We’re only a few days away from one of the best weekends in college basketball. With Louisville, Michigan, Wichita State and Syracuse set to go to battle this weekend, expect to hear a whole lot of Cinderella, zone defense and Trey Burke talk. It’s inevitable. Hopefully, the games live up to the billing. But in all likelihood, none of them will make this list.
Here are the top 10 Final Four games in NCAA Tournament history.
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10. GEORGIA TECH vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (2004)
A matchup that pitted two teams that rarely make headlines in the NCAA Tournament, let alone their own conferences. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were carried by their dynamic backcourt of Will Bynum and Jarrett Jack all the way to San Antonio. As for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, they had the Graham twins, Joey and Stephen, along with Tony Allen and John Lucas III.
At 31-3 coming into the meeting, Oklahoma State was playing like one of the best teams in the nation. Meanwhile the 27-9 Yellow Jackets received an at-large bid as their ticket to the tourney. That April night in the Alamodome would become an unforgettable game. Georgia Tech was able to hold the lead for most of the game, but John Lucas III and the Cowboys wouldn’t go away quietly. Lucas drilled a three-pointer with 26.3 seconds left to tie the game at 65. Georgia Tech milked the clock down to its last ticks on the final possession and Bynum connected on a layup in the closing moments of the game to propel Georgia Tech to its first and only National Championship appearance.
9. HOUSTON vs. VIRGINIA (1984)
In one of the lower scoring Final Four games, the Houston Cougars went up against the Virginia Cavaliers. Houston had the most dominant force in all of college basketball at the time in Akeem Olajuwon (later Hakeem) — in all three of his seasons as part of Phi Slamma Jamma, the Cougars reached at least the Final Four. Virginia, on the other hand, was the more surprising participant in this game. While they had household names on their roster like Rick Carlisle and Olden Polynice, their 20-11 record said they weren’t the best of teams.
The Cougars took a slight 25-23 lead into halftime and couldn’t put the Cavaliers away for good; a late comeback by Virginia put the game into overtime. In a contest where neither team eclipsed 50 points, both teams fought, tooth and nail. Olajuwon tallied a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but he wasn’t the Cougars’ most vital player in this game. Forward Michael Young led the team in scoring with 17 points, and it was a put-back by Young’s high school teammate and freshman Ricky Winslow that sealed the 49-47 victory for Houston.
8. DUKE vs. MARYLAND (2001)
One of the most storied rivalries in ACC basketball comes to life whenever the Duke Blue Devils and the Maryland Terrapins face off against each other. In 2001, the fans were treated to this matchup a total of four times. Duke was able to escape three meetings, including a couple of two-point victories. The Blue Devils were loaded with talent — their roster featured Shane Battier, Jason (later Jay) Williams, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer. The Terrapins didn’t lack in talent either, with players like Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox.