Shoo-Ins and Cinderellas: The 50 Best NCAA Tournament Runs in NCAA History
The NCAA Tournament may be the greatest sports spectacle in modern society. Every March, people across the nation and the world yell, cheer, jeer and even cry with their team's successes and failures. So engrossing is this tournament, even the President of the United States takes time to fill out his bracket.
Why? Because very few events can bring out the emotion in everyone that the Big Dance does. Everyone wants to see something out of the tournament: they want to see their alma mater advance and win a title, or they want to see the regular powerhouses lose in the first round and witness the creation of another American sweetheart.
And when the magical run comes to an end (like it usually does) we cry with the mid-major players who know this is their greatest moment. We all get caught up in the purest game in the world for three weeks.
There have been plenty of instances in the past of great teams showing their dominance and mediocre teams uniting to achieve the improbable. These are the moments that define why we watch the tournament; the chance to witness something that no one has ever thought possible.
The following are some of the great moments that we've witnessed in the great history of the tournament.
Update: I meant to add the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks. While writing the ariticle I originally had them at 11 behind the Arizona Wildcats, but forgot them when actually writing it. Sorry to KU Nation for leaving you guys out initially, but Danny and the Miracles is very deserving.
Honorable Mention: 2005 Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers, 12-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
In Bruce Pearl's final season as the head coach of the Panthers, he led them to the Sweet Sixteen past five-seed Alabama in the first round and four-seed Boston College in the second round. The Panthers lost in the Sweet Sixteen to eventual national runner-up Illinois. Behind the strong play of junior Joah Tucker (pictured), who led the tournament in points per game (25.3), UWM was fun to watch.
The Panthers' strange run was made even stranger by the events that occurred before their first game. The day before their game against Alabama, half of the team forgot their student IDs and were not allowed into the building to practice. However, after retrieving their IDs, the players practiced at a later time.
Obviously, whatever Pearl did to motivate them worked, because they made their improbable run into the Sweet Sixteen.
50. 2008 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 12-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
Tampa was obviously the city of miracles in 2008. All four matchups in the sub-regional ended in upsets: 12 WKU over 5 Drake, 12 Villanova over 5 Clemson, 13 Siena over 4 Vanderbilt and 13 San Diego over 4 Connecticut.
However, none was more impressive than Western Kentucky's overtime win over Drake. With time expiring in overtime and down a point, Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers put up a 25-footer that went in.
Drake was the surprise team of the year, securing a five seed out of the Missouri Valley Conference. Although WKU only had to beat fellow Cinderella San Diego in the second round to advance, the shot by Rogers was one of the most stunning moments in the tournament.
The Hilltoppers eventually lost to Final Four team UCLA.
49. 2006 Bradley Braves, 13-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
The Bradley Braves were a huge surprise in the 2006 tournament, because they knocked off two perennial powerhouses in order to gain their spot in the last 16 standing. In the first round, the Braves played a Kansas team that wasn't ranked very highly initially, but eventually snuck their way into the top 15 before the tournament.
The young Jayhawks were playing great basketball in February and March, so their downfall was a huge surprise.
Bradley went on to play Pittsburgh in the second round and big man Patrick O'Bryant (pictured) scored 28 points and pulled down seven rebounds to propel the Braves into the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost to Memphis.
This was the Braves' first tournament in 10 years, and their first round of sixteen appearance in over 50 years.
48. 2010 Cornell Big Red, 12-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
Cornell managed to achieve what few Ivy League schools had done in the past and reach the Sweet Sixteen. The Big Red didn't just advance either; they blew past their opposition. First, they beat the five-seed Temple Owls by 13 in the first round matchup. With Louis Dale (pictured) and Ryan Wittman both reaching the 20-point mark, the Big Red recorded their first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
However, the even more shocking game happened in the second round, when it seemed Cornell's momentum took them straight through their game against Wisconsin, beating the four-seed by 18 points total. Once again Louis Dale proved to be the workhorse, scoring 26 points inside for the Ivy Leaguers.
However, their magic would run out when they played the Kentucky Wildcats led by John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, losing by 17 points.
47. 2004 Alabama Crimson Tide, 8-Seed, Elite Eight
The Crimson Tide managed to put together a great run into the Elite Eight in 2004 mainly due to the play of their veterans. Led by juniors Kennedy Winston (left) and Chuck Davis, Alabama managed to knock off the Salukis from Southern Illinois by one point as Antoine Pettway hit a six-foot runner with six seconds left.
In their next game, Winston scored 21 points to lead the team and Alabama held off a late run by the one-seed Stanford Cardinal to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Alabama then managed to beat the defending champion Syracuse.
Once they reached the Elite Eight though, the Crimson Tide faced a tougher task: Connecticut. The eventual champions beat Alabama by 16 points and ended the breathtaking run.
46. 2010 Michigan State Spartans, 5-Seed, Final Four
The Spartans are always a team to watch in the tournament due to one man, Tom Izzo. The head coach has proven plenty of times that he can lead almost any team to the promised land. Last year was no different.
After being embarrassed in the Championship game by UNC in the year before, MSU was out for revenge. After a scare in the first round against New Mexico State, the Spartans moved on to play Maryland. With six seconds left, Maryland's Greivis Vasquez hit a basket to put the Terps up by one point, but filling in for injured star Kalin Lucas was sophomore Korie Lucious, who put up a three pointer as time expired to advance Michigan State to the Sweet Sixteen.
The next two games were no easier as the Spartans beat nine-seed Northern Iowa by seven points, and then beat surprise team Tennessee by one to advance to the Final Four. The close nature of each of the games made it so much fun to watch the Spartans in the tournament. However, they couldn't edge Butler, who made it to the championship thanks to tough defense in the final minute, and the Bulldogs won by two points. Michigan State ended its tournament run with an average point margin of three points.
45. 2000 Seton Hall Pirates, 10-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
Seton Hall managed to shock two teams in a row in its run to the Sweet Sixteen. In both of their first two games, the Pirates went into overtime and emerged victorious.
In their first game, the Pirates were down one point with less than 10 seconds left in overtime when speedy point guard Shaheen Holloway drove the length of the floor and put the ball off the glass and in with 1.9 seconds left in the game. He finished with 27 points, playing 42 of the 45 minutes in a 72-71 win over Oregon.
In their next game against two-seeded Temple, the Pirates shocked the Owls. Although Holloway, the hero from the last game, hurt his ankle during the game, sophomore guard Ty Shine (pictured) stepped up.
Shine scored 26 total points in the game, but none were bigger than the three-pointer he hit with 18.9 seconds left in overtime to put the Pirates up one. They ended up winning by two points. Seton Hall almost went on to the Elite Eight as well, but lost to three-seed Oklahoma State by two points in the Sweet Sixteen.
