At its heart, this is what the first week of the NCAA tournament is about: 68 teams, 68 chances to make a memory. Longwood and Bryant are first-timers, but all the others have been this way before. Here’s a suggestion for the greatest March moment for each. So far.
The greatest March Madness moment for each 2022 NCAA men's tournament team
The Zips led No. 2 seed Michigan at halftime and played the Wolverines tough to the end before giving way 70-64. Michigan had problems with the zone defense put together by Akron’s young coach, Bob Huggins.
The Tide came from 13 points behind in the last eight minutes to upset No. 1 seed and 30-1 Stanford 70-67 in the second round, hitting 10 free throws in the final minute. They would eventually advance to their only Elite Eight in school history.
The last No. 4 seed to win the national title? The last West Coast champion? Arizona on both counts, with 30 points from Miles Simon to upend Kentucky in overtime in the final game.
Scotty Thurman’s 3-pointer in the last minute with the game tied and the shot clock running out sent the Razorbacks to a 76-72 win over Duke and the national championship. Watching from the skybox was Arkansas native and First Fan, President Bill Clinton.
Going to the first Final Four in school history: Great. Beating Kentucky in overtime to do it: Priceless.
Baylor 86, Gonzaga 70 in Lucas Oil Stadium for the championship. Doesn’t take much to remember that.
Boise State 2015
The Broncos are 0-7 all-time in the NCAA tournament, but here, truly, was a defeat with honor. The selection committee put them in the First Four in Dayton and paired them against — what? — Dayton. That makes Boise State the only team that had to play a true road game in the NCAA tournament in more than 30 years. And the Broncos nearly pulled it off anyway, losing 56-55.
The No. 14 seed Mocs were all over No. 3 seed Georgia with a 15-point lead at halftime and held on to win 73-70. Then they whipped Illinois 75-63 to become the second 14-seed to make it to the Sweet 16.
Jordan Burns’ 32 points helped put a scare into No. 2 seed Tennessee. The Vols lost a 14-point lead and led by only three in the final minute before escaping 77-70.
Colorado State 1969
This has been the Rams’ lone trip to the Elite Eight, and just look who they beat 64-56 to get there. Yep, their pals down the road at Colorado.
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Any of the four championship games would do, but what could be better than the first one, when it means upsetting No. 1 Duke 77-74?
The Bluejays hit the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis last spring but for sheer drama, there was Terrell Taylor in the first round in 2002, scoring all of his 28 points after halftime and beating No. 5 seed Florida 83-82 on a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left of the second overtime.
Cal State Fullerton 1978
Long before seedings gave upsets a numerical framing, the Titans created their own Cinderella story by sideswiping New Mexico and San Francisco on their way to the Elite Eight. They nearly beat Arkansas to make it to the Final Four. Those remain the only NCAA victories in school history.
Pick any Stephen Curry big game in his scoring blitz through Gonzaga, Georgetown or Wisconsin. His 40 against the Zags in the first round were the most explosive — 30 came in the second half — but with each step toward the Elite Eight, the Davidson story — and Curry — just grew bigger and bigger.
Down 18 to Louisville, the 13th-seeded Blue Hens made a determined run and lost by only 76-70. It had to be fun to see the No. 4 Cardinals squirm a bit.
Any of the five successful national championship games, right? Sure. But the game everyone remembers is Chistian Laettner beating Kentucky 104-103 in overtime for the regional final. Hard to say no to what many call the greatest tournament game ever played.
Georgia State 2015
It is a replay to live forever in Highlight Land; coach Ron Hunter falling out of his chair in sudden joy after his son R.J. buried a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to beat Baylor 57-56. The Panthers had been down 12 with under three minutes left.
Jalen Suggs for the banked-in winner from almost the next zip code. The classic 93-90 overtime ending against UCLA seemed to open the door to a national championship and a perfect season. Except lurking behind that door was Baylor.
Phi Slama Jama was in session, and the Cougars’ dunkathon was so impressive in a 94-81 Final Four dismantling of Louisville, the media called it 21st-Century basketball. A coronation as one of history’s greatest teams was expected in the championship game. Jim Valvano and North Carolina State had a different plan.
Top-ranked but in deep trouble, the Illini were down 15 points with four minutes left before they scrambled back to beat Arizona 90-89 in overtime in an Elite Eight classic. That sent them to the Final Four, where they would lose in the title game to North Carolina.
The 86-68 championship game rout of Michigan — the Wolverines actually led by six points at halftime — completed a perfect season. It remains the last one 46 years later.
The trip to the 1956 title game would fit here, too. But there was something special about the 81-80 Elite Eight win over Georgetown. To get to their only Final Four in the past 65 years, the Hawkeyes had to shoot 71 percent in the second half, make all 15 free throws, and commit one turnover.
Iowa State 2000
UCLA came into the Sweet 16 with a high-flying offense but it was Iowa State that rolled 80-56, playing its way into the Elite Eight.
Jacksonville State 2017
The Gamecocks jumped out to an 8-0 lead against No. 2 seed Louisville and it took 13 minutes for the Cardinals to catch up. Jacksonville State lost 78-63, but had made a stand.
