The 10 Most Memorable March Madness Moments of All-Time

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For me, nothing in sports tops March Madness. And it’s not even close.

The shocking upsets, the breakout performances, the heartbreak, the joy, the Cinderella stories, the passion.  All of it.

As I get further into my 30s, there are plenty of things I don’t remember too well, but the number of vivid memories I have of the NCAA Tournament is extensive to say the least.  Consequently, the task of putting together the Top 10 March Madness Moments proved to be a challenging yet enjoyable trip down memory lane.

keith-smart-shot-march-madness

Keith Smart hits the game-winning shot for Indiana in the 1987 NCAA Championship game against Syracuse. Where will it fall in Andy's list of the top 10 March Madness moments of all-time?

Before I get to the list, after a brief discussion with some of the other writers from Midwest Sports Fans, I defined a “moment” more as an individual play.

So for example, Texas Western’s win over Kentucky in 1966 had tremendous historical and social significance, but it isn’t on this list because no one play from that game stands out as iconic.  Same with Magic vs. Bird in 1979.  The overall significance to that game to basketball in general is off the charts, but there isn’t a singular moment that is replayed each year at tournament time.

(Don’t worry though. We’ll be counting down the top 10 March Madness moments – “Impact Edition” – in a later post. And we already have our March Madness 2012 Quick Preview up for your edification.)

The best thing about a list like this is the debate that ensues, so I would love to hear your thoughts on what I missed or what you would include based on its importance to you as a sports fan.  On with the list…

10. Gordon Hayward missing from halfcourt

Let the vitriol flow!

Yes, I included a shot that didn’t even go in, but it was the culmination of a magical tournament run by Butler where they were inches away from winning the title…on a halfcourt shot…in their hometown.

Here is a unique angle on the shot you may not have seen:

—–

The Bulldogs came into the game on a 25-game winning streak, and they gave a favored Duke team all they could handle throughout the game, which featured seven ties and 15 lead changes.  Neither team ever led by more than six points.

Hayward had just missed a jumper that would have given the Bulldogs a one-point lead in the closing seconds, which led to Butler fouling Duke’s Brian Zoubek with 3.6 seconds remaining.  He made the first and missed the second, which Hayward grabbed and turned toward halfcourt.  Butler’s Matt Howard obliterated Kyle Singler with a screen to give Hayward a glimmer of space, and the shot nearly banked in but clanged off the rim.

If that shot goes in, it’s likely number one on this list.

9. Bo Kimble shooting free throws left-handed

Even as I write this, I get goosebumps thinking about Kimble’s tribute to fallen teammate Hank Gathers.

A heart condition caused Gathers to collapse and die on the floor during the Semifinals of the 1990 West Coast Conference Tournament.  The event was eventually canceled, and Loyola Marymount was awarded the automatic bid by virtue of having won the regular season title.

The team had made headlines all season for their uptempo style of play, led by the “Guru of Go” Paul Westhead.  That season the Lions scored over 122 points per game, which not surprisingly led the country.

Kimble and Gathers were the two stars of the team and close friends off the floor, with Kimble finishing as the nation’s leading scorer at 35.3 points per game.  To honor his teammate, Kimble vowed to shoot his first free throw of each NCAA Tournament game left-handed.

—–

Interestingly enough, Gathers was actually right-handed, but his struggles at the stripe led him to begin using his off-hand on free throws at one point in his career.  Kimble was outstanding in the tournament and led the Lions to the Elite Eight.

He was also perfect on left-handed free throws.

8. Bryce Drew knocking out Ole Miss

With the 13th-seeded Crusaders down by two points in their first round matchup against the Rebels, Ole Miss star Ansu Sesay went to the line for two shots with 4.1 seconds left.  But he missed both, and Valparaiso eventually wound up with the ball on the baseline with just 2.5 seconds to play, leading to one of the most exciting finishes in tournament history.

—–

“Pacer” was the play, and the Crusaders executed it flawlessly with Jamie Sykes throwing a perfect pass to Bill Jenkins, who was able to catch it and direct it to a streaking Bryce Drew, who nailed the game-winning three-pointer as time expired.

The ensuing celebration featured a cool father-son moment between Bryce, and his dad, Homer, the team’s head coach.

Click to continue and see the G.O.A.T. give us a preview of his greatness and the two most inexplicable late-game decisions March Madness has ever produced.

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About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

Comments

  1. My wife and I were in the Superdome when Webber called the timeout.  We had been rooting for Michigan and going back and forth with the guys sitting behind us who were from UCLA.  They were upset and thought the Bruins were robbed in the regional finals against Michigan the previous weekend.  As soon as Webber calls time out, this guy leans forward and says, brain fart, game over.  We all had a good laugh and then hit Bourbon Street were we ran into Eric Montross.  Classic moment!

