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NCAA Tournament 2013: 25 Greatest Moments in March Madness History

Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 15, 2013

NCAA Tournament 2013: 25 Greatest Moments in March Madness History

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    We watch the NCAA tournament for the moments.

    We watch for the improbable 15-over-2 upsets. We watch to see the No. 11 seed make a run to the Final Four. We watch for the 20-point comebacks in the last five minutes. We watch for the you-can't-stop-me individual performances. We watch for the juggernaut teams who can't be touched.

    We watch the NCAA tournament because, more than any other sporting event, it gives us moments that we will never forget. 

    With 68 teams putting their sweat, blood and tears on the line to be the final squad standing, those moments are simply inevitable year-in and year-out.

    So, as we near the conclusion of the 2013 NCAA tournament, let's take a walk down memory lane and gawk at the 25 must-see moments in tournament history. 

1963: The "Game of Change"

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    No game in college hoops history is more important than the 1963 second-round matchup between Mississippi State and eventual champion Loyola of Illinois. 

    At the time of the game, no SEC team had integrated in any sport, and competing against a team that featured any non-white players was strictly forbidden. 

    But after the Bulldogs had thrice turned down an NCAA automatic bid after winning the SEC, head coach Babe McCarthy and his team decided enough was enough and accepted the 1963 invitation. 

    Inevitably, that defying move was met with strict opposition, especially when it was revealed MSU would meet up with Loyola, a team that started four black players, in the second round. 

    To make a historically crucial, sport-transcending story short, McCarthy and his players essentially snuck out of the state of Mississippi to play the game in East Lansing, Mich., thus changing the scene of college athletics forever. 

1966: Glory Road

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    Three years later, the fight against integration and civil rights took yet another important step on the hardwood. 

    Texas Western head coach Don "Bear" Haskins made championship game history by starting five black players against Adolph Rupp and Kentucky's five white starters. 

    The Miners went on to the win game, finishing with a 23-1 record, a national title and a win for the Civil Rights Movement. 

    In 2006, Disney released Glory Road, a movie depicting the crucial story of the special team. 

1973: Bill Walton's Unbelievable Line

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    As an announcer, Bill Walton is the King of Hyperbole. If someone turns the ball over, it is quickly dubbed as the seventh worst possession of all time. 

    Some aren't fans of his over-the-top style, but even his biggest critics would have to join Bill in dubbing his 1973 championship game as the greatest individual tournament performance of all time. 

    The stat line speaks itself: 21-of-22 from the field, 44 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in an 87-66 title-game drubbing of Memphis, giving the Bruins their seventh national title in a row and ninth in 10 seasons. 

    The word "unstoppable" gets thrown around a lot, but Walton's performance in that one is the epitome of the term. 

1975: John Wooden Retires with 10

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    After a 75-74 Final Four win over Louisville, legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden announced that he would retire after the season.

    Capping off the storybook ending, he led the Bruins to a 92-85 win over Joe B. Hall and the Kentucky Wildcats for his 10th national championship—in 12 seasons. 

    Wooden's run with the Bruins in the late '60s and early '70s—four undefeated seasons, seven titles in a row, David Thompson and NC State stopping that streak, complete and utter dominance—provides for several memorable tournament moments, but we'll try to save some space for someone else, too. 

1976: Indiana Is Perfect

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    Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers finished the regular season 27-0, then absolutely tore through the competition to cap off an undefeated season. 

    They beat St. John's by 20, Alabama by five, Marquette by nine, UCLA by 14 in the Final Four and Michigan by 18 in the national championship. 

    No team since has gone the entire season undefeated. 

1979: Magic vs. Bird

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    It was the beginning of the gargantuan rivalry between two future Hall of Famers. It was like the individual version of North Carolina vs. Duke meeting in the biggest game of the season. It was Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, two kings of the sport.

    To this day, Michigan State and Magic's win over unbeaten Indiana State and Bird remains the highest-rated game in college basketball history, thus beginning the modern era of college hoops and bringing it to the forefront of the sports world. 

