Playoff Party: 75 Greatest Games and Players in NCAA Tournament History
The NCAA Tournament speaks to your sports soul, leaving you yearning for more. This year marks the 75th NCAA championship spectacle. Perhaps the most amazing stretch in NCAA playoff history was an eight-year span from 1982 through 1989 when seven finals were decided by an average of two points. All of those close title contests must be included in any celebratory ranking of the most stimulating games in tourney history.
Since some of the most entertaining games are somewhat overshadowed because they came in earlier rounds, it's difficult to decide what were the premier outings in playoff history. There is inspiration everywhere one turns - so many entertaining contests to choose from with so many divergent opinions on a seemingly endless list of stellar candidates.
Ranking the greatest tournament players is also a no-win assignment (minimum of six tourney contests). Still, nothing provokes disagreements among ardent hoop fans more than healthy what's-the-best-in-history dialogue. In deference to the first 75 playoffs, here is a ranking of the top 75 games and players one remembers the most (counting down daily from #75 to #1 through this year's championship contest). You wouldn't wonder what all the fuss is about if you had the good fortune to witness firsthand or learn from ardent fans about much of the following drama:
TOP 75 NCAA PLAYOFF GAMES
1. 1992 East Regional Final (Duke 104, Kentucky 103 in OT)
Duke's Christian Laettner hit a decisive last-second shot near the head of the key against Kentucky in overtime after receiving a long inbounds pass in the East Regional final. The game is acknowledged as one of the most suspenseful in NCAA history.
2. 1985 Championship Game (Villanova 66, Georgetown 64)
Villanova became the worst seed (#8 in the Southeast Regional) to win a national championship by shooting a championship game-record 78.6% from the floor against the nation's top-ranked team. The Hoyas, powered by national player of the year Patrick Ewing, had defeated the Wildcats twice by a total of nine points in Big East competition.
3. 1983 Championship Game (North Carolina State 54, Houston 52)
Sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles scored only four points, but two of them came when he converted guard Dereck Whittenburg's off-line desperation shot from well beyond the top of the free-throw circle into a decisive dunk as North Carolina State upset heavily-favored Houston. The Cougars, featuring Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, entered the final with a 26-game winning streak.
4. 1982 Championship Game (North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62)
North Carolina freshman guard Michael Jordan swished a 16-foot jumper from the left side with 16 seconds remaining to provide the title contest's final points before Georgetown guard Fred Brown's errant pass directly to Tar Heels forward James Worthy prevented the Hoyas from attempting a potential game-winning shot in the closing seconds.
5. 1987 Championship Game (Indiana 74, Syracuse 73)
Junior college recruit Keith Smart, a guard who was Indiana's fifth-leading scorer for the season, tallied 12 of the Hoosiers' last 15 points, including a 15-foot jumper from the left baseline with five seconds remaining.
6. 1957 Championship Game (North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 in 3OT)
Carolina center Joe Quigg sank two free throws with six seconds remaining in the third overtime to tie the score and provide the decisive point against the Wilt Chamberlain-led Jayhawks. Although Lennie Rosenbluth was the unbeaten Tar Heels' leading scorer in 27 of their 32 contests, they won the NCAA final despite him fouling out with 1:45 remaining in regulation.
7. 1966 Championship Game (Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65)
Texas Western (28-1), featuring an all-black starting lineup with three players 6-1 or shorter in the NCAA final, stunned top-ranked and all-white Kentucky (27-2), putting the finishing touches on dismantling the prejudiced myth that black athletes couldn't play disciplined basketball. Junior college transfer Bobby Joe Hill, one of the tiny trio, converted steals into layups on consecutive trips down the floor by flustered UK guards to give the Miners a lead they never relinquished.
8. 1975 Mideast Regional Final (Kentucky 92, Indiana 90)
Indiana, undefeated entering the tourney (29-0), lost against Kentucky despite center Kent Benson's 33 points and tourney-high 23 rebounds. The Wildcats (26-5) prevailed despite 6-of-19 field-goal shooting by leading scorer Kevin Grevey. UK guards Jimmy Dan Conner and Mike Flynn combined to outscore Indiana counterparts Quinn Buckner and Bobby Wilkerson, 39-22.
9. 1991 National Semifinals (Duke 79, UNLV 77)
Duke's shocking win over defending champion UNLV (34-1) was the Rebels' lone defeat. Christian Laettner scored 28 points for the Blue Devils (32-7).
10. 1989 Championship Game (Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 in OT)
Former street urchin Rumeal Robinson sank two pressure free throws against Seton Hall (31-7) with three seconds remaining in overtime to give the win to Michigan (30-7), which was guided by interim coach Steve Fisher.
11. 1957 National Semifinals (North Carolina 74, Michigan State 70 in 3OT)
The lead changed hands 31 times and the score was tied on 21 occasions. The Spartans' Jack Quiggle made a last-second, halfcourt shot at the end of regulation but it was disallowed. The end-of-game rule at the time was that the ball had to reach the apex of its arc before the buzzer. The officials ruled that the ball was still ascending. Teammate Johnny Green missed a free throw with 11 seconds remaining in the first overtime that would have sealed the verdict. Carolina's Pete Brennan grabbed Green's miss. Instead of tossing the ball out to a guard as Brennan normally would do, he dribbled downcourt and hit a game-tying jumper just to the right of the foul line at the buzzer.
12. 1994 Championship Game (Arkansas 76, Duke 72)
The pressure was intense on Arkansas' Scotty Thurman with the shot clock winding down and the score tied with 40 seconds remaining when he lofted a three-point attempt over Duke defender Antonio Lang that hit nothing but net.
13. 1974 National Semifinals (North Carolina State 80, UCLA 77 in 2OT)
The final in N.C. State's home state at Greensboro was anti-climatic after the Wolfpack avenged an 18-point loss to UCLA earlier in the season on a neutral court by ending the Bruins' 38-game playoff winning streak. N.C. State erased an 11-point deficit midway through the second half and a seven-point deficit in the second extra session behind David Thompson's 28 points and 10 rebounds to halt UCLA's string of seven consecutive NCAA championships.
