The Greatest Moments in the history of the NCAA Tournament first round

Getty Images

Look at the time stamp on this post.

12:15 p.m.

On Thursday, March 19th.

This is the precise moment that the 2020 NCAA Tournament — the real tournament, not that First Four nonsense — was supposed to start.

So to honor that moment properly, here are 16 of my favorite first round moments from the NCAA tournament. Please share your favorite in the comments below or tweet at us with the video.


Without question, the greatest first round site in the history of the NCAA tournament was the Tampa pod in the 2008 big dance.

Friday, March 22nd, 2008 at the St. Pete Forum will go down as perhaps the Maddest day of all the Madness.

That’s because there were four double-digit seeds landing upset wins. Two games went into overtime. Two games were won on buzzer beaters.

It just does not get any better than that.

It started with perhaps the best shot of the day, as Ty Rogers hit a three at the overtime buzzer to beat 5-seed Drake, 101-99, with a play that will remind many of the Kris Jenkins shot to beat North Carolina:

Of course, that was followed up by 13-seed San Diego pulling off an upset with a game-winner with 1.2 seconds left against 4-seed UConn:

That was followed up by 13-seed Siena beating Vanderbilt by 21 points in the third game of the day before 12-seed Villanova upset 5-seed Clemson, 75-69, in the last game of the evening.

And that may actually be the wildest part of the entire day.

As a 12-seed, Villanova upset 5-seed Clemson.

I know, completely unbelievable, right?


The context of this incident is important.

Ron Hunter, then the Georgia State head coach, tore his achilles celebrating the 2015 Atlantic Sun tournament championship because that’s the kind of coach that he is. So when his 14th-seeded Panthers took on Baylor in the first round of the tournament, Ron was rolling around on a scooter and sitting on a stool.

Fast forward 39 minutes and 44.9 seconds, and Kenny Cherry missed a free throw that would have put Baylor up by three. Instead, R.J. Hunter – Ron’s son and a future first round pick – gets the rebound, and this happens:

Just incredible.

The sneaky hilarious part about this is the announcer. “They gotta push this to the basket guys, take this to the basket. What are they doing?”

Oh, just winning the game.



One of the iconic March Madness moments.

15-seed Hampton was leading Jamaal Tinsley and Iowa State at the half, but a second half run put the Cyclones up 55-44 with under five minutes left. But the Pirates were going away, and Tarvis Williams capped off a 14-2 finish to the game with a bucket in the lane with a very nice 6.9 seconds left on the clock. After Tinsley missed a layup at the other end of the floor, Hampton advanced, becoming just the fourth 15-seed to win a game in the NCAA tournament.

During the celebration, this happened:

I remember watching that play happen live, and thinking that moment was the best moment in the history of sports.

The image of Merfeld punching and kicking the air while lifted four feet off the ground by a player almost twice his size will forever be etched into my mind.

But that wasn’t the wildest 15-over-2 upset we’ve seen.


Florida-Gulf Coast, a tiny school in Ft. Myers, Florida, has only been in existence since 1991. Their basketball team has only been a thing since 2002. And yet, in 2013, under the tutelage of now-USC head coach Andy Enfield, the Eagles went on what may be the greatest cinderella run in the history of college basketball.

FGCU became the first 15-seed to make it to the Sweet 16, and they did so in incredible fashion. They didn’t needed a fluky buzzer-beater or a couple of lucky bounces to win. They quite literally dunked on, around and over Georgetown (and San Diego State) en route to the second weekend:

They were the better team both days, no questions asked.

And the result was this: A nickname we created. You’re welcome for that.


Perhaps the biggest 15-over-2 upset in tournament history came in 2016, when Kermit Davis and Middle Tennessee State stunned Michigan State in the first round.

A couple of qualifiers here: For starters, Middle Tennessee State was a really, really good mid-major program, one that did battle with high-majors before and after this upset win. They probably didn’t deserve to be on the No. 15-seed line in this bracket. They were better than that.