    It's freaking Magic vs. Bird

1981: The Beginning of "March Madness"

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    Nowadays, we are impervious to "live look-ins." NFL Redzone gives us a live view of every touchdown of every Sunday, and even with four games going on at once, you'll never miss an NCAA tourney buzzer-beater. 

    But it didn't always used to be that way. 

    On March 14, 1981, NBC changed television forever. At nearly the same time St. Joseph's was upsetting No. 1 DePaul, U.S. Reed was drilling a half-court game-winner against Louisville and Rolando Blackman was taking down top-seeded Oregon State. 

    And the TV viewers saw it all

1982: The Arrival of a Guy Named Michael Jordan

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    This was the moment when the world realized that this Michael Jordan guy was going to be something more than special. He was going to be a legend. 

    As a mere freshman, MJ proceeded to hit the game-winning shot of the national championship like he was just shooting around with Bugs Bunny.

    Some unbelievable true freshmen have graced the college basketball world with their presence, but it's very possible none will ever have a moment like Jordan's to beat Georgetown.

    To add to the historical significance, Fred Brown came down the court and threw it right to UNC's James Worthy, who dribbled out the clock for the unbelievable finish. 

1983: Jimmy V

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    With maybe one exception, this is arguably the most iconic moment in NCAA tournament history. 

    Jim Valvano's sixth-seeded North Carolina State Wolfpack had made a miraculous run through the Big Dance, but they had their hands full against Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Phi Slamma Jamma and No. 1 Houston.

    With the game tied, Dereck Whittenburg launched a desperation three that missed everything—except Lorenzo Charles. The big man caught the miss and slammed it home as time expired, giving NC State the unforgettable, pandemonium-inducing win in the national title game. 

1985: Villanova Turns into a Supernova

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    To put this into context, think back to a No. 8 seed from the 2012 NCAA tournament. We'll go with Kansas State.

    Now imagine the unranked Wildcats miraculously moving all the way through the tournament to the championship game against Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and powerhouse Kentucky. 

    Now imagine Kansas State, despite being heavy, heavy underdogs (undercats?), winning that game and the national championship. It doesn't even seem plausible, right? The thought is nearly laughable.

    Well, that's exactly what the 1985 Villanova Wildcats did. 

    No. 8 Villanova escaped Dayton in the first round by two points, then beat Michigan by four, Maryland by three and Memphis by seven. There was no way the 'Cats would knock off Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.

    That is, unless they shoot a ridiculous Walton-like 78.6 percent from the field, which they did for the narrow two-point victory. 

    Put it all together—the amazing run through the tourney, the championship-record shooting performance, the David vs. Goliath title game—and this a moment you would truly have to see to believe. 

1987: Keith Smart Breaks Syracuse's Heart

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    It's not technically a buzzer-beater, which might have made it better, but when you drill a baseline jumper with less than five seconds left to put your team up by one in the national championship, it's going to be remembered forever. 

    That's exactly what Keith Smart did to propel Indiana to the promised land over Syracuse in 1987. 

    The Hoosiers have a rich basketball history, but Smart's deadly jumper might have been the best moment Indiana has ever experienced. 

1990: Bo Kimble Shoots Lefty for Hank Gathers

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    Everything on this list is a must-see moment, but none can truly give you chills every single time like this one. 

    Not long after Hank Gathers collapsed on the basketball court and died, Loyola Marymount had to go into the 1990 NCAA tournament with heavy hearts. 

    Perhaps none heavier than Bo Kimble's, who played in high school with Gathers, went to USC with Gathers and transferred to LMU with Gathers. 

    Kimble's left-handed free-throw tribute to his late best friend is a beautiful thing. Just watch. 

1990: Tate George Gives Laettner the Blueprint

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    Before Christian Laettner hit "The Shot," Tate George hit "The Shot."

    No. 1 Connecticut blew a 19-point second-half lead and trailed by one to No. 5 Clemson with just one second left. It looked as though Jim Calhoun and the Huskies were going to exit the tournament with a very bad taste in their mouths. 

    Not so fast. 

    Scott Burrell hurled an 85-foot throw down the court. George caught the ball in the corner, faded away and crushed Elden Campbell's heart all in a matter of a second. 

