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NCAA tournament at 75: The top 75 moments

2/22/2013

The words are a bit over the top, the music somewhat melodramatic, but there is a reason the saccharine-sweet strains of "One Shining Moment" still resonate at each NCAA tournament. The tournament is all about moments, incredible and awe-inspiring, seemingly impossible and equally unpredictable. The buzzer-beaters make March mad, the emotions make it last.

To pick the best ever is almost as difficult as sinking Ali Farokhmanesh's dagger or Bryce Drew's hook-and-ladder, but you know the best when you see them. They are the moments that last. That shine, if you will. -- Dana O'Neil

1. Laettner lifts Duke
There was madness before and plenty after the shot, but it stands alone as the iconic moment of the NCAA tournament. If you were in Philadelphia on March 28, 1992, and you witnessed Christian Laettner's impossible buzzer-beater to beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight, you carry it like a badge of honor. If you watched it on television, you remember where you were. If you weren't born yet, you wish you had been. Grant Hill's perfect pass went directly to Laettner, who then turned and swished the most epic shot in NCAA history. Now, more than 20 years and plenty of buzzer-beaters later, it remains The Moment that stands above all the rest. A moment that stands the test of time and always will. -- Dana O'Neil

2. Lorenzo slams it home
The lasting image of North Carolina State's upset of Houston in the 1983 national championship game is of coach Jim Valvano darting across the court with his hands raised after his team's 54-52 victory. None of it, though, would've occurred if not for Lorenzo Charles. As the final moments ticked away, Charles caught an errant 30-foot shot by Dereck Whittenburg near the rim and slammed the ball through the basket as time expired. NC State retired Charles' number in 2008. Charles died in a bus crash in 2011 at the age of 47. -- Jason King

3. Texas Western makes history
How to quantify such a moment in 100 words? Impossible. Texas Western's 1966 national championship marked the first time a team with five African-American players in the starting lineup won a title. It came against Kentucky, one of the premier programs in the nation, and one of the most resistant to integration. It came in the middle of the throes of the civil rights movement, after the March on Washington, before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It happened because one man, Don Haskins, looked at the laws of racial inequality and decided they were foolish, death threats be damned. And it changed everything. -- Dana O'Neil

4. Magic vs. Bird
The Magic-Bird game of 1979 in Salt Lake City will go down for many of us in our 40s as the game that sparked interest in the NCAA tournament. Larry Bird's Indiana State team was the surprise of college basketball, coming into the game 33-0, and Bird was all business, leading an underwhelming cast of characters. Magic Johnson had more talent around him, although not many NBA-caliber players, and more finesse and showtime. Magic and Michigan State outran Indiana State in the second half, winning the national title 75-64. The game took on a life of its own and essentially created the interest in the Final Four. Of course, the Bird-Magic rivalry also helped save the NBA. When Bird went to the Celtics and Magic to the Lakers, they continued a rivalry that lasted throughout the 1980s. -- Andy Katz

5. Jordan's shot vs. Georgetown, 1982 title game
Before he became the Greatest Player Of All Time, Michael Jordan was a freshman on a bus, headed toward the Louisiana Superdome in 1982 and daydreaming about hitting the shot that would win North Carolina coach Dean Smith his first national title. And with 15 seconds left against Georgetown, he did it. Point guard Jimmy Black, on the right side of the key, first looked to James Worthy for a lob then quickly swung a pass to Jordan on the left side. The rookie confidently hit a 16-footer, giving the Tar Heels a 63-62 lead and ultimately making that pregame daydream a reality. -- Robbi Pickeral

6. Chris Webber's timeout
For the second straight season, the Fab Five reached the NCAA title game to face a team from North Carolina. As freshmen, the Fab Five lost to Duke in 1992 national title. As sophomores in the '93 national championship, they were in a tight game against the Tar Heels. In what turned into an iconic moment, Chris Webber called a timeout when Michigan had none. Since then, there have been questions about whether the Wolverines' bench was telling Webber to call the timeout, which resulted in a technical foul and two free throws for UNC. Donald Williams made both to ice the game -- and the title -- for the Tar Heels. -- Michael Rothstein

7. Walton's big night
Walton turned in one of the greatest performances in NCAA tournament history when he made 21 of 22 shots en route to a 44-point, 13-rebound effort against Memphis State in the 1973 title game. And the numbers could've been even better. Walton left the game with an injured ankle with three minutes remaining and his team leading by 15 points. A Memphis State player actually helped him to the bench. After what Walton had just accomplished, it was impossible not to pay him respect. Dunking wasn't allowed during that era, so most of Walton's baskets came on turnaround jumpers or on lob passes from Greg Lee. The score was tied 45-45 early in the second half before Walton and UCLA ran away with an 87-66 victory. -- Jason King

8. Bo Kimble's lefty free throws, 1990
In the late 1980s, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers led the nation's most vibrant offense at Loyola Marymount. Kimble led the nation in scoring with 35.3 ppg, and Gathers, his teammate and best friend, averaged 29.0 ppg. The duo's connection ended tragically when Gathers collapsed and died during the 1990 West Coast Conference tournament. During an NCAA tournament opening-round matchup against New Mexico State that year, Kimble shot his first free throw with his left hand to honor his fallen teammate. And he made it. Gathers was right-handed, but he liked to shoot with his left. As Loyola Marymount pushed toward the Elite Eight, Kimble shot and made two more free throws with his left hand. He was 3-for-3. The gesture captivated the nation. -- Myron Medcalf

9. Super 'Nova
How unlikely was No. 8 Villanova's 66-64 upset of No. 1 Georgetown in the 1985 national championship game? The Wildcats lost their regular-season finale by 23 points and then were bounced from the Big East tournament by a 15-point defeat in the semifinals. But Villanova beat No. 9 Dayton, No. 1 Michigan, No. 5 Maryland, No. 2 North Carolina and No. 2 Memphis State to meet mighty Georgetown in the championship game. The Wildcats put together a nearly perfect game in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history. Against Georgetown's menacing pressure defense, Villanova shot 79 percent (22-for-28), including 9-for-10 in the second half. Center Ed Pinckney, three inches shorter than Georgetown All-American Patrick Ewing, scored 16 points with 6 rebounds and was named Final Four MVP. Forward Dwayne McClain scored 17 points with 3 assists, helping the Wildcats win their first national championship. -- Mark Schlabach

