As college basketball fans gear up for tonight’s NCAA championship game between Villanova and Michigan, here’s a little history lesson.
Since the NCAA basketball tournament began in 1939, there have been great dynasties like UCLA, which won 10 titles in 12 years beginning in 1964. There have been great players like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Christian Laettner.
There have been watershed games that changed the sociological face of America and enhanced the popularity of the college game, bringing words like March Madness and Final Four into the American lexicon.
There have been seven overtime games, including a triple overtime classic between North Carolina and Kansas in 1957. Six games have been decided by a single point.
UCLA has won the most titles with 11, followed by Kentucky with 8, North Carolina with 6 and Indiana and Duke with five apiece.
Here are the 10 most memorable championship games in NCAA basketball history:
1. 1979 — Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64 — Many call this the most important college basketball game ever played; with a 24.1 Nielsen rating it is the highest rated basketball game ever. It was the game that put college basketball, March Madness and the Final Four on the map. Oh yes, and Magic Johnson, shown right, outscored Larry Bird 24 to 19 in Michigan State’s win.
2. 1966 — Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65 — Another watershed game, as an all-black Texas Western starting five surprised Kentucky. Soon after, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. the Baron, began recruiting black players, breaking down barriers throughout the South. In 2006, the film “Glory Road” dramatized the game and Texas Western coach Don Haskins.
3. 2016: Villanova 77, North Carolina 74 – Kris Jenkins hits a dramatic three pointer at the buzzer on a feed from Ryan Arcidiacono to give the Wildcats the win and their first championship in 31 years. UNC’s Marcus Paige had tied the game on a three with just 4.7 seconds left
4. 1957 — North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 (3OT) — The unbeaten Tar Heels outlasted Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks in the longest game in NCAA championship game history. Two free throws by Joe Quigg with six seconds left made the difference. UNC also played three overtimes in the semis, beating Michigan State.
5. 1983 — NC State 54, Houston 52 — The Wolfpack, sixth seeded with 10 losses during the season, won when it mattered most as Lorenzo Charles putback dunk at the final buzzer upset Houston’s heavily favored Phi Slama Jama. Few will ever forget the site of NC State coach Jim Valvano racing around the court looking for somebody to hug after the final buzzer.
6. 1985 — Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 — In a shocker, the Wildcats shot a tournament record .786 percent. They attempted 10 field goals in the second half and made nine. Georgetown was defending champion and the top seed, but fell short against eighth-seeded Villanova after beating another Big East foe, St. John’s, in the semis.
7. 1982 — North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 –– This was Michael Jordan’s coming out party, and the freshman hit the game-winning shot, a 16-foot jumper with 15 seconds left, to give Tar Heel coach Dean Smith his first national championship. “I was all kinds of nervous,” Jordan said, “but I didn’t have time to think about doubts. I had a feeling it was going to go in.”
8. 1950 — CCNY 71, Bradley 68 — City College of New York (CCNY) legendary coach Nat Holman, a New York native and a star with the Original Celtics, led the Beavers to wins against Bradley in both the NCAA and the NIT, both at Madison Square Garden. CCNY remains the only team to win both the NCAA and the NIT in the same season.
1987 — Indiana 74, Syracuse 73 — Keith Smart’s 16-foot baseline jumper with five seconds remaining gave the Hoosiers a victory in a matchup of Hall of Fame coaches, Indiana’s Bob Knights versus Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. Seven three-point baskets by IU’s Steve Alford combined with the Orangemen’s futility from the foul line were just enough to give Indiana the win.
10. 1973 — UCLA 87, Memphis State 66 — UCLA won its seventh NCAA championship behind center Bill Walton, shown right, who made 21 of 22 shots for 44 points as the Bruins waltzed to another victory. Overall, the UCLA dynasty would capture 10 crowns in 12 years under coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood.
Overtime…5 More Minutes, 6 More Classics
2008 — Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT) — Kansas was down with 2:12 left in regulation but missed Memphis free throws left the door open, and the Jayhawks finally tied the score on Mario Chalmers three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining. Kansas then dominated the overtime to win its first championship in 20 years.