14. 1990 East Regional Final (Duke 79, Connecticut 78 in OT)
Two days after UConn escaped Clemson on a controversial last-second shot, Duke turns the tables on the Huskies when Christian Laettner inbounded the ball with 2.6 seconds remaining, received a return pass and sank a leaning jumper from the left side at the buzzer.
15. 1981 Mideast Regional Second Round (St. Joseph's 49, DePaul 48)
St. Joseph's gained its only lead in the second half when an inexcusably unguarded Hawks player named John Smith sank a layup with three seconds left after DePaul's most accurate foul shooter, Skip Dillard, the guy they called "Money" because when he shot 'em, they were as good as in the bank, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12 seconds remaining. DePaul did not score a point or take a shot in the final 6 1/2 minutes. A stunned Mark Aguirre, the national player of the year, didn't even throw the ball inbounds and finished the game with one rebound, one assist, no blocked shots, no steals and the only single-digit scoring output of his DePaul career (eight points).
16. 1981 Midwest Regional Second Round (Arkansas 74, Louisville 73)
Defending champion Louisville lost when Arkansas' U.S. Reed received an inbounds pass with five seconds remaining, dribbled up the sideline and heaved a mid-court shot that went through at the buzzer.
17. 1993 Championship Game (North Carolina 77, Michigan 71)
George Lynch, North Carolina's top rebounder and second-leading scorer, made four big plays in the closing moments of the title game. With Michigan leading, 67-66, he and Eric Montross blocked away a driving layup by Jimmy King. That led to a fastbreak basket by Derrick Phelps and put the Tar Heels ahead to stay with just over three minutes remaining. After a missed Michigan shot, Lynch hit a turnaround jumper from the middle of the lane with 2:28 remaining to increase Carolina's lead to 70-67. On an inbounds play after UNC regained possession, Lynch lofted a perfect pass to Montross for a dunk. The Wolverines rallied to trim the deficit to 73-71 before Lynch and Phelps trapped Chris Webber on the sideline with just 11 seconds remaining and Michigan's consensus first-team All-American called a fateful timeout his team did not have.
18. 1973 Championship Game (UCLA 87, Memphis State 61)
UCLA's Bill Walton, aided by Greg Lee's 14 assists, erupted for a title game-record 44 points. Walton, the only player to have as many as 20 field goals in an NCAA final, hit all but one of 22 shots from the floor.
19. 1958 East Regional First Round (Manhattan 89, West Virginia 84)
West Virginia, ranked No. 1 in the country at the end of the regular season, was upset at New York when Jack Powers, who went on to become executive director of the NIT, collected 29 points and 15 rebounds for Manhattan (16-10). Jerry West scored just 10 points in his first NCAA Tournament game for the Mountaineers, who finished the season with the best winning percentage in school history (26-2, .929).
20. 1983 Mideast Regional final (Louisville 80, Kentucky 68 in OT)
The first meeting between in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville in more than 24 years was memorable as the Cardinals outscored the Wildcats 18-6 in overtime to reach the Final Four.
21. 1963 Championship Game (Loyola of Chicago 60, Cincinnati 58 in OT)
Forward Vic Rouse leaped high to redirect center Les Hunter's shot from the free-throw line into the basket to climax the Ramblers' first year in the playoffs. Loyola, using its starting lineup the entire final, overcame 27.4 percent field-goal shooting by committing just three turnovers. The Ramblers trailed the defending NCAA champion by 15 points in the second half before knotting the score at 54-54 when Jerry Harkness hit a 12-foot jumper with four seconds remaining in regulation.
22. 1988 Championship Game (Kansas 83, Oklahoma 79)
The two Big Eight Conference members were deadlocked, 50-50, at intermission in the highest-scoring first half in title game history. The Jayhawks' Danny Manning poured in 31 points.
23. 1979 Championship Game (Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64)
Undefeated Indiana State lost against Michigan State when the Sycamores' Larry Bird, who hit 53.2% of his field-goal attempts on the season, made just one-third of his shots from the floor (7 of 21) as a sore thumb limited his shooting effectiveness. Magic Johnson scored a game-high 24 points for the Spartans. The ballyhooed matchup between Bird and Magic aroused fans and generated the largest-ever TV share for an NCAA final.
24. 1989 East Regional First Round (Georgetown 50, Princeton 49)
No. 16 seed Princeton pushed No. 1 seed Georgetown to the limit in the East Regional before the patient and precise Tigers bowed when a last-second shot was blocked by Alonzo Mourning.
25. 1996 Southeast Regional First Round (Princeton 43, UCLA 41)
Princeton coach Pete Carril bowed out in style with a decisive perfectly executed back-door layup reminiscent of how many games were played several decades ago. It was UCLA's lowest-scoring output in 99 playoff outings, and the lowest score for a Bruins team in a regulation game in more than 55 years.
26. 1977 Championship Game (Marquette 67, North Carolina 59)
Tears of joy flowed for coach Al McGuire when Marquette won the championship in his farewell. McGuire, leaving the bench before the game was even over with tears running down his cheeks, pulled away from a hug by long-time assistant Hank Raymonds and made his way to the silence of the locker room. "I want to be alone," McGuire said. "I'm not afraid to cry. All I could think about at the end was - why me? After all the jocks and socks. All the odors in the locker room. All the fights in the gyms. Just the wildness of it all. And to have it end like this ..."
27. 1971 Mideast Regional Semifinals (Western Kentucky 107, Kentucky 83)
WKU, long regarded as poor country cousins by Kentucky, whipped the Wildcats in their first-ever meeting when All-American Jim McDaniels poured in 35 points for the Hilltoppers.
