UPSETS, buzzer beaters, iconic plays and unprecedented runs. March Madness is marked down on the calendar for all passionate basketball fans as a can’t miss event for all these reasons and more. The randomness that occurs in the single-game elimination tournament to crown a national champion has given birth to some infamous memories and heroics over the years. There are some runs that stand out more than most though and these nine players etched their way into history with their play.
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Oscar Robertson in 1960
ASSISTS weren’t recorded back in 1960 when Robertson was dominating for Cincinnati, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he was getting plenty. I can confirm that he was still accumulating a ton of points and rebounds, as Robertson averaged over 30 points and 11.5 rebounds in his four games during 1960. It didn’t end the way the Big O wanted with a 4-16 shooting performance against California holding him back from winning it all. Still, Robertson’s ’60 run was captivating and still hard to believe.
Austin Carr in 1970
AUSTIN Carr is one of the main guys who provides colour commentary for the Cleveland Cavaliers so I am accustomed to hearing and seeing him on a regular basis. Years before he donned the headset though Carr was a star for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. His most iconic and memorable performance came against Ohio University in 1970 when Carr poured in a still NCAA record 61 points. He backed it up with 54 against Kentucky in the next round and even had 45 in the following game, a loss to Iowa. Anyone who averages 40+ in the tournament for their career is pretty good at basketball if you ask me.
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Bill Walton in 1973
AS UCLA marched to the 1973 title Bill Walton was at the peak of his powers. He averaged 23.8 points and 14.5 rebounds which included a mediocre showing of just nine points against San Fransisco. So why is Walton on this list then you ask? Well in the final against Memphis State he had 44 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 21 of 22 from the field. Yeah, no one is doing that again anytime soon.
Magic Johnson in 1979
THE birth of the Magic vs. Bird rivalry is what the 1979 NCAA Tournament will be remembered for, but Magic’s heroics are what really stands out. In his five tournament games, he had two triple-doubles (averaging 21.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG and an unofficial 10.0 APG) although because the NCAA wasn’t actually recording assists he isn’t credited for them. Johnson was unstoppable as the Spartans raced to the championship Johnson with Michigan State winning by an average of 20+ points. Nuf said.
Danny Manning in 1988
PERHAPS the crème de la crème of tourney runs came in ’88 from Danny Manning. Long before they were annually taking down the Big 12, Kansas entered the tournament as the 6th seed and ran all the way to the Final Four. Once they were there Manning dropped 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks to take down Duke and book their ticket for the championship game against Oklahoma. And there was no stopping the Jayhawks from winning it all with another epic game from Manning (31 points and 18 rebounds) steering Kansas to the school’s second national chip.
Christian Laettner in 1992
WHEN it comes to pro basketball Christian Laettner had a forgettable tenure. As a college player though, he is regarded as a god. The star of back-to-back championship runs for Duke, Laettner’s best moment came in overtime against arch-rivals Kentucky, when he hit perhaps the most iconic game-winner in the history of the sport. While ‘The Shot’ is what he is remembered for Laettner went 10-10 from the field and 10-10 from the free throw line in that game shooting over 55% during the Blue Devils six tournament games. I don’t even think I could hit 20-20 shots in my driveway, let alone in an Elite 8 game against a college powerhouse.
Carmelo Anthony in 2003
MELO did things that a freshman isn’t supposed to be able to do in 2003. Then again Carmelo Anthony was no ordinary freshman as he helped Syracuse win their only national title to date with a remarkable run through March. A tough schedule meant that Melo and the Orange would have to take down Big 12 giants Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas to win it all. So that’s exactly what they did as Anthony posted 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds through six games.
Steph Curry in 2008
MARCH Madness wouldn’t be complete without a Cinderella story. In 2008 that story belonged to little known Davidson and their then little-known sophomore star Steph Curry. Down by 11 against the heavily favoured Gonzaga Bulldogs in round one, Curry caught fire dropping 30 points in the second half and steering the Wildcats to an infamous win. Curry wasn’t done either, deploying his wet jumper against Georgetown (30 points) and Wisconsin (33 points) before falling to eventual champions Kansas 59-57. Despite the L Curry still managed to put up 25 against the Jayhawks and it’s clear now a star was born.
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Kemba Walker in 2011
AS if I’d leave Cardiac Kemba off this list. UConn’s run to the 2011 championship was fueled by one of the greatest individual performances we have ever seen. Not only were Walker’s numbers impressive, but on a nightly basis he was crossing up fools and draining stepback jumpers captivating the attention of the nation. Walker and the Huskies actually didn’t lose a bracket game all year, winning the Maui Invitational and the Big East conference tournament before taking out college’s ultimate prize. There are few in the same class as him when it comes to postseason accomplishments.
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