10. Indiana runs the table
"There will never be another undefeated team in college basketball." You hear that a lot, and whether or not it's true feels beside the point. What we know for sure is that you will never see another team like the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. In our overcoached and overhyped era, Bob Knight's 1976 machine ran hard-pick-setting motion offense and played straight man-to-man defense. It had five stars on the floor or zero. It fought through legendary practices. Its players rarely gave interviews and almost never showed up in public without sport coats. They became the standard by which all college teams would one day be measured, both on and off the court, and the dragon Knight would chase unsuccessfully for the rest of his career. -- Eamonn Brennan

11. Wooden's final game
In some cases, the word "legend" is an understatement. That was the case with former UCLA coach John Wooden, winner of 10 national titles in a 12-year stretch. He'd announced his retirement before the 1975 national title game against Kentucky. The 1974 -75 squad was not Wooden's best -- he didn't have Lew Alcindor or Bill Walton -- but the Bruins' 92-85 win in the national title game that year guaranteed a proper sendoff for Wooden. He left the game on top. Few coaches in any sport can match that. -- Myron Medcalf

12. The Game of Change
Now, they call it the "Game of Change." Then, Mississippi State's 1963 game against Loyola (Ill.) in the Mideast semifinals was historically insignificant. In between, it lost its place, overrun by the more Hollywood-adaptable game between Texas Western and Kentucky. But the significance of the '63 game can't be overlooked. Bulldogs players and staff sneaked out of Mississippi under the threat of a state injunction to play the integrated team from Chicago. The players simply wanted to play a game, but when the flashbulbs popped at the historic handshake between African-American player Jerry Harkness from Loyola and Mississippi State's Joe Dan Gold, everyone realized that their March moment was far bigger than a basketball game. -- Dana O'Neil

13. The Smart play
In 1975-76, if you had told Indiana fans that in just over a decade, Bob Knight's final national title would come thanks to two things he always hated -- the 3-point shot and junior college transfers -- they would have laughed you out of the room. But that's what made Keith Smart's 1987 national title game so special: In the final minutes of the game, as Syracuse stymied the lethal outside shooting of Steve Alford, Smart scored 12 of IU's last 15 and, with just four seconds to play, pulled up for a high 17-foot fading floater. Good thing Knight came around. -- Eamonn Brennan

14. Brown to Worthy
When Georgetown's Fred Brown passed to North Carolina's James Worthy to seal the 1982 national championship for UNC, it became one of the most memorable images in tournament history. It also overshadowed one of the most physical championship games ever played. When I think of that game, I think of the rosters. Michael Jordan, Worthy, Sam Perkins, Pat Ewing and Sleepy Floyd drawing a line in the sand on every possession. Jordan's baseline jumper to put the Heels ahead in the closing seconds -- he would do that a few more times in his career. I think of the genuine respect the coaches -- John Thompson and Dean Smith -- had for each other, exemplified by their embrace after the game. Finally, I think about Coach Thompson and the way he was there for his player after the loss. To me, that was coaching. -- Seth Greenberg

15. Whitehead lays it in
Marquette forward Jerome Whitehead was an unlikely hero in one of the most dramatic finishes in NCAA tournament history. After UNC Charlotte's Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell tied the score at 49 with three seconds to go in the '77 national semifinal, Marquette coach Al McGuire called timeout. McGuire designed a play for Butch Lee to throw a full-court pass to center Bo Ellis, with Whitehead setting a screen to free him up for a last-second shot. But Lee's pass was tipped by Maxwell and ended up in Whitehead's hands inside the free-throw line. Whitehead dribbled once and tried to dunk the ball, but Maxwell recovered to partially block his shot. Miraculously, the ball bounced off the backboard and into the rim at the buzzer to give Marquette a 51-49 victory. Whitehead, who died in December at age 56, scored 21 points with 16 rebounds. Marquette defeated North Carolina 67-59 in the final. -- Mark Schlabach

16. Cards and Cats reunite
For 24 long years, the anger and frustration had festered in the city of Louisville. The hometown Cardinals had become a basketball power but were denied the chance to prove just how powerful because the ultimate measuring stick, the Kentucky Wildcats, refused to play them. The rejection was about basketball but included so much more -- race, demographics, country, city, tradition and the nouveau. Then, thanks to the serendipity of the NCAA tournament bracket, there was no choice. In March 1983, the two met in the regional final in Knoxville, Tenn., dubbed the "Dream Game" by Louisville fans. The Cardinals' overtime win officially signified their arrival not just nationally but also within their own commonwealth and ushered in an annual game between the two rivals. -- Dana O'Neil

17. The Pack stops UCLA
In 1974, the notion that the seven-time-defending national champion UCLA Bruins wouldn't win their eighth bordered on heresy. Why, of course they would. They had Bill Walton and John Wooden; they were UCLA. In one of the most memorable upsets in NCAA tournament history, David Thompson led the Wolfpack past those previously unbeatable Bruins in the national semifinal, 80-77, before -- though people tend to forget about this part -- beating Marquette in the title game 76-64. Thompson's brilliance prompted Sports Illustrated's Curry Kirkpatrick to write: "When everything else is forgotten, Thompson will still be up there, magically floating in to take a pass, and dropping it through for two."-- Eamonn Brennan