But Michigan State entered this game as the favorite to win the title. They had the co-National Player of the Year on their roster in Denzel Valentine. They would have been a No. 1-seed if they had not dealt with some injuries — including to Valentine — during the season. You know how there is always one team that the majority of the talking heads pick to win the title as soon as the bracket is officially announced? Michigan State was that team in 2016.

And Middle Tennessee State kicked their behinds:


Another first round stunner came during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, when 15-seed Norfolk State knocked off Missouri.

Perhaps the wildest part about this win is that the best pro on the floor turned out to be a player from Norfolk State.

Missouri was one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch this season. They played four sharp-shooting guards around Ricardo Ratliffe and let it fly. They scored in bunches, but they were always susceptible to a bruiser in the paint and an off-night. Enter Kyle O’Quinn, a 6-foot-10 New Yorker that ended up at Norfolk State before become a second round pick in 2012. He’s still playing in the NBA today.

He had 25 points and 12 boards in the win, including what proved to be the game-winning bucket:


In the very next session of games, 15-seed Lehigh and future top ten pick C.J. McCollum went out and upset a Duke team that featured a couple of Plumlees, Austin Rivers and Seth Curry, which made for one of the wildest and most unforgettable days of NCAA tournament basketball every.

Think about how many brackets were blown up when this happened:

That’s not even my favorite Duke first round loss, by the way.

The 2014 loss to 14-seed Mercer is, mostly because this white boy got to show off his moves:

With the benefit of hindsight, I think even Duke fans can agree that is just the absolute best.


UMBC picking off No. 1-seed Virginia.

That story has been beaten to death at this point.

And it also happened to turn into the greatest turnaround in the history of sports.

Virginia, if you have forgotten, won the national title the very next season.

So how about you just watch this video on how and why everything changed:


It sounds weird to think about now, after seeing Kansas win a national title, 14 straight Big 12 titles and get to a trio of Final Fours, but early in Self’s tenure in Lawrence, there were questions about whether or not he was a good enough coach to win the big one.

Part of the reason that was part of the narrative of his career was because of games like this, where the 3-seed Jayhawks lost to Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA tournament.


Jim Valvano is a legend in the sport of college basketball.

Part of it is because of his personality, part of it is because of the grace and dignity that he handled his fight with cancer and part of it is because of the way that Dick Vitale has chosen to dedicate his life to honoring Jimmy V and fighting against cancer.

The Jimmy V Classic. Jimmy V week. The speech. There isn’t a college basketball fan that doesn’t love him.

But one of the biggest reasons that he is a name that is important enough to honor that way is because he won the 1983 NCAA Tournament with N.C. State as a No. 6 seed on a buzzer-beating tip-in from Lorenzo Charles. Everyone remembers that game and that highlight.

What they may not remember is that the Wolfpack were taken to double-overtime by Pepperdine in the first round, and they needed to rally in regulation and the first extra frame just to have a chance to win at the end.

This is one of college basketball’s great ‘what ifs?’


For my money, Harold Arceneaux will forever be the name etched in my mind as the greatest underdog performer in NCAA tournament history.

‘The Show’ scored 36 points in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament, leading 14-seed Weber State to a win over 3-seed North Carolina.



This is hardly a complete and definitive list of the best buzzer beaters from the first round of the NCAA tournament, but it is a few of my absolute favorites.

Let’s start with the classic: Bryce Drew and Valpo beating Ole Miss by going the length of the court in 2.5 seconds:

Or what about when Northwestern State beat Iowa and the announcers didn’t know who hit the game-winning shot?

Or Drew Nicolas beating UNC Wilmington before disappearing down the tunnel?

Since we’re talking about UNC Wilmington, how about this dunk?

But I think easily the wildest, craziest, maddest end to a first round NCAA tournament game came in 2016, when Northern Iowa and Texas did this:

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

ncaa charge
Jordan Prather/USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

marquette smart
1 Comment

MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.