NCAA Bracket 2012: Top 10 Unforgettable March Madness Moments Thus Far
So far, the 2012 NCAA Tournament has been drenched in excitement. We shouldn't expect anything different, really. March Madness isn't just a name—it's a description.
I could have spent the next week compiling a list that would take all of you two days to read, but I won't do that to you. I narrowed the list to 10 moments I will never forget from this year's tourney.
If everyone enjoyed these games at least half as much as me, I should be in pretty good shape with the list I compiled. However, feel free to leave a civilized comment if you feel anyone got snubbed.
10. Final Minutes of Cincinnati vs Florida State
Once Sean Kilpatrick knocked down a three-pointer at the 3:46 mark, this slow game got intense. Over the next 1:02, those of us watching saw the teams exchange three three-pointers and a dunk.
Florida State's Luke Loucks would follow that up with two free throws, putting the Seminoles up 50-49 with 2:09 left on the clock.
The Bearcats' Yancy Gates tied it back up at 50 with a free-throw. As the Seminoles were taking the ball up the court, Dion Dixon jumped a Loucks pass and took it 20 feet for the slam. With 57 seconds remaining, Cashmere Wright knocked down a jumper to put Cincinnati up 54-50.
The Seminoles would never get any closer. The Bearcats closed out the game, going eight-of-eight from the charity stripe in the last 34 seconds.
For most of the game the score was close—I just felt the Seminoles had it in the bag. When the Bearcats turned it on, they would not be denied. Cincinnati won 62-56.
9. Kansas Avoids the Upset vs. Purdue
This game would have been ranked higher, had Purdue pulled it out. The No. 5 Boilermakers had control for most of the game, but No. 2 Kansas would crawl back to keep it close.
Purdue was leading 56-54 when the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson buried a three, putting Kansas on top for the first time. Terone Johnson followed that up with two straight baskets to put Purdue back up 60-57 with 2:02 left in the game.
The next minute went scoreless, but Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor started the final minute with a bang. Johnson dished out a monster alley-oop to the cutting Taylor. Then Johnson snatched the ball from Lewis Jackson and took it coast-to-coast for a layup.
Kansas was up 61-60 with 25 seconds left on the clock.
After a missed three by Purdue's Robbie Hummel, Thomas Robinson snagged the defensive rebound and passed it up the floor to Taylor. Though he should have run out the clock, Taylor's dunk put the final nail in Purdue's coffin. Kansas escaped the upset, 63-60.
8. Indiana's Final 2 Minutes vs. VCU
The VCU Rams were poised for another upset victory in the third round when they met the No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers. This time, the script got flipped.
VCU's Darius Theus hit a jumper to put the Rams up 61-56 with 2:24 on the clock. The significance of that particular shot—well—it was the last one they'd make for the rest of the game.
Just as VCU did to Wichita State, Indiana shut the Rams down in the final stretch.
The Hoosiers' defense wasn't giving the Rams any space to work with and bullied them on the glass. They would also score the final seven points of the game.
Cody Zeller scored five points and snagged three rebounds over the last five minutes—more points and rebounds than VCU had as a team in that span. Zeller also set the pick that gave Victor Oladipo space to get in the lane and tie the game.
Defenders closed in on Oladipo, but he drew contact and got the layup to fall. He followed that up with a free throw, tying the game at 61.
On the next play, Oladipo grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed it up the floor. His shot appeared to get blocked, but it went right to Will Sheehey—and he proceeded to knock down the 15-footer. This would go down as an assist on the scorer's table.
VCU still had a chance, down 61-63 with 11 seconds to go. Rob Bradenburg would get off a shot from the corner. But, just like all of their other shots in the previous two minutes, it wouldn't fall.
7. VCU Upsets Wichita State
Should we just stop calling VCU wins “upsets”?
After the last two years, I think it's safe to say that VCU is getting the shaft in their seeding. No. 12 VCU (29-6) took on No. 5 Wichita State (27-6) the first day of second-round games—note the records and disparity in the seeding.
VCU had a 12-point lead early in the second half, but Wichita State would not give in.
Wichita State would bury back-to-back threes to take a 59-57 lead with 2:05 left. The lead would only last 32 seconds before VCU's Bradford Burgess nailed the three to put the Rams back on top. Wichita State would not score again, and VCU opened up yet another tourney with a big upset win.
The Rams won 62-59.
6. NC State Upsets Georgetown
Some people didn't have the Wolfpack making it though the first round against the higher-seeded San Diego State. Fewer people expected the No. 11 Wolfpack to knock out No. 3 Georgetown.
I should have trusted my gut.
Georgetown led by as much as 10 in the first half, but NC State went on a 12-0 run and finished the half in the lead—30-27.
NC State would hold the lead and had a seven-point lead with 1:11 remaining. Only seven seconds went off the clock before the Hoyas' Hollis Thompson knocked down a three to cut the lead back to four.
Following a missed free throw by the Wolfpack, the Hoyas' Henry Sims put in a layup and two free throws in a 13-second span. By the 37-second mark, NC State's lead had dwindled and the score was 62-61.