18. Chalmers saves Kansas
The game was over. Or at least that's what everyone assumed. Kansas trailed Memphis by nine points with 2:12 remaining in the 2008 title game, and a comeback hardly seemed likely. The Jayhawks, though, battled back and had one last chance after Derrick Rose split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds remaining. Trailing 63-60, KU guard Sherron Collins raced the ball upcourt, tripped and batted a pass to Chalmers as he was falling down. Chalmers took one dribble, elevated and hit a heavily defended 3-pointer from the right side as the final seconds of regulation ticked away. The game went into overtime, and Bill Self's Jayhawks rolled past John Calipari's Memphis squad 75-68. Chalmers finished with 18 points and was named Final Four MOP. -- Jason King

19. March Madness is born
It's impossible to fathom now, but there was a time when March Madness wasn't so mad. Forget HDTV and second-screen tweeting; TV networks broadcast one game at a time, full stop. In 1981, that all changed. NBC's cutaway coverage of the tournament allowed it to record three classic 1981 tournament moments -- U.S. Reed's half-court shot to drop defending champion Louisville, Rolando Blackman's buzzer-beater for Kansas State and John Smith's last-second layup to knock out No. 1 DePaul -- all in a matter of minutes. And so "March Madness" was born. -- Eamonn Brennan

20. Fifteen times two
Who doesn't love a good David-besting-Goliath tale in March? On March 16, 2012, we got two in the span of three hours. The first occurred when No. 15 Norfolk State, a 21-point underdog, shocked No. 2 Missouri thanks to 26 points and 14 rebounds from senior center Kyle O'Quinn. Then No. 15 Lehigh followed that up by toppling mighty No. 2 Duke behind 30 points from C.J. McCollum. Only four times before had a No. 15 seed upset a No. 2 in the NCAA tournament. On that memorable day a year ago, it happened twice. -- Robbi Pickeral

21. Bryce Drew's game winner
The shot is so much a part of the NCAA tournament fabric that, by now, almost every college basketball fan knows the name of the play -- Pacer. It was a last-ditch hoops version of a Hail Mary designed by Valparaiso coach Homer Drew for his son, Bryce, in the first round of the 1998 tournament against Ole Miss. And it worked to Cinderella Madness perfection, with Jamie Sykes throwing the baseball pass to Bill Jenkins who tipped it perfectly to Bryce Drew. Drew caught the ball, stopped and drained the 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to beat the Rebels, the impossible play so beautiful it still makes every March Madness highlight reel. -- Dana O'Neil

22. George Mason's run
Did you pick UConn to win your 2006 bracket? And did you cheer for the Huskies to beat George Mason in the Elite Eight? Of course you didn't. That's why the NCAA tournament is so great: The underdog is more than a nostalgic concept. It is very real, and in George Mason's case, very unlikely. The Patriots were one of the last teams in the NCAA tournament, a little-known mid-major program outside of Virginia (coached by current Miami man Jim Larranaga). But Mason's victory against Duke to reach the '06 Final Four set the stage for runs by Butler and VCU in 2010 and 2011. It's a whole new world. -- Eamonn Brennan

23. Edney saves UCLA
I have a vivid memory of Tyus Edney's full-court, 4.8-second dash to save UCLA against Mizzou in the second round of the 1995 Western Regional. The key to the play was Edney's ability to catch the ball on the move. What I remember most about the play was Edney going behind his back and changing direction. It was like he was shot out of a cannon, yet he was able to come to a stop and finish without charging. The change from left to right allowed him to get back to his strong hand. The Bruins came into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed and were seconds away from a disappointing end to the season. One special player making a special play allowed the Bruins to advance and ultimately win their first national championship in 20 years. -- Seth Greenberg

24. Illinois storms back
Top seed Illinois trailed Arizona 75-60 with four minutes left in its 2005 regional final at Allstate Arena when the Illini mounted a comeback that was already being called "the greatest in tournament history" by the next morning. Luther Head and Dee Brown fueled a furious rally, one capped off by a Jack Ingram steal and a Deron Williams 3 that tied the score at 80-80 with 39 seconds left. The Illini won 90-89 in overtime, but the iconic moment remains the comeback, and particularly Williams' 3. To this day there are Illinois fans who can tell you (and will) where they were when Jay Bilas saluted the Illini for displaying "the heart of a champion." -- John Gasaway

25. Duke upsets UNLV
Duke beating anyone in the NCAA tournament is rarely considered an upset, but that was certainly the case after the No. 6 Blue Devils topped No. 1 seed UNLV in a 1991 semifinal in Indianapolis. The Runnin' Rebels entered the game with a 34-0 record and had won 45 straight overall. Two free throws by Christian Laettner with 12 seconds remaining gave Duke a 79-77 lead. The game was over when Anderson Hunt missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Two days later, Duke defeated Kansas to win the NCAA title. -- Jason King

26. Laettner's 'Special' play
Realizing that no one was on an inbounding Christian Laettner, Mike Krzyzewski called out the play. It was called, fittingly, "Special." With 2.6 seconds left in the 1990 regional -- the first regional overtime game in seven years -- Laettner tossed the ball to Brian Davis, who dished it right back to him. Laettner launched the leaning 14-footer as time expired, sending the Blue Devils to the Final Four. The last shot was emblematic of the entire game, one that included 17 lead changes and 16 ties and seemingly ended when Tate George intercepted a pass from Bobby Hurley. Instead George lost the dribble, setting up the final play. -- Dana O'Neil

27. Princeton goes backdoor
The Tigers had been close to pulling off a tournament upset in previous years and finally broke through in 1996 in Pete Carril's last season as head coach. With the score tied 41-41, Gabe Lewullis converted a backdoor layup in the final seconds to give No. 13 Princeton a 43-41 victory over No. 4 UCLA in their first-round matchup. The backdoor layup, the staple offensive set, was the perfect way to upset the defending national champion Bruins. It was so delayed that it almost moved in slow motion, as the Tigers lulled the Bruins into the play and caught them off guard. Princeton had to beat Penn in a playoff game a week earlier just to get to the NCAA tournament. The loss would lead to the end of Jim Harrick's career at UCLA, as he was fired in the fall after an expense report fiasco. -- Andy Katz

