NCAA Tournament's Best National Championship Games in the Last 10 Years

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2020

NCAA Tournament's Best National Championship Games in the Last 10 Years

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Though the national championship will occasionally produce an unanticipated matchup, the NCAA tournament finals is often an intense and exciting game.

    Over the last decade, two matchups have included an unforgettable finish. One shot dropped, but the other bounced off the rimand both are featured at the top of this ranking.

    While the order is subjective, factors used are late excitement, memorable individual plays (or runs) and overall performance.

10. UConn 53, Butler 41 (2011)

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    Let's set the scene: Spring break, senior year of high school. Instead of watching the second half, my friends and I went outside to the basketball court and kept yelling "Jimmer!" while takingand mostly missing—unreasonably deep shots.

    I mean, this game...just awful.

    Butler led 22-19 at halftime, but an even worse offensive performance after the break resulted in a 53-41 loss. The Bulldogs finished 12-of-64 overall, including an absurd 3-of-31 inside the arc. Inside! Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith both blocked four shots for UConn.

    Kemba Walker managed a game-high 16 points, capping off a legendary 11-game postseason run with a joyous yet uninspiring win.

9. Villanova 79, Michigan 62 (2018)

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    Villanova entered the contest as the heavy favorite over Michigan and ultimately backed up the billing.

    Michigan pulled ahead early, holding a 21-14 lead through nine minutes. From there, however, it was all Villanova.

    Donte DiVincenzo exploded for 31 points, and Mikal Bridges added 19 for the Wildcats. They enjoyed a nine-point advantage at halftime and doubled the gap by the 14:30 mark of the second half. Michigan clawed within 12 but never closer.

    The victory gave Jay Wright and Villanova their second national championship in three seasons.

8. Kentucky 67, Kansas 59 (2012)

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    Kentucky built a comfortable advantage in the first half and continually kept Kansas at a safe distance in a 67-59 win.

    Yes, the Jayhawks whittled an 18-point deficit to five points with 1:30 to go. But Kentucky went 5-of-7 at the free-throw line to seal John Calipari's first national title.

    Future NBA star Anthony Davis put together a spectacular game despite a 1-of-10 shooting performance. Along with six points, he racked up 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals. Doron Lamb netted a game-high 22 points for Kentucky.

7. UConn 60, Kentucky 54 (2014)

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    Although the second half provided some intrigue, Connecticut never trailed in the 2014 championship.

    Shabazz Napier scored 15 first-half points to help UConn surge ahead 30-15. Kentucky recovered enough to make it 35-31 at halftime and trimmed the deficit to one on three occasions, but the Wildcats couldn't quite muster the stop-and-score needed.

    Napier finished with 22 points, while Ryan Boatright added 14. James Young's 20 points led the runner-up Wildcats.

    The contest is most notable for having the lowest seed matchup (No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 7 UConn) ever in a championship game.

6. North Carolina 71, Gonzaga 65 (2017)

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    Mark Few and Gonzaga finally broke through, reaching the national title for the first time in program history. However, a longtime powerhouse kept the Zags from winning it all.

    North Carolina scored eight consecutive points in the final minute and 55 seconds to secure the victory. During that decisive stretch, Justin Jackson shook off a 4-of-17 start to provide the go-ahead and game-sealing points.

    Joel Berry II tallied 22 points and six assists to carry the Tar Heels, who forced 14 turnovers while committing only four giveaways.

5. Duke 68, Wisconsin 63 (2015)

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    Sam Dekker's hot streak ended on the wrong night.

    In five NCAA tournament games, he had buried 15 of 30 long-range attempts while averaging 20.6 points. Against the Blue Devils, though, Dekker missed all six three-pointers and scored 12 points. Frank Kaminsky collected 21 points and helped the Badgers take a nine-point second-half lead, but they couldn't outlast the freshmen-led Blue Devils.

    Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen combined for 39 points, and Jahlil Okafor scored four critical points in the closing minutes. Justise Winslow chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds.

4. Louisville 82, Michigan 76 (2013)

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    Unlikely heroes embraced the spotlight for both teams in the 2013 title game.  

    In the first half, Spike Albrechta freshman backup with career-high totals of 15 minutes and seven pointsscorched the net for 17 points to push Michigan ahead. Shortly before the break, Luke Hancock scored 14 straight points to help Louisville recover.

    Peyton Siva took control after halftime, scoring 14 of his 18 points and dishing three assists to hold off the Wolverines.

    Though the NCAA later ruled Louisville must vacate the championship as part of sanctions, Rick Pitino became the first men's coach to win a national title at two schools.

3. Virginia 85, Texas Tech 77 (OT) (2019)

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    The lone overtime finish in the past decade of championship games, the 2019 title featured a pair of elite defensive teams.

    And, whew, did it ever start that way. Virginia and Texas Tech combined for 21 points in the first 10 minutes, suggesting a low-scoring tilt. But then, shots started falling and hardly stopped.

    Texas Tech clawed back from a 10-point deficit in the second half, and Virginia's De'Andre Hunter drilled a late triple to force overtime. During the extra period, Hunter knocked down a go-ahead triple that handed Virginia the lead for good.

    One season after enduring the worst upset in March Madness history, Tony Bennett and Virginia stood atop the NCAA mountain.

2. Duke 61, Butler 59 (2010)

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    Inches from immorality.

    Many basketball fans can recall the buzzer sounding as Gordon Hayward's half-court shot traveled through the air. The ball smacked the backboard, hopped on the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor in a painful, unforgettable 61-59 defeat for Butler.

    However, the game itself was similarly epic.

    Butler jumped ahead first, and the lead traded hands a staggering 15 times the rest of the way. Duke never trailed in the final 13:30 of the contest but never held an advantage of more than six points. Butler just kept hanging around until Hayward's heave.

    Kyle Singler scored 19 points to lead Duke, while Jon Scheyer contributed 15 points and five assists.

1. Villanova 77, North Carolina 74 (2016)

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    With UNC trailing 74-71 as the clock ticked below 10 seconds, Marcus Paige knocked down the best shot in NCAA tournament history. The problem is Villanova had 4.7 seconds to respond.

    Kris Jenkins didn't waste them.

    To that point, the 2016 championship boasted nine lead changes and a 10-point North Carolina comeback in the last 5:30 of regulation. However, there would be no overtime. Ryan Arcidiacono set up Jenkins for his game-winning shot at the buzzer.

    "If I could get a shot, I was going to shoot it," Arcidiacono said. "But I heard someone screaming in the back of my head. It was Kris. I just gave it to him and he let it go with confidence."


    Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.