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The Top Five Moments in Recent March Madness History

March: it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Wrapping up the regular season, championship week, and then Selection Sunday, followed by The Big Dance. Whether you watch at home, at the local sports bar, go to a sportsbook in Vegas, or actually attend the games in person, it’s a great time. And, oh, the memories that are made! I’ve got my own personal list of the finest moments in tournament history (the majority of these are fairly recent, as I haven’t been around for all 75 years that the tournament has!) – I’m sure you’ll at least remember these, if they’re not on your own “top five” list:

No. 5 – The 2010 National Championship Game Ending

Butler was the Cinderella story that everybody’s hoping for. Coming in as a Number-5 seed, that one that is so often felled by a 12 in the first round. They squeezed by UTEP and Murray State before taking on top-seeded Syracuse in the Sweet 16. They went on to beat Kansas State and Michigan State to play in the championship game against another top-seeded team in Duke. And, this was exactly the championship game that you want to see – truly coming down to the final buzzer. Duke’s Zoubek made a foul shot, then intentionally missed the second one, knowing that Butler has no time outs left and that there were only 3.6 seconds left on the clock. Hayward got the rebound then made his way to mid-court where he launched a shot that would have won the game for the Bulldogs. It very nearly went in; it was off the rim, and that was the game. You could hear the crowd at the end utter a collective “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!” That is what March Madness is all about!


No. 4 – The 2011 VCU Rams go from “First Four” to The Final Four

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a big fan of the “play-in” games, but hey, being able to expand the field by a few more teams isn’t such a bad thing. And, 2011 was the very first year of the First Four. They knocked out USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and top-seeded Kansas. Who are these VCU guys? They were the third 11-seed in history to make it to the Final Four. That was a run that will be remembered for a very long time.

No. 3 – The 15-Seed Hampton Pirates Defeat 2-Seed Iowa State in 2001

Everybody loves an underdog, and this dog victory is about as sweet as it gets. In their very first NCAA Tournament appearance, Hampton got a tough draw – a 15-seed facing a very athletic Iowa State team that had gone 32-5 (14-2 in the Big 12). In an intense game that went right down to the wire, Hampton became the fourth 15-seed to beat a 2. Watching this video takes me right back there – the excitement of the last minute of gameplay – and the excitement of the coach Steve Merfeld, who was lifted into the air by forward David Johnson as everyone celebrated. That’s a moment that I think of every time I think of March Madness.


No. 2 – David Triumphs over Goliath in 1983 NC State Win Over Houston

Jim Valvano coaches his “Cardiac Pack” North Carolina State team all the way to the National Championship, where they face a heavily-favored Houston Cougars, led by superstar Hakeem Olajuwon. This ending is one of the most well-known moments in tournament history. A high pass by Dereck Whittenburg from 30 feet away as time expires is caught by Lorenzo Charles for a dunk. This moment, along with Valvano’s running around the court afterward in celebration is a pure March Madness icon.

No. 1 – The Shot. Christian Laettner Hits the Game-Winning Shot vs. Kentucky, 1992

This one, no doubt, is on everybody’s list. A battle between powerhouses Duke and Kentucky, decided in the final moments – the winner moves on to the Final Four. Duke trails 103-102. There are 2.1 seconds left on the game clock. Duke possession. Grant Hill throws a full-court pass to Christian Laettner, who fakes right, dribbles once, and turns to put it up with 0.3 seconds on the clock. Gold.


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