Had Mario Chalmers missed his game-tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds shot, Memphis and John Calipari would have won the national championship in regulation. But he didn’t. It was all Kansas in overtime for the title.
There are many trophies in the case in Lexington to choose from, but you could argue no Wildcat team ever played with more pressure to deliver than this one, proving to a skeptical commonwealth they didn’t need Adolph Rupp to be champion. As a bonus, the 94-88 title clincher came against Duke.
Loyola Chicago 1963
Cincinnati was closing in on an unprecedented three-peat national championship, up 15 points in the second half. But serious foul trouble convinced Bearcats coach Ed Jucker they should stall, and the Ramblers came roaring back. Loyola used only five players, but that was enough, as Vic Rouse’s tip-in at the buzzer of overtime delivered one of the most stunning national championships ever.
Mighty Kentucky had won 14 in a row and 21 consecutive games against SEC opponents, including whipping LSU three times during the season. But the 11-loss Tigers beat the Wildcats in the regional final 59-57 to get to the Final Four, the first No. 11 seed to get there.
The last minutes of the championship game ticked away with Marquette finishing off North Carolina for the title, and a retiring Al McGuire weeping on the sidelines.
Unlike the 1973 Tigers Final Four team that really had no chance — not with Bill Walton and UCLA in the way — this team went into the last week with a genuine national title hope. The 78-63 pounding of UCLA put Memphis and John Calipari on the brink. If only the Tigers had made their free throws two days later against Kansas.
The year before, the Hurricanes won their first NCAA tournament game ever. They were back with broader horizons and knocked off big names Arkansas and Ohio State to push through to their first Sweet 16. It wasn’t just a football school anymore.
What a Final Four. The Wolverines survived 33 lead changes to beat Illinois 83-81, then won the national championship 80-79 in overtime on two Rumeal Robinson free throws with three seconds left. With Bill Frieder fired just before the tournament for taking another job, Steve Fisher’s first six games as head coach were six NCAA tournament wins.
Michigan State 1979
As landmark as it gets. Magic Johnson over Larry Bird for the championship. A rivalry was born and the television rating is still the highest in the history of the tournament.
Montana State 1951
Oklahoma State already had two national championships and came into this tournament with a shiny 27-4 record. Montana State had 11 defeats but the Bobcats pushed the Cowboys before losing 50-46. Montana State would not be back in the NCAA tournament for 35 years.
Murray State 2019
The No. 12 seed Racers not only plowed over No. 5 seed Marquette 83-64, they did it with a triple double. Ja Morant — the NBA would know the name one day — had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds.
New Mexico State 1970
With Lou Henson in charge, the Aggies took a 23-2 record into the tournament and didn’t stop until they ran into UCLA in the Final Four.
Norfolk State 2012
Missouri who? The No. 15 seed Spartans, fazed not in the least by a big name or bright lights, shot 54 percent to send the No. 2 seed Tigers home 86-84.
North Carolina 1957
Where’s Michael Jordan’s shot from the wing to give Dean Smith his first title in 1982? Or Roy Williams’ first championship in 2005 when the No. 2 Tar Heels beat No. 1 Illinois? They’re great, but not as one-of-a-kind as North Carolina going three overtimes to beat Michigan State in the 1957 semifinals, and the next night going three more overtimes to edge Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain 54-53.
Notre Dame 1978
The Irish could claim a regular season victory as their great moment — ending UCLA’ 88-game winning streak in 1974 — but there is only one Final Four ever for a school that is playing in its 37th NCAA tournament. So the 84-64 regional championship win over DePaul was pretty big.
Ohio State 1960
Nobody was going to get in the way of the Buckeyes, who won all four NCAA tournament games by at least 17 points. That included defending champion California. Ohio State shot 67.4 percent and mashed the Bears 75-55 in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, only a short drive and a bridge away from Cal’s Berkeley campus.
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The Ernie DiGregorio-led 1973 Final Four team would be a fine choice, but these Friars returned to the Final Four with an epic afternoon — blitzing Big East cousin and No. 1 seeded Georgetown by 15 points in the regional championship.
The Rick Mount Show stormed into the national championship game by plastering North Carolina 92-85, with Mount scoring 36 points. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, UCLA and the future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were waiting for them.
First, the Spiders took care of No. 4 seed and defending national champion Indiana. Then, Georgia Tech. That put Richmond in the Sweet 16.
Often forgotten: The famed Indiana team didn’t own the only perfect record at the 1976 Final Four. When Rutgers rolled over VMI 91-75 for the East Regional title, it meant the Scarlet Knights would be going to Philadelphia at 31-0. Michigan put a stop to that in the Final Four.
Saint Mary’s 2010
“Best win ever. Quote it,” Omar Samhan said in the locker room afterward. Sure. Samhan scored 32 points to help beat No. 2 seed Villanova 75-68 and send the Gaels to the Sweet 16.
San Diego State 2011
The Aztecs had gone 15,713 days between NCAA tournament victories, from their 1968 Division II exploits to their first Division I win against Northern Colorado. The second round was even better as they beat Temple 71-64 in two overtimes to advance to their first Sweet 16.
