Ranking the Most Unlikely Performances in NCAA Championship History

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IApril 9, 2013

Ranking the Most Unlikely Performances in NCAA Championship History

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    Neither Michigan’s Spike Albrecht nor Louisville’s Luke Hancock started the 2013 NCAA championship game, but they turned the title contest upside down, hitting one three after another. 

    With big names like Trey Burke, Peyton Siva, Mitch McGary, Russ Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Gorgui Dieng and Glen Robinson III grabbing the pregame headlines, these two three-point marksmen put on a show for the ages.

    Here’s a look at the 10 most unlikely performances in NCAA championship history.

10. Gary Bradds: Ohio State (1962)

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    In the early 1960s, Ohio State basketball was a force.

    The Buckeyes were paced by legendary players such as Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and a young guy named Bob Knight.

    Gary Bradds was an exceptional player who flew under the radar as a sophomore. He came up huge in the 1962 title game, scoring 15 points as the Buckeyes came up just short against Cincinnati.

    Lucas and Havlicek went on to star in the NBA, and Knight is one of the winningest coaches in college hoops history.

    Bradds carved out his place in NCAA championship game lore and used it as a launching pad to two more years as one of the nation's top scorers in 1963 and 1964.

9. Ron Harris: Florida State (1972)

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    Ron Harris was mostly known for his rugged defense and accurate shooting from the foul line.

    As a sixth man, he came off the bench and helped the Seminoles nearly pull off a historic upset in the 1972 title game.

    Harris' 16 points and in-your-face defense helped FSU come within five points of the Bill Walton-led Bruins.

    What if the Noles had won this game? Would it have changed Florida State's basketball trajectory?

8. Jeff Graves: Kansas (2003)

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    Jeff Graves’ career for the Kansas Jayhawks was solid. He wasn't a star, but he averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

    When you play with Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich and Keith Langford, you find other ways to contribute to your team's victories.

    But Graves had a night to remember in the 2003 NCAA championship game against Syracuse. The 6'9" forward dropped 16 points to join three other KU players in double-figure scoring.

7. Ron Mercer: Kentucky (1996)

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    As a freshman, Ron Mercer showed that he was special. His versatile game helped him average eight points per game as an emerging player on a talented Kentucky team.

    In the 1996 championship game against Syracuse, Mercer elevated his game and scored 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

    Tony Delk won the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award, but Mercer's sizzling shooting and overall productive play was a key factor in the Wildcats' title-game win.

6. K.C. Jones: San Francisco (1955)

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    K.C. Jones was a solid guard on some of the great San Francisco Dons teams of the 1950s.

    He averaged a little more than 10 points per game during the 1954-55 regular season.

    In the 1955 NCAA championship game, Jones came up huge with 24 points. Not even the all-time great center Bill Russell outscored Jones on that night.

    When you outdistance Russell in any way, you are doing something historic.

5. Luke Hancock: Louisville (2013)

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    Louisville’s sixth man Luke Hancock didn’t need any time to warm up in the first half of the 2013 NCAA championship game. He came in and scored 16 first-half points, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc.

    If it weren't for the 6'6" wing's scoring, Louisville might have gone into halftime facing a double-digit deficit. He finished the game with 22 points, adding another three-pointer in the second half.

    Hancock's championship game performance helped him win the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award.

4. Udonis Haslem: Florida (2000)

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    Udonis Haslem was a blue-collar beast on the 2000 Florida Gators team that made it to the NCAA title game against the Michigan State Spartans.

    Haslem was a decent scorer (11.8 points) and rebounder (5.1 rebounds) during the regular season, but he exploded in the title game. He went off for 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field and a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor.

    While the Gators came up short, this was a fantastic breakout game for Haslem and a launching pad for the rest of his career.

3. Steve Patterson: UCLA (1971)

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    It's easy to be overlooked among all of the legendary UCLA players during the John Wooden era: Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes.

    Steve Patterson was a solid player who began his collegiate career as Lew Alcindor's (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) backup. In fact, one of his claims to fame was that he was the Bruins center between Alcindor and Walton.

    Patterson absolutely took control of the 1971 championship game against Villanova, scoring 29 points and grabbing eight rebounds for the Bruins.

2. Harold Jensen: Villanova (1985)

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    Harold Jensen was a lightly used backup on the No. 8 seed Villanova team that took on one of the most intimidating college basketball teams of all time: Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas.

    Jensen only averaged 4.2 points and one rebound per game in the regular season, but when the bright lights came on and the Big Dance began, he played a nearly flawless game.

    He hit all five of his shots from the field and 4-of-5 from the line on his way to scoring 14 points in arguably the most unlikely championship win of all time.

1. Spike Albrecht: Michigan (2013)

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    Spike Albrecht came into the 2013 national championship game having averaged 2.2 points and 8.1 minutes per game. But the 5'11" freshman had a miracle first half, putting up 17 points on 4-of-4 from beyond the arc.

    When Michigan's star point guard Trey Burke went to the bench with two fouls in the first half, Albrecht stepped in and started firing. He acted like a seasoned veteran who had been in many of these kinds of big-time games.

    Though Albrecht didn't score any points in the second half, his shooting performance in the championship game was unlikely and unforgettable.