The greatest NCAA Tournament championship games ever
Kris Jenkins hit the NCAA Tournament buzzer-beater of all NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters Monday night. Lance King/Getty Images

The greatest NCAA Tournament championship games ever

It was a shot every kid who grows up playing basketball in America dreams of making. For Villanova forward Kris Jenkins, that dream, the one so many of us have had, became an almost unthinkable reality last night. And we, as basketball fans, were treated to one of the greatest athletic competitions, of any kind, last night in the process.

So with the endorphins from last's night thriller still buzzing, let’s take a look at the 10 greatest NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Games in history.

1) Villanova vs. North Carolina, 2016

What better place to start than last night’s instant classic between Villanova and North Carolina? It’s already being called by many the greatest game in college basketball history, and with good reason. Along with being a back-and-forth contest throughout the entire game, the last 30 seconds of Nova vs. UNC was basketball at its most exciting.

Prior to Jenkins' game-winner, UNC guard Marcus Paige hit a breathtaking double-clutch three-point shot to tie the game at 74 all. Unfortunately for Paige and Tar Heels fans, that three-pointer will be one of the greatest shots basketball fans fail to remember.

Kris Jenkins' buzzer-beating three-pointer a few seconds later was a moment that will live forever. There’s an old saying in basketball that the inbounder is most dangerous man on the court. That typically doesn’t apply when a team has to go the length of the court to make a shot. But typically speaking, national championships aren’t won at the buzzer.

Kris Jenkins was the inbounder on last night’s final play.

2) Duke vs. Wisconsin, 2015


After last night’s excitement, it’s easy to forget that last year’s title game was also a thriller. Duke and Wisconsin battled in a game that featured 13 lead changes in the first half alone.

After Duke fell behind by nine points in the second half, relatively unknown freshman guard Grayson Allen led Duke on a rally in which it would reclaim the lead with a little more than five minutes to play. Duke was then able to fend off Frank Kaminsky and his Badgers, taking home the national championship trophy with a tightly contested 68-63 win. It was the fifth national title of the Mike Krzyzewski era.

3)  Duke vs. Butler, 2010

Duke won its fourth national championship five years earlier, defeating the Cinderella Butler Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament Final. Or to put it more accurately, Duke JUST BARELY beat the Cinderella Butler Bulldogs in the NCAA Tournament Final.

The game had the potential to go down as the greatest ever with the greatest buzzer-beater of all time — however, Butler star Gordon Hayward was unable to make a game-winning three-point shot from half court as time expired. Hayward’s shot went off the backboard and popped off the top of the rim, giving Duke a 61-59 win and that year’s national championship.

Had Hayward made that shot, it would have likely gone down as the greatest moment in tournament history. But alas, it just wasn’t meant to be for Butler.

4) Kansas vs. Memphis, 2008

John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers faced off against Bill Self’s Kansas Jawhawks in the 2008 national title game. The game was an instant classic. Led by future NBA MVP Derrick Rose, Memphis appeared to have the game in hand with a nine-point lead and less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

The Jawhawks, led by Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur, would rally to cut the lead to three points with 10 seconds remaining. Chalmers then stepped up to the plate and hit an improbable three-pointer to tie the game at 63 apiece with two seconds remaining.

The game then went to an overtime period in which Kansas took a stranglehold on the game. Memphis would cut the Jayhawks' OT lead to three points, but Kansas made its free throws down the stretch to win its first championship since 1988.

5) Michigan vs. North Carolina, 1993

The 1993 national championship game between Michigan and North Carolina was a frantic, back-and-forth matchup between two teams that were evenly matched. But the only thing most basketball fans remember from this game was a blunder for the ages by Michigan sophomore Chris Webber.

Down by two points with 20 seconds remaining, C-Webb took the ball into the frontcourt and was trapped in the corner by UNC’s defense. Webber then did what just about any player would do in that situation: He called a timeout. The problem was the Wolverines didn’t have any timeouts remaining. The subsequent penalty from Webber calling a timeout his team didn’t have effectively ended the game.

Michigan lost to UNC 77-71, and what could have been one the greatest moments of Chris Webber’s life turned into a nightmare.

6) Michigan vs. Seton Hall, 1989

It hasn’t been all bad news for Michigan basketball, however, as the Wolverines defeated Seton Hall 80-79 in the 1989 national title game. Led by Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson, the Wolverines sank two free throws with three seconds remaining in overtime to give Michigan its first ever national championship in basketball.

