We all understand why the 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled, but as we've reached the days the games were to have been played it brings a sense of extra sadness. Many of us were set to sit down in front of a television, computer or phone over the next four days and consume more basketball than any other time during the year. One of the best times of a sports fans year.
With no tournament (or sports for that matter) to watch, we've had to find other ways to get our hoops fix. This is as good a time as ever to go back in time and enjoy the best games the tournament has given us. With the internet, our past can be easily on display in the present and YouTube has many old games from the big dance that you can find and enjoy in their entirety -- many sans commercials.
So as we enter what would have been March Madness, here are 25 games ... with links to view them ... that a college hoops fanatic can watch today to help satisfy that craving.
What a game. The undefeated Tar Heels led by Frank McGuire felt like underdogs against Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks in the championship game in Kansas City. North Carolina did everything they could to minimize Wilt's impact (even outrebounding Kansas) to build a double-digit lead. Kansas stormed back to force overtime ... well, the first overtime. In the third OT, Carolina's Joe Quigg hit two free throws to give the Heels a one-point lead. Quigg would then tip Kansas' pass to Chamberlain away to give UNC their first national championship. Fun fact: The Tar Heels beat Michigan State in three overtimes the day before in the national semifinal game.
Watch North Carolina-Kansas here.
UCLA had won the previous seven NCAA tournaments but NC State went undefeated in the prior year but were unable to play in the tournament due to recruiting violations surrounding star David Thompson. Thompson was one of the best college players ever and (along with Tom Burleson) went toe-to-toe with Bill Walton and the mighty Bruins. UCLA held a lead late in regulation and in overtime but coughed it up both times to lose to the Wolfpack. Bill Walton still refers to this game as the most disappointing loss of his career. NC State would go on to beat Marquette for the national championship.
Watch NC State-UCLA here.
The game itself wasn't thrilling (the Spartans would win the game handily, 75-64) but it marked a shift in both college and professional basketball. Quite simply, it has been one of the most impactful games in hoops history. Magic Johnson and the Spartans had more firepower than Larry Bird's Sycamores but it was the beginning of both a rivalry that helped save the NBA but also turned the Final Four into a bigger event. The first possession saw Magic crash into Bird and they helped each other up which may be the most fitting play of this game.
Watch Michigan State-Indiana State here.
Michael Jordan. Patrick Ewing. James Worthy. John Thompson. Dean Smith. All are Hall of Famers who met up in New Orleans to each win their first NCAA championship. Ewing spent the game swatting everything in sight (including a bevy of goal-tends) while Worthy's offensive prowess was on full display. Yet it was a jumper from freshman Michael Jordan that not only brought Dean Smith his first national championship but began the legend of arguably the greatest basketball player ever.
Watch North Carolina-Georgetown here.
NC State needed to win the ACC tournament just to get into the big dance while Houston boasted All-Americans Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Drexler, however, picked up four fouls in the first half which allowed the Wolfpack surge to an 8 point halftime lead. Houston would go on a 17-2 run to take their own lead before one of the most memorable moments in tournament history happened. Lorenzo Charles catching Dereck Whittenburg's miss and dunking it before time expired to give NC State the win and Jim Valvano running onto the court to celebrate.
Watch NC State-Houston here.
A lot of things converged on this game. This was the height of the Big East's dominance as three of its schools made the Final Four and many felt the defending champion Hoyas' national semifinal win over St. John's was the real title game. It was Patrick Ewing's final game after a career of three national championship game appearances in four years. Villanova was an 8th seed that lost twice to Georgetown during the season. They needed a perfect game to beat Georgetown and that is nearly what they got. The Wildcats made 22 of 28 shots (including 9 of 10 in the second half) and used the four corners offense to keep the Hoyas' offense at bay for one of the biggest upsets in championship history.
Watch Villanova-Georgetown here.
Bobby Knight and Jim Boeheim matched wits in a game for the ages. Close throughout with star power all over the place. Steve Alford and Sherman Douglas went head to head in one of the best point guard battles in championship game history. But it was Keith Smart's baseline jumper with four seconds left that gave Indiana the lead and their third national championship in 12 years.
Watch Indiana-Syracuse here.
