March Madness: Top Five Greatest Moments of the NCAA Tournament

John Ward, Staff Writer

The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, often referred to as “March Madness,” is a staple of American athletics and is known for its exciting games, upsets, and legendary moments. As we gear up for the tourney, let’s take a look at the top five greatest moments of March Madness.

  1. Butler’s Unbelievable Run in 2010

The 2010 Butler Basketball team made one of the most unexpected runs in the history of the tournament. The Horizon League Champions entered as a five seed and knocked off UTEP and Murray State to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Despite an easy road thus far, the Bulldogs faced major challenges with daunting powerhouse teams looming in front of them in the Round of 32. After knocking off number one seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen, they faced two seeded Kansas State in the Elite Eight, winning to advance to their first Final Four in school history. Located in Indianapolis, the 2010 Final Four was especially meaningful for the Dogs due to the fact that it was played in their home city. Butler took care of Michigan State in their first game and matched up with Duke in the National Championship. The Bulldogs literally came within inches of upsetting the goliath that is Duke Basketball, as Butler star Gordon Hayward missed a last second half court shot which would have given the Dogs the win. Despite the loss, this was still one of the most memorable runs in tourney history.

  1. Texas Western’s 1966 National Championship Run

Texas Western, now called the University of Texas El Paso, made history in the 1965-1966 season when the team went on to win the National Championship with the first all African-American starting lineup. Head coach Don Haskins led this underdog team to the final game against the Kentucky Wildcats and legendary coach Adolph Rupp. Along the way to becoming champions, the team faced much racial discrimination and hardships, often persecuted for the amount of black players the team had. This team overcame incredible obstacles and helped break former racial boundaries in the sport. The accomplishments of this team were documented in the 2006 film Glory Road. With all this team achieved, they certainly deserve to be included in this list.

  1. Michael Jordan’s Shot to Beat Georgetown

In 1982, the UNC Tar Heels faced off against the Georgetown Hoyas in the National Championship game in Louisiana. Freshman Michael Jordan was already considered a star in the making but had yet to have a defining moment as a player. With 15 seconds left in the game, Jordan nailed a 16 foot jumper from the left wing to beat Georgetown. This not only put Jordan at the forefront of the college basketball world but also gave legendary UNC head coach Dean Smith his first of two national championships. That shot has long been regarded as one of the greatest moments in tournament history and marked the start of the legend that is Michael Jordan, earning it the number three spot on this list.

  1. Christian Laettner’s Game Winner Against Kentucky

In 1992, the Duke Blue Devils faced the Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight for a chance to go to the Final Four. Arguably one of Coach K’s most talented teams ever, they were on the brink of defeat when the impossible happened. Following a basket from Kentucky to put them up 103-102 with 2.1 seconds, the Blue Devils looked as if they were headed home. Duke All-American Grant Hill took the ball out on the baseline, preparing to throw the ball in to hopefully give Duke at least a shot at a basket. Hill then launched the ball 70 feet down court to teammate and All-American center Christian Laettner, who caught the ball, dribbled once, turned and made a shot from the free throw line as time expired to give the Blue Devils a 104-103 win. This game is considered to be one of, if not the greatest college basketball game ever played; certainly worthy of such a high ranking on this list.

  1. NC State and the 1983 National Championship Game

Led by head coach Jim Valvano (Jimmy V), the Wolfpack made a run in the tournament to become the first true “Cinderella” team in college basketball. After winning the ACC Conference tournament in order to receive a tourney bid, NC State narrowly made the Final Four after beating 3 of 4 teams with only a four point combined margin of victory. After knocking off Georgia in the first game of the Final Four, the Wolfpack went on to face the best team in college basketball that year: the University of Houston. The Cougars were led by future NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. With the game tied at 52-52 with only seconds left, NC State guard Dereck Whittenburg launched a deep three in an attempt to take the lead. Wolfpack center Lorenzo Charles saw the shot was going to be short, and in one of the greatest plays in sports history, went up, grabbed the ball mid air, and dunked it as time expired. This game will always be remembered as the point when March truly became Madness.