44. 2000 Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 7-Seed, Elite Eight
Tulsa may have created this run because of events out of its control, but it shouldn't lessen the achievement at all. The Golden Hurrican showed that they were a team to be reckoned with in their intial game against UNLV, routing the Rebels by 27 points. Under future Illinois and Kansas coach Bill Self, the Golden Hurricane headed into the second round prepared to face Bob Huggins and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Although they were number one in the polls for the majority of the season, the Bearcats dropped to a number two seed after future NBA star and number one overall pick Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament.
Tulsa took advantage of its vulnerability and edged out the Bearcats by eight points to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. There, the Golden Hurricane faced the six-seeded Miami Hurricanes. In the battle of tropical storms, Tulsa won as Brandon Kurtz scored all 17 of his points in the second half as Tulsa went on a 22-5 run to nudge past Miami. The Golden Hurricane lost in the Elite Eight to North Carolina by four points.
43. 1993 George Washington Colonials, 12-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
Before the '93 tournament, the Colonials had never won an NCAA tournament game before. However, led by future St. John's coach Mike Jarvis and freshman center Yinka Dare (pictured), a 7'1" monster from Nigeria who hadn't played basketball until he was 16, George Washington blazed its way into the Sweet Sixteen.
The Colonials had a somewhat easy road, but they took advantage of it, winning their two games by 14 points and 10 points respectively.
In their first game, Dare and Kwame Evans both starred. Evans made all five of his three-point shots and scored a total of 19 points. The Colonials skated past five-seed New Mexico and advanced to play Southern University, a 13-seed who had pulled an upset of its own, a 15-point win over Georgia Tech. Yinka Dare pulled down nine boards to help George Washington advance again.
However, despite its best efforts, George Washington couldn't get past Chris Webber and the Fab Five of Michigan, who would advance to the Championship game.
42. 2006 LSU Tigers, 4-Seed, Final Four
The Tigers' improbable Final Four run was anchored by Tyrus Thomas and future NBA champion Glen "Big Baby" Davis. "Big Baby" averaged over 19 points per game during the tournament and his performances in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight were especially important, as LSU upended the one and two seeds of their regional, Duke and Texas.
The Sweet Sixteen upset would be the last game for Duke all-time leading scorer J.J. Redick, as the Tigers held him to 11 points, shooting 3-for-18 from the field.
However, LSU's run would come to an end in the Final Four, when it put up only 45 points against UCLA.
41. 1986 Auburn Tigers, 8-Seed, Elite Eight
Auburn's run to the Elite Eight began and ended with Chuck Person. The SEC legend was the driving force behind Auburn's wins. The Tigers began their run by beating Arizona by 10 points. In the second round, the Tigers dominated the fourth overall St. John's Red Storm. The Tigers won the game by 16 points behind Chuck Person's 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers faced the four-seed UNLV Rebels. Auburn beat the Rebels by seven points as well, with Person scoring 25 points and nabbing 11 rebounds.
Despite his best efforts (23 points), Chuck Person couldn't get Auburn past eventual champion Louisville in the Elite Eight.
40. 1982 Boston College Eagles, 8-Seed, Elite Eight
In the 1982 tournament, Boston College advanced from the initial opening round with 48 teams to the Elite Eight. The Eagles' success came from committee, making them a very dangerous team. If a team happened to shut down one great player, another stepped up. In their first round game, Boston College edged out San Francisco by four points.
In the second round, Boston College knocked out the one-seed DePaul Blue Demons, who were knocked out in its opening game for the third straight tournament.
The Eagles then managed to take out four-seed Kansas State behind the strong play of Michael Adams (pictured) and John Garris before losing in the Elite Eight to the Houston Cougars, despite Hakeem Olajuwon playing only 11 minutes due to foul trouble.
39. 1998 Rhode Island Rams, 8-Seed, Elite Eight
The Rams played very well and managed to advance all the way to the Elite Eight, despite playing somewhat easier opponents for two of the four games they played in. Rhode Island opened its campaign against Murray State, winning by 23 points. Six players finished with double digit points, and they moved on to play the one-seed Kansas.
Kansas had been ranked in the top five the entire year, and was led by All-American Raef LaFrentz and future NBA champion Paul Pierce. They scored 22 and 23 points respectively in the game, but Rhode Island managed to keep the rest of the Jayhawk team in single digits in points. The Rams also got a huge boost from Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler. They beat the heavily-favored Jayhawks, 80-75 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for only the second time in their history.
In the Sweet Sixteen, they faced Cinderella Valparaiso, but ended their run and advanced to the Elite Eight.
In the Elite Eight, they played three-seed Stanford, but a huge run down the stretch left Rhode Island reeling and it couldn't recover. Stanford won by a two-point margin and sent the Rams back to home.
38. 1994 Boston College Eagles, 9-Seed, Elite Eight
The Eagles made it a point to squeeze out the games that they won during the 1994 tournament. In the first round, Bill Curley and Howard Eisley combined for 42 points and the Eagles slipped past the eight-seed Washington State.
The daunting task of the one-seed UNC Tar Heels lied ahead for the Eagles. Gerrod Abram proved to be the big man for the Eagles, sinking six three-pointers and scoring 21 points, while Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse combined for 25 for the Tar Heels. The Eagles won by three and ended UNC's streak of 13 consecutive Sweet Sixteens.
The Eagles then faced five-seed Indiana, whom they handled thanks to scoring-by-committee; four of the eight players who played for BC scored in double digits. The final score was 77-68.
Advancing to the Final Four proved too much for the Eagles though, as they lost to Florida by eight in the Elite Eight, 74-66.
37. 1998 Valparaiso Crusaders, 13-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
The name most commonly associated with Valparaiso is Bryce Drew. The most famous shot in the school's history came in the 1998 tournament against the four-seed Mississippi. With 2.5 seconds left and down by two, Head Coach Homer Drew drew up a play for his son. From the other side of the court, Valpo heaved a 60-foot pass to Bill Jenkins, who passed it off to Bryce Drew. Drew heaved a three-pointer at the Buzzer and sunk it.
They advanced to the second round, where the Crusaders went into another thriller against Florida State. The overtime game had 11 lead changes and nine ties, but eventually Valpo won with tough defense and a rebounding advantage. Valpo was one of the lowest seeds to ever make the Sweet Sixteen, but unfortunately they lost to Rhode Island in the next round.
36. 1996 Mississippi State, 5-Seed, Final Four
The Mississippi State Bulldogs made quite a run through the tournament, running straight through their regional with no reservations. In their first two games, the Bulldogs won fairly easily, beating VCU by a seven-point margin that is smaller than it should have been, and then dominating a Cinderella Princeton team that upset UCLA in the first round. Their games got significantly harder after that.
