Past NCAA Tournament games we wish we could watch again for the first time
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Past NCAA Tournament games we wish we could watch again for the first time

March Madness is one of the few events that truly connects the past with the present and future. As every new tournament begins, each team feels the validation of a good season but also has visions of making a huge statement in the dance.

We missed out on all of that last year. The 2020 tournament was canceled just before it was set to happen. No buzzer beaters, upsets, or marathon viewing. The 2021 tournament will be a bit different, but it is back and there will be new memories to make and a new champion crowned.

The old moments live on, though, whether they were national championship games that ended on buzzer-beaters or upsets that gripped the nation. These games not only stoke memories that seemingly live forever but they also shape the way we look at the NCAA Tournament.

Here are 20 games of the past that, if we had the opportunity, we'd love to relive. These games were so fun to watch that we can't get enough of them — well unless it was your favorite school that lost at the buzzer. Maybe it is a good time to check these out on YouTube if you get a chance.

 
1 of 20

Virginia-Purdue, 2019

Virginia-Purdue, 2019
Matt Kryger/IndyStar

Honestly, any of Virginia's final three wins en route to their first national championship would be worthy of another look. In the Final Four, Kyle Guy hit three free throws with 0.6 seconds left to give the Cavs a one-point win over Auburn. In the national championship game, DeAndre Hunter hit a three to force overtime (Texas Tech missed two good looks at the buzzer) before Virginia pulled away for the title. But the best game to watch was Virginia's Elite Eight win over Purdue.

Purdue's Carsen Edwards was unreal, scoring 42 points and hitting ten three-pointers. Virginia kept clawing back and needed a miracle shot by Mamadi Diakite at the buzzer to force overtime. It wasn't just Diatkie's shot that made that play great. Down two with 5.9 seconds left, Ty Jerome missed a free throw and Diatkie tapped into the backcourt. Kihei Clark ran in down, took two dribbles, and fired off a long pass back to Diatkie ... who quickly tossed it towards the basket. The shot went in, forcing overtime.

UVa scored the final six points in the extra time to beat Purdue, 80-75.

 
2 of 20

UMBC-Virginia, 2018

UMBC-Virginia, 2018
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It finally happened. The No. 16 seed had gone 0-135 against the No. 1 since the field expanded in 1985. There were a few close ones over the years but that No. 1 seed always pulled it out. Well, until March 16, 2018, that is. Virginia was the No. 1 overall seed that spent the entire season frustrating opponents with their Pack Line defense. That is what made this game so shocking. UMBC didn't just sneak out a win -- they dominated and did so by scoring 53 second-half points (Virginia averaged giving up 53 points per game for the season). After they two scrapped to a 21-21 tie at halftime, the Retrievers ran out to an 11-point lead early in the second half. Every time Virginia started to make a run, UMBC staved it off with their own run. Virginia not only became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed ... but did so by 20 points, 74-54.

 
3 of 20

Villanova-North Carolina, 2016

Villanova-North Carolina, 2016
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Jenkins' game-winning shot is one of the greatest in NCAA history, and the entire game leading up to it was enthralling. North Carolina dominated the first half, while Villanova dominated the second. The Tar Heels went on a wild comeback, topped by Marcus Paige's twisting three with 4.7 seconds left. Then Jenkins topped that improbable shot with a title-winning three at the buzzer. Both teams shot so well (Nova 58 percent, UNC 64.7 percent) from three and the game was so competitive throughout that the only way it could have ended was on a shot like that. 

 
4 of 20

Kansas-Memphis, 2008

Kansas-Memphis, 2008
NCAA Photos/Getty Images

What a heavyweight matchup this game was — especially in the only Final Four that saw all four No. 1 seeds advance there. Both teams went on big runs, but Memphis found itself with a nine-point lead with just over two minutes remaining. Kansas went to the "hack-a" strategy, fouling the notoriously poor free-throw shooting Tigers, and the strategy worked. Memphis missed enough free throws to set up Mario Chalmers' three to tie the game at the end of regulation. Kansas' momentum carried into overtime, and the Jayhawks outlasted Memphis for the title. 

