March Madness: The 10 Worst NCAA Tournament Games of the Past 10 Years
This article comes with a caveat. Technically, most of the 10 worst NCAA tournament games within the last decade have come in the play-in round. Since it's too easy to pick those games like cherries and place them here, the games selected are from the 64-team bracket.
The following 10 games range anywhere from the first round to the national championship, with storied teams such as UCLA and tournament neophytes such as Alcorn State making the list. Games as close as five points and as lopsided as 56 sit side by side.
Here's hoping none of the games this season find a way on this list.
North Carolina 89, Michigan State 72 (2009 National Championship)
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The score was 22-7 in the Tar Heels' favor before Michigan State could blink. UNC's 55-34 lead accounted for the biggest first-half differential in the history of the Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
In the second half, MSU cut the deficit to 13 points late but never had a realistic chance of winning the game. Twenty-one Spartan turnovers ultimately did them in.
Louisville 103, Arizona 64 (2009 Sweet 16)
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The 2009 NCAA tournament was putrid and completely unmemorable. Naturally, another 2009 game will make this list.
No. 12 seed Arizona made the NCAA tournament as a bubble team and defeated No. 5 Utah and No. 13 Cleveland State to meet No. 1 Louisville in the Sweet 16.
All you need to know about this game are two facts: Arizona was never within single digits after the first seven minutes of the game, and 13 different Louisville players scored points.
UConn 103, Chattanooga 47 (2009 First Round)
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Jim Calhoun did not coach the UConn Huskies in this 1 vs. 16 matchup, but his players could have coached themselves to a blowout victory. UConn went on a 46-5 run (not a typo) to enter halftime with a 63-20 lead.
If UConn played with three in the second half, do you think the Huskies would have still won?
UCLA 70, Mississippi Valley State 29 (2008 First Round)
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Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Darren Collison held Mississippi Valley State to 29 points, a total that would befit a college basketball team assembled before Danny Biasone invented the shot clock.
Fun facts: Mississippi Valley State scored the fewest points in the NCAA tournament since 1946 and shot the worst field-goal percentage ever in March Madness, at 19.7 percent.
The Entire 2006 Final Four
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I'm going to cheat a bit and put three games together on one slide.
The 2006 NCAA tournament was two-faced in its entertainment value. While the first four rounds brought fans No. 11 seed George Mason and No. 13 seed Bradley's Cinderella runs and the greatest NCAA tournament game that no one ever mentions (No. 14 seed Northwestern State beating No. 3 seed Iowa, 64-63 on a last-second three-pointer), the Final Four was an unmitigated disaster.
No. 2 seed UCLA took an 18-8 lead against No. 4 seed LSU with 12:26 left in the first half and led by double digits for the remainder of the game, eventually winning by an eyesore score of 59-45.
No. 3 seed Florida let George Mason hang around for a little while but put its foot on the gas pedal with a 20-7 run to open the second half, giving the Gators a 51-33 lead. They would eventually win 73-55.
More of the same in the finals, as UCLA laid an egg and shot 36 percent from the field (18 percent from beyond the arc) and was never within 11 in the second half.
UCLA 50, Memphis 45 (2006 Elite Eight)
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The only game on this list with a single-digit differential, this UCLA-Memphis matchup was an insult to the game of basketball.
UCLA proved that a team can shoot 35 percent from the field and 51 percent (20-of-39) from the free throw line and win a Final Four berth as long as it plays good defense. Memphis made only 31.5 percent of its field goals and went 2-of-17 from deep.
The teams combined for 44 fouls and 35 turnovers.
Kansas 94, Marquette 61 (2003 Final Four)
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Is there a worse sight in college basketball than watching Cinderella put on her glass slippers, only to trip and fall down the stairs?
While No. 3 seed Marquette wasn't a Cinderella along the lines of George Mason, the former Conference USA member captured the American sports world's attention as a gritty underdog by upsetting No. 1 seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
But it wasn't meant to be. No. 2 seed Kansas led tournament darling Marquette 73-32 just four minutes into the second half. Marquette shot only 31 percent from the field (3-of-16 from three-point range). Kansas, meanwhile, made over 53 percent of its field goals.
As a side note, who can name a player on Dwyane Wade's 2002-2003 Marquette team aside from the aforementioned superstar without looking?
Duke 84, Winthrop 37 (2002)
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I hate picking on the little guys, but No. 1 Duke's victory over No. 16 seed Winthrop was just brutal. Winthrop led 2-0 before Duke went on a run-of-the-mill 52-13 run (and a 24-0 run within that run) to close the first half.
Winthrop made only six first-half field goals.
The Duke Big Three of Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer was supposed to breeze into the national championship but got upset by No. 5 seed Indiana, 72-71, in the Sweet 16.