March Madness Memories: Gus Johnson's 10 Most Exciting NCAA Tournament Calls
Since 1996, we've had the pleasure of listening to Gus Johnson take us through the drama of March Madness. We were introduced to him when he called Princeton's dramatic 43-41 upset of defending-champion UCLA, and we've been in love ever since.
We've been there when he called exciting games in the first round, as well as dramatic finishes to Regional Finals that determined who would advance to the Final Four.
His numerous catch-phrases, which include: "Rise and fire!", "Pure!", and of course his patented "Hahaha!" laugh.
What makes listening to Johnson so wonderful is the fact that he is just as excited to be there calling the games as we are to be watching them.
He embodies the emotion and the excitement we feel when when an underdog is about to pull off a major upset, when a team is about to reach the Final Four, when something special is about to happen. He is truly a fan at heart, and that is what we love about him most.
No.10 -- Marquette Defeats Missouri in OT to Advance to the Sweet Sixteen (2003)
Unfortunately, I was unable to retrieve a video covering the end of this game, so I thought this clip might be a microcosm for how Johnson was calling this thriller.
The game saw Missouri, which trailed throughout the second half, rally to tie it late on two Arthur Johnson free throws with 20 seconds remaining, only to see Marquette control the overtime session before winning, 101-92.
The Golden Eagles were led by Travis Deiner, who scored 26 points and shot 5-for-8 from the three-point line, and superstar Dwayne Wade, who had 24 points and eight rebounds.
Missouri, which had defeated Southern Illinois by just one point two days before, got 36 points from Ricky Paulding and 28 points and 18 rebounds from Johnson.
Marquette would later defeat overall No. 1 seed Kentucky in the regional final to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1977, when Al McGuire's team, led by Butch Lee and Jerome Whitehead, won the national championship.
No. 9 -- Kansas Outlasts Davidson to Advance to the Final Four (2008)
Davidson, playing the role of underdog, defeated Gonzaga (82-76) and Georgetown (74-70) in dramatic fashion to advance to the Sweet 16 before disposing of Wisconsin, 73-56.
They hung tough with Kansas in the regional final, holding a 51-47 lead with 8:54 remaining in the second half before falling behind and then rallying to cut the deficit to two points late in the game before gaining possession with 16.8 seconds remaining.
Sadly, for the Wildcats, their Cinderella run ended there when guard Jason Richards' 25-footer from the top of the key sailed wide as time expired. In losing, Davidson came up just short of becoming the third double-digit seed to advance to the Final Four.
Davidson guard Stephen Curry, who was named the Midwest Regional's Most Outstanding Player (MOP) for his performance in the tournament, scored 25 points in the game, but shot just 9-for-25 from the floor.
8. Louisville Rallies from 20 Points Down to Defeat West Virginia (2005)
[If you'd like to view video from this game, please visit the following site: http://vault.ncaa.com/?game=306SR050_s01&timecode=00%3A00%3A08%3A02 -- Fast forward to about the 1 hour mark for the final three minutes of regulation and overtime.]
This game featured one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history as Louisville rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat seventh-seeded West Virginia to earn a trip to the Final Four.
In the first half, the Mountaineers made 11 of their 16 shots, including 10-for-14 from 3-point range to take a 40-27 lead into the half.
Things changed drastically in the second half, however.
Louisville began to play more aggressively and sped up the pace of the game, and it worked to their advantage as they were able to cut into the deficit and send the game into overtime when Larry O'Bannon scored on a layup with 38 seconds to play.
In overtime, it was all Cardinals, as they helped Rick Pitino become the first coach to ever lead three men's programs to the Final Four.
7. Georgia Tech Advances to the Final Four with an OT Win over Kansas (2004)
[If you'd like to view video from this game, please visit the following site: http://vault.ncaa.com/?game=306SR050_s01&timecode=00%3A00%3A08%3A02 -- Fast forward to about the 1 hour, 9 minute mark for the final two minutes of regulation and overtime.]
This game saw Kansas, which trailed by seven points with 3:04 remaining, rally to it at 66 on J.R. Giddens' three-pointer with 17 seconds remaining.
The play saw Wayne Simien miss a jumper inside before a mad scramble ensued, whereby Jeff Graves gained control of the ball before kicking it out to Giddens to set up the game-tying shot.
In overtime, however, the Yellow Jackets took control, defeating the Jayhawks, 79-71, to advance to the Final Four.
Georgia Tech would defeat Oklahoma State in the national semifinals on a layup by Will Bynum with 1.5 seconds remaining to advance to the championship game, where they would lose to Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon and the UConn Huskies.
