The Greatest 'What-If?' Scenarios in March Madness History

From Gordon Hayward's missed buzzer beater to Stephen Curry passing up the winning shot, SI revisits 20 classic tournament games, runs and moments.
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When the 2020 NCAA tournaments were canceled, it left a gaping void in the 2019–20 college basketball season. We’ll never know which men’s and women’s teams would have cut down the nets this April (though we can still guess!), which Cinderella teams would have emerged or which players would have forever etched their name in March Madness lore. Those blank pages will never be filled in, the 2020 postseason serving as nothing more than an asterisk when people, for years to come, try to look up this year’s champion and learn it was never played.

In a sense, this season’s March Madness is one big “what-if” scenario. But it’s not the first time we’ve been able to ask that question about plays, injuries and results during the history of the NCAA tournament. Basketball, like many sports, is a game where the outcome can come down to any single play—a shot that rims out, a controversial call that changes possession, a buzzer beater that just gets off in time. There are countless endings that would be rewritten were it not for a matter of inches, an untimely injury or an unlikely comeback, and sometimes those alternate endings carry major domino effects.

To determine the greatest “what-if” scenarios in March Madness history, we crowdsourced SI’s staff and attempted to whittle down the best. When you’re dealing with hypotheticals the possibilities are endless, and there are many more intriguing thought exercises that didn’t make the cut here. We attempted to focus on scenarios that could have had huge ripple effects if they went differently, leaving us to wonder what may have been.

March Madness great moments what if

What if Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot had gone in?

SI VAULT: Tough As They Come | A Fling and a Prayer

This is one of the greatest what-if moments not just in college basketball, but all sports. The 2010 national championship game was a true David vs. Goliath moment, with No. 5 seed Butler of the Horizon League—playing in its hometown Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis—taking powerhouse No. 1 seed Duke down to the wire. The Bulldogs were led by Gordon Hayward, now a household NBA name but back then a skinny, talented local kid who had just turned 20. It was Hayward who had the ball in his hands as Duke led by two in the game’s final seconds, the only thing standing between a ground-shifting upset and the Blue Devils’ fourth national title.

Hayward let the ball fly from half court, and viewers collectively held their breath as it sailed through the air, eventually clanging off the backboard and then the rim before falling harmlessly to the ground. “Oh, it almost went in! Almost went in and Duke is the king of the dance, 2010!” gasped CBS’s Jim Nantz on the broadcast.

But what if it had gone in? Where would we place Butler in the greatest sports upsets of all time? Where would that game—a throwback affair that culminated in a tension-filled final two minutes—stand in sports lore? And what about the domino effects? Hayward presumably still leaves for the NBA that spring, but does coach Brad Stevens still leave for the Celtics three years later? Does his 2010-11 Bulldogs’ team, a No. 8 seed, still make an even more improbable run back to the title game?

What if Scott May didn’t break his arm in 1975?

A one-point rivalry win over Purdue on Feb. 22, 1975, came with a major cost for Indiana. Then 26–0 and sweeping through the Big Ten, the Hoosiers’ second-leading scorer, Scott May, broke his left arm in the victory. May, who would go on to be named a First-Team AP All-American, didn’t totally shut down his season, but he played just 11 total minutes in the 1975 NCAA tournament due to the injury. With its star limited to two points and seven minutes, Indiana fell in the Elite Eight to Kentucky, 92–90, ending the season at 31–1.

It’s widely believed the Hoosiers would have won it all with a healthy May, making them one of the greatest teams ever to not reach the Final Four. The following season, May and three other starters returned to Bloomington and not only finished the job, but also did so while pulling off the last undefeated season in men’s college basketball. Had May not suffered that fateful injury, we likely would’ve been looking at back-to-back perfect seasons.

What if Memphis could make a free throw vs. Kansas?

SI VAULT: Rock Chalk, Champions

There’s a particularly compelling potential domino effect at play here—one that involves John Calipari, who was Memphis’s coach during its Derrick Rose–led 2008 NCAA tournament run. The Tigers faced off with Bill Self’s Kansas in the national title game and nursed a nine-point lead with 2:12 remaining, looking well on their way to winning the program’s first-ever championship.

You no doubt remember “Mario’s Miracle”—the game-tying three-pointer drained by the Jayhawks’ Mario Chalmers that sent the game to overtime—but do you remember how things got to that point? Kansas took advantage of a season-long weakness by Memphis by repeatedly sending the Tigers (61.4% on the year) to the free throw line, and they missed four of their final five in regulation to enable the collapse.