28. 1975 National Semifinals (UCLA 75, Louisville 74 in OT)
Three Louisville regulars shooting better than 50% from the floor for the season (swingman Junior Bridgeman, center Ricky Gallon and guard Phillip Bond) combined to hit 25% (6 of 24) in a loss against UCLA. Adding insult to injury for the Cardinals was reserve guard Terry Howard missing the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity in the closing seconds of overtime after he converted all 28 of his previous foul shots that season.
29. 1997 Championship Game (Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 in OT)
Arizona, the only team to win an NCAA crown after finishing as low as fifth place in its league, capitalized on a 34-9 edge in free throws made to upend favored Kentucky although the Wildcats did not make a field goal in the extra session.
30. 1995 West Regional Second Round (UCLA 75, Missouri 74)
Playmaker Tyus Edney played the role of Wizard of Westwood II with a series of breathtaking drives and baskets in UCLA's first five playoff games, including a length-of-the-court game-winner against Missouri.
31. 1990 East Regional Semifinals (Connecticut 71, Clemson 70)
It was difficult for Clemson fans to fathom how UConn's Tate George had sufficient time with one second on the clock to receive a full-court pass, come down, square up and get off a winning jumper from the right baseline.
32. 1990 West Regional Second Round (Loyola Marymount 149, Michigan 115)
The record for most three-point field goals in a playoff game was set by Loyola Marymount senior guard Jeff Fryer with 11. Fryer (41) and Bo Kimble (37) became the only set of teammates to score more than 35 points in the same tourney game when they combined for 78 vs. Michigan in the highest-scoring game in NCAA playoff history.
33. 1981 East Regional Semifinals (Brigham Young 51, Notre Dame 50)
BYU's Danny Ainge drove through the heart of No. 2 seed Notre Dame's defense for a layup at the buzzer to give the Cougars the victory.
34. 1983 West Regional First Round (N.C. State 69, Pepperdine 67 in 2OT)
NCAA champion-to-be North Carolina State (26-10) defeated Pepperdine (20-9) in two extra sessions after trailing by six points with 24 seconds remaining in regulation.
35. 1978 Championship Game (Kentucky 94, Duke 88)
Jack Givens sank 18 of 27 field-goal attempts against upstart Duke's zone defense and scored Kentucky's last 16 points of the first half en route to a 41-point performance.
36. 2001 National Semifinals (Duke 95, Maryland 84)
The Blue Devils (35-4) overcame a 22-point deficit against the Terrapins (25-11), the biggest comeback in Final Four history. Mike Dunleavy Jr. hit three consecutive three-pointers in a 45-second span of the second half after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told his squad to quit calling plays and just go out and play the game.
37. 2003 West Regional Second Round (Arizona 96, Gonzaga 95 in 2OT)
Gonzaga's Tony Skinner and Blake Stepp tied for game-high scoring honors with 25 points but each of them missed an open shot in the last four seconds of the second overtime for the Zags (24-9) against No. 1 seed Arizona (28-4). Wildcats standout guard Jason Gardner contributed a pair of three-pointers after missing 17 consecutive shots from beyond the arc in his previous three outings.
38. 1970 Mideast Regional First Round (Notre Dame 112, Ohio University 82)
Notre Dame guard Austin Carr became the only player to score more than 60 points in a single playoff game. Carr tallied 35 of Notre Dame's 54 first-half points en route to a school-record 61 points against OU.
39. 1952 East Regional Final (St. John's 64, Kentucky 57)
St. John's (25-6), sparked by center Bob Zawoluk's 32 points, avenged a 41-point rout at UK (29-3) earlier in the season (81-40) by ending the 23-game winning streak of the nation's No. 1 team.
40. 1969 National Semifinals (UCLA 85, Drake 82)
Guard John Vallely, averaging a modest 10.2 points per game entering the Final Four, erupted for 29 points and the Bruins (29-1) needed all of them. They had a nine-point lead with 70 seconds remaining dwindle to one before defeating Drake (26-5) after the Bulldogs missed a go-ahead basket in the waning moments. UCLA star center Lew Alcindor grabbed 21 rebounds.
41. 1945 National Semifinals (New York University 70, Ohio State 65 in OT)
NYU (14-7), featuring just one senior on its roster, erased a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation against OSU (15-5).
42. 1968 Midwest Regional First Round (Houston 94, Loyola of Chicago 76)
Houston's Elvin Hayes became the only player in tournament history to collect more than 40 points and 25 rebounds in the same game when he garnered 49 points and 27 rebounds. Hayes led the tournament in scoring and rebounding by wide margins for the fourth-place Cougars (31-2), but he wasn't named to the all-tournament team.
43. 1998 Midwest Regional First Round (Valparaiso 70, Mississippi 69)
Valparaiso's Jamie Sykes, an outfield prospect late for spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks, inbounded from the opposite baseline with 2.5 seconds remaining. He hurled a baseball pass that Bill Jenkins leaped to catch. Jenkins delivered a touch pass to guard Bryce Drew on the right wing, and the son of Valpo coach Homer Drew drilled a game-winning three-pointer for the Crusaders (23-10).
44. 1970 Mideast Regional Final (Jacksonville 106, Kentucky 100)
JU's Artis Gilmore collects 24 points and 20 rebounds to help eliminate the nation's top-ranked team.
45. 1951 East Regional First Round (Illinois 79, Columbia 71)
Columbia, undefeated entering the tourney (21-0), blew a seven-point, halftime lead and lost to eventual national third-place finisher Illinois (22-5). The Lions' John Azary was outscored by the Illini's Don Sunderlage (25-13) in a battle of All-American candidates.
46. 1965 National Third-Place Game (Princeton 118, Wichita 82)
Princeton's Bill Bradley set the mark for most points in a single Final Four game with a school-record 58. He scored 39 of them in the second half of the consolation contest.