1991: Richmond Makes History

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    No one took No. 15 Richmond seriously before its matchup with No. 2 Syracuse in the 1991 tourney, but as March Madness has taught us so many times throughout the years, that didn't matter. At all. The Spiders took themselves seriously, and they believed that they could pull off the improbable.

    And they did.

    Richmond upset Jim Boeheim and the Orange with a scintillating, heart-pounding 73-69 victory to become the first 15-seed to win a tournament game. 

    This is the type of upset that fans of the greatest postseason in sports live for and have become accustomed to—thanks to Richmond. 

1991: Duke Gets Revenge

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    If Duke wanted to advance to the national championship in 1991, it would somehow have to get past UNLV. 

    Nowadays, that doesn't sound like such an unbalanced matchup, but the Runnin' Rebels were 34-0 and returning Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt from the team that beat the Blue Devils by 30 in the national championship the year previous. 

    Simply put, UNLV was steamrolling everyone, and Duke stood little chance. 

    As it tends to go in March, the team with little chance, Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils, came out on top, 79-77, and went on to beat Kansas to take home the national title.

    It was the first of a two-peat for Duke, and first of four for Coach K. 

1992: The Shot

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    What exactly can be said about this play that hasn't already been said? Hint: nothing.

    In 1992, Kentucky and Duke were locked in a spellbinding overtime battle that had already seen an unbelievable amount of comebacks and lead changes. Grant Hill threw the perfect three-quarters-court pass, Christian Laettner caught it, turned and drilled the game-winner.

    Bam. Greatest moment in NCAA tournament history. 

    Laettner's shot is celebrated on a near yearly basis. There are anniversaries and forced comparisons. Sports Science broke it down. There was even a spoof done by Chris Farley.

    That's when you know it's a notable moment. 

1993: Chris Webber's Timeout

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    Unfortunately for Chris Webber and the Michigan Wolverines, must-see tournament moments aren't always positive. 

    In the 1993 title game, North Carolina led Webber and the Fab Five—who were in the midst of their second straight championship appearance—by two with just 19 seconds left.

    Webber grabbed the defensive rebound, and after traveling but not getting called for it, took the ball into the corner, got trapped and calmly called a timeout.

    Only one problem—the Wolverines didn't have any timeouts left.

    C-Webb was hit with a technical, and the Tar Heels got two free throws and the ball and went on to win the national title in a moment that will forever be ingrained in the minds of those who witnessed the rare, bizarre event.

    Of course, while that's among the worst plays in tournament history, Webber serves as an example of not letting one tear-jerking moment—which kids are forced to endure every year in March—keep you down.

    The super-athletic power forward went on to be the No. 1 pick and have a dominant career in the NBA. 

1995: Tyus Edney Goes Coast-to-Coast

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    In 1995, the UCLA Bruins won the national title. 

    A couple weeks earlier, they were seconds away from not making it out of the second round against eighth-seeded Missouri. 

    But with 4.8 seconds to go, the smallest player on the court, Tyus Edney, drove the length of the floor and hit a running layup over a player nearly a foot taller than him to propel the Bruins forward with a one-point win. 

    Drama. Ecstasy. Heartbreak. Little guys. The impossible transforming into a reality. March Madness all wrapped up into one. 

1998: The Shot

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    Before Bryce Drew was coaching Valparaiso, he was propelling the Crusaders to a first-round upset of fourth-seeded Mississippi. 

    With a little help from his friends, of course.

    With Valpo down two and needing to go the length of the court, head coach—and dad—Homer Drew, um, drew up the perfect play. 

    Jamie Sykes launched a deep pass to Bill Jenkins, who caught the pass in traffic, attracted the defenders and dropped the pass off to Bryce, who calmly knocked down the biggest shot of his life. 

    No. 13 Valpo went on to advance to the Sweet 16, and this first-round game-winner is still easily one of the most iconic tournament plays in history. 

1999: Gonzaga, Cinderella of Cinderellas

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    Cinderellas will always make the NCAA tournament what it is, but before there was Butler going to two straight title games, before there was George Mason, VCU and Wichita State in the Final Four, there was Gonzaga.