But what if Memphis had made even one more of those free throws? Even though a national title would have been later vacated after the NCAA’s investigation into Rose’s SAT scores, where would the program be now? What about Kansas and Bill Self, who would still be without a title? (One of the sport's biggest bluebloods would be sitting on a drought of 32 years.) Finally, would a championship-winning Calipari have still left for the Kentucky job a year later, bringing recruits like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins with him and changing the college basketball landscape as we know it? 

What if Chris Webber didn’t call a timeout?

SI VAULT: Technical Knockout | Beating the Blues

If you’re here, you almost certainly know this story, but let’s recap: In the 1993 national title game, with his Michigan team down 73–71 to North Carolina, Chris Webber (seconds after getting away with a travel) dribbled into the corner and, upon being trapped, attempted to call a timeout with 11 seconds left. The problem, of course, was that the Wolverines didn’t have any timeouts left, resulting in a technical foul and sealing the championship for the Tar Heels.

Webber’s mental mistake is one of the most infamous moments in March Madness history, a source of derision to this day (and one that drew comparisons when J.R. Smith appeared to lose track of the score in the final seconds of a 2018 NBA Finals game). So we have to ask: What if it never happened? It’s impossible to know how that possession would have otherwise unfolded, but it certainly would’ve saved Webber a lifetime of being reminded of his error. And given the game’s result was very much still up for grabs before the timeout call, it’s very possible to believe Michigan could have tied the game and eventually won, giving the Fab Five its elusive championship (which would have been later vacated by the NCAA, but for this exercise’s purposes that’s neither here nor there).

What if UConn didn’t break through to the 1991 Women’s Final Four?

Out of all of UConn’s years of dominance since its first national championship in 1995, why pick out a Final Four from four years before it ever won it all? Put simply, this is the year that set it all in motion. In Geno Auriemma’s sixth season as head coach the program went on a March run to reach its first-ever Final Four, taking down ACC heavyweight NC State and becoming the first Big East women’s team to make the Final Four in the process.

While the Huskies lost to Virginia (featuring player Dawn Staley!) in New Orleans, the program had paved the way for a new era, announced itself as legitimate and started gaining a fan base—and it did it ahead of schedule. By the fall, future Huskies legend Rebecca Lobo would be on campus, and her senior year culminated in UConn’s first of 11 national titles to date. Auriemma building Connecticut into a power was likely inevitable, but there’s no doubt that the 1990–91 team was a major building block to making it all happen.

What if Dereck Whittenberg's 1983 airball had caught some rim?

SI VAULT: State Had the Stuff

Also known as the “Cardiac Pack” or the “The Team of Destiny,” fate truly was on the side of 1982–83 NC State during its unlikely run as a No. 6 seed to the national title. Despite taking down No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 3 seed UNLV on the way to winning the West Region, Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack were heavy underdogs going up against Houston’s high-flying Phi Slama Jama, which was coming off an impressive win over fellow heavyweight Louisville in a Final Four matchup that many believed would determine the national champ.

After holding the high-scoring Cougars to just 52 points, NC State had the ball with the game tied and a chance to take the final shot. After a change in Houston’s defense nearly forced a turnover, Dereck Whittenburg recovered and had to hoist up a 30-foot prayer. The senior’s shot was just short enough to miss everything … and go right into the hands of a waiting Lorenzo Charles, who slammed it home while Houston star Hakeem (then Akeem) Olajuwon backed off, seemingly expecting the ball to bound off the rim instead.

And what if it had? What if Whittenberg’s shot went just an inch or two farther, ricocheting off the rim instead of falling to Charles? One of the most exciting title game endings in NCAA tournament history would be no more, also robbing us of the famous scene of Jimmy V running around looking for someone to hug. Maybe NC State would have still gone on to complete its Cinderella story in overtime—or maybe Phi Slama Jama, which came up a game short the following season as well, would have a national title to its name.

What if Christian Laettner never hit “The Shot”?

SI VAULT: The Shot Heard Round the World | The Man Couldn't Miss

The 1992 Elite Eight game between Duke and Kentucky was one of the greatest college basketball games ever, featuring one of the greatest college basketball villains ever: Christian Laettner. Laettner, of course, hit his famous “The Shot” as time expired in overtime, delivering the Blue Devils a thrilling 104–103 win over the Wildcats and sending them to the Final Four. With Duke inbounding the ball under its own basket with 2.1 seconds left, Kentucky coach Rick Pitino chose not to guard inbounder Grant Hill, instead giving his team an extra defender down the floor. But that allowed Hill to have a clean look at a one-handed 80-foot pass to Laettner, who calmly caught it at the free throw line, took one dribble in front of a defender, spun and hit nothing but net.