In the sweet sixteen, Ray Allen and one-seed Connecticut were a tough challenge, but Dontae' Jones (pictured), Darryl Wilson and Erick Dampier combined for 55 of the 60 Bulldog points to lead them past the Huskies. In the Elite Eight, it was the Dontae' Jones show as he dominated Cincinnati inside.
Once a high school dropout, Jones transferred from a junior college and scored 36 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds combined, and was named the Southeast regional's Most Outstanding Player.
In the Final Four however, Jones didn't have quite as much impact, scoring only 16 points and rebounding only six times. The Bulldogs ended their run with a 77-69 loss to Syracuse.
35. 1980 Purdue Boilermakers, 6-Seed, Final Four
The Boilermakers skated through the tournament fairly easily. Although the games may have been close initially, the Boilermakers won all of their games by eight points or more, and this led them all the way to the Final Four.
In their first matchup, Joe Barry Carroll (pictured) led Purdue with 33 points and 13 rebounds, pushing past La Salle. He almost repeated his performance exactly against three-seed St. John's in the second round, putting up 36 points and 12 rebounds.
However, in the round of 16 against Indiana, Carroll was held in check, causing Keith Edmundson and Drake Morris, who had put in pretty good numbers in the other two games as well, to step up. Both scored 20 points and played valuable minutes. They advanced to the Elite Eight, where Carroll was once again the leading scorer with 26.
Purdue advanced into the Final Four and faced UCLA. The Bruins managed to keep the big three somewhat in check (Carroll had 17 points, Edmundson 23 and Morris 12), and the rest of the team didn't step up enough for the Boilermakers and they lost. However, they did beat Iowa in the third place game, if that was any consolation.
34. 1955 Bradley Braves, Elite Eight
Back in 1955, the NCAA tournament was much different than it is now. There were no seeds, no three-point shot and the NIT was actually the more prestigious tournament. That's why Bradley is on this list.
Entering the tournament, the Braves actually had a 7-19 record, the worst to ever be included in the actual field. That being said, Bradley did advance to the round of eight. Granted, there were only 24 teams in the tournament, but they did win two games.
The Braves beat Oklahoma City (who in their own right were pretty terrible, 9-18 on the season) and SMU (15-10) to advance to the Round of Eight before they lost to Colorado.
33. 1986 Cleveland State Vikings, 14-Seed, Sweet Sixteen
The 1986 Vikings are important because they were the lowest seed to ever advance to the Sweet Sixteen (and still are, along with 1997 Chattanooga). Their road took them through three-seed Indiana first. Clinton Ransey led the Vikings with 27 points and helped the Vikings edge out a four-point win over the highly-favored Hoosiers team.
In the second round, the Vikings had less of a test and played the St. Joseph's Hawks. Controversial freshman point guard Ken "Mouse" McFadden (pictured), who had already sworn at the media in the tournament, contributed 23 points and Clinton Smith rounded up 16 boards to complement his 15 points.
Cleveland State advanced to the Sweet Sixteen to play Navy, but lost because "Admiral" David Robinson had 22 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks. The final score was 71-70.
32. 1981 Saint Joseph's Hawks, 9-Seed, Elite Eight
The Hawks created a great run through the tourney, starting with their win over the eight-seed Creighton by a narrow two-point margin. They went on to play one-seed DePaul, who had been knocked out as the one-seed in their first game the year before.
Saint Joe's had a decent game, but were trailing by one point with the clock running down. Right before the end of the game, Lonnie McFarland flipped the ball to John Smith, who laid it in as the final seconds ticked off the clock. This advanced the unlikely Hawks to the Sweet Sixteen.
In the Sweet Sixteen, they faced five-seed Boston College, winning another nailbiter, 52-51. Bryan Warrick put in 20 for the Hawks as they earned the right to play Indiana.
As it turns out, they didn't really play the Hoosiers as much as they got steamrolled, 78-46, but all good runs have to come to an end, and St. Joseph's did.
31. 1991 Temple Owls, 10-Seed, Elite 8
The Owls had quite a nice run going in the 1991 tournament thanks to some help from the other underdogs in the tournament. Their first game was against Purdue, whom they crushed, 80-63, holding all of their players to single-digit scoring except for one.
They would have been slated to play Syracuse in the second round, but Richmond had become the first-ever 15-seed to knock off a two-seed in the first round, so they had a relatively easy second game as well, beating Richmond by 13.
Oklahoma State was more trouble in the Sweet Sixteen however. They had to take the game into overtime before Temple pulled away from the three-seeded Cowboys. The Owls would lose to North Carolina in the next round however, losing by three points to Dean Smith and the Tar Heels. Marc Macon scored 31 to follow his 26-point performance against Oklahoma State, but it wasn't enough in the end, as Hubert Davis and Rick Fox scored 19 each for the Tar Heels.
30. 1984 Dayton Flyers, 10-Seed, Elite Eight
Dayton beat LSU by eight points in the opening round. In the second game they received a little more of a test. The two-seed Oklahoma proved to be pesky, but forward Roosevelt Chapman made 13 baskets and scored a total of 41 points to propel the Flyers past the Sooners.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Chapman followed up his performance with a 22-point day and he also grabbed nine rebounds. The run finally came to an end in the Elite Eight when the Flyers lost by 16 to the eventual champions Georgetown. The Hoyas held Chapman to 13 points on the day.
29. 1987 Providence Friars, 10-Seed, Elite Eight
Providence is one of the few double-digit seeded teams that has advanced to the Elite Eight or higher. It is extremely hard for these teams, especially because they are almost always fighting against higher-seeded teams the entire time. Each win is an upset. It is usually very difficult for teams to maintain their momentum against better teams.
Providence hit the tournament hard. The Friars played seven-seed Marquette in the first round and routed them by 22 points. This first upset obviously fueled them on. The Friars moved on to play the two-seed Duke. Twenty-six points from Jeff Capel couldn't prevent the Friars from putting up 98 points on the Blue Devils. Derrick Brown scored 33 to lead the Friars.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Providence faced its toughest test in an unlikely opponent. Fourteen-seed Chattanooga had already upset the three and six seeds and were looking to become the first 14-seed to make it to the Elite Eight. Four of five starting Friars scored in double figures and God Shammgod (pictured) contributed eight assists as well and Providence advanced to play four-seed Arizona in the Elite Eight.
Against Arizona, Shammgod and Jamel Thomas stepped up, putting up 23 points each and forcing the game into overtime. However, the eventual champions proved too much for the Friars and Arizona won by four points.
28. 1990 Texas Longhorns, 10-Seed, Elite Eight
Texas cruised past Georgia in the opening round of the tournament, recording a 100-88 victory, carried by Travis Mays' 44 points (Lance Blanks also contributed 21).
