Since its inception in 1939, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has provided some of sports’ best memories. From Texas Western’s upset of Kentucky in 1966 to Mario Chalmers’ game-tying 3-pointer in the 2008 national championship game, March has produced one unforgettable moment after another. So with another month of upsets, buzzer-beaters and utter madness about to begin, we take a look at the NCAA tournament’s 10 greatest moments. — Josh Herwitt
Tyus Edney’s last-second drive
After finishing the regular season with a 26-1 record and earning the No. 1 seed in the West Region, UCLA had all the pieces to make a run at an 11th national title in 1995. But a pesky Missouri team had the Bruins on the ropes in the second round of the NCAA tournament, leading by one with only 4.8 seconds remaining. Those circumstances quickly set the stage for Tyus Edney's moment to shine, as the senior point guard took the ball the length of the court and banked in a runner over Tigers forward Derek Grimm as the buzzer sounded. Edney's shot saved the Bruins' season, which concluded with a win over Arkansas in the national championship game.
Chris Webber’s timeout
When Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson agreed to take their talents to Ann Arbor in the fall of 1991, Michigan’s Fab Five was like no college basketball recruiting class anyone had ever seen. And after reaching the national championship game in 1992 as freshmen, the Wolverines’ super sophs were right back in the spotlight a year later when they returned to the NCAA final to face North Carolina. But with time winding down against the Tar Heels, Webber mistakenly called for time with his team out of timeouts. The request resulted in a technical foul against Michigan, paving the way for UNC’s third national title.
George Mason reaches Final Four
For as many first- and second-round upsets as there have been over the years, the underdog has rarely had enough firepower to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. That trend was bucked in 2006 when George Mason stunned college basketball powerhouses Michigan State, North Carolina and top-seeded Connecticut to reach the Final Four as the first mid-major team to do so in 27 years and just the second No. 11 seed ever. The Patriots, who received a controversial at-large bid on Selection Sunday, remain the only Colonial Athletic Association team to advance to the Final Four.
Keith Smart’s game-winning shot
Sometimes it only takes one game for a player to become a fixture in college basketball history. For Keith Smart, it took just one shot. Smart was never recognized much in high school or at Indiana, but the 1987 national championship game changed his life forever. With the Hoosiers trailing Syracuse by one and the clock winding under 10 seconds, Smart swished a 16-foot jumper along the baseline to lift Indiana to its fifth national title. While Smart’s NBA career was short-lived, “The Shot” would soon become one of March Madness’ most memorable moments.
Michael Jordan’s shot and Fred Brown’s pass
In his 21st season as North Carolina's coach, Dean Smith had yet to win a national championship. That all changed, however, with the help of a star freshman from Wilmington, N.C. Trailing by one in the 1982 national championship game, Michael Jordan knocked down a jumper from the left wing with 17 seconds left to put his team back up by one. But unlike UNC, Georgetown opted not to call a timeout, pushing the ball up court. And with the pressure rising and the game clock ticking down, Hoyas point guard Fred Brown mistook James Worthy for a teammate, passing the ball right to his opponent and handing the title to Smith and the Tar Heels.
Magic Johnson faces Larry Bird in 1979 national title game
Before America ever got to see Larry Bird and Magic Johnson square off in the NBA Finals, it got its first dose of this famous rivalry in the 1979 national championship game. Bird, who was named the national player of the year, had led Indiana State to a 33-0 record with only Michigan State standing in its way of a national title. But in what became the most-watched college basketball game ever at the time, Earvin "Magic" Johnson used an MVP performance to lead the Spartans past the Sycamores in what would be the start of a long, spirited rivalry between Magic and Bird.
Texas Western upsets Kentucky in 1966 national title game
If baseball has Jackie Robinson, college basketball has Texas Western. Though the Miners finished the 1965-66 regular season at 23-1 and with the nation's No. 3 ranking, they were considered significant underdogs against top-ranked Kentucky in the national championship game. That didn’t matter to Texas Western coach Don Haskins, who made history by starting five African-American players for the first time in a title game against Adolph Rupp’s all-white team. It was a coaching move that proved to be more than just culturally significant, as Haskins’ team went on to upset the Wildcats and win the tournament in shocking fashion.
Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beater
If college basketball had a shot heard ’round the world, then Christian Laettner’s would be it. After upsetting UNLV to win the national title in 1991, Duke was primed for another championship run the following season. But Kentucky gave the Blue Devils all they could handle in their East Regional final, leading by one with 2.1 seconds left in overtime. Inbounding the ball behind his own basket, Grant Hill hit Laettner with a baseball pass down the court — and the rest is history. Laettner faked one way and then spun back for a fade-away jumper that hit nothing but net and propelled Duke into the Final Four. The game is now widely regarded as the greatest college basketball game of all time.
Villanova upsets Georgetown in 1985 national title game
While George Mason captured the heart of America in 2006, there isn’t a more surprising run through the NCAA tournament than the one by the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. With the tournament expanding to 64 teams, Rollie Massimino led his team into the Big Dance as a No. 8 seed. Playing off wins against top-seeded Michigan and No. 2 seed North Carolina to win the Southeast Region, 'Nova made its way into the final against Patrick Ewing and the ever-imposing Georgetown Hoyas, who had upended Massimino’s team in both meetings earlier that season. But in what may be the greatest shooting performance in NCAA history, Villanova made over 75 percent of its shots to stun Georgetown and capture the school’s only national title.
N.C. State shocks Houston in 1983 national title game
It was a moment so shocking Jim Valvano didn’t know what to do. Stunned by what had unfolded in front of his very eyes, the N.C. State coach ran around the court just looking for someone to hug. Now, almost 30 years after Dereck Whittenburg heaved that last-second prayer in the 1983 national championship game, Lorenzo Charles’ dunk at the buzzer remains college basketball’s most memorable moment. It wasn’t just that it gave the Wolfpack their second national title. Better yet, it came against Houston’s renowned Phi Slama Jama, a squad that boasted a 31–2 record and a 26-game winning streak that season and was expected to easily defeat its underdog opponent.