Although it was easily one of the greatest title games in tourney history, the following years in which the “Fab Five” took over Michigan basketball have caused many fans to overlook this thriller.

7) Indiana vs. Syracuse, 1987

Say what you will about Bob Knight, but there’s no denying the success he had during his tenure as head coach of the Indiana University. Perhaps Knight’s finest moment as the Hoosiers coach came in 1987 when his team defeated Syracuse in the national title game.

The Hoosiers and Orangemen were neck and neck with each other through the entire 40-minute contest. With the Hoosiers trailing by one point in the final seconds, Indiana guard Keith Smart buried a baseline jumper with four seconds remaining to give his team the lead. The Hoosiers then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and won their fifth national championship in school history.

8) NC State vs. Houston, 1983

If there is any national title game that can truly rival what we witnessed last night in Houston, it would be the 1983 matchup between North Carolina State and the University of Houston. The Houston Cougars, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, were heavy favorites to end NC State’s dream run. But the Wolfpack, led by an upstart coach by the name of Jim Valvano, had other plans.

Tightly contested throughout, NC State found itself down by one point with the final seconds remaining in regulation ticking away. Wolfpack guard Derek Wittenberg heaved a desperation shot from well over 30 feet out. The shot was offline, but Houston forgot to box out Wolfpack center Lorenzo Charles. Charles grabbed Wittenberg’s miss mid-air and dunked it home as time expired.

The Cinderella run from the Wolfpack was complete. Jim Valvano leaped into the air and ran around the court like a madman looking for anyone to hug. And just like the end of last night’s national title game, it was a moment those who witnessed it will never forget.

9) North Carolina vs. Georgetown, 1982

The 1982 national title game between North Carolina and Georgetown saw a shooting guard by the name of Michael Jeffrey Jordan introduce himself to the basketball world. Like he would do so many times in his NBA career, Jordan hit a legendary shot along the baseline with 17 seconds remaining to give UNC a 63-62 lead it would not relinquish. Jordan’s heroics gave famed Tar Heels head coach Dean Smith his first national championship victory.

10) North Carolina vs. Kansas, 1957

Unless you’ve been watching college basketball since the Eisenhower administration, you probably weren’t expecting the 1957 title game between North Carolina and Kansas to be on this list. But considering the game went into triple-overtime, this game deserves to be remembered.

The Kansas Jawhawks, led by some guy named Wilt Chamberlain, had a chance to win the game in the final seconds of the third overtime. But a pass intended for Chamberlain in the low post was under-thrown and stolen by UNC guard Tommy Kearns. Kearns then threw the ball up in the air as high as he could, and time expired on the Jawhawks. By the score of 54-53, the Tar Heels had taken down Chamberlain and the Jawhawks.

Can you name every NCAA men's basketball champion?
SCORE:
0/81
TIME:
15:00
1939
Oregon
1940
Indiana
1941
Wisconsin
1942
Stanford
1943
Wyoming
1944
Utah
1945
Oklahoma A&M
1946
Oklahoma A&M
1947
Holy Cross
1948
Kentucky
1949
Kentucky
1950
CCNY
1951
Kentucky
1952
Kansas
1953
Indiana
1954
La Salle
1955
San Francisco
1956
San Francisco
1957
North Carolina
1958
Kentucky
1959
California
1960
Ohio State
1961
Cincinnati
1962
Cincinnati
1963
Loyola Chicago
1964
UCLA
1965
UCLA
1966
Texas Western
1967
UCLA
1968
UCLA
1969
UCLA
1970
UCLA
1971
UCLA
1972
UCLA
1973
UCLA
1974
North Carolina State
1975
UCLA
1976
Indiana
1977
Marquette
1978
Kentucky
1979
Michigan State
1980
Louisville
1981
Indiana
1982
North Carolina
1983
North Carolina State
1984
Georgetown
1985
Villanova
1986
Louisville
1987
Indiana
1988
Kansas
1989
Michigan
1990
UNLV
1991
Duke
1992
Duke
1993
North Carolina
1994
Arkansas
1995
UCLA
1996
Kentucky
1997
Arizona
1998
Kentucky
1999
Connecticut
2000
Michigan State
2001
Duke
2002
Maryland
2003
Syracuse
2004
Connecticut
2005
North Carolina
2006
Florida
2007
Florida
2008
Kansas
2009
North Carolina
2010
Duke
2011
Connecticut
2012
Kentucky
2013
Louisville
2014
Connecticut
2015
Duke
2016
Villanova
2017
North Carolina
2018
Villanova
2019
Virginia

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