We missed out on March Madness this year, but we’ve had plenty of debate, makeshift brackets and simulations in place of it. With the DK Rally going on at DraftKings, we thought it’d be a good time to rank and debate the top rallies in March Madness history. Read more about DK Rally here: DK Rally information page.
Is the best rally overcoming the largest deficits? Knocking down the most improbable game-winner? A last-minute comeback? It’s open to interpretation.
Here are my top-five March Madness rallies:
2012 — BYU over IonaThis was actually one of the first years with the “first four,” with a couple of 14-seeds squaring off to make the field of 64. It didn’t take long for most people to just turn this game off, with Iona owning a 25-point lead. BYU gave up 55 first-half points, but won the second half 38-17, earning their way into the larger field. The 25 points is actually the largest deficit overcome in the tournament, as long as we’re counting play-in games.
2005 — Illinois over ArizonaIllinois was the favorite to win it all this year, starting the season 29-0. While Illinois did eventually fall to North Carolina in the championship, it almost didn’t get the chance to play in the Final Four. A very talented 3-seed Arizona squad had the top-overall seed in the tournament down 15 points with just four minutes to go. A 20-5 run led by Deron Williams got the game to overtime, where the better team prevailed.
2006 — UCLA over GonzagaThe higher seeded Bruins were down as many as 17 in this one to an Adam Morrison-led Gonzaga team. Even with UCLA staging a comeback, it felt like the Zags still had enough of a cushion to prevail. A combination of hustle plays by a UCLA roster loaded with NBA talent combined with sloppy play by Gonzaga led to one of the more shocking late turnarounds we’ve seen in tournament play.
2001 — Duke over MarylandMaryland was highly motivated in this one, following what’s known in Durham, NC as the “Miracale Minute.” The Terps were up 10 points with less than a minute to go and blew the game in overtime to Duke. However, Maryland was ready for the rematch in the Final Four, jumping out to a 22-point lead over the Blue Devils. Duke fought back once again, though, winning the second half 57-35, and going onto the National Championship game, where they would beat Arizona.
2016 — Texas A&M over Northern IowaNorthern Iowa was an 11-seed, already riding high off of a first-round upset over 6-seed Texas at the horn. UNI was poised to continue its run to the Sweet Sixteen, owning a 69-57 lead over Texas A&M with less than 40 seconds remaining. Yes, you read that right. A&M overcame a 12-point deficit with less than 40 seconds left to get this game to multiple overtimes, thanks to the most rapid of rallies you could imagine. An insane stretch of turnovers, all leading to baskets, ensued.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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