“The Shot” has lived on in college hoops lore ever since, and is a major part of Laettner’s legacy. But what if it never happened? What if Pitino had guarded the inbounder—would Hill have still been able to connect that pass with a defender draped in front of him? It would have at least made the play much more difficult, or potentially forced the ball into someone else’s hands instead. If the Wildcats had won the game instead, what would have been the ripple effects? Would Pitino’s first career title have come four years earlier? Would Michigan’s Fab Five, which lost to Duke in the title game, have finished the job instead, altering its legacy in the process? Or perhaps even Indiana, which fell to the Blue Devils in the Final Four, would have won a rematch with rival Kentucky in Minneapolis and went on to hoist the trophy for a sixth time.

Christian Laettner the shot Duke Kentucky

What if Kenyon Martin didn’t break his leg?

SI VAULT: Grand Kenyon

Could one broken leg hold the key to a potentially entirely different parallel universe? Let’s look at the case of Kenyon Martin. Martin was the National Player of the Year in 2000, just months before becoming the No. 1 NBA draft pick. His Cincinnati team was in play for a No. 1 seed in the 2000 NCAA tournament when he broke his leg just minutes into its Conference USA quarterfinal with Saint Louis, a game the Bearcats went on to lose. Now a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance and without its star, Cincinnati won its first-round meeting with UNC Wilmington before being upset by No. 7 seed Tulsa two days later, unceremoniously ending a dream season.

The “what-if” ramifications here are large. If Martin doesn’t get hurt, does Cincinnati—which spent the entire regular season ranked within the top four of the AP poll—win the national title, becoming the first and only program to do so as a member of the C-USA? If the Bearcats win, meaning Michigan State doesn’t, Tom Izzo is still chasing his first national championship today (not to mention the Big Ten’s current title drought would be sitting at 31 years, not 20). Does a championship facilitate a more immediate move to a bigger conference for Cincinnati? And what about head coach Bob Huggins, who five years later would be forced out at Cincy and—two programs later—is still chasing his first-ever national championship?

Consider this, too: that Tulsa team that upset the Martin-less Bearcats? It was coached by Bill Self, who would lead the Golden Hurricane all the way to the Elite Eight that year before getting hired by Illinois in June, paving the way for him to take the Kansas job in 2003. Without the attention of that Tulsa run, would the Illini have still hired Self, and would he still have been the pick to replace Roy Williams in Lawrence three years later? 

What if the highest-rated game in basketball history never happened?

SI VAULT: They Caged the Bird

The 1979 national championship game, featuring Magic Johnson’s Michigan State and Larry Bird’s undefeated Indiana State, holds the TV record (24.1, with more than 35 million viewers) for the highest rating for a basketball game in either college or the NBA. A classic rivalry that would later blossom in the pros got started on the NCAA stage with a title on the line and the eyes of a nation on it—but the meeting very easily could have never happened.

The Sycamores won back-to-back games by two points to reach that championship game, including needing a buzzer beater to defeat Arkansas in the Elite Eight. The game-winning heroics were provided not by Bird, but by reserve player Bob Heaton, a right-hander who wound up with the ball in the final seconds and floated up a shot with his left hand that bounced all over the rim before falling through. Had Heaton missed, the Razorbacks’ hopes would have been alive in overtime, with no guarantees Indiana State would have advanced. No offense to Arkansas (or the Sycamores’ Final Four opponent, DePaul), but neither of those matchups with Michigan State would have drawn in the fans and put college basketball on the map the way Bird-Magic did.

What if Kris Jenkins’s title-winning buzzer beater didn’t go in?

SI VAULT: Philadelphia Threedom

The 2016 national championship game ended in fairy-tale fashion, with Kris Jenkins swishing a buzzer-beating three out of a timeout to earn Villanova its first title since 1985. It was the kind of shot that kids grow up dreaming of making, and immediately turned another huge shot—Marcus Paige’s double-clutch, off-balance three that had just tied the game up—into nothing but an afterthought. Paige would have been the hero had North Carolina won that game in overtime, an instant March legend with a shot that would be talked about for years to come. Instead, that glory went to Jenkins and the Wildcats, showing just how quickly fortunes can change.

