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In appreciation of Miami's historic rally

Early this afternoon, college hoops fans were too distracted with an upset alert in the Big 12 and Kemba Walker's nasty crossover at the Garden to give proper reverence to the history that was made in Greensboro at the same time.

In the opening game of the ACC tournament, Virginia's Mustapha Farrakhan missed the second of two free throws with 42 seconds left, but who really cared at that point? The Cavaliers were still up 10 over Miami. The game was over.

Final 40 Seconds of Regulation

Virginia was up 53-43 with only 42 seconds left in regulation Thursday, but Miami (FL) then scored 10 unanswered points, thanks in part to four Cavaliers turnovers in the final 20 seconds.

Or not.

Thanks to four turnovers and two missed free throws by Virginia from that point forward, the Hurricanes pieced together 10 unanswered points in those 42 seconds to force overtime. With all the momentum in the world, Miami cruised to a 69-62 win in the OT, setting up a shot at North Carolina on Friday. If you don’t believe, check out the trainwreck of a play-by-play from the box score.

One of the many questions coming out of this game, besides how did this happen, is where does this rank in the annals of college hoops history?

Many fans will recall in 1994 that Kentucky trailed LSU 68-37 with 16 minutes remaining, only to see UK go on a 62-27 run to end the game and win 99-95. But that comeback was at a snail’s pace compared to the time that Miami had to work with for its rally. That would be an apples-to-oranges comparison.

How rare was a comeback like Miami’s? The NCAA record book officially lists only two previous instances when a team trailing by double-digits with under a minute remaining came back to win.

On Feb. 12, 2005, UNLV won at San Diego State in OT after trailing by 11 with 59 seconds left. The Aztecs actually led by 18 with 12:28 left in regulation. But at the end of the day, this was a regular-season game between two Mountain West teams with losing records.

The other occurrence was on Jan. 24, 2009, when Arizona defeated Houston in OT after trailing by 10 with 48 seconds left.

Noticeably absent from that short list is “The Miracle Minute.” That’s when No. 2 Duke went into Cole Field House versus a ranked, up-and-coming Maryland team on Jan. 27, 2001, and proceeded to pull off maybe the most well-known known game in the career of now-ESPN analyst Jay Williams. After a Maryland free throw with 1:01 left in the game, the Terrapins led by 10. Williams scored eight of the 10 points in the final frantic comeback, which allowed the Blue Devils to win in overtime.

But all of these comebacks pale in comparison to another famous game from Tobacco Road. On March 2, 1974, North Carolina was trailing rival Duke by eight with 17 seconds left. A last-gasp flurry by the Heels -- in the days before the 3-point shot mind you -- gave the UNC-Duke rivalry one of its first signature moments. Walter Davis banked in a 30-foot shot at the horn to force overtime and the Tar Heels emerged victorious.

So where does Thursday’s comeback in Greensboro rank? It’s hard to say, especially considering it took place between two teams with losing records in ACC play this season. But it’s safe to say it’s worthy of being included in this company.

Other notable comebacks in sports history:

Oct. 21, 2006: After taking a 3-0 lead, Michigan State allowed Northwestern to score 38 straight points to take a commanding lead. But the Spartans scored the next 38 , including the game-winning field goal with 13 seconds left.

Aug. 5, 2001: The Cleveland Indians trailed the Seattle Mariners 12-0 in the 4th inning and 14-2 in the 6th inning, but came back to win 15-14. The Indians scored three in the 7th, four in the 8th and five in the 9th to tie it before winning in the 11th inning.

Jan. 3, 1993: The Buffalo Bills trailed the Houston Oilers 35-3 just two minutes into the third quarter and had backup quarterback Frank Reich on the field. But they went on a 38-3 run to close out the game, completing the improbable playoff victory.