First founded in 1939, the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Championship (or what we mere mortals call March Madness), is a single-elimination tournament featuring 68 teams and a maniacal obsession by college hoops fans where terms like bracketology, Cinderella story and seeding get liberally tossed around. Over time, there have been numerous adrenaline-fueled moments that have had their share of goats, heroes and devastating pool results. Here are a handful that stand out.
Led by dominating center Patrick Ewing, John Thompson’s Georgetown Hoyas were set to repeat as national champions in a final that pitted them against Rollie Massimino’s upstart Villanova Wildcats. With the latter twice having lost to Ewing’s crew during the regular season, no one expected Massimino’s crew to play the kind of grinding combination of offense and defense that would result in the underdog’s coming away with a 66-64 upset.
2. Texas Western Miners Become First Team To Start Five Black Players In A Championship
It began with the Texas Western Miners becoming the first team in NCAA history to start five black players in the 1965-66 season, a year after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. The Miners became the first team to start five black players in a finals game, going on to suit up against Adolph Rupp’s all-white University of Kentucky squad. With Rupp having been vocal about his opposition to integrating teams, he got his come-uppance when the Miners defeated his Wildcats 72-65 and this game wound up being Rupp’s sole championship loss.
The 1983 finals found the Houston Cougars’ “Phi Slama Jama” taking the hardwood against Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State “Cardiac Pack.” Houston’s core of four future NBA first-round picks were expected to dominate seeing as they were riding a 26-game winning streak. The reality wound up being the Wolfpack winning a squeaker 54-52 and Houston’s Akeem “The Dream” Olajuwon became the last player to earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player while suiting up for the losing finals team.
4. Michigan’s Chris Webber Calls Time Out When There Were None Left
The year 1993 found the University of Michigan being led to the NCAA Finals by the Fab Five of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. They faced Dean Smith’s University of North Carolina Tar Heels, took a 42-36 lead into halftime but by the middle of the second half, both squads were knotted at 56. Carolina wound up with a 70-67 lead with 90 seconds left and the Wolverines took their final timeout with 46 ticks in the game. Webber rebounded a missed free throw, froze, didn’t get called for traveling and called a timeout even though his team had none left. A technical foul was called, UNC’s Donald Williams hit four free throws and the Fab Five fell 77-71.
5. Duke’s Christian Laettner Vanquishes Kentucky In OT
The 1992 East Regional final found Mike Kryzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils and Rick Pitino’s University of Kentucky Wildcats shooting a combined 61 percent from the field. While Duke led 67-55 with 11 minutes left in regulation, Kentucky went on a 38-26 run and forced OT. The grind continued into the extra session until Duke found itself down 103-102 with 2.1 seconds left. Blue Devil Grant Hill wound up sending a pass the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who got a jump-shot off despite having his back to the rim with .3 of a second remaining and having the ball score as the horn sounded.