It isn't just the No. 6 seeded "Danny and the Miracles" made a magical run to the national championship that makes this a great game to watch but that this was one heck of a game in its own right. The two Big 8 foes had one of the greatest first halves in NCAA tournament history as they raced to a 50-50 halftime tie. While the offenses cooled off a tad, the game was tight until the end when Manning hit the free throws to ice the game.
Watch Kansas-Oklahoma here.
If you weren't old enough to see Loyola Marymount of the late 1980s and early 1990s play, this is a great game to watch. Just over a week after star Hank Gathers collapsed and died on the court during the WCC tournament semifinals, the Lions made an inspiring run to the Elite 8 in the 1990 tournament. This is their second round game against defending champion Michigan where LMU just destroyed the Wolverines, 149-115. Loyola Marymount was known for their run and gun offense and Bo Kimble scored 37 points and Jeff Fryer hit 11 three pointers in the win.
Watch Loyola Marymount-Michigan here.
Defending champion UNLV was trying to become the first team to go undefeated for an entire season since Indiana in 1976 while Duke was extremely talented but Mike Krzyzewski hadn't been able to cash in on a championship. In fact, the previous year UNLV thrashed Duke by 30 points in the title game and both teams came back mostly intact. Many expected a similar outcome but the Blue Devils were able to match the explosive Runnin' Rebels all night. When Greg Anthony fouled out late in the game, UNLV was out of sorts and Duke climbed on top and held on to an improbable win.
Watch Duke-UNLV here.
Many call this the best college basketball game ever played. Duke was the defending champion that returned everyone for a run at college basketball's first repeat champion since UCLA in the 1970s. Kentucky was being rebuilt after sanctions and were a mixture of holdovers and elite Rick Pitino recruits. The game was back and forth with chippy play and a lot of big moments, including Sean Woods' acrobatic shot to give the Wildcats a one-point lead with 2.1 seconds remaining. Grant Hill to Christian Laetter for The Shot.
Watch Duke-Kentucky here.
The final game of the Fab Five, Michigan's great recruiting class that reached two national title games but failed to win either of them. This one stung the worst as a great battle between two outstanding teams swung back and forth all game long until the Tar Heels took a two-point lead late in the game. After a missed free throw (and an uncalled traveling violation), Chris Webber would call a timeout that the Wolverines didn't have. That mistake overshadows how great Webber was in this game. Donald Williams, the Most Outstanding Player, had a fantastic Final Four, scoring 25 in the title game.
Watch North Carolina-Michigan here.
Duke entered the game on a 32-game winning streak, blowing everyone away (their only loss coming by two to Cincinnati in the Great Alaskan Shootout) and were 9.5 point favorites against the Huskies in the title game. The Blue Devils boasted player of the year Elton Brand as well as Shane Battier (who would be the 2001 player of the year), Chris Carrawell (2000 ACC player of the year), Corey Maggette, William Avery and Trajon Langdon. They didn't have Richard Hamilton, who scored 27 points, or Khalid El-Amin who hit every clutch shot and free throw down the stretch to beat Duke, 77-74 ... becoming the biggest underdog to win the national championship.
Watch UConn-Duke here.
This was that great St. Joe's team that had Jameer Nelson and Delonte West that went undefeated during the regular season and suffered their only loss during the Atlantic 10 tournament. This wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing game but it was physical and featured a pair of dagger shots in the final 30 seconds. The Cowboys' Joey Graham nearly lost the ball but gathered it and tossed it to John Lucas who canned the three to give them the lead. Nelson's shot came up short and Oklahoma State won a great basketball game.
Watch Oklahoma State-St. Joseph's here.
It is just so much fun when you see programs like this face off in a big game and guys are coming up with huge play after huge play. The two slugged it out for 40 minutes with a controversial three pointer by Kentucky's Patrick Sparks sending the game into overtime (was his toe on the line?). Shannon Brown scored 24 points for the Spartans as Michigan State would pull away late in overtime.
Watch Michigan State-Kentucky here.
Illinois came into their Midwest Regional final against Arizona with just one loss all year. That didn't matter to the Wildcats, who held a 15-point lead with over four minutes remaining in the game. Deron Williams and Luther Head led a furious comeback to outscore Arizona 20-5 the rest of the game to send the game to overtime. In the extra frame, both teams went blow for blow with Arizona's Hassan Adams' jumper off the mark to send the Illini to the Final Four.
Watch Illinois-Arizona here.