1997 – Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT) – Guards Miles Simon and Mike Bibby combined for 49 points to give Arizona the championship. Coach Lute Olson’s fourth-seeded Wildcats became the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds en route to a title.
1989 — Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 (OT) — Rumeal Robinson made a pair of free throws with three seconds left following a controversial foul call to give the Wolverines the win in the NCAAs first overtime game since 1963. Seton Hall rallied from a 12-point deficit to send the game into overtime on John Morton’s three-pointer with 24 seconds left in regulation.
1963 – Loyola of Chicago 60, Cincinnati 58 (OT) – Down 15 with 12 minutes to play, the Ramblers scrambled back to force overtime. Then Vic Rouse’s rebound basket with one second left gave Loyola the championship.
1961 — Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 (OT) — In an all-Ohio finale, Cincinnati, minus the great Oscar Robertson, who had graduated, beat defending champion Ohio State. The Buckeyes roster included Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. The Bearcats would go on to repeat in 1962, once again beating OSU.
1944 — Utah 42, Dartmouth 40 (OT) — Utah originally turned down an invitation to the NCAA tournament, but was given a second chance after losing in the NIT, and after Arkansas pulled out of the tourney after two players were injured in an automobile accident. The Utes were the youngest NCAA champion in history; the team’s average age was 18 years, six months.
The most popular answer is Michael Jordan. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are popular selections. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are certainly in the conversation. LeBron James is a favorite of the current generation and still climbing.
A name that rarely…if ever…comes up is Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Surprising, considering the big man’s pedigree. Here are 10 supporting arguments for Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the best ever.
1. POINTS: He’s the leading scorer in NBA history with 37,387 points. Karl Malone is second.
2. MVP: Kareem won the NBA MVP award a record six times. Jordan won five and LeBron is a four-time winner.
3. RINGS: He’s won six NBA championships, one with the Bucks and five with the Lakers. Only Robert Horry and a bunch of Celtics have won more. Russell is the leader with 11.
4. DEFENSE: Kareem was selected to the NBA’s All-Defensive team 11 times.
5. REBOUNDS: He’s fourth all-time in rebounds with 17,440, trailing only Wilt, Russell and Malone.
6. ALL-STAR: Jabbar appeared in 19 NBA All-Star games, the most in history. Kobe Bryant is second with 18.
7. BLOCKS: Only Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutumbo have more blocks than Kareem.
8. UCLA: Won three straight NCAA titles with UCLA in 1967,68 and 69, and made first team All-American each year.
9. GAMES: Only Robert Parrish played in more NBA games than Jabbar.
10. SCORING AVERAGE: Kareem averaged 24.6 points per game throughout his career.
If size matters, the USA will waffle the Belgians in their World Cup knockout round match. Here’s how we stack up against Belgium.
USA — 318M
Belgium – 11M, roughly akin to Ohio
ADVANTAGE – USA, big
USA — 3.79M square miles, world’s third largest country
Belgium – 11.8K square miles, roughly the size of Maryland, our 42nd largest state
ADVANTAGE – USA, big
USA – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Thomas Edison
Belgium – Adolpe Sax (inventor of the saxophone), Peter Paul Reubens (baroque painter), Leorge Lemaitre (astronomer who invented the Big Bang theory)
ADVANTAGE — USA (although sax and Big Bang are big deals)
USA – BBQ pork and beef, crab cakes, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies.
BELGIUM — Belgian waffles, Brussels sprouts
ADVANTAGE — USA
USA – Federal republic
Belgium – Federal monarchy
ADVANTAGE — Belgium, a king tops a president, King Philippe gets the nod
GDP (gross domestic product)
USA – $16.799 trillion
Belgium – $434.503 billion
ADVANTAGE – USA, big
USA – “In God we trust”
Belgium – “Strength through unity”
ADVANTAGE — Tie
USA – Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan
Belgium – Eddy Merckx (five times winner of the Tour de France), Justine Hennin and Kim Clijsters (women’s tennis)
ADVANTAGE – Seriously
USA – Marilyn Monroe, Meryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall
Belgium – Audrey Hepburn
ADVANTAGE – USA
USA – Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks
Belgium – Jean-Claude Van Damme
ADVANTAGE – USA
USA – Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore
Belgium – Manneken Pis
ADVANTAGE – USA
USA – English, Spanish
Belgium – Flemish, French
ADVANTAGE — Tie
USA – Land of the Free
BELGIUM – Low Countries (with the Netherlands and Luxembourg)
ADVANTAGE – USA
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, right, recently lit up Madison Square Garden for 54 points, making 11 of 13 three-pointers in a loss to the Knicks. Curry’s majestic performance raised the obvious questions about all-time scoring heroics at MSG.
