March Madness: The 15 Greatest No-Names to Household Names in Tournament History

Luke DykesCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2011

March Madness: The 15 Greatest No-Names to Household Names in Tournament History

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    One of the greatest parts about March Madness is the exceptional play by the unknowns.

    The Cinderellas are part of why everyone loves the madness of March. The magic of the big dance is rivaled by very few events, but the chance for greatness by someone we've never heard of is unmatched.

    One second, we're watching a team in which we know no one, and the next we're cheering on a kid like they're our own family. Some will fade away into basketball history, but for that instant they can become idols to millions.

15. US Reed, Arkansas (1981)

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    Reed's fame came off of one of the best last second buzzer-beaters in the NCAA tournament history.

    His came against Louisville in the 1981 tournament.

    His name is what really made Ulysses S. Reed famous as he may be the only country to sink a half-court shot at the buzzer.

14. Tyus Edney, UCLA

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    By the time Tyus Edney hit the shot against Missouri, he was a starter that averaged well above ten points per game for the Bruins. However, the reason everyone remembers his name is the final drive down the court.

    With 4.8 seconds left, Edney ran the length of the floor to reach the opposing basket. He went up to the basket and sunk a contested shot that managed to fall and send UCLA through to the next round. This, not his assists or points, are what made Edney a household name to tournament watchers. 

13. Bo Kimble, Loyola Marymount (1991)

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    Bo Kimble became the name of the 1991 tournament due to both his leadership and the way he remembered his teammate Hank Gathers.

    Gathers had died during a game in the WCC tournament, and the Lions had been granted the automatic bid based on their regular-season record. 

    In the tournament, Kimble shot the his first free-throw of each game left-handed in honor of his teammate Gathers, who was a lefty. Kimble made all four of his left handed free throw and led the Lions all the way to the Elite Eight as an 11 seed.

    Not only was this a great Cinderella run, it was also a heart-warming story.

12. God Shammgod, Providence Friars (1997)

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    God Shammgod's 15 minutes of fame came during Providence's run to the 1997 Elite Eight.

    While he only averaged 10.8 points per game, he averaged 6.6 assists per game and was essential to the Friars' late charge in March.

    In the Elite Eight, the Friars lost to future champion Arizona Wildcats in overtime, but Shammgod had 23 points and 5 assists in the effort. 

    But really, who forgets a name like God Shammgod?

11. Michael Jordan, North Carolina (1982)

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    Yes, Michael Jordan is a legend.

    Yes, he was highly touted even at North Carolina. But, his coming out show really didn't come until Jordan played in the NCAA tournament. He mainly took a backseat to "Big Game James" Worthy and Sam Perkins during his freshman season in Chapel Hill.

    But come tournament time, Jordan really emerged as a future star in the tournament. Eventually, he would hit the game winning shot for the Tar Heels to put them ahead of Georgetown in the National Championship and people began to wonder how good he would really be.

10. Don Haskins, Texas Western (1966)

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    The 1966 Texas Western team was one of the most important teams in the history of college basketball.

    Although Haskins may not have been the most successful coach of all time, his controversial tactics in the National Championship were so integral in the change of college basketball's racial dynamic.

    Haskins started five African-Americans in the National Championship against Adolph Rupp's Kentucky team. He wasn't really a famous coach before that season, but his historic win made him a household name as he went on to win over 700 games in his coaching career.

9. Tate George, Connecticut (1990)

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    Connecticut has had some fairly prolific shooters and scorers, but none have hit a shot like Tate George hit in the 1990 tournament against Georgia Tech. 

    George averaged 11.5 points his senior season, but that was more than he had averaged in the past. He cemented his name in Husky history with his shot against Georgia Tech. His turnaround jumper with one second was equally as improbable as it was amazing.

8. David Robinson, Navy (1986)

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    Before David Robinson became one of the best centers in NBA history, he was a tall, lanky member of the Naval Academy's basketball team. 

