Climb to the Championship
The 1957 NCAA tournament final had it all -- two storied programs, one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball, and three overtimes to boot. The Tar Heels tripled-teamed Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain for most of the game, jumping out to a 19-7 lead early in the first half. But Wilt and the Jayhawks roared back to send the game into overtime. With no shot clock in college basketball yet, the teams scored just two points each in the first extra period, and in the second, zero points each. UNC finally outlasted Kansas thanks to two clutch free throws from Joe Quigg with fewer than 10 seconds left in the third overtime.
Oscar Robertson, the triple-double machine and the only player to average a triple-double for a season in the NBA, was fittingly the first person to record a triple-double in the tournament, doing so in 1959. In the 98-85 Final Four victory over Louisville, Robertson led Cincinnati with 39 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists.
Before Bill Bradley ran for president in 2000, the former Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey was running the floor for Princeton. Bradley was the 1965 NCAA Player of the Year, but before the tourney that year, Princeton had won only one game in tournament play. Bradley miraculously led the Tigers to the Final Four. Although the Tigers lost to top-ranked Michigan, Bradley set a Final Four record with 58 points.
In 1973, Bill Walton of UCLA was one of the biggest forces in the paint, earning him the Naismith Award that year. Bill Walton proved his worth in 1973 with a near-perfect game in the championship victory against Memphis State. The junior center poured in 44 points on 21 of 22 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds, one of the greatest individual performances in tournament history. His close to flawless showing in the 87-66 win capped a 30-0 season for the Bruins and coach John Wooden.
Two of the biggest basketball stars of their generation, Larry Bird of Indiana State and Magic Johnson of Michigan State kick-started their rivalry in the 1979 title game. It was Johnson, the flashy point guard on the powerhouse Big Ten team versus the pure-shooting Bird on his hometown Cinderella Indiana State squad. Johnson and the Spartans defense hounded Bird and took home the championship with a 75-64 victory. To no surprise, the contest was the most viewed televised championship game of its time.
A freshman named Michael Jordan nailed a jumper to put the Tar Heels up with fewer than 20 seconds on the clock before Hoyas guard Fred Brown mistook UNC's James Worthy for a teammate and passed him the ball, sealing the game for Carolina. The win gave coach Dean Smith his first title, and sent home a vaunted Georgetown team featuring dominant freshman center Patrick Ewing, who scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards in the championship game.
The Wolfpack entered the '83 title game as overwhelming underdogs against Hakeem Olajuwon and Houston, also known as Phi Slama Jama. But Lorenzo Charles' tip-in at the buzzer gave North Carolina State an unlikely national championship and installed it as the original Cinderella team. The game is equally as memorable for State's postgame celebration, as coach Jim Valvano sprinted across the court searching for someone to embrace.
Villanova's magic run to a national title is one of the most improbable upsets in sports history. The Wildcats shot a ridiculous 79 percent from the field (they madet 9-of-10 in the second half), and Nova's Ed Pinckney outscored Patrick Ewing 16 to 14 to beat the defending champion Hoyas. The win gave coach Rollie Massimino and the `Cats their first title. 'Nova remains the lowest seed (8) to ever go the distance in the NCAA tournament.
Billed as Bob Knight vs. Jim Boeheim, the 1987 NCAA title game came down to the final moments. Keith Smart's fading jumper with fewer than five seconds to play sealed Indiana's fifth national title. Smart scored 17 points in the second half, while sharpshooter Steve Alford led all scorers, with 23, including seven treys.
With three seconds left in overtime and Michigan trailing by one point, Wolverines guard Rumeal Robinson stepped to the free-throw line for a one-and-one. Just a 65.6 percent free-throw shooter, Robinson calmly converted both shots, completing the Wolverines' shocking title run. Just prior to the tourney, Michigan AD Bo Schembechler fired coach Bill Frieder, who had announced he would be leaving for Arizona State at season's end. Schembechler wanted a "Michigan man" to coach the Wolverines, and he handed the keys to top assistant Steve Fisher.