New York Newsday has a slide show on MSG’s 50-point games at both the old Garden on Eighth Avenue and the current facility atop Penn Station, which opened in 1968. Here are 10 factoids about the top scoring games at Madison Square Garden, the so-called world’s most famous arena and the mecca of basketball.
1. No surprise here. Wilt Chamberlain has held the record for most points scored at MSG for more than 50 years. In November of 1962, the Big Dipper, playing for the San Francisco Warriors, dropped 73 points on the Knicks at the old Garden.
2. Chamberlain indeed has recorded five of the top eight scoring games at MSG. In addition to his 73-point outburst, Wilt scored 62 (3rd all-time), 59 (6th), and 58 twice (7th and 8th). All came at the old Garden in a four-year span between 1960 and 1964.
3. Lakers forward Elgin Baylor set the NBA single-game scoring record in November, 1960, when he scored 71 against the Knicks. Baylor also had 25 rebounds at MSG that night.
4. Another Laker, Kobe Bryant, scored 61 at the current MSG — aka MSG IV, the NBA’s oldest arena — in February of 2009. Bryant made all 20 of his free throws that night.
5. The Knick single-game scoring record is 60, set by Bernard King, left, on Christmas Day in 1984 in a loss to the New Jersey Nets. That new Garden record stood for nearly 25 years until Kobe broke it.
6. All told, five Knicks have eclipsed 50 points at the Garden. Richie Guerin had 57 and 51 at the old MSG, and King (55,52), Patrick Ewing (51,50), Jamaal Crawford (52) and Allan Houston (50) at the new place.
7. Guerin’s 57 in 1959 broke the Garden record held by Neil Johnston of the Philadelphia Warriors. Johnston was the first player to score 50 points in a game against the Syracuse Nationals in 1954 — part of an all-NBA doubleheader at MSG.
8. Michael Jordan twice scored 50 at MSG, including the famous double nickel 55 in 1995. Exactly 3,069 days earlier Jordan hit for 50 in 1986, the only player to shoot less than 50 percent in a 50-point effort at the Garden.
9. As a Cleveland Cavalier, LeBron James surpassed the half century mark twice in New York, with 52 in 2009 and 50 one year earlier. At the time, LeBron’s 50-point, 10-assist game was only the third since the ABA-NBA merger.
10. The only other players to score 50 or more in an NBA game at the Garden were Rick Barry, who scored 57 as a rookie with San Francisco in 1965 and Richard Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons, who scored 51 points in a triple overtime loss to the Knicks in 200
With Valparaiso coach Homer Drew looking on, his son Bryce Drew unleashes game-winning three-pointer at buzzer to slay Ole Miss in 1998 NCAA Tournament.
Somewhere in this vast galaxy, in some alternate universe, Gordon Hayward’s halfcourt heave went in the basket and Butler beat Duke to win the 2010 NCAA National Championship. In that other world, it is celebrated as the greatest shot in college basketball history and arguably the greatest shot ever in sports.
Hayward’s shot would have topped this SportsLifer list except for one important detail. In this world, Hayward’s shot rimmed out and instead Duke held on to win its fourth National Championship.
There were plenty of other shots that did go in and made a difference.