What if Kansas had beaten Syracuse in the 2003 title game?

This scenario is interesting for what happened after Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse team beat the Jayhawks, 81–78, for the program’s first and only national championship. A week after the title game (and after famously telling a reporter postgame that he “could give a s--- about North Carolina right now”), longtime Kansas coach Roy Williams left for his alma mater UNC, a job he had turned down three years prior. Williams reportedly wrestled deeply with the decision to depart Lawrence and follow his heart back to Chapel Hill, and it’s worth wondering whether the calculus would have changed had he been coming off a national championship win.

Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams

What if Tyus Edney didn’t rescue UCLA in the 1995 second round?

SI VAULT: Finally! UCLA Ends Its 20-Year Drought

It’s been 25 years since UCLA last won the national title, and the Bruins’ 1995 championship was its first since legendary coach John Wooden won his 10th and final NCAA tournament in 1975. But the Jim Harrick–coached, Ed O'Bannon–led Bruins barely even made it out of the second round in ’95, and a defeat there to Missouri would’ve altered the course of that tourney and the legacies of those involved.

Inbounding the ball with 4.8 seconds left in that second-round matchup, No. 1 seed UCLA trailed No. 8 Missouri by one. That’s when 5' 10" point guard Tyus Edney—not O’Bannon—took the pass and went coast to coast, using a behind-the-back pass to evade defender Jason Sutherland before banking it in over 6' 9" Tigers player Derek Grimm. UCLA was moving on in thrilling fashion, ensuring a run we now know would end in a championship continued.

But what if Edney hadn’t made that shot, and the Bruins lost? For one thing, the proud program’s championship drought would be sitting at an astounding 45 years. Instead, we might be looking at back-to-back national titles for Arkansas, which won it all behind its “40 Minutes of Hell” pressure defense in 1994 before falling to the Bruins in the ’95 title game. What would a second championship have done for Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson’s legacy, and the way we remember those Arkansas teams of the early and mid ’90s? 

What if Gonzaga didn’t fall apart in the Sweet 16 vs. UCLA in 2006?

An emotional Adam Morrison crumpled on the floor as No. 2 seed UCLA celebrated a Sweet 16 win over No. 3 seed Gonzaga 14 years ago is one of those lasting March Madness images. Led by Morrison, the nation’s leading scorer and a first-team All-American that season, the Bulldogs had been hoping to reach their second Elite Eight in program history. The Zags built a 17-point first-half lead before getting outscored 53–34 the rest of the way. The pinnacle of the meltdown came in the final 40 seconds, when Gonzaga turned it over three times to complete the collapse and leave Morrison crying into his jersey on the court.

Adam Morrison crying Gonzaga UCLA NCAA tournament

The Bruins would go on to reach the national title game, where they finally lost to Florida, and Morrison went on to forgo his senior season and turn pro. But what if the Bulldogs had survived that day in Oakland? Would they have won one more game to reach their first Final Four, saving years of people questioning the ceiling of Gonzaga teams in March? It would take 11 more years for the program to get that Final Four trip, and despite all of its tremendous success under Mark Few, it’s still seeking its first title.

What if Villanova didn’t beat Dayton in the 1985 first round?

The 1984–85 Villanova squad has the honor of being the lowest-seeded team to ever win the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats were a No. 8 seed, lower than even UConn’s No. 7 seed when it pulled off its surprising run in 2014. ’Nova’s run under coach Rollie Massimino is one of the all-time great underdog runs in sports, and its historic win over reigning national champ Georgetown in the national title game is one of college basketball’s greatest moments and greatest upsets.

All of that wouldn’t exist if the Wildcats didn’t survive a hostile environment in their tournament opener. Forced to play No. 9 seed Dayton on the Flyers’ campus in the first round, Villanova won, 51–49, in front of a sellout crowd in a game that Massimino later said “anyone could have won.” How differently would that 1985 tournament have looked if it had been Dayton prevailing on that March day? Not only would we have not seen one of the all-time great Cinderella stories, but also, presumably, Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas would have won a second straight championship, cementing their place in college hoops history. 

What if Kentucky’s Derek Anderson didn’t tear his ACL in 1997?

Rick Pitino’s final season in Lexington was rolling before Wildcats senior Derek Anderson, at the time the SEC’s leading scorer, tore his ACL in a January win over Auburn. Kentucky was 16-2 at the time of the injury, which was billed as season-ending after Anderson underwent surgery. The Wildcats went on to win the SEC tournament and enter the Big Dance at 30-4, earning the No. 1 seed in the West Region and reaching the Final Four.

