NCAA Tournament 2012: Ranking Top 25 Greatest Final Four Games Ever

Alan Rubenstein@@uarubyAnalyst IIIMarch 31, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: Ranking Top 25 Greatest Final Four Games Ever

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    The Final Four is arguably the second biggest sporting event annually in the United States. When the last four teams standing converge for college basketball's final weekend, anything can happen. Amazing comebacks, incredible shots and unpredictable drama can and have occurred.

    Clutch plays and performances have come from All-Americans and unpredictable players. Here are the 25 best games in Final Four history, focusing on just the National Semifinals.  

Honorable Mention: Kentucky 86, Stanford 85 (OT) 1998

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    Kentucky’s Jeff Sheppard (27 points) outduels Stanford’s Arthur Lee (26) as Kentucky outlasts the Cardinal in overtime. UK scores the first five points in overtime and never trailed in the extra session. 

25) Michigan 81, Kentucky 78 (OT) 1993

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    Michigan’s Chris Webber and Kentucky’s Jamal Mashburn lived up to their billing. Webber had 27 points and 13 rebounds and Mashburn 26 as the Wolverines outlasted Kentucky. 

24) Bradley 74, USC 72, 1954

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    Bradley came from 10 points down as the Braves’ Bob Carney scored five of his 20 points in the final 1:05. 

23) Kentucky 76, Illinois 74, 1951

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    Kentucky overcame a 39-32 halftime deficit when the Wildcats' Shelby Linville hit the game winner with 16 seconds remaining.

    Bill Spivey scored 28 points and had 16 rebounds for UK before fouling out. 

22) Houston 49, Virginia 47 (OT), 1984

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    Virginia had a late comeback to force overtime. Ricky Winslow’s put-back off a Hakeem Olajuwon miss put Houston in the title game for a second straight year. 

21) Oklahoma 55, Texas 54, 1947

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    The Red River Rivalry took to the hard court when Oklahoma and Texas met in the West Regional Final in Kansas City.

    OU’s Ken Pryor hit a 40-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Sooners the one-point victory. 

20) Kentucky 83, Duke 79, 1966

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    In a game many considered the National Championship at the time, Kentucky outlasted Duke 26 years before their more famous classic.

    Louie Dampier stole an inbounds pass and passed to Pat Riley for a layup to ice the game. 

19) Kansas 43, USC 42, 1940

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    Kansas prevails when Phog Allen’s son Bob steals the ball and passes to Howard Engelman.

    Engleman's shot with 16 seconds remaining gives the Jayhawks the win and puts them in the title game for the first time.  

18) Kentucky 61, Temple 60, 1958

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    After the Owls' Guy Rodgers misses the front end of a one-and-one with 27 seconds left, Kentucky’s Vernon Hatton makes a layup with 16 seconds remaining to give UK the win. 

17) UNC 60, Ohio State 57 (OT) 1946

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    The Tar Heels forced overtime after Bob Paxton hit a 35-foot shot with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. 

16) Cincinnati 72, UCLA 70, 1962

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    Cincinnati’s Tom Thacker hit a 25-foot jump shot with three seconds remaining to defeat UCLA in John Wooden’s first Final Four.

15) NYU 70, Ohio State 65 (OT), 1945

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    NYU rallied from 10 down with two minutes left in regulation to win in overtime. Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes scored 14 for the Violets.

    OSU’s Arnie Risen fouled out in regulation after scoring 26 points. 

14) UCLA 85, Drake 82, 1969

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    The Bulldogs cut a nine-point UCLA lead with a minute remaining to one, but the Bruins and Lew Alcindor held on and won their third straight National Championship in the next game.

13) Indiana 97, UNLV 93, 1987

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    The Runnin’ Rebels' Freddie Banks (38) and Armon Gilliam combined for 70 points and Mark Wade contributed 18 assists, but Steve Alford scored 33 for Indiana in one of the highest-scoring Final Four games ever.

    Banks 10 three-point field goals remain a record. 

