There is no greater means of determining a champion than the NCAA tournament, so with it being the eve of March, here is my list of the best March Madness moments over the past decade, split up into two categories: Memorable moments and memorable shots.
So sit back and reminisce on past memories, and here’s to many more this time around!
Curry leads Davidson to Elite 8 (2008)
Who would’ve thought that a skinny point guard out of Davidson would go on to become the greatest shooter in NBA history?
Well, if you watch Steph Curry lead the Wildcats through the NCAA tournament, you’d have believed it was possible. Curry averaged 34.3 points per game on 52.8% shooting from downtown in three games in the 2008 tournament, knocking off Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin.
Xavier-Kansas State 2OT thriller
This game still stands as one of the best Sweet 16 games ever played. Not known for being perennial powerhouses, Kansas State and Xavier gave us an instant classic—so many big shots from Crawford, Holloway, Clemente and Pullen, and the intensity is elevated exponentially when Gus Johnson calls a game.
Huggy Bear shows his softer side (2010)
No wild shot or crazy upset in this one, and maybe head coach Bob Huggins got a little too close—but it really is a great moment that shows the bond between player and coach. Senior Da’Sean Butler tore his ACL in the Final Four matchup against Duke, and Huggins went out to console the all-time leader in games played at WVU—just goes to show you that not all coaches are angry stiffs.
VCU and Butler reach the Final Four (2011)
There was a librarian from Oregon by the name of Diana Inch who picked this Final Four + championship game correctly—if anyone could get me in contact with her for this year’s bracket I’d appreciate it.
Picking Butler: Well they made it last season, why not this year?
Picking VCU: Maybe you went there, or you just had to have an 11-seed make it.
But both? Come on. And these two underdogs had no easy road to the Final Four either. VCU had to go through Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas, while Butler faced Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Florida.
15 seed madness
Two seeds are 124-8 against the 15 seeds—four of those losses have come within the last decade. In 2012, two 15 seeds, Norfolk State and Lehigh, knocked off Missouri and Duke respectively. Florida Gulf Coast was the story of the tournament in 2013, not only knocking off Georgetown but reaching the Sweet 16 as well. And in 2016, Middle Tennessee knocked off title-favorite Michigan State.
Louisville wins it for Ware (2013)
*Technically*, Louisville doesn’t have claim to the 2013 title anymore—but the NCAA can never take away the run that this group of guys went on, especially after the injury to Kevin Ware. I’ll spare you the video on this one, but in the Elite 8 matchup against the Blue Devils, Ware jumped out to block a three-point attempt and suffered a gruesome leg injury (Look it up if you aren’t queasy at the sight of bone).
The Cardinals would go on to beat Wichita State in the Final Four and Michigan in the title game.
Perfect no more (2015)
This is a “remember where you were when it happened” game.
They were supposed to be the first 40-0 team ever—the 2014-2015 Kentucky Wildcats were DOMINANT. They crushed number 5 Kansas by 32 in the beginning of the season, and they absolutely obliterated West Virginia by 39…in the Sweet 16.
But there are few powers stronger than the desire for revenge. The Badgers had their hearts broken by Aaron Harrison a year prior (more on him later), and the stars aligned for a paramount rematch. The game lived up to the hype, as Sam Dekker hit a clutch three late in the game to send Wisconsin to the championship game.
Texas A&M completes greatest comeback ever
This is a lesson on “Inbounding the ball 101” and breaking the press—Northern Iowa led by 12 with 44 seconds left, and by 10 with 31 seconds left. They would have been better off throwing the ball down the length of the court out of bounds and making the Aggies inbound it on that end. It’s hard to put into words, so I’ll let the video do the talking.
“Chalmers for the tie!” (2008)
I think the implications of this shot are sometimes overlooked, if that’s even possible—if Chalmers doesn’t hit this shot, Bill Self would still be without a national championship on his resume. It took a little bit of luck, as these moments usually do—a Derrick Rose missed free throw kept the margin at three points, and it was a miracle in itself that Sherron Collins was able to get Chalmers the ball while falling to the ground.
Reynolds sends Villanova to the Final Four (2009)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I miss the old Big East. Scottie Reynolds was one of my favorite players to watch for his ability to finish at the rim, and he delivered in this Elite 8 match-up against Pitt. The Panthers couldn’t have played any better defense, but Reynolds was a playmaker, sending Villanova to its first Final Four in 24 years.