In the meantime, Anderson had been cleared by doctors to return, but at just two months out from ACL surgery, it created a dilemma for Pitino. Ultimately he decided not to risk Anderson’s health, aside from letting the senior take two free throws in a Final Four win over Minnesota. “Even if it was my decision, if I went out and got hurt again, how many people would blame coach for playing me?" Anderson said at the time. "I don't want him to have that on his shoulders."

Despite a valiant run without one of its stars, Kentucky’s bid at back-to-back titles ended in an overtime championship game loss to Arizona. A healthy Anderson likely would’ve been the difference, leaving Wildcats fans to forever lament what could have been a three-peat (despite Pitino’s NBA exit, which likely would’ve happened regardless, Kentucky would be back on top in 1998).

What if Morgan William didn’t end the longest winning streak in college basketball history?

UConn entered the 2017 Women’s Final Four on an astounding 111-game winning streak—the longest in college basketball history. Geno Auriemma’s Huskies were 36–0 that season and seeking their fifth straight title, their last defeat in any game coming in November 2014. Their opponent, Mississippi State, was playing in its first Final Four in program history. For much of the country, it probably felt like a Connecticut win was a foregone conclusion, just another step in its growing dynasty.

The Bulldogs had other ideas. One year after losing by a record 60(!) points to UConn in the Sweet 16, they came back with a vengeance, playing a fearless game in Dallas to take the Huskies to overtime. There, with the game tied and the final seconds ticking down, 5' 5" Mississippi State point guard Morgan William got the ball well outside the three-point line, drove inside the arc, came to a jump stop and swished a two from the elbow as the buzzer sounded. UConn’s run of domination was over.

… But what if William had missed? If the game went to double overtime and the Huskies prevailed, would they have denied South Carolina its first title two days later and won their fifth straight after all, extending the dynasty? And what about what Mississippi State’s win—referred to on the broadcast as “one of the great upsets in history”—did to change the psyche and narrative of women’s basketball? The giant was slayed, and it would get slayed again a year later, when Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale buried UConn in similar fashion, then cemented her legacy in the final with another game-winner. Together, the 2017 and 2018 Final Fours injected new life and fresh blood into women’s college basketball, delivering all the trappings of what makes March Madness great. It started with William and Mississippi State, and the death of a historic win streak. 

What if Duke didn’t pull off the biggest comeback in Final Four history?

SI VAULT: Three's the Charm

If you ever start to think a particular lead in sports is safe, ask 2000–01 Maryland to give you a reality check. The Terps played rival Duke a whopping four times that season, going 1–3 with three excruciating defeats. The first was the “Miracle Minute,” in January 2001, when the Blue Devils improbably rallied after being down 10 with under a minute left, forced overtime at Cole Field House and eventually won by two. The second came in the ACC tournament semifinals, when Coach K’s team came back from 11 down in the Georgia Dome and again won by two.

That was all small potatoes when the two ACC schools faced off again in the 2001 Final Four in Minneapolis. This time, Maryland raced out to a 22-point lead, a margin that had previously—and ever since —been insurmountable in Final Four history. Naturally, Duke once again stormed back, eventually winning by 11 and picking up its third national title over Arizona two nights later. Without that comeback, the Blue Devils would have been looking at an 18-year title drought before cutting down the nets in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Terps would return four starters from that Final Four team, including Juan Dixon, and finished the job in 2002 with the school’s first and only national championship. Would we have been looking at back-to-back titles if Maryland hadn’t blown that lead to Duke, or perhaps Arizona’s second title in five years? Or was the motivation of heartbreak necessary to propel the Terrapins over the hump the following year? Like with 2019 Virginia, it’s an interesting thing to consider.

What if UMBC didn’t beat Virginia?

Things conspired perfectly for Virginia during its 2019 national championship run, so much so that its tournament has multiple great “what-if” moments. From Mamadi Diakite’s improbable game-tying buzzer beater vs. Purdue to Kyle Guy drawing a foul and sinking three free throws after a controversial no-call on Ty Jerome in the Final Four, the resilient Cavaliers never quit on their way to being crowned. But let’s run things back: A major theme of their run was, of course, the redemption story after 2018’s nightmare loss to No. 16 UMBC, when they became the first ever men’s No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 in March Madness history. That loss motivated Tony Bennett’s team for a year, was cited over and over in the public sphere and was inescapable for Virginia.