However their game against two-seed Purdue was much more exciting. Texas was up by one point with seven seconds remaining and Purdue had the ball. The Boilermakers drove down the court and Texas center Guillermo "Panama" Myers saved the game by blocking the layup that the Boilermakers put up.
Texas then cruised to another win over the Xavier Musketeers in the Sweet Sixteen, riding Joey Wright, Travis Mays and Lance Blanks (pictured) once again (26, 32, 28 points respectively). In the Elite Eight, the Longhorns would lose a close game to Arkansas (88-85) despite another 20, 20 and 17 points from their big three.
27. 2001 Temple Owls, 11-Seed, Elite Eight
John Chaney did a lot at Temple, but never did he do more in a season with less. The 11th-seeded Owls entered the tournament with a 21-12 mark. Their first round matchup was with the Texas Longhorns. Thanks to 26 points by Quincy Wadley (pictured), the Owls beat the Longhorns by 13 and advanced to play three-seed Florida, where the Owls laid a whooping to the Gators as well, beating them by 21 points. Once again Quincy Wadley led all scorers with 24.
Temple faced seven-seed Penn State and defeated them as well, this time by a 12-point margin. The Owls then moved on to play the Michigan State Spartans. Sadly enough for the Owls, the Spartans were on a mission and beat them by seven points to advance to the Final Four. Lynn Greer and Kevin Lyde both made the All-Regional Team for the Owls.
26. 2002 Missouri Tigers, 12-Seed, Elite Eight
Missouri became the first team seeded 12 or lower to reach a Regional Final in 2002. Behind the play of Kareem Rush and Clarence Gilbert, the Tigers managed to advance past a relatively easy schedule all the way into the Elite Eight.
First, the Tigers beat Miami by 13 points and then advanced to beat four-seed Ohio State by 16 points. Their run of easy wins would continue in the Sweet Sixteen, as they handled eight-seed UCLA, who had beaten one-seed Cincinatti in the previous round.
Although easier than normal, this was still an impressive performance from a Missouri team that had 11 losses on the season coming into the tournament.
Alas, their luck would run out when they faced conference opponent Oklahoma, whom they had lost to earlier in the season as well. The final score was 81-75, with Kareem Rush scoring 17 points.
25. 1999 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 10-Seed, Elite Eight
The Bulldogs' run in 1999 made Gonzaga everyone's favorite mid-major and sparked their emergence as a perennial tournament team. The Zags were assigned a 10-seed and therefore had to play a Minnesota team that was seeded seventh. They overcame the Gopher-sized obstacle fairly well, winning by 12 points, but then they had to advance to play the two-seed Stanford.
They managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and upset Stanford by eight points; Matt Santangelo (left) led the way by scoring 22 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing six boards.
The Zags moved on to play six-seed Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. After a hardfought battle, Gonzaga forward Casey Cavalry tipped in a missed shot with 4.4 seconds left and Gonzaga advanced to the Elite Eight in only its second NCAA tournament appearance.
In the Regional Final, future champion UConn almost failed to advance to the Final Four, but Rip Hamilton's 21 points said otherwise. Gonzaga became a fixture in the Sweet Sixteen, making the third round for the next two years as well.
24. 1987 Providence Friars, 6-Seed, Final Four
The '87 Friars' campaign to the Final Four was spectacular because of the talent of teams they beat and the exciting fashion of their wins.
In the first round, future Florida head coach Billy Donovan (pictured) recorded a double-double with 35 points and 12 assists in a 22-point rout of UAB.
The second game was really close, as Providence played 14-seed Austin Peay. The game went to overtime and Providence edged the Governors by three points. Donovan and Ernie Lewis combined for 51 points.
The competition got much steeper in the upcoming games, but the Rick Pitino-led Friars continued playing well. Against two-seed Alabama, BIlly Donovan recorded another double-double with 26 points and 10 assists and Delray Brooks contributed 23 points of his own in the dominant 21-point win.
Next was one-seed Georgetown, that like all the others before, went down hard to the Friars. Donovan put up another 20-point game and Darryl Wright contributed 20 as well. Providence won 88-73 and Billy Donovan won the MOP for the Southeast Regional.
In the Final Four, Syracuse obviously focused on shutting down Donovan, as the Orangement held him to eight points and seven assists. Syracuse beat Providence, but lost to Indiana by one point in the Final.
23. 2008 Davidson Wildcats, 10-Seed, Elite Eight
The 2008 Davidson team turned the Midwest into the Stephen Curry show. The talented shooting guard used the NCAA tournament as his coming-out show. Sure, he was close to leading the country in points per game, but playing in the Southern Conference isn't exactly the way to get the most attention.
Curry put up 40 against Gonzaga in the first round win over Gonzaga, and then put up 30 against two-seed Georgetown, 25 of which came in the second half. Curry's late game heroics helped the Wildcats overcome a 17-point second half defecit and brought them back to win.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Curry destroyed Wisconsin's normally shutdown halfcourt defense and ripped them for 33 points. This performance made him the only player to ever score 30+ points in each of his first four appearances in the tournament (he had 30 in an opening-round loss to Maryland in the 2007 NCAA tournament).
Next on the slate for Curry and Co. was the one-seed Kansas Jayhawks. Curry managed to put up 25 points, but Davidson fell by just two.
Davidson had the ball on the last possession. Curry was swarmed immediately and was forced to pass to point guard Jason Richards, who hoisted a wild shot that missed.
The dream had come to an end, but the sophomore guard had proven that his team was to be reckoned with.
22. 2002 Indiana Hoosiers, 5-Seed, Championship Game
The Hoosiers, like some others in this list, had the benefit of beating some lesser teams thanks to the upset. They knocked off the Utah Utes easily, winning 75-56. Thirteen-seed UNC-Wilmington had upended USC in the first round, and Indiana ended up beating them by nine points.
However, Indiana faced a much tougher task in knocking off the one-seed Duke Blue Devils. Indiana was up by four with 4.2 seconds left after stellar play from Jared Jeffries (pictured), but then Jason Williams was fouled after making a three-pointer. He missed the foul shot however, and the Hoosiers hung on for the win.
Indiana advanced to play 10-seed Kent State in the Elite Eight, whom they dealt with soundly, winning by a solid 12 points.
The improbable run to the Final Four continued as two normally insignificant players stepped up. Defensive stopper Dane Fife held Oklahoma's Hollis Price to six points while bench player Jeff Newton scored 19 points in 23 minutes on the floor. The Hoosiers advanced to the title game, where they lost to Maryland after Juan Dixon scored 18 for Maryland.
21. 1990 Loyola-Marymount Lions, 11-Seed, Elite Eight
Loyola-Marymount was a team that had a certain system in place to allow them to win, and it actually worked for them in the tournament. The Lions believed that if enough points were scored, it wouldn't matter if the other team played well or not, you would win.