    In 1986, Navy made a run to the Elite Eight thanks largely to Robinson's play. He was the CAA Player of the Year that season and averaged 22.7 points and 13.0 rebounds.

    His play during that tournament really upped his stock for NBA scouts and three years later, after he had graduated and served two years in the navy, he was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs first overall.

    The rest is history. 

7. Keith Smart, Indiana (1987)

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    Keith Smart was not a huge contributor for Indiana during his two seasons in Bloomington. He averaged 12.1 points and 3.0 rebounds for his career.

    But in the 1987 tournament, Smart hit a buzzer-beater that put his name on the map.

    In the National Championship against Syracuse, Smart put up what can only be called "The Shot." With three seconds left his shot from the baseline put Indiana ahead 74-73, which was the final score.

    Smart went on to play one season in the NBA, but none of his play was as important as his shot with Indiana. 

6. Kevin Pittsnogle, West Virginia (2005)

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    Pittsnogle (and the resulting verb, to Pittsnogle) became a national fad when he took over the starting center job for West Virginia just before the 2005 NCAA tourney.

    Normally coming off the bench, his name became household when West Virginia made an unexpected run to the Elite Eight in 2005 thanks to his impressive play and shooting.

    By the next season, being Pittsnogled was a common occurrence amongst the country and everyone feared the West Virginia mountain boy. 

5. Gordon Hayward, Butler (2010)

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Butler's magical run to the National Championship was a product of the emergence of Gordon Hayward as the team's go-to player. In the later rounds of the tournament, Hayward turned on his scoring and also became the best rebounder on Butler.

    Hayward's baby-face became the iconic image of the Bulldogs and he personified the Cinderella (even if Butler had been ranked all season). His play in the NCAA tourney consisting of big shots and large numbers made him a first-round draft pick in the offseason, and now he plays for the Utah Jazz.

4. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso (1998)

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    Drew was the son of the Valparaiso head coach Homer Drew, and his fame ultimately came from his timely shooting in the NCAA tournament against Ole Miss in 1998.

    However, he helped Valpo make a run to the Sweet 16, and afterwards Drew was drafted by the Houston Rockets 16th overall.

    Drew did little to nothing in the NBA, but his buzzer-beater was one of the best in tournament history.

3. Stephen Curry, Davidson (2008)

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    Stephen Curry was the driving force behind the magical Davidson run in 2008. The Wildcats made it all the way to the Elite Eight as a 10-seed in the tournament before losing to eventual champion Kansas. 

    No one was more important than Curry in the tournament, as he scored 40, 30 and 33 while knocking off the 7, 6 and 3 seeds in their region. He was held to 25 points against Kansas as the Jayhawks proved too much for the mid-major Wildcats as they edged out Davidson by two points.

    This was Steph Curry's coming out party, before he led the country in scoring the next season and became an NBA lottery pick.  

2. Jim Valvano, North Carolina State (1983)

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    Jim Valvano was just a young coach leading an ACC team through a good season. But when his "Cardiac Pack" made their magical run to the title game, he became more than a coach.

    His befuddled run across the court has become a typical image when networks show a March Madness montage. The 1983 championship was his only championship, but definitely one of the best Cinderella stories in the history of the tournament.

    When Jimmy V died of cancer, his confused zig-zag around the court made him an immortal in the college basketball world. 

1. Gonzaga University

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    Gonzaga is the ultimate no-name to big-name.

    Before 1999, the school's only real claim to fame was alumni and Hall of Famer John Stockton. But in 1999 the mid-major made a run to the Elite Eight, and then followed it up with a Sweet 16 run the next year in 2000. 

    Ever since, the Zags haven't missed a tournament and they're barely considered a mid-major any more. They continually bring in great recruits and head coach Mark Few (pictured) has done a great job in turning the program into a legitimate threat every year.

    Gonzaga won their conference tournament once again this season and will be dancing next week for sure.