47. 1971 Mideast Regional Semifinals (Ohio State 60, Marquette 59)
Marquette, undefeated entering the tourney (26-0), lost against Ohio State (20-6) after the Warriors' playmaker, unanimous first-team All-America Dean "The Dream" Meminger, fouled out with five minutes remaining. Teammate Allie McGuire, the coach's son, committed a costly turnover in the closing seconds before Buckeyes guard Allan Hornyak converted a pair of crucial free throws to end Marquette's 39-game winning streak.
48. 2005 Midwest Regional Final (Illinois 90, Arizona 89)
Illini (37-2) overcame a 14-point deficit with just over three minutes remaining in regulation and nine-point deficit in the last 1 1/2 minutes before defeating Arizona (30-7) in overtime.
49. 1999 West Regional First Round (Weber State 76, North Carolina 74)
No. 3 seed North Carolina (24-10) lost its playoff opener for the first time in 19 years when the Tar Heels succumbed to No. 14 Weber State (25-8). Junior college transfer Harold Arceneaux contributed five three-pointers en route to 36 points for the Wildcats. His output matched the highest ever in the playoffs against Carolina.
50. 1965 Championship Game (UCLA 91, Michigan 80)
UCLA's Gail Goodrich became the only guard to score more than 35 points in an NCAA final, erupting for 42 points on 12 of 22 field-goal shooting and 18 of 20 free-throw shooting. His free throws made and attempted remain championship game records.
51. 1976 West Regional Semifinals (Arizona 114, UNLV 109 in OT)
Each team had four players score at least 18 points when UNLV (29-2), ranked third by AP and fourth by UPI entering the tourney, was eliminated by Arizona (24-9) when Jim Rappis had more assists (12) than the Rebels' entire team.
52. 1981 West Regional Second Round (Kansas State 50, Oregon State 48)
K-State (24-9) upset second-ranked Oregon State (26-2) on Rolando Blackman's 17-foot buzzer beater from the right baseline.
53. 1959 Mideast Regional Semifinals (Louisville 76, Kentucky 61)
Second-ranked Kentucky (24-3) hit less than one-third of its field-goal attempts in blowing a 15-point lead against intra-state rival Louisville (19-12).
54. 1976 Championship Game (Indiana 86, Michigan 68)
Trailing Michigan (25-7) by six points at intermission and playing without Bob Wilkerson after the starting guard sustained a concussion early in the game, the Hoosiers shot 60% from the floor in the second half to come from behind and earn recognition as the nation's last undefeated team. Scott May, Kent Benson and Quinn Buckner collaborated for 36 of IU's first 38 second-half points.
55. 2005 West Regional Final (Louisville 93, West Virginia 85)
West Virginia set a regional final record with 18 three-pointers but still lost against Louisville.
56. 1977 West Regional Semifinals (Idaho State 76, UCLA 75)
The visiting Bruins, ranked fourth by UPI entering the tourney, finished with a 24-5 record when guards Roy Hamilton and Brad Holland combined to hit just 8 of 24 field-goal attempts. Idaho State (25-5), prevailing despite shooting just 40.6% from the floor, received 27 points and 12 rebounds from center Steve Hayes.
57. 1981 Midwest Regional Second Round (Kansas 88, Arizona State 71)
Third-ranked Arizona State (24-4), featuring four upperclassmen who combined for a total of more than 35 seasons in the NBA (guards Fat Lever and Byron Scott, center Alton Lister and forward Sam Williams), was clobbered by Kansas (24-8) when Tony Guy poured in 36 points for the Jayhawks. The Sun Devils fell behind by 16 points at intermission.
58. 1979 Midwest Regional Final (Indiana State 73, Arkansas 71)
Indiana State became the only school to reach the Final Four in its one and only NCAA Tournament appearance in the 20th Century when the Sycamores' Bob Heaton shifted the ball from his normal right hand to his left for a short shot that bounced twice on the rim before going down.
59. 1971 West Regional Final (UCLA 57, Long Beach State 55)
The closest result for UCLA (29-1) during the Bruins' 38-game playoff winning streak from 1967 through 1973 came when they had to erase an 11-point deficit despite 29% field-goal shooting to edge Jerry Tarkanian-coached Long Beach State (24-5).
60. 1977 National Semifinals (North Carolina 84, UNLV 83)
Mike O'Koren became the first freshman to score more than 30 points in a national semifinal or championship game when the North Carolina forward tallied 31. O'Koren and his teammates enjoyed a 28-5 edge over the Rebels in free-throw attempts.
61. 1978 Midwest Regional Semifinals (DePaul 90, Louisville 89)
DePaul center Dave Corzine tallied 46 points in double overtime game to become the only individual to score at least 45 in the NCAA playoffs and never be an NCAA first- or second-team consensus All-American or Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
62. 1959 Championship Game (California 71, West Virginia 70)
Two-time first-team All-American swingman Jerry West of West Virginia (29-5) was denied an NCAA championship ring when California (25-4) junior center Darrall Imhoff, West's teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers for four seasons in the mid-1960s, tipped in a basket with 17 seconds remaining.
63. 2006 East Regional Final (George Mason 86, Connecticut 84)
The #11 seed Patriots (27-8) advanced to the national semifinals with overtime win against UConn (30-4), which was their third triumph against coaches from schools that previously won NCAA titles.
64. 1979 East Regional Second Round (Penn 72, North Carolina 71)
No. 1 seed North Carolina (23-6) lost its opener in the Tar Heels' home state (Raleigh, N.C.) when Tony Price poured in a game-high 25 points for the Penn Quakers (25-7).
65. 1984 East Regional Semifinals (Indiana 72, North Carolina 68)
Many observers predicted Georgetown would meet the top-ranked Tar Heels in the national final, but they were upset by IU when national player of the year Michael Jordan was limited to 13 points, one rebound and one assist.