28. "Mile High Madness"
In the 1996 Sweet 16, 4-seed Syracuse twice found itself on the brink of elimination against pesky Georgia. After trailing by 10 points late in the second half, the Orange clawed their way back and tied the score at 68-68 on John Wallace's layup with 30.2 seconds to go. The Bulldogs worked for the last shot, and point guard Pertha Robinson made a fadeaway jumper for a 70-68 lead with 3.5 seconds left. Syracuse took the ball and called timeout at midcourt. Then Jason Cipolla hit a 12-foot jumper at the buzzer to force overtime. After Wallace's layup put the Orange ahead 80-78 with 15 seconds left in overtime, Robinson nailed a 3-pointer to give UGA an 81-80 lead with seven seconds to go. But Wallace took the inbounds pass, dribbled up the court and drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key for an 83-81 victory at McNichols Arena in Denver. Wallace scored 30 points with 15 rebounds. -- Mark Schlabach

29. Alcindor bids adieu
What's the cherry on top of scoring 39 points and 20 rebounds in your final college game, of winning your third straight national title, of being named the NCAA Final Four MVP for the third straight season? How about having your dad make music while you do it? Lew Alcindor's father, Ferdinand, played the trombone in UCLA's band as the Bruins beat Purdue 92-72 in the 1969 title game, capping another memorable season and Alcindor's fantastic career. Alcindor averaged 24.0 points and 14.7 rebounds his final season. Even more jaw-dropping: The Bruins were 80-2 during his career. -- Robbi Pickeral

30. Rumeal at the line
Rumeal Robinson had seen a similar situation at Wisconsin earlier in the 1989 season: two free throws to tie the game. He missed both, resulting in a Michigan loss. At the time, teammate Glen Rice told Robinson he'd get another chance. "I had no idea it would be at that moment on such a big stage," Rice said recently. Redemption would come with the national title on the line. Robinson went to the line against Seton Hall and made both free throws, giving Michigan an 80-79 win and an improbable NCAA championship. Before the tournament, then-athletic director Bo Schembechler had replaced coach Bill Frieder with Steve Fisher because Frieder had announced he would leave for Arizona State after the season. -- Michael Rothstein

31. Ainge in the lane
Before he became an NBA front-office fixture, Danny Ainge was a multisport legend. "The greatest athlete I've ever seen," Al McGuire said of the Brigham Young star and Toronto Blue Jays prospect. With eight seconds left and his Cougars trailing Notre Dame by one point in the 1981 Sweet 16, Ainge took an inbounds pass under his own basket. At midcourt, he got past John Paxson with a behind-the-back dribble on his way to hitting the game-winning floater in the lane. "We wanted to control Ainge," Fighting Irish coach Digger Phelps said after the game. "And we did that, until the final eight seconds." -- John Gasaway

32. Hampton upsets Iowa State
Perhaps not as iconic as Jim Valvano's desperate search for someone to celebrate with, Steve Merfeld's celebration of Hampton's improbable win against Iowa State in 2001 is no less memorable. The MEAC school, a 15-seed, upset the Cyclones on Tarvis Williams' jumper with 6.9 seconds left. But it was Merfeld's reaction as much as Williams' shot that became the shining moment. The diminutive coach ran around the court in jubilation until one of his players, David Johnson, found Merfeld and lifted him in the air, the coach's legs dangling and fists pumping like a giddy toddler. -- Dana O'Neil

33. Rip at the buzzer
What happens when immense talent meets sheer desperation? Richard Hamilton's 8-foot fallaway to beat Washington in the 1998 tournament happens. The hypertalented Huskies looked destined for the Final Four but found themselves down 74-73 with 33 seconds left to play in a Sweet 16 battle with Washington. Khalid El-Amin drove and Jake Voskuhl missed and Hamilton's first attempt did too, and after the ball bounced for what seemed like an eternity -- but was really just another second, maybe two -- it came back out to Hamilton, who released his trademark all-net jumper with no time to spare. It became an iconic March highlight, and the first totem in Jim Calhoun's coaching ascent. -- Eamonn Brennan

34. Al Maguire's final run
College basketball fans never knew what to expect from Marquette coach Al McGuire. He once took a player to the Milwaukee lakefront, where he had the undersized center throw a beach ball into the water, to refute a rival coach's claim that he "couldn't throw the ball into the ocean from the beach." So maybe fans shouldn't have been surprised that McGuire spent the final seconds of Marquette's 67-59 victory over North Carolina in the 1977 championship game at the end of the bench, with his head buried in his hands as he wept. Midway through the 1977 season, McGuire announced he was retiring at age 48, and he reached college basketball's pinnacle in his final game as a coach. He left coaching to become co-chairman of a sporting goods company in Wisconsin, only to become a famed TV analyst a few years later. McGuire died in 2001 after a long battle with leukemia. -- Mark Schlabach

35. Gonzaga arrives
When No. 10 seed Gonzaga took the floor against Minnesota in the round of 64 on March 11, 1999, the Bulldogs were 0-1 in the NCAA tournament in program history. In the headlines that week, they were "Tiny Gonzaga," but Matt Santangelo, Richie Frahm and Quentin Hall led the Zags to wins over Minnesota, Stanford and Florida. Dan Monson's team then played eventual national champion Connecticut into the 40th minute before falling 67-62 in the Elite Eight. Monson spoke with Notre Dame officials before taking the Minnesota job later that summer, and in Spokane the reins were handed to an unknown 36-year-old assistant named Mark Few. -- John Gasaway

36. The Reynolds floater
Afterward, Villanova's Scottie Reynolds said he planned to hold onto the ball for a long time. We'll hold on to this winning moment for even longer: With the 2009 East Regional final game tied, the junior grabbed a pass from teammate Dante Cunningham near half court, flew up the right side and crossed between two Pittsburgh Panthers to get into the lane and bury a floater with .5 seconds left. The shot secured a 78-76 victory and the third-seeded Wildcats' first Final Four berth since winning it all in 1985. Thank goodness for YouTube, because this one will never get old. -- Robbi Pickeral

