The 5 Greatest Moments in The History of NCAA ‘March Madness’

Published 02/12/2021, 1:29 PM EST

The NCAA has laid out the guidelines for March Madness 2021 which is set to be held at Indianapolis this time. The iconic college basketball tournament has been entertaining fans for several decades, and there are plenty of memorable moments that have taken place over the years.


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It is hard to pick the five best from a plethora of iconic moments, and the National Championship game has witnessed truly spectacular scenes and given birth to many remarkable players.
The forthcoming list is disputable, but these are the five best moments in the history of ‘March Madness’ according to Essentially Sports! 


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Five of the most iconic moments in March Madness history


5. 1979 – A game that gave birth to one of basketball’s most iconic rivalry

On March 26th, 1979, two outstanding college basketball players went head-to-head in the National Championship game. Magic Johnson led his Michigan State team to the ultimate matchup and took on National Player of the Year Larry Bird and Indiana State. 
The odds were against Magic and Michigan State, but the former put up a spirited performance to draw first blood against Bird. The Michigan State Spartans won the game 75-64, Magic Johnson was named MOP, and it marked the beginning of a rivalry that shook the NBA to its roots! 

4. 1982 – A star is born 

The 1982 championship game was a star-studded one. A total of six future Hall of Famers were present at the Lousiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 29, 1982. However, the one that stood out was a 19-year-old freshman named Michael Jordan
Jordan played for the North Carolina Tar Heels, who took on Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas in a cracking game. UNC was trailing Georgetown by just two points in the final seconds when Michael Jordan pulled one up from deep left-wing to give his team the lead. 
Jordan’s three-pointer helped North Carolina take the lead by one point, and with just 15 seconds left on the clock, the Hoyas squandered their opportunity, which gave UNC head coach Dean Smith the NCAA title in his 21st season with the team! 

3. 2016 – Jenkins’ shot for the ages

It doesn’t get any better than this. The 2016 NCAA championship game was between Villanova and North Carolina, and UNC scored a vital three-pointer to get back on level terms with just five seconds on the clock. 
It was time for Villanova to respond and they just had a little more than four seconds to win the championship or force overtime. But that’s when Kris Jenkins stepped up and made a shot of a lifetime that won the Villanova Wildcats their second National title. 

Jenkins’ shot went down as one of the best ever in tournament history, and the fact that he made it when the championship was at stake makes it even more astounding! 

2. 1983- Jim Valvano’s pursuit of a hug after a major upset

The 1983 NCAA Championship game truly had a remarkable ending. The entire game didn’t live up to the hype, but the ending surely made everyone jump off their seats. A North Carlina State team coached by Jim Valvano took on the heavy favorites Houston Cougars, led by Hakeem Olajuwon. 
With the scores tied at 52 in the final minute, there was chaos on the court and neither team could get a shot in. As the time ran down to six seconds, North Carolina State had the ball, and the tournament’s leading scorer Dereck Whittenburg threw up the ball which somehow turned into a pass from a miserable shot. 
His teammate Lorenzo Charles lept up and dunked the ball which resulted in one of the major upsets in NCAA Division I history. NC State’s head coach Jim Valvano ran out on the court in wild disbelief to find someone to hug, which went down as an iconic moment.

1. 1992- Laettner’s unbelievable shot

The 1992 March Madness East Region Final between Duke and Kentucky is still regarded as one of the best college basketball games of all time. A place in the Final Four was at stake and neither team was willing to give up their pursuit.
However, there could be only one winner and it fell upon the Duke Blue Devils’ hands, courtesy of Grant Hill and Christian Laettner. 
Duke and Kentucky were inseparable in regulation time and the game went into OT as a result. Overtime was hardly successful in creating a difference and only a single point separated Duke and leaders Kentucky with just 2.1 seconds remaining on the clock. 


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That’s when Blue Devils’ Grant Hill threw a perfect inbound pass all the way to the other end of the court which perfectly fell into the hands of Christian Laettner. Now it was Laettner’s responsibility, and the versatile forward faked his defender and made a fadeaway two-pointer that won the game for Duke. 
The moment will still be etched in the hearts of Duke fans, as Laettner’s “shot” won them the game as well as a place in the Final Four. Duke then went on to win the National Championship for the second consecutive time under Mike Krzyzewski’s leadership. 


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Arjun Athreya

1694 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at EssentiallySports and has been contributing to the website since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from the Madras Christian College. Outside of writing, Arjun has also conducted interviews with significant personalities in the sporting world such as notable NBA Insider Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, and Jerry Castello, the CEO of USA Natural Patches, and the founder the basketball tournament ‘The 5.


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