The 10 Best NCAA Basketball Championship Games Ever

04.02.12 5 years ago
Thomas Robinson

Thomas Robinson (photo. Jeff Jacobsen, Kansas Athletics)

In my bracket, I had Kentucky and UNC. The two best teams, I figured, should meet again to determine the 2012 championship. Then Kendall Marshall was taken out in the air by a lumbering big man in the round of 32, and everything was turned on its head. Kentucky might look like runaway favorites tonight with a top six that could probably play with any core group of any college team in the past 20 years. But we’ve seen upsets before. In college basketball, sometimes talent can be trumped by experience, and Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson have a history together. It’s not likely they’ll lead Kansas to yet another championship upset over John Calipari. But it’s not out of the question either.

I’m just hoping for a great game. There’s enough talent to make it memorable. But to become one of the best championship games, it’ll take more than talent.

Here are the 10 best NCAA Championship Games ever.

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10. 1997: Arizona vs. Kentucky
The ‘Cats were my favorite college team of all time, so since this is my list, I’m including them over Butler/Duke in 2010 (Even though it was almost the most improbable champion ever) and UNC/Kansas in 1957 (Even though Wilt Chamberlain was involved in this three overtime game. Too bad hardly anyone even scored in the overtime periods.). This Arizona team is the only team to ever beat three No. 1 seeds in the tournament, and included a backcourt of Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson with Jason Terry off the bench. In this game, ‘Zona pulled off the upset in overtime behind Tournament MOP, Simon.
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9. 1989: Michigan vs. Seton Hall
Somewhat overlooked because it lacked a defining moment, this was still one of the best championship games of all time, and definitely in the top three or four of the past 23 years. Rumeal Robinson made two free throws to lift the Wolverines to a one-point overtime win, but it was Glen Rice who was the difference. He took time off from banging Sarah Palin to drop 31 points.

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8. 1987: Indiana vs. Syracuse
Even as a graduate of ‘Cuse, I realize how spectacular this game was. It was Bobby Knight‘s third championship, and featured a number of well-known players: Steve Alford, Dean Garrett, Derrick Coleman, Rony Seikaly and Sherman Douglas. It ended up being Indiana’s Keith Smart who was the difference, his corner jumper winning it for Knight, 74-73. Still, I can’t condone calling this “The Shot.” There’s only one shot in basketball history that deserves that nickname. You should know who I’m talking about…

7. 2008: Memphis vs. Kansas
I once played on an intramural team that was eerily similar to the 2008 Memphis squad. We destroyed everyone all year; no one came close to beating us. We were just better: more athletic and more skilled. But then we had a weekend tournament for the right to go to Boston for the national championships, and lost after blowing a nine-point lead in the last two minutes and overtime. That’s exactly what happened here. Memphis was up nine with barely two minutes to go before forgetting how to make a free throw (At least this wasn’t a fluke. They had problems from the stripe all season.). Then after Mario Chalmers made a game-tying triple, the Jayhawks used overtime to kill Derrick Rose (who looked unreal for parts of the game) and the Tigers’ near-perfect season.

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