Top 6 Moments of March Madness
The calendar is finally done with the month of February and flipping itself to one of the greatest sports months of the year. For three weeks, college basketball takes center stage in the eyes and hearts of sports fans. We fill out brackets, pick Cinderella, curse the opening weekend upsets of our potential champion and enjoy the spectacle that is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. I will always say that the opening weekend is one of the best live sporting events one can attend. There is nothing more exciting than seeing an unknown underdog go wire to wire with a College Basketball Blueblood. With that level of excitement growing, let’s take a look back at some of the top 6 moments of March Madness (Why 6? Because everyone only does top 5).
Moment #6- 2018 Tournament- #16 UMBC upsets #1 Virginia 74-54
Never in the history of the NCAA tournament had a #16 team upset a #1 team. Going into this game, the 16 seed was 0-135. Some former 16 seeds had come close but always failed to finish the job. Even at halftime with the score tied at 21, no one expected that we would see history in the making. The second half turned into absolute domination by the Retrievers, destroying the Cavaliers 53-33. Jarius Lyles scored 23 of his 28 points in the 2nd half. It was clearly that UMBC played the better game that day. While Virginia made history being the first team to ever lose to a 16 seed, they would win the whole tournament in 2019.
Moment #5- 2015 Tournament- #14 Georgia St. upsets #3 Baylor by the Coach’s son.
The NCAA Tournament can be a bonding experience between a father and son. Watching basketball together all afternoon is truly something special. One of the most special father/son moments of the NCAA tournament came in 2015. The #14 seed Georgia St. was going toe to toe with the #3 seed Baylor. Late in the 2nd half, Kenny Chery goes to the line for a 1 and 1 for the Baylor Bears. If he hits both of free throws, Baylor is up by 4 with less than 15 seconds remaining. Chery, a 82% free throw shooter, missing the front end of the 1 and 1. Georgia St. gets the rebound and pushes the ball up floor. RJ Hunter would pull up for three from about 30 feet away and drain it. As the arena erupted in Jacksonville, RJ’s dad Ron Hunter, the head coach of Georgia St., would fall to the floor (He had a cast on his foot) in shear joy. A huge upset and a great father/son moment in the NCAA Tournament.
Moment #4- 1992 Tournament- #1 Duke OT win over #2 Kentucky
Duke would go on to win the 1992 NCAA Tournament, but it was not without a miracle in the Elite 8. Kentucky and Duke went toe to toe all game long. Both programs filled with players who were some of the biggest names in college basketball. Regulation wasn’t enough time for either of these teams to secure a victory. In overtime, with 2.1 seconds remaining Kentucky was hanging onto a one point lead. Grant Hill had to inbound the ball underneath the Duke basket and figure out a way to get it the length of the floor. Hill’s baseball pass to Christian Laettner was caught at the foul line. Laettner’s one dribble turnaround jumper was all Duke needed to end Kentucky’s upset dreams and catapult the Blue Devils to the Final Four.
Moment #3- 1995 Tournament- #1 UCLA goes the length of the floor to beat #8 Missouri
UCLA would go on to win the 1995 NCAA Tournament, but they faced a serious test in upset minded Missouri in the 2nd Round. As time wound down, Missouri got the go-ahead basket with just 4.8 seconds remaining. The top rated Bruins were on the ropes, as they had to go the length of the floor. The ball was inbounded 5’10 point guard Tyus Edney. He raced down court, put the ball behind his back at half court to change directions and gets into the paint. His right hand flip of the basketball up off the glass while surrounded by Missouri players as time expired sent joy throughout the Bruin fanbase. It showed that even the smallest players can have big moments.
Moment #2- 1998 Tournament- #13 Valparaiso upsets #4 Ole Miss with an iconic play
Bryce Drew’s iconic shot to upset Ole Miss became one of the most practiced plays by high school basketball programs. Most referred to it as Valpo at the high school level, but Homer Drew’s “Pacer” play became that of legends. After Ole Miss missed a free throw that would have put them up 3, the ball was knocked out of bounds on far baseline. With 2.5 seconds left and no timeouts, Valpo inbounds the ball to halfcourt. The ball is grabbed by Bill Jenkins as he quickly passes it to Bryce Drew. Drew tosses up a 3 at the buzzer to create one of the greatest upset shots in tournament history. Father/son victories are special, but drawing up a game winning play for Bryce in his senior year is the stuff of Fairy Tales.
Moment #1- 2016 Tournament- #2 Villanova wins a championship at the buzzer against #1 UNC
It had been a long 31 years since Villanova had become the first #8 seed to win a National Title. What would be the best way to end a three decade long title drought? By having Kris Jenkins nail a 3 pointer to send the Wildcat faithful into a frenzy. Many forget that with just less than two minutes left to go in the game, Villanova had a commanding 6 point led. The Tarheels just would not go away. Clawing back into the final seconds of the game, this could have been the moment where Marcus Paige hit a crazy off balance 3 pointer to tie it up. Kris Jenkins buzzer beater to win a title is what make March Madness truly one of greatest sporting events. Whether the moment comes in the first round or in the championship, these moments will be remembered forever.