66. 1993 West Regional First Round (Santa Clara 64, Arizona 61)
In terms of point spreads, No. 2 seed Arizona's defeat against 20-point underdog Santa Clara (19-12), a No. 15 seed, was the biggest upset in NCAA playoff history. The Wildcats (24-4), ranked fifth by AP entering the tournament, lost although they scored 25 consecutive points in a 10-minute span bridging the first and second halves.
67. 2004 St. Louis Regional Second Round (UAB 76, Kentucky 75)
UAB (22-10), after outlasting Washington (102-100) in the first round, used its frenetic pressure defense to frustrate No. 1 seed Kentucky (27-5), 76-75.
68. 1956 East Regional Semifinals (Temple 65, Connecticut 59)
Guard Hal Lear manufactured 61.5% of Temple's offense by scoring 40 points. The most rebounds ever in a playoff game were grabbed by teammate Fred Cohen, who retrieved a school-record 34 missed shots.
69. 2005 Second Round (West Virginia 111, Wake Forest 105)
Mike Gansey scored 19 of his 29 points after the end of regulation when West Virginia (24-11) outlasted #2 seed Wake Forest (27-6) in double overtime.
70. 1975 Championship Game (UCLA 92, Kentucky 85)
Coach John Wooden's farewell resulted in another NCAA title for the Bruins.
71. 1981 Midwest Regional Semifinals (Wichita State 66, Kansas 65)
Mike Jones hit two long-range baskets in the last 50 seconds for Wichita State (26-7) in the first game between the intrastate rivals in 36 years.
72. 1980 Midwest Regional Second Round (Missouri 87, Notre Dame 84 in OT)
Backup Mizzou (25-6) swingman Mark Dressler, entering the NCAA playoffs with an eight-point scoring average, erupted for 32 points on 13 of 16 field-goal shooting against the 22-6 Irish (ranked No. 9 by AP).
73. 1989 Southeast Regional First Round (South Alabama 86, Alabama 84)
In an exciting intrastate battle, South Alabama (23-9) erased a 16-point halftime deficit. Jeff Hodge and Gabe Estaba combined for 55 points to lead USA against 'Bama (23-8).
74. 1980 Mideast Regional First Round (Virginia Tech 89, Western Kentucky 85 in OT)
Virginia Tech, sparked by Dale Solomon's 10-of-13 field-goal shooting, became the only school to erase a halftime deficit of at least 18 points to win a playoff game in the 20th Century. The Hokies, Metro Conference runner-up to eventual NCAA champion Louisville, trailed WKU at intermission, 48-30, in a duel between two 21-8 teams.
75. 2008 Second Round (Davidson 74, Georgetown 70)
Stephen Curry, the son of former NBA standout Dell Curry, poured in 25 of his 30 points in the second half as Davidson (29-7) erased a double-digit deficit to upset the Hoyas (28-6).
TOP 75 NCAA PLAYOFF PLAYERS
1. Lew Alcindor, C, UCLA
The only individual selected the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player three times averaged 25.7 points and 18.8 rebounds and shot 64.1% from the floor in six Final Four games for UCLA from 1967 through 1969. Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is the only player to couple three unanimous first-team All-America seasons with three NCAA titles. Of the 10 different individuals to average more than 23 points per game for a national champion a total of 12 times, Alcindor achieved the feat all three of his seasons with the Bruins. He is also the only player to hit better than 70% of his field-goal attempts in two NCAA title games. UCLA '67, the first varsity season for Alcindor, set the record for largest average margin of victory for a champion when the Bruins started a dazzling streak of 10 consecutive Final Four appearances. They won their 12 NCAA playoff games with Alcindor manning the middle by an average margin of 21.5 points. The three Alcindor-led UCLA teams rank among the seven NCAA champions with average margins of victory in a tournament of more than 19 points per game. He led the Bruins in scoring in 10 of 12 playoff contests. It's no wonder a perceptive scribe wrote that the acronym NCAA took on a new meaning during the Alcindor Era - "No Chance Against Alcindor."
T2. Bill Walton, C, UCLA
Averaged 28.8 points and 17.8 rebounds per game at the Final Four in 1972 and 1973. His championship game-record 44 points against Memphis State in 1973 when he hit 21 of 22 field-goal attempts will probably never be duplicated. On the other hand, he had one playoff game of fewer than 10 points each of the three seasons he was national player of the year.
T2. Jerry West, G-F, West Virginia
He is the only player to score at least 25 points in eight consecutive tournament games (all of which he led in scoring). West is also the only player to rank among the top five in scoring average in both the NCAA Tournament (30.6 points per game) and NBA playoffs (29.1 ppg). He was denied a championship ring with West Virginia in his only Final Four appearance in 1959 when Cal center Darral Imhoff, a player who would become an Olympic and NBA teammate, tipped in a decisive basket in the closing seconds.
3. Elvin Hayes, F, Houston
He is the only player to lead a tournament in scoring by more than 60 points. Alcindor and his UCLA teammates helped hold Hayes to 10 points in the 1968 national semifinals, but the Big E finished with 167 points in five games with Houston that year. Alcindor was runner-up with 103 points in four contests. Hayes became the only player in tournament history to collect more than 40 points and 25 rebounds in the same game when he amassed 49 points and 27 rebounds in a 94-76 decision over Loyola of Chicago in the first round of the 1968 Midwest Regional. He holds the records for most rebounds in a playoff series (97 in five games as a senior in 1968) and career (222 in 13 games). Hayes had five games with at least 24 rebounds, including the first three playoff games in 1968, before being held to five in a 101-69 national semifinal loss against UCLA. He also holds the record for most playoff field goals in a career with 152.
