25 Greatest Moments of March Madness 2012

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIApril 4, 2012

25 Greatest Moments of March Madness 2012

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    Kentucky reclaimed its place atop the college basketball world with its ninth NCAA tournament championship in school history, but was that the best moment from March Madness 2012? The simple answer is no, but these are the 25 greatest moments from this year's tourney.

    While some consider the 2012 NCAA tournament to have been boring because there weren't many incredible buzzer-beaters or thrilling overtime games, it was hard to narrow this list down to just 25 moments from the tournament.

    The 2012 Bracket was filled with surprises and historical games, and I consider it to be among the best ever. Here are the 25 best reasons why.

25. South Florida Upsets Temple

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    South Florida shocked us by winning its play-in game against Iona, and stopping point guard Scott Machado.

    The Bulls do not have a single player who averages double-digit points per game. The team also suffered bad losses to Old Dominion, Penn State, VCU and Auburn.

    Not only did this team beat Iona, but they came back and upset Temple in a twelve-over-five upset, shocking the Owls, who upset Duke earlier in the season. Temple was a great team, but South Florida pulled off a huge upset without any stars leading them.

24. Deshaun Thomas Steps Up...Big Time

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    Deshaun Thomas was arguably the hottest player in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

    If one of Ohio State's big men was going to step up, you would expect it to be Jared Sullinger, but it was Thomas who became the team's hero.

    Through the first three games of the tourney he averaged 24.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Despite having an awful game against Kansas in the Final Four, Thomas finished the tournament averaging 19.2 points per game, leading the Buckeyes.

23. Tyshawn Taylor Breaks out of Slump Against UNC

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    Tyshawn Taylor struggled during the first three game of the tournament, and the team paid for it.

    Taylor averaged under nine points per game and had as many turnovers as assists against No. 15 Detroit, No. 10 Purdue and No. 11 North Carolina State. Taylor struggled against three teams who were seeded in double-digits, but he broke out of that slump.

    Coming against No. 1 North Carolina team without Kendall Marshall, who was the best point guard in the country this year, Taylor went for 22 points, five rebounds and five assists. Taylor played well when it matters most, averaging 17.0 points and 5.3 assists per game in the last three games.

22. Big Ten Leads Sweet 16

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    The Big Ten was regarded as a good conference, but we learned it is a great conference after watching up to the Sweet 16.

    Big Ten teams went 5-1 in the Round of 64 and 4-1 in the Round of 32. No. 4 Michigan was the only conference member that lost in the second round and No. 10 Purdue was the only one that lost in the third round.

    The Big Ten displayed its dominance by going 9-2 in the first three rounds. It was the most well-represented conference in the Sweet 16, with one-fourth of the teams, and we had a similar reaction to this as we did to Ohio having one-fourth of the teams in the Sweet 16.

21. State of Ohio Owns Sweet 16

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    With four teams in the Sweet 16, the state of Ohio became the new state of basketball.

    Taking the crown from North Carolina (which has Duke, North Carolina, NC State and Wake Forest), the Buckeye State had No. 2 Ohio State, No. 13 Ohio, No. 10 Xavier and No. 6 Cincinnati in the Sweet 16.

    Once we realized just how well the state of Ohio played through the first three rounds, we were stunned.

    Speaking of one-fourth of the teams in the Sweet 16...

20. Kansas Mounts Two Big Comebacks Against Purdue and Ohio State

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    Kansas made a habit of huge comebacks en route to the Championship Game, taking the lead against Purdue for the first time all game in the last four minutes against both Ohio State and Purdue.

    The Boilermakers almost completely changed the tournament in the Round of 32, but Kansas pulled off a great comeback with some baskets in transition. It also took some transition buckets to sink Ohio State in a great Final Four game.

    Kansas was a very exciting team in the tournament, but they couldn't manage to win it all, falling just short of another amazing comeback against Kentucky in the Championship Game.

19. Louisville Starts Looking Like UConn

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    After winning the Big East tournament, Louisville became a trendy pick to go far in the Big Dance because the memory of UConn winning the Big East tournament and then the Big Dance was still fresh in our memory.

    Louisville was in the Final Four and two games from completing the comparison.

    With Peyton Siva and Rick Pitino instead of Kemba Walker and Jim Calhoun, this team went far in the tournament.

18. Kansas Makes Final Four by Playing Mediocre Basketball

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    Kansas did not play its best basketball in the Midwest, and the Jayhawks were the only team in the Final Four not to have done so. Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State are all playing excellent basketball, but Kansas has been only mediocre.

    The Jayhawks had a subpar showing from point guard Tyshawn Taylor in the first three games, which led to three tough games against weaker opponents.

    Taylor finally hit his stride in the last game, while Thomas Robinson only had one good half. However, the team made it to the Championship Game.