Here are the 10 greatest game-winning shots in NCAA Tournament history:
1. Bryce Drew , Valparaiso, 1998, First Round: You remember the play. Valpo trailing Ole Miss by two, seconds left to play….and…we’ll let CBS broadcaster Ted Robinson, now the 49ers play-by-play man, make the call: “The inbounds pass to be thrown by Jamie Sykes, Carter pressuring. It’s to Jenkins….to Drew for the win…GOOD! HE DID IT! BRYCE DREW DID IT! VALPO HAS WON THE GAME A MIRACLE!” The leaning three pointer well behind the arc gave 13th-seeded Valpo a 70-69 win. Cinderella beat Florida State to gain the Sweet 16, where Valparaiso fell to Rhode Island
2. Christian Laettner, Duke, 1992, East Regional Final: In one of the greatest games every played and Duke trailing Kentucky by one in overtime, Calvin Hill threw a desperation 80-foot pass to Christian Laettner who caught the ball, faked and put up a fadeway shot from the free throw line as time expired. The Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four with the 104-103 win and went on to win their second straight title.
3. Arkansas, US Reed, 1981, Second Round: U.S. (Ulysses S) Reed, unable to get the ball to any of his teammates and with time running out, took a desperation shot from beyond the midcourt line, left. The ball went in (this before the advent of the three-point shot) and Arkansas stunned defending champ Louisville, 74-73.
4. Lorenzo Charles, North Carolina State, 1983, National Championship: With the game tied at 52 and four seconds to play, NC State’s Dereck Whittenburg flung a desperation heave. It was an airball, but Lorenzo Charles turned the miss into a dunk, and causing Wolfpack coach Jim Valanvo to run wild looking for somebody to love.
5. Keith Smart, Indiana, 1987, National Championship: The title game was held on Oscar night and while the nominated “Hoosiers” didn’t win in Hollywood, Bob Knight’s Hoosiers did in New Orleans. Keith Smart hit the winning jumper in the final seconds for the 74–73 win over Syracuse.
6. Tyus Edney, UCLA, 1995, Second Round — 5’10” guard Tyrus Edney went cost-to-coast with 4.8 seconds left and made a game-winning layup as the buzzer sounded the give the Bruins a 75-74 win over Missouri. UCLA went on to win its 11th national championship, the only one since John Wooden’s run of 10 titles ended in 1975.
7. Tate George, UConn, 1990, Elite Eight, Regional Semifinals: With only one second left in the game and UConn down a point to Clemson, Scott Burrell threw a full court pass to George. George caught the pass, spun around and released a 15-footer that fell through as time expired for a 71-70 win. Two days later, the Huskies lost a heartbreaker to Duke on a buzzer beater by Christian Laettner.
8. Michael Jordan, North Carolina, 1982, National Championship: No list of great exploits in basketball history is complete without the obligatory Jordan reference. The freshman hit a 17-foot jumper from the left side with around 10 seconds left. giving Dean Smith his first national title with the 63-62 win over Georgetown.
9. Vic Rouse, Loyola of Chicago, 1963, National Championship: The underdog Ramblers rallied from 15 points down in the second half to force overtime, then won the game on a last-second rebound and basket by Vic Rouse. Loyola’s improbable 60-59 win and denied Cincinnati the first three-peat in NCAA history.
10. Richard Washington, UCLA, 1975, National Semifinals: John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins won 10 titles in 12, and most weren’t even close. But this battle against former Wooden assistant and Louisville head coach was. The Bruins rallied to force overtime and won the game 75-74 on a last-second shot by Richard Washington. They went on to beat Kentucky for Wooden’s last championship.
1. 1992 — Duke 104, Kentucky 103 (OT) — Playing in a regional final and a chance to go to the Final Four, the Blue Devils and Wildcats scored on the final five possessions of the game, trading the lead each time. Kentucky took a 103-102 lead with 2.9 seconds left on Sean Woods’ crazy, 10-foot bankshot. Then Grant Hill threw the ball three quarters of the way down court to Christian Laettner, above, who turned and hit the winning shot at the buzzer. Laettner finished with 10-for-10 from the field and 10-for-10 at the foul line.