The 2006 NCAA tournament was a wild one (more on that later) which set up for Gonzaga and Adam Morrison to finally reach the program's first Final Four. The Bulldogs opened up a 17-point lead at one point and held a 71-62 lead with 3:27 left in the game. UCLA went on an 11-0 run to end the game, leaving Morrison on the floor in tears after the game.
Watch UCLA-Gonzaga here.
George Mason beat Michigan State in the first round, North Carolina in the second round and found themselves up against top seeded UConn in the Minneapolis Region final. Surely their run will end, right? We all know it didn't, as the Patriots came back from a 12-point deficit to send the game into overtime where they squeaked by the Huskies, 86-84. This kind of stuff didn't happen but this team helped usher in a period where schools like Butler, VCU, Wichita State and Loyola-Chicago made unlikely runs to the tournament's final weekend in the 2010s.
Watch George Mason-UConn here.
This wasn't one of the great Gonzaga teams that missed out on making a Final Four nor was this a classic nip and tuck game. Sure, Gonzaga held an 11-point second half lead and Davidson would end up winning by six ... which launched the Wildcats to upset wins over Gonzaga and Wisconsin before just coming up short against Kansas in the Elite 8. You want to watch this because of Step Curry. Curry scored 40 points in this one, including 30 in the second half, while hitting 8 of his 10 threes in the win.
Watch Davidson-Gonzaga here.
This game is most memorable for Memphis' inability to hit its free throws down the stretch (something that haunted the Tigers all year) and Mario Chalmers' game-tying three at the end of regulation. The Tigers held a nine-point lead with two minutes left in regulation when the Jayhawks led a furious comeback to get within two. Derrick Rose missed a free throw that would have made it a two possession game with 10 seconds left. Chalmers' shot sent it to overtime and Kansas never looked back. Kansas ended the game on a 24-8 run to claim their first national championship in twenty years.
Watch Kansas-Memphis here.
Florida Gulf Coast University was a new program that just became eligible for the big dance in 2012 but everyone knows them for their "Dunk City" exploits in the 2013 NCAA tournament. As a 15 seed, FGCU went on a 21-2 run in the second half that gave them a 19-point lead over the 2nd-seeded Hoyas. Georgetown would make a run but it wasn't enough to topple the Eagles. The swagger the Eagles showed with their alley-oops and celebrations after fast break baskets captured the nation ... especially after they beat San Diego State in the second round and became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16.
Watch FGCU-Georgetown here.
The only time the national championship game ended on a game-winning shot at the buzzer. It was a nip-and-tuck affair for the first third of the game before Villanova took control late in the second half. Down 10 with under five minutes remaining, North Carolina made a furious comeback, punctuated by a ridiculous double-clutch three pointer by Marcus Paige with 4.7 seconds remaining to tie the game. That would've been one of the most memorable shots in tournament history if not for what happened next: Kris Jenkins' three pointer as the buzzer went off. The scene of the shot going in and confetti and streamers falling from the sky is one of the most indelible moments in tournament history.
Watch Villanova-North Carolina here.
One great thing about the tournament is there are times you have no idea you are about to watch a historic game. No 16-seed had ever beaten a No. 1 seed in the tournament and there was no reason to think the UMBC Retrievers would be the first to do so against a suffocating Cavaliers team that was the top overall seed. After a see-saw first half, the Retrievers got out to a double-digit lead and fended off every attempt at a UVa comeback. It wasn't that UMBC beat Virginia (which was huge onto itself) as much as how they dominated the Cavs. It is fun to go back and see how it a historic game unraveled.
Watch UMBC-Virginia here.
This was just a great game. It was intense, close and saw some of the biggest games in several players' careers. The biggest game came from Malik Newman, who was a monster in overtime, scoring all 13 of the Jayhawks points in the extra period. It nearly didn't make it to overtime if not for Grayson Allen's bank shot circling the rim and somehow not falling in. A classic between two blue bloods.
Watch Kansas-Duke here.
Let's be honest: You could pick the last four games of Virginia's national championship run of 2019 but their Elite 8 battle with Purdue is the best of them all. Boilermaker guard Carsen Edwards scored 42 points in this game (splashing 10 threes) but it was Mamadi Diakite's slap back of a missed free throw that went to Kihei Clark ... who then passed it back to Diakite for the game tying shot as time expired.
Watch Virginia-Purdue here.