2011 Final Four: Top 10 Shining Moments in Championship Game History
For the last 40 years, I have watched every NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Game.
Starting at the ripe, young age of seven, I have seen some of the best basketball ever by watching these fantastic final collegiate games.
Even before I was alive, great moments in college hoops history were being made as the season's champion was being crowned.
The following are the top 10 championship-game shining moments in college hoops history.
Some of them were great because the game went right down to the wire.
Others were amazing because of unbelievable individual performances.
Still others are included because of historic matchups.
Who knows? This year's championship game between Butler and UConn may appear on future lists like this...
10. 1989: Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 in OT
In 1989, during the final week of the regular season, Michigan head coach Bill Frieder was hired for the head-coaching position at Arizona State University.
Though Frieder intended to coach Michigan through the end of the 1989 NCAA tournament, athletic director Bo Schembechler had other plans.
The former football coach and legend removed Frieder immediately and promoted Steve Fisher, Michigan assistant, to become interim coach.
Schembechler allegedly said that "a Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man."
In the actual championship game, Michigan guard Rumeal Robinson sank two pressure free throws with three seconds remaining in overtime to give the Wolverines a 80-79 victory.
Glen Rice (Final Four Most Outstanding Player) led the Wolverines in scoring (31 points) and rebounds (11 boards).
Robinson scored 21 points and handed out 11 assists.
Seton Hall's John Morton led all scorers with 35 points.
9. 1997: Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 in OT
The 1997 Arizona Wildcats, coached by Lute Olson, were not the most intimidating team in the country.
In fact, they finished the Pac-10 regular season in fifth place.
But when the Wildcats hit the tournament, they found another gear.
After upsetting No. 1-seed Kansas in the Sweet 16, Arizona faced North Carolina, another No. 1-seed, in the national semifinal game.
In the championship game, the Wildcats faced a tournament-record third No. 1-seed, Kentucky.
Arizona led by one at halftime. Junior guard Miles Simon (Final Four Most Outstanding Player) led the way for the Wildcats 84-79 OT victory
Simon finished with 30 points, including 14-of-17 from the free throw line.
Freshman point guard Mike Bibby added 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Scott Padgett led five Kentucky double-figure scorers with 17 points.
8. 2010: Duke 61, Butler 59
The too-perfect basketball story that almost was...
A half-court shot that was a couple inches off could have created the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history.
Gordon Hayward's last-second heave just missed going in. If it had connected, 2010 mid-major darling Butler would have bumped off Duke, creating a real-life Hoosiers sequel.
Just to stay in the game, Butler had to overcome a cold-shooting night (34 percent from the field, 33 percent from beyond the arc). But the Bulldogs only committed eight turnovers, which helped them stay close enough to set up the game-ending magic.
Kyle Singler (Final Four MOP) led the Blue Devils, scoring 19 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
Jon Scheyer added 15 points and Nolan Smith contributed 13 more.
The win gave Coach Krzyzewski his fourth NCAA title, tying him with Adolph Rupp for second place on the all-time list.
7. 1973: UCLA 87, Memphis State 66
All year, Bill Walton had been dominant for the UCLA Bruins. He easily won the Naismith Award (National Player of the Year).
But against Memphis State, the junior center erupted for a title-game record 44 points, hitting all but one of his 22 shots from the floor. Walton (Final Four MOP) also grabbed 13 rebounds.
His nearly-perfect performance paved the way for the 87-66 win, the crowning success of a 30-0 season for the Bruins, and coach John Wooden's ninth NCAA championship.
Walton's historic game overshadowed stellar performances from the MSU Tigers' Larry Finch (29 points) and Larry Kenon (20 points and eight rebounds).
6. 1979: Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64
Ervin versus Larry...Magic versus the Hick from French Lick
A matchup made in college hoops heaven.
Few head-to-head duels have aroused such interest in any sport.
To this day, this game is the most widely-watched college basketball game ever.
Some people trace the birth of the phenomena that is March Madness to this very game.
Indiana State came into the game undefeated. Unfortunately, Larry Bird had a sore thumb that limited his shooting and scoring.
Michigan State led by nine at halftime and never looked back.