37. First Four to Final Four
Many national pundits questioned Virginia Commonwealth's inclusion in the 2011 tournament after the Rams went 12-6 in CAA play. The program used that skepticism as fuel for one of the most magical runs in NCAA tourney history. "Our guys have done a phenomenal job putting all the doubters aside, putting all the people that didn't believe in us aside, and going out and doing their job," coach Shaka Smart told reporters after his team defeated Kansas 71-61 in the Elite Eight. The Rams started in the First Four and won five consecutive games to reach the Final Four in Houston, where they were stopped by another Cinderella called Butler. This VCU squad's success and dominance (it won by an average of 12 points per game) was an impressive feat that elevated the entire program and transformed Smart into one of the most popular up-and-coming coaches in the country. -- Myron Medcalf

38. All hail Ali
To use a Bill Raftery-ism, it might be the most "onions" shot in NCAA tournament history, a pull-up jumper on a two-on-one break by a player who couldn't buy a second-half bucket against one of the bluest bloods in college basketball. Ali Farokhmanesh's dagger was as daring as it was stunning, defying every bit of conventional basketball wisdom, yet somehow it worked. The Northern Iowa senior managed to beat Kansas and put his tiny school on the sports map in one stroke, his 21-footer leading the Panthers to the 69-67 second-round upset of the Jayhawks in 2010. -- Dana O'Neil

39. 'It's Great, It's Tate'
Before Christian Laettner's heroics, there was Tate George in 1990, taking Connecticut to its first Elite Eight in equally improbable fashion. After Clemson scored to take the lead with 1.6 seconds left, the Huskies lined up with exactly one tick left, waiting for a miracle. It came via the baseball pass of Scott Burrell and the catch, spin and shoot from George, who drained the 15-footer as the buzzer sounded for the win. The next day, the Hartford Courant summed it up best -- "It's Late, It's Great, It's Tate." -- Dana O'Neil

40. Oregon wins first tourney
On Northwestern's campus in 1939, the Oregon Ducks defeated Ohio State 46-33 and were crowned champions of the inaugural NCAA tournament. John Dick scored a game-high 15 points, and Oregon held the Buckeyes to 17 percent shooting. If the Ducks aren't remembered for their title, they're remembered for their nickname -- the "Tall Firs." Newspaper editor L.H. Gregory coined the term for center Slim Wintermute and forwards Laddie Gale and Dick, who were all 6-foot-4 or taller. In '39, this meant the Ducks had a "size advantage." -- Teddy Mitrosilis

41. Givens goes off
Jack Givens had already had an incredible season for the Kentucky Wildcats. He averaged more than 17 points per game and would be an All-American. But on March 27, 1978, in St. Louis, against Duke in the national championship game, Givens would make sure his season was remembered forever. The lefty stroked J after J, dropping 41 points on the Blue Devils and leading Kentucky to a 94-88 victory and the fifth national title in school history. Givens was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and more than 30 years later, the blue corners of the commonwealth look back on '78 and smile. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

42. Duke's historic rally
The Blue Devils were in a hole. A serious hole. A "they'll never make it out of this one" hole. With nearly seven minutes to play in the first half of a 2001 Final Four matchup against Maryland, the Blue Devils were down 39-17. At one point, coach Mike Krzyzewski told his team, "You're losing by so much, you can't play any worse. So what are you worried about, losing by 40?" Well, Duke orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA tournament history, beating the Terrapins 95-84. The greatest comeback by a winning team in the Final Four was achieved with tenacity and is still discussed more than a decade later. -- Myron Medcalf

43. Andre the Giant
"I'm never happy to have to take the last shot. I'd rather be up by 12 points." Those were Andre Turner's words following his second game-winner in the 1985 NCAA tournament. His first clutch shot came against Alabama-Birmingham in the second round with 5 seconds to play. His next highlight unfolded in the closing seconds of a 59-57 win over Boston College in the Sweet 16. Both were 17-footers that helped Memphis State advance. That squad reached the Final Four, where it lost to Villanova. It was a special season for the program, because the core of the team was composed of local products. Turner's performance, however, was clearly one of the most memorable moments of that season's tournament. -- Myron Medcalf

44. Manning's big moment
Moments after Danny Manning led Kansas to an 83-79 upset of Oklahoma in the 1988 national championship, he responded to the critics who claimed the Jayhawks didn't have a chance. "To all the people who said it couldn't be done, we're national champs, we're No. 1," Manning said. "How do you like us now?" The Jayhawks didn't look like a championship contender during the regular season, becoming the first team with at least 11 losses to win an NCAA title. But "Danny and the Miracles" won six straight games in the NCAA tournament, and Manning saved his best performance for his final college game, with 31 points and 18 rebounds. With the score tied at 50 at the half, Kansas coach Larry Brown slowed the game's frenetic pace to limit the Sooners' opportunities. After OU pulled to within 78-77, Manning calmly sank four consecutive foul shots in the final 14 seconds to give Kansas its first national title since 1952. -- Mark Schlabach

45. UNC's first title
Led by Lennie Rosenbluth, a 6-foot-5 forward, UNC won its first NCAA title in one of the most thrilling title games in NCAA tournament history, a three-overtime win against Kansas. Rosenbluth averaged 28 points during the 1957 NCAA tournament, scoring 20 in the finale, but it was teammate Joe Quigg who sealed UNC's undefeated season. With Rosenbluth sidelined -- he fouled out in regulation trying to contend with KU sophomore center Wilt Chamberlain -- Quigg buried two free throws with 6 seconds left in the third overtime, then knocked away a pass to Chamberlain to secure the 54-53 victory. North Carolina, coached by Frank McGuire, finished 32-0. -- Robbi Pickeral

46. UNLV's rampage
By 1990, the NCAA and UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian already had been at war for 13 years. Maybe that gave Anderson Hunt, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and Larry Johnson some extra motivation. Something did. By crushing Duke 103-73, the Rebels set records for points scored and margin of victory in a national title game that still stand. Hunt scored 29 points against the Blue Devils and was named Most Outstanding Player. Tarkanian had long said he didn't want to accept any trophy presented by the NCAA, but at the last minute he agreed to participate in the ceremony. "They told me I had to, so I did," he said. -- John Gasaway