4. Gail Goodrich, G, UCLA
Despite standing at least three inches shorter than both standout opponents, the 6-1 lefthander outscored consensus second-team All-American Jeff Mullins of Duke, 27-22, in the 1964 final and outscored unanimous first-team All-American Cazzie Russell of Michigan, 42-28, in the 1965 final. Goodrich, the only guard to score more than 35 points in an NCAA final, averaged 35 points per game for UCLA in the 1965 tourney. He was also the Bruins' leading scorer the previous year (21.5-point average as a junior) when he became the shortest undergraduate to average more than 20 points per game for an NCAA titlist. Goodrich and Walt Hazzard (18.6 ppg) represent the only backcourt duo to be the top two scorers on the season for an NCAA championship team. Of the eight times a school successfully defended its major college championship, Goodrich is the only guard to be the team's leading scorer in back-to-back years. The Bruins won 58 of 60 games in those two championship seasons although they didn't have a regular taller than 6-7.
5. Bill Bradley, F, Princeton
The former U.S. Senator (D-N.J.) and 2000 presidential candidate holds the record for most points in a single Final Four game (58 against Wichita State in 1965 national third-place game). He scored 39 points in the second half of the consolation game. The Rhodes Scholar was the only player to have a double-digit season scoring average (30.5 points per game) for Princeton's Final Four team. Bradley also holds the career playoff record for highest free-throw percentage (minimum of 50 attempts). He was 89 of 96 from the foul line (90.6%) from 1963 through 1965. In five of his nine playoff games, Bradley made at least 10 free throws while missing no more than one attempt from the charity stripe. He made 16 of 16 free throws against St. Joseph's in the first round of the 1963 East Regional and 13 of 13 foul shots against Providence in the 1965 East Regional final to become the only player to twice convert more than 12 free throws without a miss in playoff games. He was the game-high scorer in eight of nine tourney contests.
6. Bill Russell, C, San Francisco
Grabbed an incredible 50 rebounds for USF at the 1956 Final Four (23 against SMU in the semifinals and 27 against Iowa in the championship game). No other player has retrieved more than 41 missed shots in two Final Four games or more than 21 in the final. Averaged 23.2 points in winning all nine NCAA tourney contests.
7. Oscar Robertson, G-F, Cincinnati
Averaged at least 29 points and 10 rebounds per game each of his three years in the tourney with the Bearcats. The Big O isn't picked higher because California restricted him to a total of 37 points in two Final Four games (1959 and 1960). He hit just nine of 32 from the floor against the Bears. Robertson, the nation's leading scorer all three of his varsity seasons with averages of more than 32 points per game, is the only team-leading scorer to twice go more than 10 points below his season scoring average when his school lost in the national semifinals or final.
8. Sean Elliott, F, Arizona
Of the more than 60 different players to score at least 2,500 points and/or rank among the top 25 in career scoring average, he is the only one to have a winning NCAA playoff record in his career plus post higher scoring, rebounding and field-goal shooting playoff averages than he compiled in the regular season. Elliott scored at least 17 points in all 10 of his NCAA playoff games with the Wildcats.
9. Christian Laettner, F, Duke
Only player to start in four Final Fours became the tourney's all-time leading scorer (407 points) in helping the Blue Devils compile a 21-2 playoff mark in his career. Laettner's high game was 31 against Kentucky in a 104-103 victory in the 1992 East Regional final. Laettner capped a flawless offensive performance, hitting all 10 of his field-goal attempts and all 10 of his free throws against the Wildcats, by scoring Duke's last eight points in overtime, including a stunning 18-foot turnaround jumper at the buzzer after catching a pass from the baseline on the opposite end of the court. He also hit what probably was an even more difficult off-balance, last-second shot to give Duke a 79-78 win against Connecticut in the 1990 East Regional final. Tallied fewer than 15 points in six of his first seven playoff contests.
10. Bob Pettit, F-C, Louisiana State
Of the more than 40 different players to score more than 225 points in the NCAA playoffs and/or average over 25 points per tournament game (minimum of six games), he is the only one to score more than 22 points in every postseason contest (six games with LSU in 1953 and 1954). He was perhaps the most consistent big scorer in NCAA Tournament history with a single-digit differential between his high game (36 points) and his low game (27). Pettit wasn't named to the 1953 All-Tournament team despite leading the Tigers to the Final Four and averaging 30.5 points per game in four NCAA playoff contests. He averaged the same number of points in two tourney games the next year.
11. Bobby Hurley, G, Duke
The 6-0 guard was selected Most Outstanding Player at the 1992 Final Four. He was the shortest player to earn the award since 5-11 Hal Lear helped Temple to a national third-place finish in 1956. The only Final Four Most Outstanding Player shorter than Hurley from a championship team was 5-11 Kenny Sailors of Wyoming in 1943. Hurley shot a mediocre 41 percent from the floor in his college career, but he was the Blue Devils' linchpin with his playmaking and intangible contributions. He holds the career record for most playoff assists (145) and three-pointers (42) although his bid to become the first player to start four consecutive NCAA finals was thwarted when California upset Duke in the second round of the 1993 Midwest Regional despite Hurley's career-high 32 points. After averaging just 5.4 points per game in his first eight NCAA Tournament contests, he averaged 22.8 in his last five playoff outings.
12. Steve Alford, G, Indiana
Averaged 21.3 points in 10 NCAA Tournament games in 1984, 1986 and 1987 (8-2 record). He led the Hoosiers in scoring in seven of the contests.
13. Larry Johnson, F, UNLV
Juco jewel averaged 20.2 points and 11.5 rebounds in 11 games in 1990 and 1991 (10-1 record).
14. Miles Simon, G, Arizona
Averaged 18.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 14 games from 1995 through 1998 (11-3 record). He was game-high scorer in his last three playoff contests.
15. Patrick Ewing, C, Georgetown
The Hoyas compiled a glittering 15-3 playoff record during his four-year reign of terror although he never scored as many as 25 points in a tournament game.
16. David "Big Daddy" Lattin, C, Texas Western
Averaged 19.4 ppg and 10.6 rpg in eight games in 1966 and 1967. He averaged 21 points and 13 rebounds in first three games of 1966 playoffs to power champion-to-be Miners to Final Four.
