A column by Adam Menikefs
Toronto, ON- Today was supposed to begin the greatest time of year. Read this as nostalgia for a tournament that many, including myself, have watched every single year of this decade.
Included are videos to each Game/moment.
10. #15 Lehigh stuns Duke on Historic Day (2012)
The Blue Devils entered the tournament with the #2 seed in the South Regional and had an outstanding backcourt led by Austin Rivers and Seth Curry. Yet, the top player in this opening round match-up was CJ McCollum of #15 seed Lehigh. McCollum dropped 35 points en route to a historic upset, on the only day in tournament history in which two #15 seeds won on the same day.
9. Trey Burke Carries Michigan in Sweet Sixteen Thriller (2013)
The #4 seeded Wolverines trailed top seeded Kansas much of the game. A slowly mounted comeback led by sophomore Trey Burke and his 23 second half points. Burke’s deep three sent the game into overtime where Michigan would end up reaching the national championship for the first time since the Fab Five era and began a new wave of consistent success for this historic program.
8. RJ Hunter Knocks Off Baylor and Father (2015)
One of the most heartwarming stories of the tournament, #14 seed Georgia State stormed back from 12 points down with three minutes left to eliminate #3 seed Baylor. RJ Hunter hit the winning three with just two seconds remaining, the excitement knocking his father and head coach, Ron Hunter, off his stool.
7. Northern Iowa Sends Top Seeded Kansas Home in Round of 32 (2010)
A true classic of the tournament for those fortunate to remember. Whereas Kansas was the #1 overall seed in the tournament and the clear favourite to bring home the National Championship, Northern Iowa, the #9 seed in the Southeast region, had barely beaten Old Dominion in their first-round match-up. UNI would end up knocking out the nation’s top team before the end of the first weekend, with Ali Faroukmanesh etching his name in college basketball history with his memorable three-pointer.
6. Virginia Punches Ticket to Final Four in Overtime Thriller (2019)
Though recency bias may play a factor, the best game of last year’s tournament was truly one of the best of the decade. Carson Edwards looked to be Purdue’s hero, hitting a multitude of three pointers all game. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, Mamadi Diakite hit a buzzer beater for the Cavaliers to send the game into overtime. Virginia would ultimately come away with the win in the extra period and ride their incredible play all the way to a National Championship.
5. UMBC Becomes First #16 Seed to Win in March (2018)
A historic upset that saw a #1 seed knocked out in the opening round for the first time since the 64-team tournament was introduced in 1985. Virginia entered March Madness as the best team in the country with a 31-2 record and the top ranked defence. Showing the true uncertainty of March, the UMBC Retrievers made these statistics irrelevant shooting unconsciously from three and beating the Cavaliers by a surreal twenty points.
4. Thirty-Eight and Done; Wisconsin Beats Undefeated Kentucky in Final Four (2015)
Coming off a national championship just two years earlier, John Calipari had put together one of the all-time great college basketball teams, going 38-0 leading up to the Final Four. Led by Karl Anthony-Towns, Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison, the Wildcats were the ultimate favourite to finish the tournament on top. Wisconsin, led by National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, would end Kentucky’s dream season, in one of the best games of the decade, a true thriller of a national semi-final.
3. Kevin Ware Breaks Leg; Louisville advances to Final Four (2013)
A game that will be remembered for one of the most gruesome sports injuries in history, #1 overall seeded Louisville dominated Duke in the elite eight and advanced to the Final Four for their second consecutive year. Kevin Ware’s infamous broken leg, however, cast a shadow on the rest of the night, a moment that will forever be remembered in tournament history. Louisville would ultimately use the injury as motivation, going onto win their first National Championship in 27 years.
*Will not include video for this moment*
2. Hayward Misses Immortality; Duke beats Butler in National Championship (2010)
The image of Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward coming up to half court and launching a prayer that narrowly missed is widely considered one of college basketball’s all-time moments. A true Cinderella story, the Butler Bulldogs had knocked off many elite teams as a #5 seed en route to the national championship. The ultimate blue blood program, the Duke Blue Devils, were their last hurdle. The final game of the year surpassed expectations and is one of the rare moments in sport where the loser is remembered more than the winner.
1. Kris Jenkins wins National Championship for Villanova (2016)
In a category that can only be matched by the 1983 NC State championship, this shot was one of the greatest in college basketball history and certainly finishes the decade as the top March Madness moment. After Marcus Paige hit a game tying three pointer with just four seconds remaining to seemingly save North Carolina’s season, Ryan Arcadiacono would bring the ball up court and pass it off to Kris Jenkins for the buzzer beating three to win the National Championship.