So, how’s your bracket, buster?
Ha! Excuse my attempt at hoops humor. Mine (if you care) is okay, except Wisconsin’s win over Villanova hurt my chances of naming the overall champion.
As the NCAA Tournament moves into the “Sweet 16,” now comes the part where legends are made. Some of the best moments in basketball on any level have come at this point moving forward. True, most of the greatest moments have been made during the “Final Four,” but the other rounds have had their memorable performances as well.
Here’s a celebration of the greatest performances in the NCAA Tournament.
5.) Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse
The Final Four of 2003 saw Anthony dominate as few freshmen do. In the semi-finals against Texas, his 33 set a tournament record for most points by a freshman. Two nights later, Anthony scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds as the Orangemen (they would change their nickname to Orange a year later) whipped Kansas 81–78 to win the National Championship, though it was the only men’s basketball championship in Syracuse history. Anthony was named Final Four MVP.
4.) Austin Carr, Notre Dame
Even though the Fighting Irish did not win the 1970 NCAA Basketball Championship, no one could seemingly stop Carr in the tournament. In the three tournament games played by Notre Dame that year, he scored 61 points in a win against Ohio, 52 in a win over Kentucky and 45 in a loss in the third round to Iowa. In his seven career NCAA tournament games he averaged 52.7 points, a record many feel that will never fall. His 61 points against Ohio is still a tourney record as well.
3.) Christian Laettner, Duke
Laettner led Duke to back-to-back NCAA tournament championships in 1991 and 1992. Even though you may not think he belongs on the list, I have him here as one of the greatest clutch players ever in “March Madness.” He played in 23 NCAA tournament games of which his team won 21. Both are NCAA records. But his performance in the 1992 East Region final against Kentucky is still the one everyone remembers most. He shot 10-for-10 from the field and was 10-for-10 from the free throw line. His 17-footer at the buzzer gave the Blue Devils a 104-103 overtime victory and is still considered the greatest shot in college basketball history.
2.) Lew Alcindor, UCLA
In 1968, the Bruins won the NCAA tournament by winning the final two games by a combined margin of 27.5 points. That included a 32-point win over Elvin Hayes and Houston in the semi-final game and a 23-point blowout over Charlie Scott, Larry Miller and North Carolina. Alcindor scored 19 points in beating Houston which avenged an earlier loss to the Cougars in the Astrodome. In the title win over North Carolina, he poured in 34 points. He also totaled 34 rebounds in the two games and was, of course, tourney MVP. In his three trips to the “Big Dance,” he led UCLA to a title each time and was also the MVP each time.
1.) Bill Walton, UCLA
Most of the younger set know Bill Walton as that obnoxious basketball announcer. However, those of us old enough to remember know Walton as maybe the greatest college basketball player of all time. Never was it more evident than in 1973. In the title game against Memphis State (the school later to be known as Memphis), Walton was an incredible 21-for-22 from the field and poured in 44 points as the Bruins won 87-66 for the title in front of 19,301 fans in St. Louis. Walton also grabbed a total of 41 rebounds in the semis and title games combined. UCLA won back to back titles in 1972 and 1973 with Walton leading the way, but lost to NC State in the semifinals in 1974.