17. Clyde Lovellette, C, Kansas
The only player to lead the nation in scoring average in the same season (1952) he played for a team reaching the NCAA Tournament championship game. Averaging 35.3 points per game in the 1952 tourney, he was the first player to score more than 30 points in a Final Four contest and the only player to crack the 30-point plateau in the national semifinals and final in the same season.
18. Dennis Scott, G-F, Georgia Tech
Averaged 25.9 ppg and 5.9 rpg in eight playoff games from 1988 through 1990 (5-3 record). He was game-high scorer in four of five contests in 1990 when the Yellow Jackets reached the Final Four.
19. David Thompson, F, North Carolina State
The last player to score the most points in a single game of a tournament and play for a championship team (40 points against Providence in 1974 East Regional semifinals). He is the only undergraduate non-center to average more than 23 ppg for a national champion.
20. Austin Carr, G, Notre Dame
After scoring only six points in his first tournament game as a sophomore (re-injured against Miami of Ohio), Carr averaged 47.2 points in his last six playoff contests to finish with a tourney record 41.3-point mark. However, the Irish won only two of the seven games.
21. David Robinson, C, Navy
Averaged 28.6 points and 12.3 rebounds in seven games from 1985 through 1987 (4-3 record). He was game-high scorer in four playoff contests, including a school-record 50 points against Michigan in his final appearance.
22. Bob Kurland, C, Oklahoma A&M
Only player to score more than half of a championship team's points in a single NCAA Tournament (total of 72 accounted for 51.8% of the Aggies' output in three playoff games in 1946).
23. Jerry Lucas, C, Ohio State
Three-time All-NCAA Tournament selection averaged 22.8 ppg and 12 rpg at the Final Four in 1960 and 1961. But he was limited to nine points in both of his turney openers when he national player of the year in 1961 and 1962.
24. Sean May, F-C, North Carolina
Final Four Most Outstanding Player for 2005 champion averaged 19.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in eight NCAA Tournament games in 2004 and 2005 (7-1 record).
25. Alex Groza, C, Kentucky
The only player to appear at a minimum of two Final Fours and be the game-high scorer in every Final Four contest he participated.
26. Len Chappell, F-C, Wake Forest
Averaged 27.6 ppg and 17.1 rpg in eight games in 1961 and 1962 (6-2 record). He was the Demon Deacons' leading scorer in all eight contests.
27. Bob Lanier, C, St. Bonaventure
Averaged 25.2 points and 14.2 rebounds in six games in 1968 and 1970 (4-2 record; missed 1970 Final Four after tearing a knee ligament in East Regional final).
28. Corliss Williamson, F, Arkansas
Two-time All-NCAA Tournament selection averaged 20.2 ppg and 7.4 rpg while shooting 59.4% from the floor in 15 games from 1993 through 1995 (13-2 record).
29. Al Wood, F, North Carolina
Averaged 20.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in eight games from 1978 through 1981 (4-4 record). He was the Tar Heels' leading scorer in six of those playoff contests.
30. Tim Duncan, C, Wake Forest
Averaged 17.6 points, 15 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots in 11 games from 1994 through 1997 (7-4 record).
31. Glen Rice, F, Michigan
Averaged 23.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 13 games from 1986 through 1989 (10-3 record). He was the Wolverines' leading scorer in all six contests during their 1989 championship run when he set a single tourney record with 184 points.
32. Danny Manning, F, Kansas
The only player to score more than 62% of his team's points in an NCAA Tournament game (42 in the Jayhawks' 67-63 victory against Southwest Missouri State in second round of 1987 Southeast Regional). He was the game-high scorer in all six of their contests en route to the 1988 national title. Averaged 20.5 points and 7.3 rebounds in 16 games from 1985 through 1988 (13-3 record).
33. Bob Houbregs, F-C, Washington
Averaged 27.4 ppg in seven games in 1951 and 1953 (5-2 record).
34. Tom Gola, F, La Salle
The only individual to earn NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player and NIT Most Valuable Player awards in his career. He averaged 22 ppg in 10 NCAA playoff games in 1954 and 1955 (9-1 record).
35. Rumeal Robinson, G, Michigan
Averaged 17.5 points and 8.5 assists in 11 games from 1988 through 1990 (9-2 record).
36. Lawrence Moten, G, Syracuse
Averaged 23.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in seven games in 1992, 1994 and 1995 (4-3 record).
37. Ray Allen, G, Connecticut
Averaged 19.5 points and 7 rebounds in 10 playoff games from 1994 through 1996 (7-3 record).
38. Isiah Thomas, G, Indiana
Averaged 19.7 points and 7.9 assists in seven games in 1980 and 1981 (6-1 record).
39. Greg "Bo" Kimble, F-G, Loyola Marymount
Averaged 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals in seven games from 1988 through 1990 (4-3 record). Scored at least 37 points in three of his last four playoff outings.
40. Randy Foye, G, Villanova
Averaged 22.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in seven games in 2005 and 2006 (5-2 record). He scored at least 24 points in four contests.
41. B.J. Armstrong, G, Iowa
Averaged 19.8 points and 4.9 assists in nine games from 1987 through 1989 (6-3 record; did not play in 1986 playoffs).
42. Jim McDaniels, C, Western Kentucky
Averaged 29.3 points and 12.2 rebounds in six games in 1970 and 1971 (4-2 record). He was WKU's leading scorer in five of the six playoff contests.
43. Brevin Knight, G, Stanford
Averaged 20 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists in seven games from 1995 through 1997 (4-3 record).
44. Rony Seikaly, C, Syracuse
Averaged 18.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 2.8 bpg in 12 games from 1985 through 1988 (8-4 record).
45. Jeff Mullins, F, Duke
Averaged 25 ppg and 7.9 rpg in the playoffs for two Final Four teams (6-2 record). He scored more than 20 points in seven of eight tourney contests.