    Kansas didn't play its best basketball through the entire tournament, but they still made it to the final game.

17. Stilman White Steps Up...Twice

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    Stilman White was an unknown coming into the Big Dance. He was just a freshman who had never started a game and was stuck behind Kendall Marshall. However, one of the best parts of the Big Dance is that unknowns can become household names in just one game.

    However, Stilman White played two solid games for the Tar Heels leading them to an overtime victory in the Sweet 16.

    White posted 13 assists without recording a turnover in two games. While the team did lose to Kansas, White did exactly what Roy Williams told him to do: Don't lose the game by yourself.

16. Western Kentucky Stuns Mississippi Valley State

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    Believe it or not, one of the most exciting games in the NCAA tournament came during the First Four. Even though the round is considered a joke by most fans, Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State played a great game for the right to be slaughtered by No. 1 Kentucky.

    Mississippi Valley State dominated for the first 35 minutes of the game against Western Kentucky, and the team was leading by 16 points with 4:51 left in the game. Then Western Kentucky mounted one of the great comebacks of the 2012 tourney, coming back from down 16 to win.

    By finishing the game on a 22-5 run, Western Kentucky came back to continue a great run after firing their head coach. The team then played a great game to stun Mississippi State.

15. Brady Heslip Plays the Game of His Life

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    Brady Heslip is a sophomore who had never played a single minute in college before this year, but he played well during the regular season, shooting over 45 percent from three. He also had one of the best performances from this year's Big Dance.

    When Heslip and Baylor faced Colorado, he decided that he was going to shoot threes—a lot of them.

    Heslip went 9-of-12 from behind the arc, racking up 27 points in a 17-point rout of Colorado.

    Heslip was the best shooter of this year's tournament, and his first 14 made shots were threes. Wow.

14. UNC Asheville Scares 'Cuse

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    When we found out that No. 1 Syracuse would be without Fab Melo for the NCAA tournament, we immediately began to question how far the Orange would go. In fact, after he was known to be out, the Orange became the only No. 1 seed that Jay Bilas did not have in the Final Four.

    In the team's first game, it was almost upset by No. 16 UNC-Asheville in what could have been the biggest upset in tournament history.

    The Orange were trailing in the game until 9:46 left in the second half, and even after that the game was very close, rarely becoming a two-possession game.

    We were so close to seeing a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed for the first time in history, which was shocking considering that Syracuse only lost two games this season. It becomes even more shocking when you consider that the Orange then went on to lose a close game to Ohio State for a right to go to the Final Four.

13. Ohio Forces Overtime Against North Carolina

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    In the only overtime game in the entire 2012 NCAA tournament, No. 13 Ohio scared No. 1 North Carolina in the Midwest region.

    The Bobcats had already upset No. 4 Michigan and No. 12 South Florida, but the Bobcats' Walter Offutt led the team to coming within an inch of an upset against the formidable Tar Heels.

    When these two teams headed to overtime, it was a very exciting game, and it was also the only five minutes of overtime we got to watch during the Big Dance.

12. North Carolina State Knocks off Georgetown

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    North Carolina State didn't have a huge upset in the weeks leading up to the NCAA tournament, but the team was hot.

    After knocking off Virginia in the ACC tournament, the Wolfpack almost upset North Carolina, coming up just short thanks to a few interesting calls by the refs and C.J. Leslie fouling out.

    This team had a lot of potential, and it upset San Diego State and Georgetown in the Big Dance before falling just short against Kansas.

11. Kentucky Wins the Rematch Against Indiana

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    Kentucky's only regular season loss came to the Indiana Hoosiers in a rivalry game that ended with Christian Watford hitting a buzzer-beating three to give the Hoosiers a 73-72 win.

    Actually, Indiana was the only team that Kentucky had lost to and not beaten at one point during the season...until the two met in a rematch in the Sweet 16.

    Kentucky reached the century-mark against the Hoosiers, and they won the rematch in a high-scoring affair.

10. Louisville Mounts Ridiculous Comeback Against Florida

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    Florida had a huge lead on No. 4 Louisville in the Elite Eight thanks to its shooters. However, the Gators blew it by allowing the Cardinals to finish on a 17-3 run.

    I know that the slide title actually says that Louisville made a comeback, but it was nothing short of shocking to see such a hot-shooting team like Florida go cold, making only one field-goal attempt in the last eight minutes of the game.

    While we could have seen an SEC matchup in the Final Four between Florida and Kentucky, the Gators imploded, and Louisville took their place, making for a rivalry in the Final Four.

9. Kentucky Wins Rivalry Against Louisville...Again

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    In the Final Four we saw Kentucky and Louisville renew one of the best rivalries in college basketball. The rivalry is so heated that two patients in a dialysis clinic came to blows when discussing the game.