    The Bulldogs aren't known as a Cinderella now that they've been to 14 straight tourneys, but back in 1999, the first appearance of the streak, they began the "slipper craze." 

    By far, the most memorable moment of Gonzaga's run to the Elite 8 was the final moments of its upset over Florida in the Sweet 16. 

    The Zags were down three with 27.9 seconds to go, but they got a quick basket, Brent Wright traveled and Casey Calvary tipped in a missed runner for the dramatic, scintillating victory. 

    Also, this will always go down as a moment that proves both A) pig piles are always a beautiful part of the Madness and B) Gus Johnson makes everything better. 

2005: Arizona vs. Illinois

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    Must-see moments aren't always buzzer-beaters or massive, unbelievable upsets. Sometimes they are frantic comebacks and clutch shots.

    Arizona vs. Illinois for a place in the 2005 Final Four had a little bit of everything.

    Down 15 with four minutes remaining, Deron Williams and Luther Head led the charge on a dazzling, electrifying, improbable 20-5 run, eventually tying the game on a Williams three-pointer. 

    In overtime, the Illini would escape with a 90-89 win to cap off one of the best all-around games played in tournament history.

    And by the way, hours before, Louisville rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat West Virginia, and on the next day, Patrick Sparks and Kentucky went head-to-head with Michigan State in a double-OT thriller that nearly made this list as well. 

    If you wanted to explain to someone the beauty of March Madness, you would lead him or her to video of that weekend. 

2006: George Mason in the Final Four

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    From here until the end of history, when you hear "George Mason," you will undoubtedly think "Giant Killer." 

    The 11th-seeded Patriots did the unthinkable in 2006. Not only did they become the second team seeded that low to reach the Final Four (and first mid-major, LSU did it in 1986), but the teams they had to go through were a who's who of national powerhouses.

    They beat Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut, with the last being many people's tournament favorite in a overtime thriller that saw the Huskies make several heart-pounding comebacks.

    Parity is alive in college basketball, but we may never again see a school with such an under-the-radar athletic program knock off three kings of the sport in such dramatic fashion.

    The fact that Disney hasn't made a movie yet is about as shocking as the Final Four run itself. 

2008: Super Mario

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    After Robert Dozier knocked down a pair of free throws to put Memphis up, 60-51, with two minutes to play, it looked like the Tigers were going to take home the national championship. They were a No. 1 seed, sure, but no one really believed a team from the Conference USA could accomplish the historic feat.

    Then Kansas caught fire. 

    The Jayhawks led a frantic comeback, Memphis was suddenly plagued by the poor free-throw shooting that had hurt it all season, Mario Chalmers hit one of the most clutch shots in history despite one of the worst handoffs in history by Sherron Collins and suddenly we were headed to overtime. 

    Kansas scored three straight baskets in the extra period, and that was all she wrote for Memphis.

    The comeback, capped off by Chalmers' iconic straight-away three, is already being labeled as one of the best moments in March history

2011: VCU from First Four to Final Four

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    In 2011, the NCAA tournament was expanded to 68 teams, with the four extra squads having to compete in a play-in game. 

    No. 11 VCU was one of the bubble teams to get put in the "First Four," and no one was happy about it. No one felt the Rams belonged. 

    Well, it turns out they belonged. 

    Shaka Smart's team reeled off a historic five straight wins against teams from the Pac-10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 to cap off the longest and most improbable run to the Final Four ever. 

    VCU wasn't able to upend fellow underdog Butler, which also nearly made this list, but no one will ever forget the Rams turning disrespect into wins—a common theme in March. 

2012: Two 15-Seeds Win on Same Day

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    Going into the 2012 tournament, four No. 15 seeds had beaten No. 2 seeds in history. 

    In the span of an afternoon, two more No. 2 seeds went down. 

    To start the day of madness, Norfolk State, led by Kyle O'Quinn's dominant play and infectious attitude, outlasted Missouri, 86-84. Hours later, superstar C.J. McCollum carried his Lehigh Mountain Hawks over the mighty Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. 

    They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but this was about as close as it possibly gets. 

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