46. Mark Macon, G, Temple
Averaged 23.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in nine games in 1988, 1990 and 1991 (6-3 record.)
47. Mike Maloy, C, Davidson
Averaged 22.3 ppg and 12.4 rpg in seven games from 1968 through 1970 (4-3 record).
48. Adrian Dantley, F, Notre Dame
Averaged 25.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in eight games from 1974 through 1976 (4-4 record).
49. Dan Issel, C, Kentucky
Averaged 29.3 ppg and 11.3 rpg in splitting six contests from 1968 through 1970.
50. Allen Iverson, G, Georgetown
Averaged 23.9 points and 4 rebounds in seven games in 1995 and 1996 (5-2 record). He was the Hoyas' leading scorer in all seven contests.
51. Ollie Johnson, C, San Francisco
Averaged 25.8 points and 16.2 rebounds in six games from 1963 through 1965 (3-3 record).
52. Paul Hogue, C, Cincinnati
Averaged 19 points and 16 rebounds in six Final Four games from 1960 through 1962. Posted higher averages (18.4 ppg and 13.3 rpg) in 12 NCAA Tournament contests (11-1 record) than his respective career marks.
53. Jameer Nelson, G, St. Joseph's
Averaged 22.4 points, 6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.3 steals in seven games in 2001, 2003 and 2004 (4-3 record). He scored at least 24 points in four of his last five playoff contests.
54. Richard Hamilton, G-F, Connecticut
Averaged 23.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 10 games in 1998 and 1999 (9-1 record). He led UConn in scoring in nine of the 10 contests.
55. Chuck Person, F, Auburn
Averaged 20.3 points and 9 rebounds in eight games from 1984 through 1986 (5-3 record). Scored at least 20 points in six of his last seven playoff contests.
56. Don Schlundt, C, Indiana
Averaged 27 points in six games in 1953 and 1954 (5-1 record). He was the Hoosiers' leading scorer in five of the playoff contests.
57. Cazzie Russell, G, Michigan
Averaged at least 24 ppg each of his three years in the tourney (5-3 record).
58. Jamal Mashburn, F, Kentucky
Averaged 21.4 points and 8 rebounds in nine games in 1992 and 1993 (7-2 record). He was the Wildcats' leading scorer in five consecutive playoff contests.
59. Les Hunter, C, Loyola of Chicago
Averaged 18.9 points and 13.3 rebounds in eight games in 1963 and 1964 (7-1 record).
60. Henry Finkel, C, Dayton
Averaged 27.8 points and 13.8 rebounds in six games in 1965 and 1966 (3-3 record). He was game-high scorer in five of the six contests.
61. Johnny Green, F-C, Michigan State
Averaged 16.2 points and 19.7 rebounds in six games in 1957 and 1959 (3-3 record).
62. Anthony Peeler, G, Missouri
Averaged 24.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in six games in 1989, 1990 and 1992 (3-3 record).
63. Dwight "Bo" Lamar, G, Southwestern Louisiana
Averaged 29.2 points in six Division I Tournament games in 1972 and 1973 (3-3 record). Supplied game-high point total in all six contests.
64. Greg Kelser, F, Michigan State
Averaged 24 ppg and 11.3 rpg in eight playoff contests in 1978 and 1979 (7-1 record). Celebrated teammate Magic Johnson outscored and outrebounded Kelser only once in the eight postseason outings.
65. Barry Kramer, F, New York University
Averaged 25.2 points and 9.3 rebounds in six games in 1962 and 1963 (3-3 record).
66. Nick Collison, F, Kansas
Leading scorer and rebounder for 2003 NCAA Tournament runner-up (30-8 record) and second-leading scorer and rebounder for 2002 Final Four team (33-4). Averaged 16.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in 16 games from 2000 through 2003 (12-4 record).
67. Juan Dixon, G, Maryland
After struggling as a redshirt freshman, he averaged 21.2 points in his last 13 games from 2000 through 2002. The Terrapins won 10 of the last 11 of those playoff contests.
68. Mitch Richmond, G-F, Kansas State
J.C. recruit averaged 23.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists in six games in 1987 and 1988 (4-2 record).
69. George Thompson, F, Marquette
Averaged 23.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in six games in 1968 and 1969 (4-2 record). He was the Warriors' leading scorer in five of the six playoff contests.
70. John Wallace, F, Syracuse
Averaged 20.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 11 games from 1994 through 1996 (8-3 record). He was the leading scorer for the Orangemen in his last eight playoff contests.
71. Jimmy Collins, G, New Mexico State
Averaged 19.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in 11 games from 1968 through 1970 (7-4 record). He at least shared the Aggies' team-high scoring output in all 11 contests.
72. Tony Price, F, Penn
Averaged 21.9 ppg and 9 rpg in eight games in 1978 and 1979 (5-3 record). He was the Quakers' leading scorer in all six contests when they finished fourth in the nation in 1979.
73. Wali Jones, G, Villanova
Two-time All-East Regional selection averaged 22.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg in six games in 1962 and 1964 (4-2 record). He scored a game-high 25 points as a sophomore in a regional final loss to Wake Forest and a game-high 34 points as a senior in a 74-62 victory over Bill Bradley-led Princeton in a third-place contest. It was the only time in Bradley's nine playoff games that he wasn't the leading scorer. Jones outscored All-American Len Chappell in the Wake Forest contest.
74. Mel Counts, C, Oregon State
Averaged 23.2 points and 14.1 rebounds in nine games from 1962 through 1964 (5-4 record). If Kentucky frosh phenom Nerlens Noel could shoot with big-man range like Counts, he would be an authentic All-American candidate as a yearling.
75. Terry Dehere, G, Seton Hall
Averaged 23.2 points in nine games from 1991 through 1993 (6-3 record). He paced the Pirates in scoring in all nine outings.