47. Carr's scoring record
Wherever Austin Carr currently ranks in the pantheon of Notre Dame sporting icons, he deserves to be higher. Carr resuscitated an Irish hoops program that had slogged through the early years of the 1960s, and he made history in 1970, scoring an NCAA tournament single-game record 61 points against Ohio in the quarterfinals of the Mideast region. And as he liked to point out in later years, he did this well before the 3-point line was implemented in college basketball. Navy's David Robinson scored 50 points against Michigan in '87, but nobody has seriously threatened Carr's 61. And with the way scoring is currently trending in college basketball, it could be a while. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

48. Ellison steps up
Before Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony and the Fab Five, Pervis Ellison dominated college basketball at the highest level as a Louisville freshman. In the 1986 national title game, he scored 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and went 10-for-14 from the field in a win over Duke. He earned Most Outstanding Player honors, at the time just the second freshman in the sport to do so. Ellison stayed four seasons with the Cardinals and became the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft. Few players kicked off their college careers the way Ellison did. -- Myron Medcalf

49. Utah's triangle-and-two
Utah's use of the triangle-and-two defense to beat Arizona in the 1998 West Regional final and advance to the Final Four may be one of the late Rick Majerus' greatest coaching decisions. Arizona was a No. 1 seed and the defending champion. The Wildcats were favored to return to the Final Four and defend their title. But Majerus deployed "a little plan" and completely flummoxed Miles Simon and Co. in a 76-51 victory. Simon, Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson shot a combined 6-for-36, and Arizona finished 4-of-24 on 3s. Utah lost to Kentucky in the national championship game, but that couldn't stain one of the greatest displays of Majerus' brilliance. -- Andy Katz

50. Game of the Century 2.0
On Jan. 20, 1968, Houston defeated UCLA in a matchup that was coined the "Game of the Century" because of its historical value. The prime-time, televised matchup paved the way for March Madness and magnified the sport's national exposure. The two teams faced off again in that year's NCAA tournament, but this time the Bruins crushed the Cougars 101-69 in the Final Four. In the first matchup, Elvin Hayes and Lew Alcindor battled. Their respective performances helped the game live up to the hype. But Alcindor certainly got the best of Hayes in Round 2, finishing with 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Hayes went 3-for-10 from the field and scored 10 points. -- Myron Medcalf

51. Forrest's improbable 3
Georgia Tech trailed USC 78-76 after Rodney Chatman drained a baseline jumper with three seconds left in the second round of the 1992 tournament. After Georgia Tech's Jon Barry lost the ball out of bounds, it seemed the game was over. But officials ruled the ball bounced off a USC defender's leg, giving Tech one last chance with 0.8 seconds to go. From inside midcourt, Tech's Matt Geiger tried to pass the ball to either Travis Best or Barry, the team's best perimeter shooters. But when both were covered, Geiger zipped a pass to freshman James Forrest, who hadn't made a 3-pointer all season. Tech coach Bobby Cremins was so sure Forrest's shot wouldn't fall that he started walking toward the USC bench to congratulate the Trojans. But Forrest caught the pass, turned and drained a 3-pointer from 24 feet at the buzzer to give the Yellow Jackets a 79-78 victory in Milwaukee. -- Mark Schlabach

52. UConn upsets Duke
Heading into the 1999 NCAA tournament, Duke was a popular pick to win its third national championship of the decade, and it entered the championship game against UConn as 9.5-point favorites (a tournament record). But behind 27 points from Rip Hamilton and clutch free throws from Khalid El-Amin, the Huskies took down the Blue Devils 77-74, ending Duke's 32-game win streak and clinching UConn's first national title. "We're a great basketball team, and we beat another great basketball team, but we're not shocked," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said after the game. "We truly believed we could beat them." -- Teddy Mitrosilis

53. Georgetown's close call
A 16-seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. The closest call came in 1989 when mighty Georgetown beat Princeton 50-49. Bob Scrabis had a shot to win the game for Princeton, but Alonzo Mourning blocked it. After an out-of-bounds play, Kit Mueller had one more chance for Princeton, but his shot at the buzzer didn't fall. This wasn't John Thompson's greatest team, but it was another Hoyas squad that had a power player inside and a few stars, such as Charles Smith. Pete Carril had better Princeton teams, too, but this one perhaps would have been remembered above them all if it had pulled off one of the biggest and most historic upsets in NCAA history. -- Andy Katz

54. Dean says goodbye
When Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith left the RCA Dome floor in Indianapolis on March 29, 1997, his team's usually efficient offense and national title dreams broken by the Arizona Wildcats in the national semifinals, fans (as they do) almost immediately started pondering the chances of a long run the following season. They didn't know at the time it would be without Smith. Roughly five months later, he shocked everyone with his retirement, saying that after 36 seasons, he still loved teaching basketball but didn't have the same enthusiasm that he once did. The Tar Heels did return to the Final Four the following season, but under Smith's longtime assistant, Bill Guthridge. -- Robbi Pickeral

55. Bradley leads Princeton
UCLA's Gail Goodrich, Edgar Lacey and Kenny Washington all made the 1965 all-tournament team after helping the Bruins win the national title. So did Cazzie Russell, a guard on runner-up Michigan. Yet, it was the fifth player, Princeton's Bill Bradley, on that all-tournament team who earned Most Outstanding Player honors in '65, as he dominated the tournament and led Princeton to the Final Four. After losing to Michigan in the semifinal, Princeton crushed Wichita State in the third-place game, capping off a tournament run in which Bradley recorded 177 points and 57 rebounds in five games. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