6. No. 1 Seed Ohio State Rallies to Defeat Xavier in OT to Advance (2007)
It wasn't supposed to be this difficult for Ohio State.
Head coach Thad Matta had just brought in one of the greatest recruiting classes in recent history, with five-star recruits Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden and Daequan Cook, as well as David Lighty and transfer Othello Harris.
They stormed through the regular season, going 27-3 and 15-1 in the Big Ten before winning the conference tournament to enter the NCAA Tournament with a 30-3 record.
But in the second round, they fell behind Matta's former team, the Xavier Musketeers, and trailed 55-44 with under eight minutes to play and were down by nine points with 2:54 remaining before rallying to tie it on Ron Lewis' 3-pointer with two seconds left.
In overtime, the Buckeyes didn't mess around, taking the lead for good early on a three-pointer by Conley.
They outscored Xavier 16-9 in the extra session to advance. Their run would carry them to the national championship game, where they would fall to Florida, 84-75.
5. 13-Seed Vermont Upsets Syracuse, 60-57, in Overtime (2005)
The Catamounts, who came in huge underdogs, were able to keep the game close by slowing the game down and not allowing Syracuse to get out in the open court.
Down 51-49, Vermont's Taylor Coppenrath tied the game with 55 seconds remaining on a jumper, sending the game into overtime.
Down 55-53 midway through overtime, Germain Mopa Njila hit a three-pointer to give Vermont the lead for good, and T.J. Sorrentine hit a 28-foot jumper from straightaway to bury the Orange and secure the upset.
The game, a back-and-forth contest throughout, was tied 11 times and saw eight lead changes.
4. Princeton Defeats Reigning National Champion UCLA, 43-41 (1996)
This was Johnson's true introduction to the college basketball world.
And it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Princeton Tigers, out of the Ivy League, were facing the defending national champion UCLA Bruins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And it was their head coach Pete Carril's final season at the helm.
During his time at Princeton, Carril led the Tigers to 13 Ivy League championships, 11 NCAA Tournament berths and an NIT championship in 1975.
In 1989, his Princeton team nearly became the first 16-seed to ever win a game in the NCAA Tournament, losing a nail biter, 50-49, to Alonzo Mourning's Georgetown Hoyas.
Against UCLA, the Tigers slowed the game down and kept it close throughout, taking possession with time for the final shot and the game tied at 41.
With time winding down and the ball at the top of the key, Gabe Lewullis, after failing the first time, went backdoor again and received a pass from Steve Goodrich, scoring inside with 3.9 seconds remaining to give the Tigers an incredible victory.
3. UCLA Rallies from 17 Points Down to Defeat Gonzaga, 73-71 (2006)
Even people who don't generally watch college basketball have heard clips from Johnson calling this one.
UCLA was never really in the ball game.
Until the very end, that is.
Down 17 points in the first half and trailing by nine with three minutes remaining, the Bruins embarked on an amazing comeback, scoring the game's final 11 points, taking their first lead of the game, 72-71, on a Luc Richard Mbah a Moute layup with 10 seconds remaining.
After UCLA pushed the lead to 73-71 on a free throw, Gonzaga's J.P. Batista missed a 15-footer as time expired, giving the Bruins the victory.
2. Kansas State Outlasts Xavier in Double Overtime, 101-96 (2010)
This was quite possibly the most exciting NCAA Tournament game that Johnson ever called.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Every time Kansas State seemed to put Xavier away, whether it be late in the second half or in the first overtime, the Musketeers would somehow find a way to tie it up, either by hitting free throws or draining a long-range three-pointer.
But, in the end, the Wildcats were able to take the lead for good on a Jacob Pullen three-pointer with 31.2 seconds remaining in the second overtime, helping them advance to the Elite Eight.
1. Gonzaga Defeats Florida, 73-72, to Advance to the Elite Eight (1999)
I know a lot of people are probably surprised that the UCLA-Gonzaga or the Xavier-Kansas State game wasn't Number One, but there's something about the finish to this game that still excites me almost 12 years after it happened.
This was the year Gonzaga burst onto the national scene.
In the first two rounds, they defeated Minnesota, a No. 7 seed, and Stanford, a No. 2 seed, who had made the Final Four in just the previous season.
In their game against Florida, they engaged in back-and-forth affair with the Gators, taking the lead on a tip-in by Casey Calvary with 4.4 seconds remaining.
And we all remember Gus' call when the game finished.
"GONZAGA..... THE SLIPPER STILL FITS!! THEY WIN IT!! 73-72!!"
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