2. 1974 — NC State 103, Maryland 100 (OT) — The top-ranked Wolfpack overcame a 13-point first half deficit and endured in overtime to win the ACC Tournament. Rules at the time allowed only one of the teams to advance to the NCAAs, so the fourth-ranked Terrapins were left on the outside looking in . The game featured five players who received All-American honors in their careers — David Thompson and Tom Burleson of NC State and Tom McMillen, John Lucas and Len Elmore of Maryland — and 11 players drafted by the NBA.
3. 1957 — North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 (3OT) – The unbeaten Tar Heels outlasted Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks in the longest game in NCAA championship game history. Two free throws by Joe Quigg with six seconds left made the difference. UNC also played three overtimes in the semifinals, beating Michigan State.
4. 1974 — Notre Dame 71, UCLA 70 — Notre Dame put together one of the most improbable runs ever, scoring the final 12 points of the game to beat UCLA and end the Bruins 88-game winning streak. Dwight Clay’s jumper from the right corner with 29 seconds left gave the Irish the lead and they survived several UCLA attempts in the final seconds before celebrating, left.
5. 1983 — NC State 54, Houston 52 – The Wolfpack, sixth seeded with 10 losses during the season, won when it mattered most as Lorenzo Charles putback dunk at the final buzzer upset Houston’s heavily favored Phi Slama Jama. Few will ever forget the sight of NC State coach Jim Valvano racing around the court looking for somebody to hug after the final buzzer.
6. 2009 — Syracuse 127, UConn 117 (6OT) — In the Big East Tournament semifinals, the Orange outlasted the Huskies in six overtimes in the longest college basketball game ever played at Madison Square Garden. The contest took nearly four hours to complete and ended at 1:22 am. Syracuse returned later that night to win the Big East Championship against Pittsburgh.
7. 1985 — Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 – In a shocker, the Wildcats shot a tournament record .786 percent. They attempted 10 field goals in the second half and made nine. Georgetown was defending champion and the top seed, but fell short against eighth-seeded Villanova after beating another Big East foe, St. John’s, in the semifinals.
8. 1982 — North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 — This was Michael Jordan’s coming out party, and the freshman hit the game-winning shot, a 16-foot jumper, below, with 15 seconds left, to give Tar Heel coach Dean Smith his first national championship. “I was all kinds of nervous,” Jordan said, “but I didn’t have time to think about doubts. I had a feeling it was going to go in.”
9. 1969 — Houston 71, UCLA 69 — It was hyped as the “Game of the Century.” A mid-season battle between two unbeaten teams. And it was played in front of 52,693 at the Astrodome, the largest crowd ever to watch a college basketball game at that time. Second-ranked Houston, led by Elvin Hayes, outplayed Lew Alcindor and #1 UCLA, ending the Bruins’ 47-game winning streak. Hayes outscored Alcindor, 39-15
10. 1964 — Michigan 80, Princeton 78 — Princeton’s Bill Bradley scored 41 points to give the Tigers a 12-point lead with less than five minutes to play, when he fouled out in this Holiday Festival game at Madison Square Garden. The top-ranked Wolverines rallied behind Cazzie Russell, who made the winning shot in the waning seconds. Both Bradley and Russell would later play in MSG for the Knicks.
Three Pointers….3 more for the ride
11. 1994 — Kentucky 99, LSU 95 — In the “Mardi Gras Miracle” the Wildcats engineered one of the great comebacks in NCAA history. Trailing by 31 points at halftime, Kentucky outscored LSU 62-27 in the second half for the win.
12. 1999 — USC 85, Oregon 84 – USC’s Adam Spanwich scored six points in the last 2.8 seconds, including a steal and half court heave that beat the buzzer and completed an incredible comeback
13. 1944 — Utah 42, Dartmouth 40 (OT) — Utah originally turned down an invite to the NCAA tournament, but was given a second chance after Arkansas pulled out of the tourney when two players were injured in an automobile accident. The Utes were the youngest NCAA champion in history, averaging 18 1/2 years age.
1. Name me a better football player than Jim Brown?
2. Name me a better baseball player than Babe Ruth?
3. Name me a better basketball player than Michael Jordan?
4. Name me a better hockey player than Wayne Gretzky?