12) Indiana State 77, DePaul 74, 1979

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    Behind Larry Bird’s 35 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists, the Sycamores outlasted DePaul’s five starters that all played 40 minutes.

    Mark Aguirre missed a shot that would have given DePaul a lead late. ISU’s Leroy Staley added a free throw to give Indiana State a two-point victory and a destiny matchup against Michigan State and Magic Johnson.

11) UCLA 75, Louisville 74 (OT), 1975

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    The Cardinals had a chance to ice the game with 20 seconds left in overtime. Terry Howard went to the line having made his last 28 free-throw attempts.

    Louisville led by one (before the the three-point field goal). Howard missed the front end of a one-and-one allowing the Bruins' Richard Washington to hit the game winner with two seconds remaining. 

    Louisville’s loss prevented a Louisville-Kentucky National Championship game. John Wooden announced after the game that he will retire following the championship game.

10) Georgia Tech 67, Oklahoma State 65, 2006

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    A Will Bynum layup with two seconds left gave Georgia Tech the win after John Lucas III tied the game with a three with 24 seconds remaining. 

9) UConn 79, Duke 78, 2004

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    Connecticut rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit. Emeka Okafor overcame first-half foul trouble to finish with 18 points and seven rebounds in only 22 minutes.  

    A late 12-0 UConn stretch came before a meaningless Chris Duhon three at the buzzer. The Huskies overcame an eight-point deficit with just under three minutes to go. 

8) Michigan 83, Illinois 81, 1989

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    After losing to Illinois twice during the regular season, the Wolverines exacted revenge in the Final Four. A Sean Higgins putback with two seconds remaining gave Michigan the win.

7) Villanova 92, Western Kentucky 89 (2 OT) 1971

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    Villanova outlasted Western Kentucky after the Hilltoppers' Jerry Dunn missed a free throw with four seconds remaining in regulation that would have given them the lead. The Wildcats pulled away in double overtime behind All-American Howard Porter. 

6) Marquette 51, UNC-Charlotte 49, 1977

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    Fifteen years before Duke’s Grant Hill and Christian Laettner became immortalized, the then-Warriors had their own miracle pass and shot.

    Jerome Whitehead took a length-of-the-court pass from Butch Lee and laid it in just before the final buzzer to put Marquette and Al McGuire in the National Championship game for the second time. 

    Two nights later in the final game of his career, McGuire won his only National Championship.

5) Duke 95, Maryland 84, 2001

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    Duke overcame a 39-17 first-half deficit. They cut Maryland’s lead to 11 at the half and then blitzed the Terrapins 57-35 in the second half.

    Shane Battier led the Blue Devils with 25 points and eight rebounds. Duke’s comeback remains the biggest in Final Four history. 

4) Houston 94, Louisville 83, 1983

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    The game was considered the de facto national championship at the time. Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma dunked 11 times in the second half, as both teams put on an aerial assault. 

3) North Carolina State 80, UCLA 77 (2OT), 1974

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    North Carolina State remains the last team to win a national championship without leaving their home state. The Wolfpack rallied from 11 down in the second half and seven down in the second overtime.

    David Thompson put NC State ahead to stay with 53 seconds left in the second OT. The Wolfpack’s win ended the Bruins 38-game NCAA Tournament winning streak. 

2) Duke 79, UNLV 77 1991

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    A year earlier, UNLV destroyed Duke 103-73 to capture its first National Championship. The 30-point margin remains a Title game record.

    Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebels came to Indianapolis riding a 45-game winning streak.

    Christian Laettner’s free throws with 11 seconds remaining gave Duke the dramatic victory. Two nights later, Duke would win its first National Championship.

1) North Carolina 74, Michigan State 70 (3OT), 1957

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    This was the first of two straight triple-overtime games for undefeated North Carolina. The Tar Heels outlasted the Spartans after Pete Brennan hit a jumper near the foul line at the end of the first overtime to tie the game.

    They would go on to defeat Kansas in triple overtime 24 hours later to capture their first national championship.

    UNC’s Frank McGuire and MSU’s Forddy Anderson became the first two coaches to take two different schools to the Final Four.