UMBC beats Virginia 16 over 1 March Madness

But what if it never happened? The Retrievers left no doubt in their win, clobbering a two-loss Virginia team by 20 points behind an unreal second-half offensive performance, but if those two rosters played that game 10 times, it’s logical to think UVA would have won the majority. A Hoos win would have definitely removed what’s considered by many to be the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history, but would it have also changed Virginia’s future? Down DeAndre Hunter, who broke his wrist before the tournament began, it seems unlikely the Hoos would have cut down the nets in 2018 even if they hadn’t lost to UMBC. If they had simply fallen in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight, does that change their arc for 2019 without a brutal and historic loss to rally around? And if Virginia doesn’t win it all in 2019, is Tony Bennett’s pack-line system still being thought of by many as incapable of getting the job done in March? Without the ultimate upset, you don’t get the ultimate redemption story.

What if Allan Ray wasn’t called for a travel?

“The WORST Call in NCAA Basketball History” reads a YouTube title for a video with more than 171,000 views. The video in question is from the final seconds of a 2005 Sweet 16 game between No. 5 seed Villanova and No. 1 seed North Carolina, a game the Tar Heels won 67–66 during their march to the national title—one that finally took Roy Williams off the top of the list of best coaches to not win it all. But were it not for a highly controversial call, UNC might not have survived that Sweet 16 bout.

Down three with nine seconds left, the Wildcats’ Allan Ray drove into the lane and connected on a basket, appearing to draw a foul in the process. Instead, officials called a travel on an incredulous Ray, waving off the bucket and handing the ball back to UNC. The so-called “phantom travel” has lived on as a major point of controversy, especially considering the Heels went on to cut down the nets. 

But what if Ray had indeed received the and-one call on the play and tied the game up with the free throw? Would a Villanova team that also had future NBA players Kyle Lowry and Randy Foye have gone on to win the game—and maybe more? Would Illinois—the eventual runner-up to UNC—have won its first national title that year instead?

What if Stephen Curry had taken the final shot vs. Kansas?

We’ll close with a fun one to think about—well, except among Kansas (and Golden State Warriors) fans, who are just fine with how things actually went. When Davidson’s 2008 Cinderella run came to an end in the Elite Eight at the hands of the No. 1 seed Jayhawks, it wasn’t future NBA superstar Stephen Curry who attempted the final shot that could have won the game. Curry, the darling of that year’s March who had 25 points on the night, did get the ball in his hands down two and at one point squared up at the basket, but he passed up the contested look from behind the arc. Instead he passed it to senior Jason Richards, a 31.9% shooter from three on the season who had a cleaner look from several feet behind the line. Richards missed everything but the backboard as the buzzer sounded.

If Curry would have taken that shot, would it have gone in? It hadn't been the star's best shooting night—he finished 4-for-16 from three—but even back then, is anyone willing to bet against Steph Curry? If Davidson had won that game, advancing to the Final Four and knocking out the team that did go on to cut down the nets, how differently do things look now? Would Curry and coach Bob McKillop be NCAA champs? Is Memphis the champ after all, or perhaps North Carolina, a year ahead of schedule? (the Tar Heels would make it back to the Final Four in 2009, winning the whole thing.) And if Kansas loses in the Elite Eight, how are we viewing Bill Self today, who would have a litany of Big 12 success but no national championship?

The biggest "what if" of all, though, might be this: If Davidson had gone all the way that year, would Curry have still returned to school for his junior season? We'll leave you to imagine the last decade of American basketball if he had entered the NBA draft in 2008 and got selected by anyone but the Warriors.

Stephen Curry Davidson NBA

Honorable Mention March Madness “What If” thoughts …

-What if UNC’s Kendall Marshall didn’t break his wrist during the 2012 tournament?

-What if Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew missed his game-winning shot vs. Ole Miss in 1998?

-What if Arizona didn’t collapse vs. Illinois in the 2005 Elite Eight?

-What if Maryland’s Kristi Toliver didn’t send the 2006 women’s national title game to overtime?

-What if Loyola-Chicago's Donte Ingram didn't hit a game-winning three to beat Miami in the 2018 first round?

-What if undefeated Wichita State wasn’t paired in No. 8 seed Kentucky’s region in 2014?

-What if Indiana’s Keith Smart missed his shot vs. Syracuse to win the 1987 title game?