10. UCLA 73 vs. Gonzaga 71
I think we all remember the image of Adam Morrison sitting at half court with his head hanging down and tears streaming down his face. Up 71-62 with the game in hand, Gonzaga wouldn’t score again, as the Bruins would finish the game on an 11-0 run and survive and advance.
9. Western Kentucky 59 vs Mississippi Valley St 58
Oddly enough, President Obama decided to head to Dayton to check out a couple of 16-seeds battle it out in the First Four round of the tournament. Things were going as expected — Western Kentucky was the only team in the field of 68 teams with a losing record and found themselves down 16 points with the game winding down. Obviously, the Hilltoppers decided they were not ready for their season to be over, because they dominated the final five minutes and escaped with a one-point victory after claiming the lead on a three-point play with 33 seconds remaining.
8. Louisville 75 vs Memphis 74
This was a unique game because it remained close wire-to-wire. Freshman phenom Darius Washington Jr. had done an amazing job of keeping his Tigers in the game with the Cardinals, who ranked No. 4 overall. Down two points on the final possession, Washington was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. He stepped to the free throw line all by himself with zeros across the clock. After connecting on the first attempt, Washington rimmed out the next two shots and slumped down on the floor after losing by a single point.
7. Stanford 79 vs Rhode Island 77
The Rams were the Cinderella team of the ’98 tournament, an 8-seed that blew past Paul Pierce’s top-seeded Kansas team and climbed all the way to the Elite Eight. Of course, they should have found themselves squaring off with Kentucky in the Final Four. A slew of URI turnovers, bad fouls and missed free throws allowed Stanford back into the game, however Rhody still had a chance to win it. Tyson Wheeler clanked three free throws with five seconds left to secure the win for Stanford as Arthur Lee gave him the choke sign after each miss. URI hasn’t won a NCAA tournament game since.
6. Duke 98 vs Maryland 96
Duke fans call this one “The Miracle Minute.” Duke was down 90-80 and the game was seemingly over. Fast forward 20 seconds later and Jay Williams poured in eight quick points to get the Blue Devils back in the game in the blink of an eye. A couple of Duke free throws tied the game up and Maryland missed a 3-pointer for the win. Duke went on to take the game from the Terps in their own gym in overtime.
5. Illinois 90 vs Arizona 89
This was Deron Williams’ undefeated Illinois team (eventually losing the National Championship to UNC) that also featured Dee Brown and Luther Head. The Fighting Illini were down 20 points in the second half of this game and down 15 points with just four minutes left. They trimmed the lead to eight points with a minute remaining, but their odds were beyond slim. The trio of guards clamped down on defense in the final minute forcing a pair of steals and eventually tied the game on a D-Will triple that capped a 20-5 run. Illinois kept the momentum going in overtime and took an undefeated record to the Final Four.
4. Kansas 75 vs Memphis 68
John Calipari’s Memphis teams were never too hot from the free throw line as you saw earlier on the list … but this instance was worse. If the Tigers could have hit anything at the free throw line they’d have hoisted the hardware in regulation, but instead they allowed Kansas to send the game to overtime on a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer and the momentum belonged to the Jayhawks. Memphis missed four of its last five attempts from the line, had they made any, Chalmers’ triple wouldn’t have been enough.
3. North Carolina 63 vs Georgetown 62
Everyone remembers this game for some freshman named Michael Jordan knocking down what turned into the game winning basket. That was pretty clutch — something MJ repeated plenty over the next 20 years. The opposite of clutch in this game was Fred Brown. With the clock ticking down Fred decided to casually toss the ball right into a UNC player’s hands thinking it was his own Georgetown teammate … talk about literally throwing away the title.
2. North Carolina 77 vs Michigan 71
UNC has done a hell of a job benefiting from the mistakes of others and turning them into National Championships. The Heels didn’t need Jordan to knock down a big shot this time around. They just needed Chris Webber to travel in front of the refs then dribble straight into the corner and call a timeout … when Michigan had no timeouts left. You’ve seen the play a million times. Like Brown, it’s not a compound of a million mistakes down the stretch, but rather one air headed play to lose it all on the biggest stage.
1. Texas A&M 92 vs. Northern Iowa 88
And then we have this gem. The inspiration for this entire article. Purdue deserves honorable mention here for blowing a 13-point lead to Arkansas-Little Rock with less than four minutes to go, but Northern Iowa essentially blew the same lead with 35 FREAKING SECONDS LEFT!
It’s being called the greatest collapse in the history of college hoops and it absolutely 100% is.
Leading by 12 points with 35 seconds left in the game means you win … no matter what. Texas A&M’s win probability at that stage in the game was 0.00%. Winning the game was determined impossible, and yet it still somehow happened. It was never before seen, and Northern Iowa still actually managed to keep its composure and play through two overtime periods, obviously falling short in the end. We always think that something more shocking will come along if we wait long enough, but I can hardly believe my eyes every time I watch this comeback. We’re never going to see a comeback/collapse like this ever again.
Find me on Twitter: @julianedlow