 
5 of 20

UCLA-Gonzaga, 2006

UCLA-Gonzaga, 2006
Robert Gauthier/Getty Images

Gonzaga was such a known commodity that people were already criticizing the Bulldogs for not getting to a Final Four. This Adam Morrison-led team was viewed as the one to breakthrough. In the Sweet 16, the Bulldogs led UCLA by 17 in the first half and nine with 3:26 left in the game. However, UCLA went on an 11-0 run to end the game and leave Morrison sitting on the floor with tears running down his face. 

 
6 of 20

Illinois-Arizona, 2005

Illinois-Arizona, 2005
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Illinois, which lost just one game during the season, found itself trailing Arizona by 15 points with four minutes remaining. That's when the Illini's tremendous trio of Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and Luther Head took over and carried Illinois to a furious comeback, sending the game into overtime. The raucous Chicago crowd was deafening, as Illinois made its comeback complete by edging Arizona in overtime, 90-89.

 
7 of 20

Arizona-Gonzaga, 2003

Arizona-Gonzaga, 2003
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Arizona was stacked but somehow drew tournament darlings, Gonzaga, in the second round of the 2003 tournament. The game was intense and full of clutch moments, including Tony Skinner's big putback at the end of regulation and Luke Walton's leaner to send the game to its second overtime. Salim Stoudamire's floater finally sealed the game for Arizona. The Wildcats didn't win the title but will always have this classic to remember.

 
8 of 20

Indiana-Duke, 2002

Indiana-Duke, 2002
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Duke was the defending champion and returned Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, and Mike Dunleavy. Meanwhile, Indiana was in its second season after the bitter end of the Bobby Knight era. These two blue bloods met in the Sweet 16, where Duke built a 17-point lead in the second half. The Hoosiers mounted an unlikely comeback, led by senior Jarrad Odle, and took the lead. Indiana was up 74-70 when Williams hit a three while fouled with 4.2 seconds remaining — sending Indiana head coach Mike Davis into a fit. However, Williams missed the free throw and Boozer missed the putback, and the Hoosiers rode that win to the national championship game. 

 
9 of 20

Valparaiso-Ole Miss, 1998

Valparaiso-Ole Miss, 1998
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

This matchup is known for one of the best shots in NCAA Tournament lore. Bryce Drew, receiving a touch pass off a long inbound pass, fired up a three to beat Ole Miss at the buzzer. The play itself was amazing, but to know that Drew's dad, Homer, was Valpo's head coach and his brother, Scott, was an assistant makes this moment all the more special. 

 
10 of 20

Arizona-Kansas, 1997

Arizona-Kansas, 1997
NCAA Photos/Getty Images

Kansas was 34-1 heading into this Sweet 16 game and may have been Roy Williams' best shot at a title in Lawrence. Stars Paul Pierce, Jacque Vaughn, and Raef LaFrentz led the way for the Jayhawks. Arizona was a huge underdog but shot out to a big lead before the Jayhawks mounted a late run. Trailing by three, Kansas furiously attempted a trio of three-pointers that fell short. Arizona shocked the world that day and went on to win the 1997 title.

 
11 of 20

Arkansas-Duke, 1994

Arkansas-Duke, 1994
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Duke made its seventh Final Four in nine years. While most of the stars of the 1991 and 1992 championship teams were gone, Grant Hill was still there. The Blue Devils, in Charlotte, faced the upstart and talented Arkansas Razorbacks. The game was back and forth throughout. Corliss Williamson was the Razorbacks' star, but it was Scotty Thurman's rainbow three to beat the shot clock that put Arkansas ahead late, giving the Razorbacks their second title.

 
12 of 20

Duke-Kentucky, 1992

Duke-Kentucky, 1992
NCAA Photos/Getty Images

Generally regarded as the greatest game in tournament history, this one would be a hoot to revisit. Duke returned virtually everyone from its championship squad the year before, while Kentucky was rebuilding after sanctions ravaged the program. Stars Christian Laettner and Jamal Mashburn shined, as the Wildcats fought tooth and nail to keep pace with the Blue Devils. Laettner, who earlier in the game stepped on Aminu Timberlake, scored 31 points by hitting every shot he took, including the iconic game-winner off a long inbound pass by Grant Hill.