Magic Johnson (Final Four MOP) led the Spartans to the 75-64 victory by scoring 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Bird finished the game scoring 19 points on 7-for-21 shooting with 13 rebounds.
5. 1966: Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65
Texas Western (now University of Texas at El Paso), featured an all-African American starting lineup for the first time in championship game history, with three players 6'1" or shorter. This was at the height of the civil rights movement.
Texas Western played against top-ranked and all-white Kentucky.
Some have disputed the significance of this game, but it was still in an era that was evolving. Only four years earlier, in 1962, SEC-champion Mississippi State had refused an invitation to the NCAA tournament because the school had a policy against playing integrated teams.
Junior college transfer Bobby Joe Hill, one of Texas Western's tiny trio, converted steals into layups on consecutive trips down the floor by flustered UK guards to give the Miners a lead they never relinquished.
Hill led the Miners with 20 points. David Lattin added 16 points and nine rebounds.
Pat Riley and Louie Dampier both scored 19 for Kentucky in the losing cause.
4. 1957: North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 in 3OT
The 1957 NCAA championship game had a little of everything—two legendary programs, one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and three overtimes to boot.
The Tar Heels tripled-teamed Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain for most of the game, jumping out to a 19-7 lead early in the first half.
But Wilt and the Jayhawks steadily chipped away at the UNC lead to send the game into overtime.
Lennie Rosenbluth, the Tar Heels leading scorer for the season, fouled out with 1:45 remaining in regulation.
With no shot clock in college basketball yet, the teams scored just two points each in the first extra period. Neither team scored in the second OT.
UNC finally outlasted Kansas thanks to two clutch free throws from Joe Quigg with six seconds left in the third overtime.
Rosenbluth, in spite of missing all three overtime periods, led North Carolina with 20 points.
Chamberlain (Final Four Most Outstanding Player) paced the Jayhawks by scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
3. 1983: North Carolina State 54, Houston 52
In 1983, Phi Slamma Jama (a.k.a. the Houston Cougars) was in the middle of a historic three-year run, led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon
Guy Lewis' Cougars advanced to the NCAA Final Four each year from 1982 to 1984.
NC State, on the other hand, coached by the late Jimmy Valvano, was a team of guts and determination.
After losing 10 regular-season games, the Wolfpack squeaked into the tournament and won a series of close contests on the way to the championship game.
Sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles scored only four points, but two of them came when he collected guard Dereck Whittenburg's long-distance desperation shot and dunked it as time expired.
Thurl Bailey led the Wolfpack with 15 points.
Olajuwon (1983 Final Four's Most Outstanding Player) paced the Cougars with 20 points and 18 rebounds.
2. 1982: North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62
Few championship games before or since the 1982 title contest have had as many star players on one court at the same time.
For Georgetown, a young Patrick Ewing patrolled the paint.
For North Carolina, James Worthy, Sam Perkins and a freshman named Michael Jordan got things done.
It was a big game for the two teams' coaches as well. Neither North Carolina's Dean Smith or Georgetown's John Thompson had won a NCAA championship.
The quality of play from both teams was exceptional. Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor
Michael Jordan swished a 16-foot jumper from the left side with 16 seconds remaining to provide the game's final points
James Worthy (the 1982 Final Four's Most Outstanding Player) led the way for the Tar Heels, scoring 28 points.
Patrick Ewing scored 23 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Hoyas.
1. 1985: Villanova 66, Georgetown 64
Two teams from the Big East.
Georgetown was the defending champ and the nation's top-ranked team led by National Player of the Year, Patrick Ewing.
The other, Villanova, was an No. 8 seed that didn't seem like it belonged in the title game after losing 10 games overall and twice to the Hoyas during the regular season.
But Rollie Massimino's Wildcats not only didn't back down, but they also took it to Georgetown.
Villanova shot an unbelievable 22-for-28 (78.6 percent) from the floor against the nation's top-ranked team.
Villanova was led by Dwayne McClain (17 points), Ed Pickney (Final Four Most Outstanding Player with 16 points) and Harold Jensen (14 points).
David Wingate (16 points) and Ewing (14 points) led the way for the Hoyas.
This Villanova team remains the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament. The game is also notable as the last played without a shot clock.
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