The 10 Most Baffling Moments in College Basketball History
College basketball history has no shortage of moments that made fans say, “Wow!” Sometimes, though, the only reasonable response to the events on the floor (or off it) is “What?”
One recent example of a thoroughly mystifying decision came courtesy of former Pitt Panther Nasir Robinson. With his team locked in a tie game with Butler in the 2011 NCAA tournament, Robinson committed a last-second foul that served no possible purpose…except to lose the game for the Panthers when Bulldog center Matt Howard converted the ensuing free throw.
Herein, a closer look at Robinson’s mental lapse and nine more of the most head-scratching moments ever witnessed by college hoops fans.
10. Jereme Richmond Decides He's Ready for the NBA (and Nobody Agrees)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
There’s no shortage of contenders for history’s dumbest early-entry draft decision, but Jereme Richmond takes the prize.
Where any number of high schoolers once thought they were NBA material and learned otherwise, Richmond played a year of college ball that proved he wasn’t…then left anyway.
In his one season at Illinois, the 6’7” Richmond averaged all of 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, making it a surprise to absolutely no one but himself when he went undrafted in 2011.
Sadly, Richmond then proceeded to demonstrate just how ready he wasn’t for the psychological pressures of the NBA.
Just months after his draft hopes were dashed, he was arrested and pled guilty to a weapons charge after striking his ex-girlfriend and threatening her family with a gun.
Now 20 years old, Richmond had served his time for that conviction, but was sent back to jail last week for violating his probation by—among other infractions—testing positive for marijuana.
9. Connie Hawkins Gets Kicked out of Iowa (For No Actual Reason)
Image from nba.com
One of the most revered names in New York City playground history, Connie Hawkins never got a chance to show what he could do as a college hoops star.
Freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity ball in 1960-61, and Hawkins’ career would take an ugly detour before he made it to his sophomore season at Iowa.
A game-fixing scandal erupted in New York in 1961, and ringleader Jack Molinas had become friendly with Hawkins before the star forward left for his freshman year.
Despite a total lack of evidence of wrongdoing by Hawkins—and despite protests from both Hawkins and Molinas that Hawkins wasn’t involved in any of Molinas’ illegal activities—Iowa expelled its prize freshman before he played a single game with the varsity squad.
The same paranoia that cost Hawkins his college career also saw him blackballed by the NBA. Only by suing the league did he eventually get his chance—nine years after his exit from Iowa City.
By the time The Hawk arrived in the NBA, he’d already won an ABA title with Pittsburgh, and he immediately became the first superstar for the Phoenix Suns.
Despite having missed out on the prime of his career—a stretch he spent playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, among others—he would go on to make four NBA All-Star teams on his way to the Hall of Fame.
8. Renardo Sidney Turns Himself into a Jerry Springer Episode
The fact that 6’10”, 285-lb Renardo Sidney appears to have squandered his gargantuan potential is depressing, certainly, but not by itself worthy of a place on this list.
Although others have wasted similar talent, though, none found quite as strange a way to sabotage their own careers as Sidney did in November of 2010.
Having already been suspended for his entire freshman season by the NCAA, Sidney earned another (albeit shorter) suspension from his Mississippi State team by getting into a fistfight following a win over San Diego.
A fistfight with his own teammate. In the stands at the Diamond Head Classic. Where ESPN’s cameras could capture the whole mess on video.
Reportedly, it was teammate Elgin Bailey rather than Sidney who instigated the brawl, but that hardly lets Sidney off the hook for an inexcusable (and mind-boggling) lack of self-control.
7. Pervis Pasco Celebrates Win, Forgets to Actually Win First
Skip to 1:04 for Pasco's gaffe and 3:33 for the game-winning bucket
Kansas State had Colorado on the ropes in the 2003 Big 12 Tournament. Down by two with 1.8 seconds to play, the Buffaloes were inbounding from the wrong side of half court.
Little wonder, then, that Kansas State was primed to celebrate a clutch win. PF Pervis Pasco, though, started that celebration just a hair too early.
Pasco stole Colorado’s inbounds pass, an alert play that should have sealed the Wildcats’ victory. He then cradled the stolen ball as he ran towards his enthusiastic teammates—without taking the small step of waiting for the game to end first.
Pasco’s travel was obvious to everyone in the building, including the officials, who eventually put 1.8 seconds back on the clock and gave the ball back to Colorado, this time on their own offensive end of the floor.
One banked-in three-ball later, the Wildcats were going home and Pasco had gone from hero to goat (with absolutely no one to blame but himself).
6. Bobby Knight Sets New Standard in On-Court Tantrums
Skip to 1:15 for the main event
By the 1984-85 season, Bobby Knight had won two national championships at Indiana and established himself as one of the college game’s premier head coaches.
He’d also begun to earn a reputation for having an unnecessarily short fuse, but Knight’s many fans and foes hadn’t seen anything yet.
In a February home game against arch-rival Purdue, Knight’s Hoosiers fell behind early.
Knight started berating the officials over fouls called on his team—hardly anything new for him—but when Daryl Thomas got whistled for still another foul, Knight went over the edge.