In their first game against New Mexico State, Loyola-Marymount let in 92 points, but they scored 111, so it seemed their strategy was working. Bo Kimble (pictured) put up 45 points in their first round win and ended up averaging 35.8 points per game for the tournament.
The Lions played Michigan next. The three-seed Wolverines put 115 points on the board, but again the Lions outscored them, trouncing Michigan by 34 points and scoring 149 points. This is still the highest scoring game in tournament history.
The tables turned for the Lions in the next game however, as the seven-seed Alabama held them to 62 points. However, the Lions managed to hold on to the win, with Kimble contributing 19 of their points.
Their strategy finally backfired on them in the Elite Eight when the Lions played a team that ran almost the same system, just better. The UNLV Runnin' Rebels could run with the best of them and put up 131 on Loyola-Marymount.
Loyola-Marymount still holds the record for the best scoring average in the tournament though, averaging 105.8 ppg as a team.
20. 1979 St. John's Red Storm, 10-Seed, Elite Eight
In 1979, there were only 40 teams in the tournament. Divide that into four regions, and that means the 10-seed is the lowest seed possible. That mean's that St. John's was one of the last teams into the tournament, and it still had the mettle to advance to the Round of Eight while having to play one game more than most of the teams.
They beat the Temple Owls first, winning by five points. Next was two-seed Duke. St. John's barely edged out the Blue Devils, winning by two points, thanks to a 21-point game by Reggie Carter (left) and 18 points from Wayne Mckoy. The Red Storm then advanced to play the six-seed Rutgers, whom they barely edged again, winning only by two points for the second straight game.
In the Elite Eight, St. John's met the most unlikely of opponents, the lowest other seed in the region, nine-seed Pennsylvania. The Quakers had upset North Carolina on the same day that the Red Storm had beaten Duke. The Quakers proved the better team, but just barely, beating the Red Storm by two points late in the game.
19. 2000 North Carolina Tar Heels, 8-Seed, Final Four
Although the Tar Heels are a common name in the Final Four, the fact that they were an eight-seed is not common. North Carolina was in a down year, but thanks to freshman phenom Joseph Forte (pictured), the Tar Heels made a crazy run to the Final Four.
The Tar Heels started off the tournament with a simple win over Missouri; Brenden Haywood dominated in the paint, scoring 28 points and getting 15 rebounds.
It got tougher in the second round however, as the Tar Heels drew one-seed Stanford. The Tar Heels played great defensive basketball and held Cardinal stars Mark Madsen, Jason Collins and Jaron Collins under 10 points each, and the Tar Heels knocked off the one seed in their region.
North Carolina then snuck in two more wins a 74-69 win over four-seed Tennessee and a 59-55 win over seven-seed Tulsa. Joe Forte scored 22 and 28 points in those games as he propelled the Tar Heels straight into the Final Four for the second time in three years since Dean Smith retired.
The Tar Heels met Florida in the national semifinal game, but the Gators' balanced attack proved too much for the Tar Heels, as they lost 71-59. Future NFL superstar Julius Peppers did get a chance to play in the Final Four however. Looking back, it's strange to know that a future Pro Bowl defensive lineman played in the Final Four.
18. 2000 Wisconsin Badgers, 8-Seed, Final Four
The only thing stranger than one eight seed making the Final Four is two. Yet, in 2000, the same year that North Carolina achieved the feat, the eighth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers made it to the Final Four in almost the same fashion as the Tar Heels.
First, they played the nine-seed Fresno State, whom they made short work of, before moving on to face one-seed Arizona. Despite the best efforts of Arizona's Gilbert Arenas (21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds), Wisconsin nudged them out of the way by having four players with more than 10 points.
From that point on, it was fairly simple to advance. The Badgers breezed past LSU with boosted confidence and then behind the 18-point day of Jon Bryant (pictured), beat fellow Big Ten member Purdue.
In the Final Four however, the Badgers ran out of steam. Michigan State beat Wisconsin behind the strong play of Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves. The Spartans beat the Badgers 53-41; Wisconsin's 41 points is the lowest scoring output in the history of the Final Four.
17. 1982-84 Houston Cougars, 3 Final Fours, 2 Championship Games
The Houston Cougars, or Phi Slamma Jamma as they were to become, had a fairly dominant run in the NCAA tournament over the span of a couple years.
The first year was the most impressive due to their lower seeding. The Cougars were a six seed during the 1982 tournament, and advanced by squeaking out wins against three-seed Tulsa and two-seed Missouri. They got a break during the Elite Eight by playing eight-seed Boston College. Eventually, they would lose to Michael Jordan, James Worthy and the eventual champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The next season, Houston slowly moved up the polls to take over the No. 1 spot by the end of the season behind the stellar play of Michael Young, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (left).
In the tournament, after squeaking out wins in their first two wins, they cruised through the Elite Eight and Final Four rounds straight into the championship. However, Jimmy Valvano and NC State decided it was their time to win a championship. A last second lay-in by Lorenzo Charles prevented the Cougars from winning their first championship.
The following season, Houston seemed to be a likely candidate for the championship. Ranked third in the preseason poll, Houston stayed near the top of the polls the entire season, but never actually cracked the number one spot. In 1984, Houston was given a two seed, but that didn't stop them from advancing to the Final Four.
They didn't have to play the most difficult seeds in their region due to upsets, yet still didn't win a game by more than eight points the entire tournament.
In the Final Four, they had to go to overtime to defeat Virginia, when freshman Ricky Winslow slammed home an air ball by Hakeem Olajuwon, which ended up being the winning basket. However, in the championship, John Thompson, Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas were too much for the Cougars and they ended Houston's great run into the Final Four.
Houston wouldn't make the tournament for another three years afterward.
16. 1979 Pennsylvania Quakers, 9-Seed, Final Four
As discussed before, in '79 there were only 10 seeds per region and the top six all got byes into the second round. Therefore, the lower 16 teams in the tournament had to play a schedule that looked a lot like today's schedule. So when Pennsylvania started ripping off wins in the 1979 tournament, it was quite a shock. Usually teams were too tired to win two games in a row and they were also playing the top two seeds.
Pennsylvania started its run by beating eight-seed Iona and then proceeded to play one-seed North Carolina. The Quakers had a great game by any standards including a 25-point game by Tony Price. Three others were in double digits for Penn and they squeaked out a victory over one of the perennial favorites and one of the best teams in the tournament.
After a win like that, the rest of the sailing was simple: beating four-seed Syracuse by eight points and then going up against improbable opponent St. John's and relying on Tony Price once again to get the Quakers to the Final Four.