56. Lucas and his Cowboys
Saint Joseph's was the unlikely 1-seed, a 30-1 masterpiece that had taken college basketball by storm. Oklahoma State was the inspired 2-seed, looking to carry its school to the sport's biggest stage just three years removed from the plane crash that shattered the program. No matter how the 2004 East Rutherford Regional final ended, a great story was moving on to the Final Four. And oh what an ending it was. In a furious final 41 seconds that flew by with no stoppage of play, John Lucas' jumper to give OSU a 61-59 lead was answered by Pat Carroll's 3 that put the Hawks back up -- a shot that was answered by Lucas' 3 with 6.9 seconds left. National POY Jameer Nelson had a good look in the final seconds, but it fell just short and the exhausted Cowboys rode off to San Antonio. -- Brett Edgerton

57. Hayward's heartbreak
Basketball, being an essentially geometric game, can play tricks on your perception. If you look at a shot taken from a certain spot on the court at the right angle just to the side, you can be certain a shot that is destined to miss will in fact go in. So it was where I was sitting for Gordon Hayward's ill-fated 60-foot heave against Duke in the 2010 national championship: From my angle, it looked good. It caromed off the backboard and hit the front rim and fell away. It was not good, and whatever highly paid screenwriter authored Butler's storybook run decided to settle on the sad ending. -- Eamonn Brennan

58. Denied by Warrick
Ask someone about Syracuse's 2003 run to the title, and they might suggest that Carmelo Anthony did it alone. And that's just not true. He was surrounded by other talents such as Hakim Warrick. Warrick's last-second block of Michael Lee's 3-point attempt sealed Syracuse's 81-78 win in the national championship over a veteran Kansas squad. "Block" seems like such an understatement though. Warrick turned into Spider-Man as he glided from the paint to the perimeter with uncanny speed and extended his hand to swat a shot that could have tied the score. It's one thing to have the instincts to contest the shot. It's another thing to possess the athleticism to actually cover that distance and block it. But that's exactly what Harrick did. -- Myron Medcalf

59. Elvin Hayes in '68
The numbers, when you think about it, are still stunning, even four and a half decades later. In 1968, The Big E recorded 167 points and 97 rebounds in five games for Houston, including a 49-point, 27-rebound game to beat Loyola of Chicago in the Midwest Regional. The Cougars made it to the Final Four but didn't win there, running into Lew Alcindor and UCLA yet again in the semifinals before falling to Ohio State in the consolation game. Despite his incredible individual run, Hayes didn't even make the Final Four all-tournament team, another head-shaker for one of the best players to never win a title. -- Robbi Pickeral

60. Butler bites Pitt
A year after Butler went to the Final Four in 2010, few expected a repeat appearance. But the magic resumed in the 2011 NCAA tournament. No. 8 Butler beat No. 1 Pitt in the Round of 32 with a brilliant little play call by Brad Stevens in the final seven seconds, or so it seemed: When Shelvin Mack committed one of the dumbest fouls of all time, Pitt had a chance to win at the free throw line. Gilbert Brown made the first and missed the second, and with 0.8 left on the clock, and the game tied at 70, Matt Howard grabbed the rebound and flung it to the other end … and was fouled by Pitt forward Nasir Robinson. Howard won the game, Robinson was devastated and the Bulldogs were well on their way to a second straight Final Four. -- Eamonn Brennan

61. Kidd leads Cal
Today, Jason Kidd is a veteran point guard for the New York Knicks who's still playing in the pros because of his wisdom. But in the early 1990s, he was a speedy guard for Todd Bozeman's Cal squad. In 1993, Kidd was just a freshman when he led the Bears to a second-round upset over two-time defending national champion Duke. Kidd finished with 11 points and 14 assists and was the catalyst for a late burst that broke a 77-77 tie and led to a 82-77 Cal victory. Kidd scored on a layup and a free throw in the final two minutes as the 6-seed Bears defeated the 3-seed Blue Devils. It also was Bobby Hurley's last collegiate game. -- Myron Medcalf

62. Coach K ties Rupp
In 2010, Duke and Butler provided us one of the best national championship games in recent memory. And if a certain shot at the buzzer would have banked in, it would have immediately been in the discussion for Best Title Game of All Time. But the shot didn't, giving the Blue Devils their first national championship since 2001. For coach Mike Krzyzewski, the title was especially significant, as it was his fourth ring and tied him for second all-time with Kentucky' coach Adolph Rupp. Now there's only a small ocean between Coach K and UCLA coach John Wooden (10 titles) at No. 1. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

63. Penn's magical year
The 1979 tournament will forever be remembered for two names -- "Magic" and "Bird" -- but another incredible story developed. The Penn Quakers won their eighth Ivy League title in 10 years and entered the tournament as a 9-seed. Then they did this: beat No. 8 Iona 73-69; beat No. 1 North Carolina 72-71; beat No. 4 Syracuse 84-76; beat No. 10 St. John's 64-62. That earned the Quakers a trip to the Final Four, and while Magic and Michigan State would have their way with Penn, it marked a historic run in school history and was a victory for Ivies everywhere. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

64. A prayer for Demons
Down by 17 with less than nine minutes to play in its 2006 first-round game, No. 14 Northwestern State rallied to upset No. 3 Iowa 64-63. The Demons' Jermaine Wallace ran down an offensive rebound and, down by two, heaved a desperation corner 3-pointer, his momentum carrying him beyond the baseline. Through the backboard glass, Wallace watched his prayer swish through with 0.5 seconds remaining, giving Northwestern State a most improbable NCAA tournament upset and Wallace a shot and moment he'll never forget. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

65. Victory for Vermont
In the moments after one of the final games of his coaching career, Tom Brennan wept openly. Not because his Vermont basketball team lost, but because it won. Germain Mopa Njila, T.J. Sorrentine and Taylor Coppenrath combined for 53 points in Vermont's 60-57 overtime upset of Big East champion Syracuse in the first round of the 2005 NCAA tournament. Njila and Sorrentine both hit 3-pointers in a 48-second span in overtime to propel Vermont to victory. A No. 13 seed beating a No. 4 seed is always impressive, but this one was even more newsworthy considering Syracuse was just two years removed from its 2003 NCAA title. Brennan already had announced his plans to retire following the season. Suffice to say, his career ended on a high note. -- Jason King