As the Boilermakers' Steve Reid stood at the free-throw line, Knight grabbed one of the plastic chairs that made up the Indiana bench and flung it across the court.
Luckily, he didn’t manage to hit anyone (though the fans in the wheelchair section under the basket probably thought it was too close for comfort regardless).
Unsurprisingly, Knight was tossed from the game with even more alacrity than he’d shown in flinging the chair, a sadly defining moment for one of college basketball's winningest coaches.
5. St. John's Loses Big East Tournament Game vs. Referees (and Rutgers, Too)
In 2010-11, Rutgers earned its first win in a dozen years in Big East tournament play, knocking off Seton Hall to earn a shot at 17th-ranked St. John’s.
They might have taken down the Red Storm, too, if the officials had actually bothered to stay for the end of the game.
Down by two with 4.9 seconds left to play, Rutgers had one last chance as they inbounded from under their own basket.
After the long entry pass was deflected, Red Storm forward Justin Brownlee ran down the loose ball and kept right on running, stepping on the sideline in the process.
In one of the most egregious blown calls in even the checkered history of Madison Square Garden, Brownlee was not whistled for traveling or for going out of bounds, and the clock was instead allowed to run out.
Had either infraction been called, Rutgers would’ve had somewhere between one and two seconds to run a sideline inbounds play, more than enough time to set up a chance at a game-saving shot.
Instead, the Scarlet Knights were left to wonder what might have been…not to mention what the referees could have been thinking.
4. Nasir Robinson Fouls His Team out of the NCAA Tournament
Rob Carr/Getty Images
After years of postseason futility, it looked like things might finally be turning around for Pitt in 2011.
Not only had the Panthers earned a No. 1 seed in a winnable Southeast Regional, but Butler’s Shelvin Mack had handed them a chance to win their second-round game in the waning seconds.
Mack’s foolish half-court foul sent Gilbert Brown to the free-throw line, where his first shot tied the game at 70. Had Brown hit the second, he’d have saved teammate Nasir Robinson from making the most brainless decision of his career.
When Brown’s free throw rimmed out, Butler’s Matt Howard grabbed the rebound, which should have sent the game to overtime.
However, Robinson topped Mack’s earlier mistake with an even stupider foul, hacking Howard and sending the Butler big man to the free-throw line.
Instead of holding the ball 93 feet from the basket with less than a second to play, Howard stood calmly at the charity stripe with the clock stopped and drained the free throw that ended Pittsburgh’s season.
Butler would make its second straight Final Four that year—one more than Robinson’s Panthers have in their history.
3. Ralph Sampson and Top-Ranked Virginia Lose...to an NAIA Team?
Image from uvamagazine.org. Courtesy of Virginia Athletics.
One of the most overpowering centers in collegiate history, 7’4” Ralph Sampson had already won the first two of his three consecutive Naismith Awards by 1982-83.
His Virginia team's early-season accomplishments that year included wins over Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas and Akeem Olajuwon’s Houston Cougars.
The latter victory came during an overseas road trip, after which Sampson and his teammates stopped off in Hawaii on the way home.
While in the islands, the Cavaliers were scheduled for a record-padding game against NAIA Chaminade, one the overmatched Silverswords had no apparent chance to win. Of course, sometimes the impossible turns out to be possible once the game is played.
Led by 6’5” Tony Randolph, a high school opponent of Sampson’s, Chaminade held the towering center—who was also slowed by the flu—to a paltry 12 points.
The home team, for its part, got 38 points from swingman Richard Haenisch on the way to a 77-72 win and a permanent place atop history’s “greatest upset” charts.
2. Fred Brown Hands National Championship to James Worthy and North Carolina
Skip to 1:42 for the ill-fated pass
The 1982 national title game was a tightly-contested battle between Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown and James Worthy-led North Carolina. One of Worthy's biggest plays of the night, however, required some unexpected help from the opposing team.
With 14 seconds to play, Michael Jordan’s jump shot had just given the Tar Heels a one-point lead. Georgetown inbounded to steady sophomore guard Fred Brown, who brought the ball to the top of the key before meeting resistance from the UNC defense.
Brown picked up his dribble, looked for an opening and threw a perfect pass…to Tar Heel star Worthy. The North Carolina junior then drained his free throws to secure the championship.
Brown apparently mistook Worthy for a teammate, but that explanation has hardly appeased 30 years’ worth of incredulous Hoya fans.
1. Chris Webber Forgets How to Count at Worst Possible Time
Webber's un-shining moment starts at 1:08
Chris Webber was the best player in the history of Michigan basketball, but the only play many people remember from his illustrious Wolverines’ career is a mistake.
Of course, it was an awfully big mistake on an awfully big stage.
With 18 seconds to go in the 1993 national championship game, Webber’s Fab Five trailed North Carolina by just two points. Webber rebounded a missed UNC free throw and opted to dribble into the frontcourt himself.
Trapped on the wing by the Tar Heel defense and hoping to set up one last shot to tie, Webber called timeout. Unfortunately, that was one more timeout than the Wolverines actually had.
Webber’s misstep earned him a technical foul, effectively icing the game (and the championship) for North Carolina.