San Francisco 1956
The glorious Bill Russell era ended with a second consecutive national title and the first perfect season in NCAA tournament history. Russell said goodbye to college with 26 points and 27 rebounds in the 83-71 championship gave win over Iowa. The Boston Celtics noticed.
Seton Hall 1989
The Pirates had one NCAA tournament win in their history before ’89, but rolled into the Final Four, then proved they belonged by flattening Duke by 17 points. And they still don’t think Rumeal Robinson was fouled in the last seconds of the overtime loss to Michigan in the title game.
South Dakota State 2016
The Jackrabbits have often caused mischief for higher seeds, playing No. 3 Baylor to eight points in 2012 and being tied 70-70 late in an eight-point loss to No. 5 Ohio State in 2018 that saw both teams put up 71 3-point attempts. But in 2016 against No. 5 Maryland, South Dakota State actually had the ball and a chance to tie in the final three seconds before a Maryland steal and basket made it a final 79-74.
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St. Peter’s 1991
First time in the tournament, and the 12th-seeded Peacocks gave No. 5 seed Texas a few anxious moments, trailing only two points at halftime and staying within striking distance much of the game. It ended 73-65.
It could not have been easy beating Kansas State in Wichita, 77-72. This is one of only two NCAA games the Horned Frogs have won, other than in the consolation round.
The Vols’ 0-5 record in the Sweet 16 was at last history with a 76-73 win over Ohio State, despite 31 points by the Buckeyes’ national player of the year Evan Turner. With their first chance to get to the Final Four, they took a heartbreaking 70-69 loss to Michigan State in the regional final. They haven’t been back that far since.
It had been 56 years since the Longhorns were in the Final Four, but T.J. Ford’s 19 points and 10 assists put them there in an 85-76 win over Michigan State. Texas was the last No. 1 seed standing.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 2007
This is the Islanders’ only previous NCAA tournament game and it created momentary coast-to-coast gasps when, as a 15-seed, they jumped to an early 18-point lead on No. 2 seed Wisconsin in the first round. The Badgers recovered to win 76-63.
Texas Southern 2018
The 16-18 Tigers started the season 0-13 but all’s well that ends with a win in the First Four. The 64-46 victory over North Carolina Central was not only the first NCAA tournament win in school history, but also the first ever in the tournament by a team with a losing record.
Texas Tech 2019
The Red Raiders were good but given their modest past, who really would expect them to be in a championship game? Then they started picking off big names and high seeds; Michigan and Gonzaga in the regional and Michigan State in the Final Four.
The Blazers’ program was only four years old when they shocked national player of the year Ralph Sampson and No. 3-ranked Virginia 68-66 in the Sweet 16. It didn’t hurt that the game was played in Birmingham.
Where to begin? A dynasty with 11 national championships means more options than you can shake a John Wooden rolled-up game program at. But in 1968, the Bruins and Lew Alcindor lost one game — the groundbreaking epic two-pointer in Astrodome to Houston in January. They met again in the Final Four, and UCLA had a score to settle. It ended 101-69 in what might have been the closest to a perfect game any team ever played.
Since it’s been 68 years since the Trojans’ last Final Four — hard to imagine for an athletic powerhouse that has produced national championships by the dozens in other sports — the 66-65 double overtime win over Santa Clara to get them there sounds reasonable. But honorable mention to handing Kansas its worst tournament loss in history — 85-51 — on the way to a surprising Elite Eight last March.
Back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime pushed the 13th-seeded Catamounts past No. 4 seed Syracuse 60-57 in overtime, and sent coach Tony Brennan into retirement a very happy man.
The mother of all championship game upsets. The most remarkable thing about that night was the Wildcats missed only one shot against Georgetown the second half. The second-most remarkable thing is they did that and won by only two points.
Virginia Tech 1967
They called guard Glen Combs “The Kentucky Rifle” for his long-range shooting, and he showed why, scoring 29 points as the Hokies stunned Big Ten champion Indiana 79-70 to get to its only regional championship. An overtime loss to Dayton kept them from the Final Four.
True, taking a machete to Kentucky’s perfect record in the 2015 Final Four comes to mind, but it’s hard to beat a school’s only national championship.
Wright State 1993
Getting flattened by Indiana 97-54 in the first round in the Hoosier Dome might not seem like a great moment, but the Raiders’ program had only recently joined Division I and this was their coming out party. Nothing is quite like the first time.
With 5-10 guard Kenny Sailors popularizing a new-fangled idea called a jump shot — he said he needed it against taller defenders because he was so short — the Cowboys went all the way to the national championship. He scored 16 points in the 46-34 title game win over Georgetown. Two days later, Wyoming beat NIT champion St. John’s 52-47 in overtime in a Red Cross game with proceeds going to the World War II effort.
The Bulldogs have one NCAA tournament win in their history, but it was a shocker. Making their first tournament appearance in 54 years as a 12 seed, they rolled over No. 5 seed Baylor 79-56.