  2. BIGGDIPPER says:

     ALTHOUGH NOT ON THIS LIST UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS EL PASO WIN OVER THE UK IN 1966 WE THE GREATEST AND MOST PIVITOAL MOMENT IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL. A LITTLE UNIVERSITY ALONG THE MEXICAN BORDER WINS THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AGAINST FIRST TEAM ALL AMERICAN PAT RILEY AND RUFFS RUNTS. I WATCHED THIS HISTORICAL MOMENT WITH MY FATHER AND SAW HIM CRY WHEN UTEP WON.

  3. Donkittson says:

    I was in the Pit when North Carolina State took down Phi Slamma Jamma.  I took my son to the semi-finals on Saturday when Houston destroyed Louisville and NC State took down Georgia.  He was a little guy and I wanted to make him a basketball player. We sat behind the Russian head coach and he was taking notes like crazy.  I took my best friend to the Championship Game on Monday night: it was totally electric and when NC State made the final shot (a dunk by Lorenzo Charles) and the final buzzer sounded Jim Valvano ran around the court with no one to hug.  He was great, I tell you.  He is always my favorite coach.  What a wizard.  I like Bobby Knight too.  Both knew how to motivate their players and get the most out of them.  That was a golden night for all the memories.  There is nothing like March Madness!  That was the last of the small arenas to host the Final Four.  Now, no one can see the game because of the big arenas.  So, I just stay home and watch it on television.  I remember getting autographs from Ralph Sampson, Digger Phelps, Lou Carnessa, Frank McGuire, Eddie Sutton, the triplets from Arkansas, and I scored some souvenir pom poms from one of the Louisville cheerleaders.  This is definitely one of the highlights of my life.  I always rooted for Louisville because Muhammed Ali is from there, and they had a great coach in Denny Crum.   But, the McCray brothers got beat by those high flying guys from Houston and NC State had the best coach in America.  It was a great social and athletic experience to have Albuquerque host the Final Four that year.  Unforgettable.

  4. You missed the Loyola of Chicago ending vs. Cinci and how anyone could not include something of the drama of UTEP vs. Kentucky which ranks as one of the best things to ever happen to college sports and our Africian American brothers. Both finals started to give the black athlete his due thanks to two farsighted coaches in George Ireland and Don Haskins.

  5. Danny Ainge going coast to coast to beat Notre Dame in 1981 was pretty good for an honorable mention at least here.

  6. what about Syracuse’s 6 overtime win

  7. red wolf says:

    Scotty Thurman’s 3-point shot to give Arkansas the championship over Duke

  8. FourForThree! says:

    TJ Sorrentine hitting the shot “from the parking lot” to drop Syracuse in OT in the first round of the 2005 tournament.
    GO CATS GO!

  9. Brucewestemeier says:

    Did you forget about last year UNI beating #1 Kansas

  10. Sherlockgt3 says:

    the last second shot between Uconn and Washington on the rebound after a missed shot as the shooter was falling down

  11. I am a Duke fan and of course will always remember the Laetner play, along with others.  But my favorite is still the Lorenzo Charles play.  I was watching at a friends house and I remember his Dad asking me who I was routing for.  At the beginning I said I had no favorite, but in the last timeout I said I wanted NC State because I loved Derek Whitenberg’s guts.  All agreed.  I will never forgot that shot and the call “Lorenzo Charles!” What a great finish for the ultimate Cinderella!

  12. Ty Roger’s 3 pointer to beat Drake.

  13. I think Michigan firing their coach just prior to the first game and then going on to win would be right up there on this list.

  14. 1985? 9th seeded Villanova beats #1 Georgetown

  15. this writer got the top 3 on this list correct here for sure.

    i fortunately saw all 3 of them live on TV, and remember them all well.

    you can debate “order” of these top 3 in all time list.
    but they are the best BY FAR, over all others in NCAA hoops history…..

    for drama, suspense, and overall big moments.

    • actually, Smart play is clearly #3.  above all others.
      but WAY behind the top 2 on list.

      the only debate is between Lo Charles shot, or Laettner shot, for #1 all time.

      writer of Article likes Laetner shot as #1, because Duke vs Kentucky (storied programs), and legend coaches Krzyzewski and Pitino, and stars like Laettner & Grant Hill.

      i can appreciate that. 

      and i admit, the “play” was beautifual & “designed” brilliant, and executed flawless.
      it was the “best” play in NCAA hoops history, in the most crucial time.
      BUT – it did not “WIN a title” – it just sent Duke to Final 4.

      THIS list here, is “most memorable” NCAA hoops play.

       to me – that was the HUGE UPSET pulled of by huge underdog NC State, in upsetting Goliath Phi Slamma Jamma.

      and the Lo Charles shot DID WIN the title for NC State.

      thus, i give the slight edge to NC State as #1 memorable FOR ME.

      HOW ABOUT YOU ?

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