 
13 of 20

Duke-UNLV, 1991

Duke-UNLV, 1991
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

UNLV was the defending champion and undefeated heading into the game with Duke in a rematch of the 103-73 drubbing the Rebels put on the Devils in the 1990 title game. This time Duke stayed in the game late and went on an 8-1 run to pull the upset. Duke went on to win its first of five titles, while UNLV hasn't made a Final Four since. Some big names played in the game, including Larry Johnson, Christian Laettner, Stacey Augmon, Grant Hill, Greg Anthony, and Bobby Hurley.

 
14 of 20

Indiana-Syracuse, 1987

Indiana-Syracuse, 1987
NCAA Photos/Getty Images

We all remember Keith Smart hitting the game-winning shot to give Bobby Knight's Indiana squad the title over Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team. Many forget not only how good of a game it was but also how good Syracuse really was with the likes of Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, and Derrick Coleman. However, it was Indiana's Steve Alford and Smart who carried the Hoosiers to their last NCAA title.

 
15 of 20

Villanova-Georgetown, 1985

Villanova-Georgetown, 1985
Collegiate Images/Getty Images

If you long for the golden days of the Big East, let's take a trip back to 1985. Three of the Final Four teams were Big East members, with Georgetown reaching its third title game in Patrick Ewing's four years with the Hoyas. Underdog Villanova's stunning upset was one of the most magical nights in tournament history in what has been dubbed the "Perfect Game." Nova remains the lowest seed to ever win the tournament, coming in as an eight.

 
16 of 20

NC State-Houston, 1983

NC State-Houston, 1983
Bettmann/Getty Images

Houston's Phi Slama Jama met a team that was fulfilling its destiny in NC State. The Wolfpack won the game on a Lorenzo Charles putback dunk as time expired to give NC State its second national title. To be there to see Jim Valvano running around that court in Albuquerque looking for hugs would be chilling, especially knowing the road Valvano's life would take. It was one of the most remarkable tournament runs and title games ever. 

 
17 of 20

North Carolina-Georgetown, 1982

North Carolina-Georgetown, 1982
Bettmann/Getty Images

The star power of this game alone makes you giddy. Michael Jordan. Patrick Ewing. James Worthy. Sleepy Floyd. Sam Perkins. Oh, and the coaches were just icons, Dean Smith and John Thompson. Not only was this a star-studded affair, but it also was a genuinely great game, with Jordan famously hitting the game-winner to give Smith his first title. 

 
18 of 20

Michigan State-Indiana State, 1979

Michigan State-Indiana State, 1979
Bettmann/Getty Images

Rewatching this game isn't about the actual game, as the Spartans' 75-64 victory wasn't the highlight of this matchup. This game represented a major moment in time where basketball changed and was never the same. This was the most-watched tournament game ever and turned the Final Four into the spectacle it is today. It also launched the NBA into a different stratosphere as the start of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry that took over pro ball as well. Their stories collided on this day — a day you can actually say altered the course of hoops as we now know it.

 
19 of 20

NC State-UCLA, 1974

NC State-UCLA, 1974
NCAA Photos/Getty Images

UCLA went into the 1974 tournament as the winner of the last seven championships. The Bruins lost earlier in the year to Notre Dame and two other times, coming in more vulnerable than any of the previous championship squads. NC State went 27-0 the previous season but was ineligible for the tournament. Bill Walton's Bruins had a five-point lead late in regulation and a seven-point lead in double overtime, but David Thompson's Wolfpack fought back every time, winning 80-77 and ending UCLA's incredible streak. 

 
20 of 20

North Carolina-Kansas, 1957

North Carolina-Kansas, 1957
NCAA Photos/Getty Images

Many forget this magical Final Four run for the Tar Heels. After beating Michigan State in triple overtime the day prior, the undefeated Heels faced off against Wilt Chamberlain's Jayhawks in another triple-overtime game for the championship. Chamberlain was unstoppable that season (29.8 ppg, 18.9 rpg), but UNC managed to beat Kansas, 54-53. The Tar Heels did this in Kansas City of all places. 

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