That was as close as Georgetown would get to pulling off the comeback win.
NC State was good on four of their next six shots from the charity stripe. Lorenzo Brown missed his last free throw, giving Georgetown a chance to tie it on a last-second shot.
The Hoyas' Jason Clark hustled down the floor and pulled up for a 25-foot three-pointer. The shot went long and wide as the buzzer sounded. NC State pulled off the 66-63 upset.
5. Lehigh Upsets Duke
Though No. 2 Duke didn't finish their season strong, there weren't many people on planet Earth that truly believed No. 15 Lehigh could pull off the upset—except Lehigh.
For the first 39 minutes, neither team led by more than five points.
Lehigh would take the final lead with 8:23 left in the game. With two minutes to go, Lehigh had opened up the game to 61-54 on a John Adams dunk.
Duke knocked down three three-pointers in the final 96 seconds, but would finish the game six-of-26 from the arc. With the help of the three-ball, Duke managed to crawl back within three. There were only three seconds left on the clock and they quickly fouled C.J. McCollum.
McCollum picked up his 29th and 30th points from the charity stripe, and Duke would go down in their first game of the tourney, 70-75.
4. Western Kentucky's Comeback vs. Mississippi Valley State
No. 16 seeds Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky met in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Much of the game was a back-and-forth battle, but Mississippi Valley State would eventually build a 16-point lead with 5:06 to go.
They were poised to become one of the 64 teams to play in the second round. Western Kentucky had other plans.
Western Kentucky went on a 17-1 tear to tie it up at 54, with 1:11 remaining in the game. All five players scored during that run, but Jamal Crook and T.J. Price would be the ones to close it out.
Price and Cook scored five points in the last 33 seconds. Mississippi Valley State had a chance to tie it at the end, but the three was no good and they had to settle for the tip-in.
Western Kentucky scored 40 of their 59 points in the second half—27 points in the last eight minutes. They won the game 59-58.
3. Norfolk State Upsets Missouri
Not only was this an upset—Norfolk State's first win over a ranked opponent since they joined Division I—but both teams played outstanding ball for 40 minutes.
The Norfolk State Spartans led for the first 22 minutes of the game, but Missouri rode their back the whole time on stellar shooting. Only in short stints did the lead ever increase to more than two points.
Just as the Spartans started to pull away at the end, Missouri scored six unanswered points to tie it back up at 81 with 50 seconds on the clock. Norfolk State scored the next four points, but Missouri's Phil Pressey buried a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to bring it within one point.
Norfolk State's Rodney McCauley would hit a free throw to put them up 86-84.
Hanging on to a two-point lead with three seconds to go, Kyle O'Quinn would miss two free throws and give Missouri a chance to win it on a buzzer-beater. On a final attempt, Pressey pulled up a little early and out of balance, only catching iron on the three-point attempt.
No. 15 Norfolk State pulled off the 86-84 upset over No. 2 Missouri.
2. The Blown Calls: Syracuse vs. UNC-Asheville
It was obvious from the beginning that the crowd was backing the underdogs. The last thing they wanted to see was the possible upset get blown by the referees. That is what they got, though.
There were some questionable calls throughout the game, but the crowd was in an uproar after a missed goaltending call early in the second half.
Jeremy Atkinson's layup banked off the glass and was over the cylinder when Syracuse's James Southerland came from behind to smack it away. Atkinson got the foul, but they didn't count the bucket.
From then on, the crowd was waiting for the next call to boo. They had more opportunities in the final two minutes.
The Bulldogs' J.P. Primm was called for a lane violation after flying from the top of the key and snatching the rebound. He did leave his spot too early, but most were unaware of the rule—even the announcers.
The second actual blown call was the worst of them all—it came with just 34 seconds to play.
Syracuse's Brandon Triche couldn't handle the inbound pass and was clearly the last person to touch the ball. Jaron Lane was flying in to pick it off and the two collided, but Lane never touched the it. It was called out on Lane and the ball was handed back to Syracuse. They were down 63-66 and could have come within one point—or even a tie—with the possession that was taken away.
Syracuse knocked down all six of their free throws to put the game on ice. Syracuse won 72-65, and this game will not be forgotten.
The intensity and significance of how it played out is what earned this a higher spot on my list.
1. BYU's 25-Point Comeback vs. Iona
It's not like the BYU Cougars were down 25 points with five minutes left or anything. But to come back from that much down—at any point—is pretty darn impressive.
Iona's 25-point lead came just 14 minutes into the game. In that time, they put up 49 points to BYU's 24. Time to just call it quits and hit the shower, right? Not so much.
Iona was still leading by 18 points with 14 minutes left in the game, when the Cougars finally came to life. For the next eight minutes, they completely shut down Iona and scored 17 points of their own. The 17-0 run would bring them within one, and they soon took the lead at the 2:28 mark.
Noah Hartsock was responsible for eight of those points during the run—he hit the three-pointer that put them on top for good.
After Hartsock's go-ahead three, Iona only mustered two points, and BYU went on to win 78-72.
The 25-point comeback would mark the largest comeback in NCAA tournament history, and earn the top spot on my list of unforgettable moments.