan, the defending champions, in a lopsided 149-115 victory. The game still holds the record for most combined points in a tournament game.
2. Duke over Kentucky (1992)
Just one year after winning their first national title, Duke and its star center Christian Laettner returned to glory in 1992 defeating Kentucky in a buzzer-beater finale for the ages.
After closing a 12-point deficit, Kentucky took the game into overtime after Duke’s Bobby Hurley missed a shot at the buzzer. In overtime Laettner hit what’s now known as “The Shot,” a last-second, turn-around jumper over Deron Feldhaus, which propelled Duke to a 104-103 victory. Duke went on to defeat Michigan 71-51 in the finals to win their second straight national title.
1. North Carolina State over Houston (1983)
Nicknamed the “Cardiac Pack” for their propensity for nail biting finishes, Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State’s last second 54-52 upset win over Houston tops our list of memorable March Madness games.
Even if you didn’t see the game live back in 1983, you’ve likely seen the famous clips of Lorenzo Charles' buzzer-beating slam-dunk followed by Coach Valvano’s famous victory run around the court. Interestingly, Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon, went on to win the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player—making him the last player to win the award playing for a losing team.
The 2015 NCAA Tournament tips off March 17 at the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
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