Top-ranked and unbeaten UNLV was one of the best teams not to make the tournament finals. Duke was trampled by UNLV 103-73 in the championship game the year before. The Blue Devils exacted revenge when the ever-clutch Christian Laettner knocked down two game-winning free-throws with 12.7 seconds left to clinch the shocking win.
The Fab Five is unquestionably one of the most influential units in college basketball history. Ironically, the talented Wolverines will always be remembered for an epic miscue. Chris Webber corralled a rebound with fewer than 20 seconds left and Michigan trailing North Carolina 73-71. After appearing to travel, Webber dribbled the ball the length of the court before getting trapped right in front of the Michigan bench. The All-America instinctively called a timeout. Unfortunately, Michigan had none remaining. The Wolverines were assessed a technical foul and the Tar Heels went on to win 77-71.
Duke held a 10-point second-half lead over Arkansas, but the Hogs clawed back. With the score tied at 70 apiece and 40 seconds left, Arkansas' Scotty Thurman lofted a high-arching three-pointer over 6-foot-8 Blue Devil Antonio Lang with one second on the shot clock. The looping shot was good and the Hogs went on to win the game 76-72 for the school's first national title.
Kentucky's Anthony Epps hit a game-tying three-pointer with 12 seconds to go to send the game to overtime. But the relentless attack by Arizona's backcourt tandem of Miles Simon and Mike Bibby, who combined to score 49 points, eventually was too much for UK. Simon hit four free throws in the final 41 seconds to seal the deal. "Simon Says Championship," declared CBS commentator Billy Packer.
The Kentucky Wildcats were fittingly nicknamed the "Comeback Cats" after overcoming three straight double-digit deficits to cap off the 1998 championship. After upsetting Duke in the Elite Eight, Kentucky's wildest comeback came at the expense of Stanford in the Final Four. Under first-year head coach Tubby Smith and behind Nazr Mohammed's 17 second-half points, Kentucky prevailed 85-84 in overtime.
A much anticipated matchup of No. 1 seeds pitted two of the game's great coaches -- Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski -- against one another. UConn's Richard Hamilton scored 27 points to lead the Huskies to a three-point victory over Duke after Blue Devils senior guard Trajan Langdon turned the ball over on two straight possessions with the game on the line. Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin said after the game: "We shocked the world."
Freshman standout and eventual tourney MVP Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse on a miraculous run through the 2003 tournament. Jim Boeheim and the Orange were a third seed that upset two number one seeds en route to a matchup with Roy Williams and Kansas. Three-point specialist Gerry McNamara hit six threes in the first half and Hakim Warrick blocked a potential game-tying three point attempt to seal the 81-78 win.
Anyone outside of a George Mason student or alumni who picked the Patriots to advance to the Final Four most likely did well in their respective bracket pool. No. 11-seed George Mason was the lowest seed ever to reach the Final Four in 2006. One of the greatest Cinderella stories in history lost 73-58 to the eventual champion Florida Gators, but their run to the Final Four went down as one of the most memorable.
The joy of filling out a March Madness bracket is picking upsets and pinning hopes on Cinderella squads. Rarely is the favorite in each region rewarded. But in 2008, for the first time in tournament history, all four number ones -- Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA -- advanced to the Final Four.
Memphis held a nine-point lead with 2:12 to play in regulation, but couldn't close the door on Kansas, who crawled back within three after a series of misses from the free throw line by the Tigers. Mario Chalmers of Kansas sank a three-ball with two seconds to go to send the title game to overtime. And it was all Jayhawks in the extra frame, as Bill Self's team outscored John Calipari's 12-5 en route to Kansas' first national championship in 20 years.
Hyped as a "David vs. Goliath" matchup, the 2010 title game featured the undersized, overachieving Butler Bulldogs, who gave perennial powerhouse Duke quite a scare. The Blue Devils held a five-point lead with just over three minutes to play, but Butler came roaring back to close within one thanks to consecutive layups from center Matt Howard. Unfortunately for the underdogs, leading scorer Gordon Hayward missed a fadeaway from the right corner with fewer than 10 ticks on the clock, and then a desperation heave at the buzzer, both of which would have given Butler the lead.