A run to the Final Four by one of the worst teams in the tournament is unlikely to say the least, but it happened and those intelligent kids were on their way to the big stage. It's too bad for them that they were in the middle of a clash of destinies between two kids named Magic and Larry.
If not for Earvin Johnson, the Quakers might have had a chance at a title, instead of losing by 34 points.
15. 1957 North Carolina Tar Heels, Champions
The 1957 Tar Heels went undefeated during the entirety of the regular season, but it got that much more difficult in the tournament. Although their first three games were fairly simple to win (beating Yale, Canisius and Syracuse respectively), the next two games would be one of the hardest two-game stretches in basketball history.
In the Final Four, the Tar Heels faced the Michigan State Spartans. As if the stakes weren't high enough, the game went into three overtimes periods before a victor emerged. Finally, Tar Heel great Lennie Rosenbluth pulled North Carolina out of the scrum with a 29-point game for a chance to go at the title. The final score was 74-70.
The Tar Heels didn't know it, but their three-overtime game was one of two in Final Four history. The second would occur in their next game.
The Tar Heels took on Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks in the Final and yet again took the game to three overtimes. Lennie Rosenbluth scored 20 of the Tar Heels' 53 and they emerged victorious after Joe Quigg hit two free throws with six seconds left to put the Tar Heels up one point.
Wilt Chamberlain tried his best, putting forth a great double-double game with 23 points and 14 rebounds; he also won the tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
14. 2006-07 Florida Gators, 2 Championships
Billy Donovan's teams during the latter period of last decade are the closest we can get to a dynasty in the modern age. It was a surprise to everyone when the entire Gator team decided to come back for a run at another title after they had already gotten one. The Gator Raid on the tournament in 2006 came as a surprise to many. Lots of people knew that boys from Gainesville were talented, but they cut through their opponents like they were soft butter.
The only game that Florida had a struggle with was the game in which they played seven-seed Georgetown. They ran through every other opponent by more than 10 points; this included a 16-point victory in the national title game against UCLA. The scary thing was the fact that they were all sophomores except for one starter. All five starters also averaged double digit scoring in the tourney, a sign that didn't bode well for next year's opponents.
Sure enough, Florida ran through the next season like a freight train, going 29-5 in the regular season. They were a number one seed in the tournament of course and everyone thought they were the team to beat. Although their first win was quite easy, things seemed a little more difficult for the Gators in the '07 tourney, averaging a margin of victory close to eight points per game.
The Gators met UCLA in the Final Four and although he didn't score in double digits, Al Horford brought in 17 rebounds to lift the Gators to the title game, where they would beat Greg Oden and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
13. 1963 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, Champions
Although their run may not have been the most impressive one in the world, the overtones of the season of the Loyola-Chicago team were very important to the overall landscape of modern college basketball. Head Coach George Ireland brought four African-American starters to their first NCAA tournament amongst the nation's increasing racial tensions.
However, people started to take notice when they started defeating opponents with vigor. The Ramblers easily advanced to the Final Four, where they took on second-ranked Duke. Blue Devils' Player of the Year Art Heyman scored 28 and Jeff Mullins had 21, but the rest of Duke was shut down and Loyola ended up winning by 19 points.
The Ramblers faced their toughest test yet in the two-time defending Cincinnati Bearcats; they had to go to overtime before the Ramblers' Vic Rouse sunk a put-back shot to win the game by two, 60-58.
The championship showed people that race didn't matter anymore; if you wanted to win, recruiting African Americans had to be a viable option.
12. 1986 LSU Tigers, 11-Seed, Final Four
The Tigers made history in 1986 when they became the first team with a double-digit seed to make it all the way to the NCAA tournament. They definitely earned their way into the final, needing every last minute of time to secure their spot amongst the last four.
In their first game, LSU took six-seed Purdue into overtime before scoring 25 points in the extra five minutes to win by seven. Only six players scored for the Tigers, but five of them were in double digits.
The Tigers then advanced to play the three-seed Memphis Tigers, whom they only beat by two points, after a stellar performance by John Williams with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
In the Sweet Sixteen, LSU managed to get a six-point win over two-seeded Georgia Tech. Don Redden (pictured) and Derrick Taylor scored 27 and 23 points as the Tigers secured their spot in Elite Eight.
From here it got even harder. The Tigers were slotted to play one-seed Kentucky for a spot in the Final Four. Once again, LSU managed to play great defense and although they lost the rebounding battle, the Tigers emerged with a two-point win.
They advanced to the Final Four after beating the one, two and three seeds from their region. It was quite impressive and although they lost to Louisville in the semifinals, they had a miraculous run.
11. 1961-63 Cincinnati Bearcats, 2 Championships, 1 Runner-Up
The Cincinnati Bearcats became the fourth school to repeat as champions in consecutive years and they almost became the first to repeat three straight years.
In their first campaign, Cincinnati generally breezed through the tournament. They only beat Kansas State by five points, but they followed that win by a 15-point victory over Utah in the Final Four. They faced in-state rival Ohio State in the final and had to take the game to overtime before they could bury the Buckeyes.
Head coach Ed Jucker became the first coach in NCAA history to win the tournament in his first season as head coach.
The second year, things went a bit more smoothly for the Bearcats. They only had one close game in which they had to worry about, a two-point win over UCLA, a team making their first appearance in the NCAA Final Four.
They advanced to the finals where a rematch with Ohio State took place. This one wasn't quite as close; the Bearcats won by 12 points with the help of Paul Hogue and Tom Thacker with 22 and 21 points respectively.
In the third campaign under Ed Jucker, the Cincinnati team would have won the championship if not for the upstart Loyola-Chicago Ramblers. The Bearcats once again dominated in the tournament, easily advancing to the finals, but the Ramblers had other plans for them as they beat them on a last second tip-in in overtime.
Thus ended the Bearcats run at three titles, but they did put together a nice little tournament streak. During the run, the Bearcats averaged a 12-point margin of victory over their opponents in the tournament.
10. 1997 Arizona Wildcats, 4-Seed, Champions
The fourth-seeded Arizona team made one of the most unexpected championship runs in NCAA tournament history. Their run wasn't an easy one either. A couple of opponents were easier than others, but their road was as perilous as any I've ever seen. First, they played 13-seed South Alabama, a game which ended in a nine-point win for Arizona.
In their second game, the Wildcats played Charleston; Arizona relied on Miles Simon and Mike Bibby for guidance. Simon and Bibby combined for 38 points and they put Arizona past Charleston with a four-point win.
Next on the list was one-seed Kansas. The Jayhawks were the number one overall seed and had only lost one game all season, a double overtime loss to Missouri. The team was stacked from head to toe, but they couldn't stop Mike Bibby (right) and Miles Simon (left). They combined for another 38 points, and as Arizona was up three with time winding down, Kansas just hurtled three balls at the basket. None of them went in and the Wildcats advanced.