“You can’t be serious with that shot!” (2010)
Leading 63-62 with the ball and 43 seconds left, the smart basketball play is to run some clock.
Don’t tell Ali Farokhmanesh that.
When you’re the 9th seed taking on the number one overall seed, you have nothing to lose—the Panthers took the ball up the court and passed it to a wide-open Farokhmanesh, who calmly drained the biggest three of his life and etched his name in tournament history.
Hayward off the rim (2010)
“Life is just a game of inches.”
Gordon Hayward would undoubtedly agree with this line from Al Pacino’s “Any Given Sunday” speech because Hayward was inches away from the greatest shot in basketball history. The Blue Devils were a 7-point favorite, but not many expected it to even be that close. Instead, we had the pleasure of watching an instant-classic title game and the memory of a shot that just wasn’t meant to be…
Trey Burke sends it to OT from DEEP (2013)
As a Badger fan, I couldn’t cheer for Trey Burke. But man, was he good. He was the ultimate competitor and there for the big shot when needed. And for Michigan to reach the national championship in 2013, a big shot was needed.
Trey Burke was there.
With the clock winding down, Burke didn’t just shoot a three—he launched a 30-foot bomb that tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Aaron “Mr. Clutch” Harrison (2014)
One clutch shot in the NCAA tournament gets you on the “One Shining Moment” montage.
Two gets you labeled as a clutch shooter.
But three? Three clutch shots and you etch your name in March Madness lore.
Aaron Harrison hit three big threes in the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four against Louisville, Michigan, and Wisconsin, respectively (the last one still hurts to this day).
“Ron Hunter has fallen off his stool, for good reason!” (2015)
This moment is the epitome of March Madness—the clutch shot, awesome celebration, big upset, and the family moment.
The announcer was completely bewildered as to why R.J. Hunter was not driving to the basket only down two, but he ate his words after Hunter made the eventual game-winning three. But the best part was that his father and coach Ron Hunter fell off his stool in celebration as the 14-seed Panthers took down third seed Baylor.
Koenig in the Korner (2016)
We miss the Wisconsin seniors this season…
Bronson Koenig was an all-time Badger great, known for hitting big shots in big moments—perhaps none bigger than this one. Wisconsin was a dangerous seven seed and was a common upset pick over Xavier in the third round. In what was a nearly-impossible shot fading away from the corner, Koenig said he “just tried to channel my inner Steph Curry, and it worked.”
So if you ever need to make a tough shot, imitate Steph Curry. Or maybe even Bronson Koenig.
Jesperson’s halfcourt heave (2016)
I grew up in Texas, and I still have friends who can’t believe this shot happened. Not only did Texas lose in the first round, but this shot prevented them from the chance to take on arch-rival Texas A&M in the third round.
As for the shot, many will wonder why head coach Ben Jacobson didn’t call a timeout, but he looks like a genius now for not doing so.
Paige’s heroics overshadowed by Jenkins’ game-winner (2016)
Have you seen a better final minute and half of a title game?
Marcus Paige was ready to go down in history, hitting an impossible shot to tie the national championship with 4.7 seconds left.
But it wasn’t in the stars. The Tarheels just couldn’t play enough defense in the end, leaving Kris Jenkins open to hit the game-winner. And as Bill Raftery so graciously states: “How ‘bout those onions?!”
Luke Maye sends North Carolina to Phoenix (2017)
A reversal of fortune from the 2016 title game.
Malik Monk (somehow) evaded Justin Jackson to hit the game-tying three, but it was the Tarheels who had the last laugh this time. Credit to Theo Pinson, who, instead of throwing up a crazy, off-balance layup, kept his head up and found Maye for the win in this blue-blood battle.
Chiozza tops Showy’s belt (2017)
Another example of a Wisconsin-sports ecstasy-to-agony moment—Zak Showalter makes the shot of his career, flashes the belt to Aaron Rodgers in the stands, and Badger fans are riding high. Unfortunately, that only sent the game to overtime, where Chris Chiozza hit a running three point shot of his own at the buzzer to send the Gators to the Elite 8.
It was a tough send off, but Wisconsin fans will always appreciate all that this incredible senior class brought to the court.
Stats courtesy of ESPN, allbrackets.com, and Bleacher Report