With college basketballâ€™s greatest show just around the corner, more memories and memorable moments are forthcoming, as this sporting event annually captivates audiences around the country with its drama and last-minute heroics.
The tournament has featured great moments from famous names like Jordan, Bird and Magic, but itâ€™s also a time to shine for people whose names might not be as familiar; names such as Lorenzo Charles, Bryce Drew and Tyus Edney.
Since everyone loves a good list, the following are my top five most memorable moments of the tournament from the past 25 years (1986-2010).Â
#5 Goliath Falls
Coming off its first national championship in 1990 and billed as possibly the greatest team of all time, the 1991 UNLV Runninâ€™ Rebels were looking to become the first undefeated team since Indiana University in 1976.Â In the national semifinals, the 34-0 UNLV team squared off with Duke, in a rematch of the 1990 championship game, one in which the Jerry Tarkanian-led Rebels set a record with at 30 point pummeling of the Blue Devils.
Duke, the #2 seed out of the Midwest Region, was making its fourth consecutive national semifinal appearance in 1991.Â Led by stars Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, the Blue Devils pulled off one of the great upsets in college basketball, and all of sports, history, en route to a 79-77 win.Â Mike Krzyzewskiâ€™s team would go on to defeat Kansas in the finals for its first national championship.
#4 Super Marioâ€™s World
Down nine points to Memphis with just over two minutes remaining in the 2008 national championship game, Kansas went on a run for the ages.Â A notably poor shooting team from the foul line, Memphis missed four of its final five shots from the charity stripe in regulation, ruining its nine-point lead with two minutes remaining, and setting the stage for a furious Jayhawk rally.
Within three points and with the possession of ball, Kansas turned to veteran guard Mario Chalmers, who, with 2.1 seconds remaining, buried a three-point shot to tie the game, and send it into overtime.Â During the extra period, Kansas scored the first six points and eventually won the game 75-68, and Marioâ€™s Miracle was destined for the history books.
#3 Smart Shot
Indiana star Steve Alford hit seven three-point shots in the first 29 minutes of the 1987 championship game, a back-and-forth contest that saw the Hoosiers with a one-point lead over Syracuse at halftime.Â However, Jim Boeheimâ€™s team made some adjustments late and eventually shut down Alford, holding him scoreless it the final four minutes.
What the Orangemen couldnâ€™t do, however, was stop both Alford and Keith Smart, who scored 12 of his teamâ€™s final 15 points, including a 16-foot jumper from the left side with five seconds remaining, closing out a 74-73 Hoosier win.Â It was legendary coach Bob Knightâ€™s third and final national championship.
#2 Fab Fault
Michigan put together what is widely considered the greatest recruiting class of all time, a quintet known as the Fab Five, with four of the five rated in the top 10 among high school prospects.Â The Fab Five stayed together for two seasons, reaching the national championship game in both years.
After falling to a historically good Duke team in the finals in 1992, Michigan was back in the championship in 1993 against North Carolina.Â Trying to put their stamp on the history books, the Wolverines lead for most of the game before the Tar Heels would go on a run to take the lead late.Â With 19 seconds remaining and the score 73-71, Carolinaâ€™s Pat Sullivan misses the second of two free throw attempts, and Chris Webber, the most fab of the Fab Five, grabs the rebound.
After he is left to bring the ball into frontcourt by himself, Webber travels (no whistle), then rushes passing midcourt and picks up his dribble in the corner next to the Michigan bench.Â With just 11 seconds remaining and realizing heâ€™s about to be trapped by two Carolina defenders, Webber puts his hands in a â€œTâ€ signaling timeout.Â The only problem is, Michigan is out of timeouts, resulting in a technical foul.Â Donald Williams hits both technical foul shots, stretching the lead to 75-71, and the Tar Heels would win the game 77-71, ending the Fab Fiveâ€™s chances of winning a national championship.
#1 Shot Heard Round the World
No surprises here.Â Almost every list of top menâ€™s college basketball tournament games of all times has this one at the top.Â
Looking for its second national championship in as many years, Duke is being given all it can handle by a Kentucky team that is back in the tournament after being set back several years by probation.Â Led by superstar Jamal Mashburn and four unheralded seniors, Kentucky went toe-to-toe with a juggernaut Duke team that returned stars Laettner, Hill and Hurley from its win over UNLV the year before.
One of those Kentucky seniors, Sean Woods, hit an improbable running bank shot with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime.Â After a timeout, and un-guarded Hill throws a one-handed inbounds pass across the court to Laettner standing at the free throw line.Â A dribble to his right, a spin to his left and he releases one of the most famous shots in basketball history that touches nothing but the bottom of the net.
Laettner finished the game 10-10 from the field and 10-10 from the foul line, and Duke would go on to win its second consecutive national championship.