Arizona then went to overtime with the Cinderella Providence team that knocked off Duke, but eventually the Simon-Bibby connection gave the Friars a vow of silence to the tune of 47 combined points. They were becoming an unstoppable force. They still had rough times ahead though.
In the Final Four, they faced off with the North Carolina Tar Heels. It was a shootout between the two duos, Bibby and Simon vs. Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter. Arizona's tandem scored a combined 44 while UNC's only 39. The final score read Arizona 66, North Carolina 58.
The only opponent left were fellow Wildcats in Kentucky. UK had been dominating the tournament so far under the leadership of Scott Padgett and Ron Mercer. However, once again the Bibby-Simon Experience paid off, as the dynamic duo combined for their tournament-high 49 points.
Kentucky kept the game close the entire time and the game went to overtime, but Arizona prevailed eventually and the better Wildcat proved to come out of the Southwest. Arizona became the first team to beat three one-seeds on its way to a title.
9. 2006 George Mason Patriots, 11-Seed, Final Four
Only the second team to do it, the Patriots made the Final Four as a double-digit-seeded team. The 11th-seeded George Mason team captured the hearts of viewers by showing so much soul in what they did. Everyone could tell they didn't belong with the rest of the teams late in the stages. However, with each win, they got more excited.
First, they beat traditional power Michigan State, the year after a Final Four berth. That was a traditional upset. But then they beat defending champion North Carolina and freshman Tyler Hansbrough. Admittedly, they weren't as strong as they were the year before, but regardless it made the Patriots excited. An excited, impressionable team doing things no one thought they would is another thing to fear. The Patriots battled past fellow mid-major Wichita State to make the Elite Eight against one-seed Connecticut.
The Connecticut game was what made me love George Mason. They played with such passion the entire game and never gave up. The bench players may have been giddy like little school children, but the players on the court used that energy towards the game and played Connecticut with all they had. Once down nine points, the Patriots battled back to force overtime, and then took the game.
Once again, the mid-major had prevailed and everyone watched with glee. Never had a team this unknown gone this far in the tournament. Even when LSU had done it 20 years ago, people knew who they were. George Mason's run re-defined Cinderella. No longer was it available to the bottom of the barrel of the major six conferences. Now it was open for any team to grab; anyone who wanted to go dancing could do it.
8. 2010 Butler Bulldogs, 5-Seed, Runner-Up
Fresh in everyone's mind is the journey of the Butler Bulldogs to the title game, where they faced off with the Devils and lost. Butler had become America's sweetheart, partly because of their play, partly because of their unknown quality and partly because of Gordon Hayward's babyface that made the superstar look like a 13 year old.
But this boy amongst men proved that looks can be deceiving. Alongside his trusty workhorse Matt Howard and the scrappy dog of a point guard Shelvin Mack, Hayward went to work in the NCAA tournament taking everyone by surprise.
They barely got into the Sweet Sixteen, so when they upset one-seed Syracuse to advance to the Elite Eight and play another dangerous team in Kansas State, they made heads turn a little. Then, they beat two-seed KSU and advanced to the Final Four. Butler was a David amongst the Goliaths of the major conferences.
The next challenge was Michigan State. When Gordon Hayward willed his team to victory by stopping Draymond Green's drive to the basket, everyone fell in love with Butler.
Then the Bulldogs advanced to play Duke. No one wanted Duke to win. I'm sure even some Duke fans were okay with letting Butler have that one, just because they flat-out deserved it. The game was close the entire time, but it seemed like Duke was just toying with Butler.
The Bulldogs could never get on top. With time running out and Butler down two, Gordon Hayward ran down the court and put up an uncontested shot from half court that bounced off the backboard and front rim. It was the most heartbreaking event that could have happened.
The rise and fall of the mid-major is the backbone of the Cinderella story in the NCAA's, but never had it been this strong. Everyone believed in the Bulldogs. Everyone wanted it to be the Bulldogs. Too bad it wasn't the Bulldogs.
7. 1988-92 Duke Blue Devils, 2 Championships, 1 Runner-Up, 2 Final Fours
From 1988-1990 the Duke Blue Devils played the most consistently in the tournament out of any team. For these three years, they made the Final Four each time only to lose before they recorded a championship. In 1990, they even made it to the title game before they got stomped by UNLV. However, their luck would soon change.
Duke recorded their first two titles for Coach K in stunning fashion. Duke had made more trips to the Final Four without a title than any other school in history, and in 1991 it seemed as if they had enough of it. They hit the tournament with a vengeance.
They didn't have a single digit win until they faced defending champion UNLV in the Final Four, albeit they didn't play the greatest teams either. When they faced the one-seeded Rebels, the Blue Devils seemed a bit behind and trailed at the half. This all changed though, as Christian Laettner put in a team-high 28 points to help the Blue Devils out; they ended up winning by two and advancing. In the Finals they beat Kansas by seven to win their first championship.
They returned many of their players for the following year, including Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill. Duke began its tear through the tournament the same way, defeating all of its opponents by double digit margins until the Elite Eight, where it faced Kentucky.
The Wildcats forced overtime and by the end of overtime, Kentucky created a one-point lead. Grant Hill inbounded the ball and heaved it all the way downcourt to Christian Laettner, who turned around and sunk the shot as time expired. Possibly known as one of the greatest shots in tournament history, Laettner advanced the Devils to the Final Four, where they would beat Indiana and then rout Michigan on their way to their second straight title.
6. 1955-56 San Franciso Dons, 2 Championships
Bill Russell's years were 1955 and 1956. Plain and simple. He changed the game of basketball because he was so dominant for San Francisco. During the 1955 tournament, San Francisco played better than everyone, mainly due to Bill Russell's play.
The Dons almost slipped up and lost to Oregon State, but the last-second prayer for the Beavers clanged off the back of the rim. In the Final Four, Bill Russell's play was described by Bob Busby of The Kansas City Times: "[He] swept rebounds from levels halfway up the backboard and made one two-handed dunk shot over his head with his back to the basket."
Russell averaged 23.6 points per game, but they didn't record rebounds, so we don't know how many he got during the tournament. He was so dominant that the NCAA changed the width of the lane from 6 feet to 12 feet so he (and other big men) had to stand further away from the basket.
In 1956, Russell returned for another season. He helped the Dons navigate the regular season without a loss and heading into the tournament, San Francisco had built up a 51-game winning streak. This streak wouldn't end under Russell's watch.
In games that they kept track, Russell averaged 24 boards and 22.8 points. His dominance once again led to another title, and he would then leave to go play professionally (and dominate there as well).