66. Magic Mike Miller
Mike Miller has gone on to have a successful professional basketball career, but his buzzer-beater against Butler in the first round of the 2000 NCAA tournament may be his most memorable shot ever. Down one with 8.1 seconds left in overtime, Florida coach Billy Donovan called the play "Home Run." Point guard Teddy Dupay drove the ball up the court and dished to Miller on the wing with four seconds left. Instead of settling for the jumper, Miller drove toward the lane and got himself a 13-footer that dropped in for a 69-68 Florida victory. The Gators would go on to reach the final game, which they lost to Michigan State. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

67. Boozer meets Moye
Indiana looked to have the 2002 Sweet 16 game won against top seed and defending national champion Duke, when Dane Fife committed what was very nearly the most devastating foul in IU history. With 4.2 seconds remaining and the Hoosiers up four in a regional semifinal, Fife fouled Jay Williams (then known as Jason) in the act of making a 3. Williams went to the line with a chance to tie the score. He missed, but 6-8 Carlos Boozer got the rebound and appeared certain to score the game-winner. That is until 6-3 A.J. Moye met the taller and stronger Boozer at the rim and got all ball. As IU head coach Mike Davis said afterward: "We messed up a lot of brackets." -- John Gasaway

68. Indiana beats Duke in 2002 Sweet 16
Indiana beating Duke to get to the 2002 Elite Eight may have been Mike Davis' greatest moment, maybe even more than playing for the national title three rounds later. No. 5 Indiana came back from 17 down in the Sweet 16 to knock off the No. 1 Blue Devils. Jason Williams had a chance to tie the score for Duke late but missed at the line, allowing the Hoosiers to stun the Blue Devils 74-73. Indiana went on to beat Kent State and Oklahoma before losing to Maryland in the national title game in Atlanta, but the Duke win is remembered because it came at an important time for the Hoosiers in the post-Knight era and helped Davis ease some of the concern regarding his hire. This game also included the next moment ... -- Andy Katz

69. Richmond tops Cuse
We are still waiting on a 16-seed versus 1-seed upset. The Richmond Spiders were the first 15-seed to defeat a 2-seed in the tournament when they pulled off a 73-69 victory over Jim Boeheim's squad on March 14, 1991. "In every huddle, we said it was our game, we were going to win it," Richmond coach Dick Tarrant said after the game. "I'm enormously proud of them." The Spiders had an eight-point lead at halftime after shooting 61.5 percent from the field, while the Orange struggled with a 40.7 percent overall clip in the first half. But Richmond successfully absorbed multiple runs by Syracuse in the second half, and Curtis Blair finished with a team-high 18 points. -- Myron Medcalf

70. Huggins' hug
It's an offbeat moment, but a poignant and memorable one nonetheless. During its 2010 national semifinal against Duke, West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler collided with Duke big man Brian Zoubek and crumpled to the court in Indianapolis with an apparent knee injury. Huggins walked over to Butler, knelt by his side and cradled his head, whispering heartfelt words to a player in need of them. Sure, Duke would beat WVU by 21 points and go on to win the national championship, but Huggins, while creating an indelible image, also won something that night: He won respect for his compassion. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

71. The Russell Era ends
When San Francisco beat Iowa in the 1956 national championship, it was a bittersweet moment for the Dons. It was their second straight title, but it also brought an official end to the Bill Russell era. Russell averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game in his collegiate career, and legendary UCLA coach John Wooden once called him the "greatest defensive man I've ever seen." Russell, of course, would go on to win 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and is remembered as perhaps the best basketball player to ever live. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

72. A peculiar sticker
It's hard to know what irked some corners of the North Carolina fan base more in March 2008: that the Tar Heels lost to Kansas (falling behind by as many as 28 points) in the national semifinals or that coach Roy Williams showed up to the title game to cheer on KU -- wearing a big, bright Jayhawks sticker on his shirt. Kansas fans, for their part, were thrilled, having exorcised some of their tournament demons in beating their former coach. In his defense, Williams said he did the same thing, in the opposite direction, in 1993, waving a Carolina blue pompom as UNC played in the final after it beat his Jayhawks. -- Robbi Pickeral

73. Thurman rises up
The most famous shot in Arkansas basketball history was uncorked with less than a minute remaining against a Duke team that was playing in its sixth Final Four in seven years. None of those factors bothered Razorbacks guard Scotty Thurman, whose 3-pointer broke a 70-70 tie and propelled Arkansas to a 76-72 victory over the Blue Devils in the 1994 title game. Thurman, who had made two game-winning 3-pointers earlier that season, averaged 15.9 points for the Razorbacks. -- Jason King

74. Two for Tampa
One regional, two overtimes, two epic upsets. In the first round of the 2008 Tampa Regional, No. 12 Western Kentucky knocked off No. 5 Drake when Ty Rogers hit a 26-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to give WKU a 101-99 victory. Drake had come back from 16-point deficit in regulation to force overtime. In the same regional, on the same day, No. 13 San Diego upset No. 4 UConn 70-69 on a De'Jon Jackson jumper from the right wing with 1.2 seconds left. The Huskies hadn't lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament since 1979, which included all of coach Jim Calhoun's then-22 seasons in Storrs, Conn. -- Teddy Mitrosilis

75. 2011 Final Four
It makes sense that the 2011 Final Four gave us both Butler and VCU, given all the havoc that surrounded the tournament's top seeds. One No. 1 lost in the round of 32 (Pitt), two No. 1s lost in the Sweet 16 (Duke and Ohio State) and the fourth No. 1 lost in the Elite Eight (Kansas). Not only did the bracket scoff at the thought of going chalk, but it also knocked out all four No. 2 seeds (North Carolina, San Diego State, Notre Dame and Florida) before the final weekend, making 2011 the only tournament in NCAA history that didn't have a No. 1 or No. 2 in the Final Four. -- Teddy Mitrosilis