    Kentucky won the regular season meeting between these two by a close margin at home, but the Wildcats showed that they are even better than they were during the regular season.

    Kentucky won the rivalry game against Louisville again, and they needed to earn this W.

8. John Calipari Wins His First Championship

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    While I do not like John Calipari's one-and-done factory, there is no getting around the fact that he is a great recruiter.

    Calipari brought together one of the most talented teams in history, and every starter on the team was in his freshman or sophomore year. What is more, his National Champions were extremely well-coached and mature.

    Calipari won his first of what will be many championship this year, and now he can sit back and relax for a few months (although he will probably be trying to recruit the top six undecided recruits of next year's class).

7. Shaka Does It Again

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    After pulling off a miraculous run to the Final Four last year, Shaka Smart marked his return to the NCAA tournament with an upset over No. 5 Wichita State, considered to be the best mid-major in the tournament.

    VCU became last year's Cinderella, going from the First Four to the Final Four and capturing the hearts of America.

    It was surprising to see the Rams win another game this year after losing four of last year's starters.

6. Aaron Craft Almost Pulls off Greatest Missed Free Throw Ever

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    Aaron Craft is one smart player.

    He runs Ohio State's offense incredibly well. He's a first team Academic All-American. He can solve a Rubik's cube in under two minutes. And he almost pulled off the smartest play in college basketball history.

    In his game against Kansas in the Final Four, the Jayhawks could have put the Buckeyes away a few times, but they failed to do so. Craft had the ball down three points and he was fouled. Craft made the first free throw, and we were all set for him to intentionally miss the second.

    While both teams were setting up for him to miss, the refs passed Craft the ball, and he immediately shot it off the side rim and ran in to grab a rebound to try an easy layup.

    One problem. The refs called a lane violation on Craft because he left just a little bit too early.

    Craft could have taken his time getting the rebound because everyone around him was so shocked. Instead, he rushed it just a little bit and Kansas won the game.

    Craft almost made this game an instant classic, but was just a little too quick for his own good.

5. Kentucky Finishes Great Season

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    Kentucky had one of the most talented teams in college basketball history, having seven future NBA players, up to seven first-rounders including six in this year's draft, up to four lottery picks, possibly the first two picks in the draft this year, and the National Player of the Year.

    The Wildcats finished the year with only two losses, both of which came against opponents that the team beat at some point during the season.

    By finishing off Kansas in the National Championship, Kentucky finished what was an incredible season by being crowned champs.

4. BYU Pulls off Greatest Comeback in Tournament History

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    It looked like Iona was going to walk past BYU in the First Four for the right to be the No. 14 seed to play No. 3 Marquette.

    The Gaels were up by 25 points in the first half and scored 55 points in the first half. However, BYU fought back, holding Iona to just 17 points in the second half, and the Cougars managed to pull off the largest comeback in tournament history.

    Noah Hartsock led the Cougars to the comeback, scoring 23 points and making the three that gave BYU its first lead all game with 2:28 left in the game.

    The Cougars went on to win the game by six points, completing the single largest comeback in an NCAA tournament game ever.

3. Red Friday

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    You've heard of Black Friday, when shoppers go crazy. Red Friday was when brackets went crazy, and everyone's brackets were repeatedly slashed through with the unforgiving, red X's we all fear.

    No fewer than seven teams seeded in double digits moved on during the first Friday of the NCAA tournament. After a quiet Thursday without many upsets, we had seven big upsets in 16 games on Friday.

    No. 10 Purdue, No. 10 Xavier, No. 11 North Carolina State, No. 12 South Florida, No. 13 Ohio, No. 15 Norfolk State and No. 15 Lehigh all won on Friday, beating some of the best teams in the field of 68.

    That Friday was filled with surprises and made up one of the best days in tournament history. It also killed everyone's brackets.

2. Lehigh Topples Duke

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    In what some consider to be the biggest upset in tournament history, No. 15 Lehigh upset No. 2 Duke behind a 30-point-effort from C.J. McCollum, who was one of the top scorers in the country this year.

    McCollum torched the Blue Devils with 30 points, six boards and six dimes. He led his team to a big upset in a game that Lehigh led for a good portion of the time.

    After Mason Plumlee had three dunks in the first four minutes of the game, it looked like Duke could dominate inside. However, the team still took 26 threes, missing 20 and sealing its fate against the Mountain Hawks.

1. Norfolk State Pulls off Greatest Upset in History

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    In what I consider the biggest upset in tournament history, No. 15 Norfolk State upset No. 2 Missouri.

    Missouri looked like a championship team, winning the Big 12 tournament and playing its best basketball of the year.

    Norfolk State apparently didn't get the memo that this was supposed to be a blowout. With three players scoring 20 or more points, it pulled off a ridiculous upset that had people tearing up their brackets after the first real round.