5. 1996-98 Kentucky Wildcats, 2 Championships, 1 Runner-Up
The Kentucky Wildcats showed the world why they are one of the best programs of all time during the close of the millennium. In 1996, they ripped through every opponent near them. No team even came within 20 points of the Wildcats until the Final Four, where they handled the UMass Minutemen and the Syracuse Orange fairly easily.
The following season the Wildcats were back for another title, and they would have had it if it weren't for those other Wildcats on the other side of the country. Kentucky once again sailed through the tournament unharmed, only hitting slight speed bumps in the second round when an upstart Iowa team thought it could beat them, but ended up losing by six points.
Behind the stellar play of Scott Padgett (pictured) and Consensus All-American Ron Mercer, the Wildcats even blew through fellow number one seed Minnesota in the Final Four. When they hit the Finals, Arizona proved a huge surprise and eventually rode Miles Simon and Mike Bibby to victory and took the title from Kentucky.
Once again, the Kentucky Wildcats returned in force, but this time it was looking to regain supremacy. Kentucky once again ran untouched into the Elite Eight, but had to come back on multiple occasions. Appropriately, they were dubbed the "Comeback Cats."
In the Elite Eight awaited a scary Duke team. The game was pushed to the final minute, when Scott Padgett hit a three-pointer with 39 seconds left to secure UK's lead for the rest of the game.
The Wildcats then went to the Final Four where the Stanford Cardinal pushed them to overtime before Kentucky captured the game once again and advanced to its third straight championship game.
In the title game, Kentucky went down by 10 at half, but returned to the court in the second half on a mission, as it outscored Utah, 47-28 in the second half and won its second title in three years.
4. 1966 Texas Western (UTEP) Miners, Champions
The Texas Western Championship, along with Loyola-Chicago, may be the most important championship in the history of college basketball. Head coach Don Haskins recruited many African-Americans to play on his team.
Despite threats and safety hazards throughout the season, Texas Western made it to the NCAA tournament. After safely beating Oklahoma City in their opening game, the Miners hit some very difficult games over the next stretch.
First they faced Cincinnati, where they went to overtime. Somehow the Miners survived after Nevil Shed got ejected from the game after throwing a punch. In overtime, Willie Cager scored five straight points for the Miners to lead them to victory.
The Miners advanced to play Kansas and All-American Jo Jo White. After it seemed that White had hit the game-winning shot in the first overtime, it was determined he stepped out of bounds and the game went to a second overtime. Willie Cager proved to be the go-to-guy again as he tipped in the winning shot with 32 seconds left in the second overtime.
The 5'6" Willie Wordsley scored 10 straight second-half points in the Miners' next game to lead them to a seven-point victory over the Utah Utes.
In the final game that made history, Coach Haskins decided to start five African-American players against the all-white Kentucky team. In the beginning of the game, Dave Lattin dunked over Kentucky's Pat Riley and set the tone for a game in which the Miners dominated and ended up beating Adolph Rupp in his last appearance in the Final Four.
The way that Haskins coached the last game was legendary, and it changed the college basketball landscape forever.
3. 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack, 6-Seed, Champions
Dubbed the "Cardiac Pack," Jim Valvano's Wolfpack were one of the most fun teams to watch during a wild and crazy 1983 tournament. The Wolfpack started the tournament by playing Pepperdine in an opening round game. Pepperdine took the Wolfpack to two overtimes before NC State pulled out the victory over the 11th-seeded Waves.
The Wolfpack moved on to face three-seed UNLV, who kept the Wolfpack occupied until the very end. Eventually Jimmy V's team advanced with a one-point win. Their next game over Utah in the Sweet Sixteen was an easy one and NC State cruised to a 19-point victory thanks to Dereck Whittenberg's 27 points.
Once the Pack reached the Elite Eight, things got back on the rough trail. Once again, Whittenberg's ability was needed as he racked up 24 points against Ralph Sampson and one-seed Virginia. The Cardiac Pack emerged victorious with another one-point victory. They advanced to the Final Four to play against a young Georgia team, led by Vern Fleming. NC State won the game by seven points, with Whittenberg once again tallying 20 points.
The Title game was the perfect cap on an amazing tournament run for the Wolfpack. Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma was a huge favorite coming into the game. Everyone thought 1983 was Houston's year. With the game tied at 52 and time running out, Dereck Whittenberg heaved up a prayer from 35 feet out.
The ball didn't hit the basket, but Lorenzo Charles caught the ball and dunked it in as time expired. Jimmy V famously ran around the court looking for someone to hug as the Cardiac Pack perfected the Cinderella story, and became the first team to win six games en route to a championship.
2. 1985 Villanova Wildcats, 8-Seed, Champions
The 1985 championship game between juggernaut Georgetown and Villanova will forever be known as one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history. Looking for their second straight title, Georgetown had made a point to destroy anybody that thought they could possibly contend for a win, including St. John's, another one-seed that had made it to the Final Four.
Villanova on the other hand, had squeaked by the entire tournament. They beat eight-seed Dayton by two points, one-seed Michigan by four points, five-seed Maryland by three points and finally extended a lead against North Carolina, winning by 12. Their game against Memphis in the Final Four finished with a final score of 52-45, but the game was much closer than that. So when they went up against Georgetown, everyone thought a massacre was about to take place.
However, Villanova surprised everyone by keeping the flow of the game down. The Cats controlled the tempo and shot lights out from the field, 22 for 28 (78.6 percent), a new Final Four record. They hold on towards the end by holding Patrick Ewing to 14 points and putting him in foul trouble.
With the help of Dwayne McClain's 17 points, the Villanova Wildcats became the lowest seed ever to win a National Championship.
1. 1964-1975 UCLA Bruins, 10 Championships, 1 Final Four
John Wooden wins tournament games. That's all that can be said. It is absolutely ridiculous that the Bruins did what they did. Ten championships in 12 years is an unfathomable precedent. What is even scarier is the things that Wooden and the Bruins accomplished during those 12 years. Here are some of the highlights:
- The Bruins' overall record spanning those 12 years was 324-22 (93.6 win percentage).
- The Bruins won 88 straight games for a stretch.
- John Wooden was named Coach of the Year six times.
- A UCLA player was named a consensus All-American 13 times, five of which was Player of the Year honors.
- A UCLA player was named to the All-Tournament Team 25 times, eight of which were Most Outstanding Player Honors.
It is almost incomprehensible the success that John Wooden had with this program. He may not be the winningest coach of all time, but he is certainly one of the greatest. I could go on to describe how he won each championship, but it would be a bit redundant. All that needs to be known is that Lew Alcindor played for Wooden for three years and Bill Walton played for three as well. These two account for much of the success achieved, but not all.
The other successes fall to the other players that people overlook, but were still great. Wooden was a great coach on top of everything else. He taught his players how to be great by harnessing their natural talents. He was one of the greatest. Enough said.