The Top 10 Semifinal Games of the Past 20 Years

Paul SwaneySenior Analyst IMarch 31, 2009

1990:  UNLV Runnin'' Rebels head coach Jerry Tarkanian looks on during a game. Mandatory Credit: Ken Levine  /Allsport

Thinking back on the Final Four weekends that I remember, I realized that by and large, the National Semifinals have been a bit of a dud. Here's to hoping that we get a pair of great games this Saturday. It's only happened twice in the past 20 years: 1991 & 2004.

Here's the list of the best semifinal games of the past two decades:


10. UNLV 90, Georgia Tech 81 (1990): In a tournament most remembered for the touching tribute by Bo Kimble, in memory of his fallen teammate Hank Gathers, this game is memorable because of the level of talent involved. The powerful UNLV team would go on to win by 30 points in the final against Duke.

In this game, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, and Anderson Hunt were able to get the best of Lethal Weapon III (Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson, and Brian Oliver).


9. Oklahoma 86, Arizona 78 (1988): In the days before number one seeds were ranked so the two best teams could meet in the championship, this Semi was thought by many to be the coronation.

Arizona was lead by Mr. Everything, Sean Elliott, as well as NBA talents Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr. Oklahoma only went six-deep, but their core of Stacy King, Harvey Grant, Mookie Blaylock, Ricky Grace, and Dave Sieger were a treasure.


8. UCONN 79, Duke 78 (2004): With a score indicating a closer finish, the game ended on a meaningless 3-point shot by Chris Duhon. The real story of this game was Duke's solid eight point lead with only 3:28 to play. UCONN would go on to win the championship game two nights later.


7. Kentucky 86, Stanford 85, OT (1998): Kentucky survived this overtime thriller to move on to their third straight championship game. They would go on to win on Monday, leaving Kentucky fans with a dynastic feel and their final banner in Rupp Arena.


6. Michigan 81, Kentucky 78, OT (1993): On the opposite end of the rise of Kentucky from NCAA sanctions, this game marked the Wildcats return to the final four after just missing out the previous year.

However, Michigan was too much. If only the Wolverines were able to keep their leftover time out from this game and take it with them to the championship contest against North Carolina.


5. Duke 95, Maryland 84 (2001): The score would lead you to believe that this was not a close game, but the story was the comeback. Maryland lead by 22 in the first half, but were dominated by the Blue Devils who turned an 11 point halftime deficit into an 11 point win, on their way to the school's third championship.


4. Georgia Tech 67, Oklahoma State 65 (2004): Will Bynum's lay-up with only 1.5 seconds in the game left John Lucas weeping in the stands.


3. Kansas 79, North Carolina 73 (1991): A coach vs. coach classic, this was a game of teacher against student, with the student prevailing. Roy Williams made his mark in a National spotlight, while Dean Smith was uncharacteristically ejected. The Dean would redeem himself two years later with his final championship.


2. Michigan 83, Illinois 81 (1989): In perhaps the best championship run in NCAA history, interim coach Steve Fisher won his fifth ever game against a conference rival behind the last second shot of Sean Higgins.

Another game loaded with NBA-level talent, Michigan featured Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught, and Terry Mills. Illinois had a tenacious attack lead by Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, and Steven Bardo.


1. Duke 79, UNLV 77 (1991): In its quest to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to win a championship while going undefeated, UNLV re-matched with a team they beat by 30 in the previous year's championship game.

When Anderson Hunt's last second shot clanged off backboard and rim, the greatest upset in Semi-Finals history was complete.