Ranking the Most Amazing Plays of the NCAA Tournament Through the Elite Eight

Sean Bielawski@@SeanBielawskiContributor IIIMarch 31, 2013

Ranking the Most Amazing Plays of the NCAA Tournament Through the Elite Eight

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    Every NCAA tournament produces memorable plays and moments. The 2013 version is no different.

    Through the first two weeks of March Madness, there have been plays that made jaws drop, turned momentum and beat the buzzer. They caused jubilation on one side and heartbreak on the other.

    The list that follows is a compilation of plays that accomplished all three of these things.

    Here are the most amazing plays of the NCAA tournament through the Elite Eight.

10. Nik Stauskas Rains Threes on Florida

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    Michigan was coming off an emotional overtime win over Kansas, erasing a 14-point second-half deficit in the Sweet 16. The Wolverines picked up where they left off in the first half against Florida in the Elite Eight.

    Nik Stauskas put on a show in the first half, hitting five shots from beyond the arc. Michigan led Florida 23-5 out of the gate and held a 47-30 halftime advantage in large part because of Stauskas.

    He would end the game with 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting, making all six of his attempts from three. The Wolverines beat the Gators, 79-59, advancing to their first Final Four since 1993.

9. Tekele Cotton Steadies the Ship for Wichita State

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    Wichita State looked like it was well on its way to an easy Elite Eight victory over Ohio State, something no one expected. The Shockers were up by 20 points, 51-31, with 12:31 left in the second half.

    Despite the deficit, the Buckeyes mounted a rally. Ohio State cut the lead to 62-59 with 2:49 to play. At that point, Wichita State looked like it was about to blow its chance at a Final Four.

    Then, on the next possession, Tekele Cotton took a pass on the left wing and let a three fly. It hit nothing but net, putting the Shockers back in control of the game.

    Wichita State would end up winning, 70-66, and it will make its first trip to the Final Four since 1965.

8. Vander Blue’s Game-Winner Against Davidson

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    Davidson had third-seeded Marquette on the ropes, leading 49-42 with 3:30 to play. The Golden Eagles never gave up and got hot from deep to get back in the game.

    Still, the Wildcats had the ball and a one-point lead with under 10 seconds to go. Then, De’Mon Brooks threw an ill-advised pass that went out of bounds past half court, giving Marquette one last chance.

    Golden Eagle guard Vander Blue took the pass in his own backcourt with 5.5 seconds remaining. He drove down the left side of the lane, encountered little resistance and laid the ball in off the glass with his left hand.

    Marquette won the game, 59-58, and proceeded to make it to the Elite Eight.

7. Christian Watford’s Block Against Temple

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    Top-seeded Indiana was struggling against Temple in the Round of 32, and the Owls had the ball with just over two minutes remaining and a 52-50 lead.

    As the shot clock moved within five seconds, Temple guard Khalif Wyatt was doubled by a couple Hoosiers. Wyatt found Anthony Lee seemingly wide open under the basket for an uncontested dunk. Indiana forward Christian Watford appeared out of nowhere to block Lee’s dunk attempt.

    The Owls would not score for the rest of the game, and Indiana ended up winning the game, 58-52.

6. Fred Van Vleet’s Back-Breaker Against Gonzaga

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    Wichita State looked like it was in some major trouble, trailing Gonzaga 58-51 with 6:28 to go. From there, the Shockers turned to the three ball to help oust the top-seeded Bulldogs.

    Over a 3:38 span, Wichita State scored on seven straight possessions and hit four threes, the last of which was a dagger from freshman Fred Van Vleet.

    The Shockers led 67-65 with 1:30 to go and the ball. As the shot clock was winding down, Van Vleet pulled up off the dribble from the left wing. His three splashed home with 1:26 left, helping the Shockers advance on their way to the Final Four. 

5. Aaron Craft Takes Down Iowa State

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    Ohio State looked like it was on its way to a comfortable victory over Iowa State, up 10 points with just under six minutes to go. The Cyclones, however, came all the way back and took a late lead.

    Aaron Craft tied the score at 75 on a free throw with 1:15 to play. After an Iowa State turnover, he missed a shot to put Ohio State ahead. The Buckeyes then got the offensive rebound, giving Craft another chance.

    With the clock winding down, Craft sized up Iowa State’s Georges Niang, who retreated as Craft dribbled toward him. So, Craft pulled up from the right wing and nailed a three with under a second left to put Ohio State into the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.

4. Tyrone Garland Hits the Southwest Philly Floater

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    La Salle and Ole Miss were tied at 74 in the Round of 32. The Explorers had the ball and could hold for the last shot.

    The Rebels were in a 2-3 zone as La Salle guard Tyreek Duren initiated the play. Duren passed to Tyrone Garland on the left wing.

    Garland then slashed through the middle of the Ole Miss zone, moving to his right. He got in the lane, went up for his shot, took contact and proceeded to hit a floater off the window with 2.5 seconds to go.

    After the game, Craig Sager asked Garland what he called the shot that sent La Salle to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1955. Garland responded, “The Southwest Philly Floater.”

3. LaQuinton Ross Sends Ohio State to the Elite Eight

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    Ohio State had the ball and a three-point lead against Arizona in the Sweet 16 when Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft took the ball to the basket. He missed a layup, giving the Wildcats a fast-break opportunity.

    Mark Lyons hit a layup on the other end and was fouled by LaQuinton Ross. Lyons made the free throw to tie the score at 70.

    On the ensuing possession, Craft had the ball at the top of the key. He came off a ball screen set by Ross and drew two defenders. Craft then flipped the ball back to Ross on the left wing, who drilled a three with two seconds to go, giving the Buckeyes another thrilling victory. 

2. Dunk City Is Established

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    Florida Gulf Coast was on its way to pulling off an upset over No. 2 Georgetown, becoming just the seventh No. 15 seed to win a game in the NCAA tournament.

    The Eagles were up seven points with the ball and just under two minutes to go. Point guard Brett Comer took a pass across half court, safely breaking the full-court press being applied by the Hoyas.

    Most teams would have pulled the ball out to run some clock, but not Florida Gulf Coast. Comer drove down the right baseline, bringing a couple defenders with him. He flipped the ball up toward the rim to Chase Fieler, who threw down a one-handed dunk.

1. Trey Burke Caps Michigan’s Miraculous Comeback

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    Michigan trailed Kansas in the Sweet 16 by 11 points with under four minutes to play. Led by Burke, the Wolverines came all the way back.

    The National Player of the Year nominee scored eight points in the final 1:16 of regulation, including the three that sent the game into overtime.

    With the score 76-73, Burke crossed half court with under 10 seconds left. He came off two screens moving to his left and pulled up from 30 feet out off the dribble. The ball went through the net with 4.2 seconds to go, forcing the extra period.

    Michigan ended up winning 87-85 in overtime, and the Wolverines then steamrolled Florida to make the Final Four.