The greatest moments in the history of the NCAA tournament second weekend

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As weird as this may sound, I think I might like the second weekend of the NCAA tournament more than the first weekend.

The first weekend is full of insanity and wall-to-wall college basketball, which is awesome. Don’t get me wrong.

But the second weekend has a feel of completion to it. Not only do we get games between juggernauts, not only do we get the culmination of narratives and cinderella storylines, but we actually crown someone.

Getting out of the first weekend is an accomplishment.

Getting out of the second weekend is a banner.

There’s a difference, and you can feel it in the buildings and with the way the games are played.

Here are my favorite moments from the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.


Duke’s win over Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight in Philadephia is likely the best college basketball game ever played.

Mike Krzyzewski vs. Rick Pitino. Christian Laettner vs. Jamal Mashburn. The game was tied at 93 after regulation. There were five lead changes in the final minute of overtime. Sean Woods somehow banked in a floater from the foul line with 2.2 seconds left to put Kentucky in the lead.

Then this happened:

I think the most under-appreciated part of this game is that Laettner quite literally played a perfect game. He was 10-for-10 from the floor. He was 10-for-10 from the line. He scored 31 points. He hit a game-winner. And he stomped on someone’s chest without getting tossed.

That’s quite a game.


The best game in the history of the second weekend of the NCAA tournament pitted arguably the two biggest programs in the country, a pair of Hall of Fame head coaches, a couple of future top five picks and a trip to the Final Four.

The second best game of the NCAA tournament’s second weekend?

There’s an argument to be made that it didn’t feature a team that is among the top two basketball programs in their own state.

Tu Holloway and Jamal Crawford vs. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente lived up to all the hype and more, as No. 2-seed Kansas State beat No. 6-seed Xavier, 101-96, in double-overtime for the right to lose to Butler in the Elite Eight.

There were so many unbelievable moments and calls during that game, but one stands out as the best of them all — and maybe the best of Gus Johnson’s career as a broadcast:

He goes into full-on meltdown mode, which is exactly what every single person watching this game, either in the arena or on TV, did at the exact same time.

And that, quite frankly, is why Gus Jeezy is a legend.


For my money, the third-best game in the history of the second weekend of the NCAA tournament came just this past season.

Carsen Edwards scored 24 of his 42 points in the second half, including a five minute stretch where he scored 14 points, completely lighting up the best defender in college basketball in Deandre Hunter. His sharp-shooting led the Boilermakers back from eight points down to take the lead in the final seconds, which set up arguably the most memorable shot of Virginia’s 2019 title run:

There are a couple things worth talking about beyond the insanity of this game itself.

First and foremost, it might not have even been the craziest game that Purdue played that weekend. The Boilermakers blew an 18-point lead with 16 minutes left to Tennessee, forced overtime when Edwards was fouled shooting a three at the end of regulation and eventually won in the extra period. This came one round after Tennessee blew a 25-point second half lead to Iowa in the second round before winning that game in overtime.

The other part of this is that some believe that the 2019 Elite Eight was the best Elite Eight of all-time. Duke-Michigan State was a thriller. Texas Tech-Gonzaga was a great game. Auburn found a way to upset Kentucky without Chuma Okeke.

But still, I disagree.


The game that everyone remembers is when No. 1-seed Illinois came back from 15 points down in the final four minutes — and from eight points down in the final 1:10 — to beat No. 3-seed Arizona in overtime.

That comeback was absolutely bonkers, but it wasn’t even the biggest comeback of the day. In the first game of the day, No. 4-seed Louisville erased a 38-18 deficit against Kevin Pittsnoggle, John Beilein and No. 7-seed West Virginia to win 93-85 in overtime.

As an aside, that wasn’t even the craziest exit that we saw from a Kevin Pittsnoggle team in the NCAA tournament, because that came a year later on this insane sequence:

The third game of the 2005 Elite Eight featured No. 1-seed North Carolina ousting No. 6-seed Wisconsin is good, largely unremarkable 88-82 win.

It was that Sunday’s nightcap that really put the icing on the cake, as No. 5-seed Michigan State knocking off No. 2-seed Kentucky in a game that featured the most memorable NCAA tournament shot by a player from the losing team this side of Marcus Paige.

This is the quintessential NCAA tournament moment in my mind. The Wildcats were down by three on the final possession when Patrick Sparks airballed a three and Kelenna Azubuike bricked a three of his own before Sparks, getting a long offensive rebound, hit a three that bounced off the rim five times before dropping in. After the officials reviewed whether or not Sparks toe was on the line for roughly ten minutes, the game went to overtime:

After Azubuike missed a potential game-winning three at the end of the first overtime, the Spartans were able to pull away in the second OT.

But that’s not what anyone remembers from this game.

It was the insanity of that final possession in regulation. The bad shots, the hustle plays, the drama and a guy we would never hear from again etching his name into March Madness lore.


I mentioned Gus Johnson’s greatest moments earlier.

“Batista with the caaaAAATTCHH” is up there, too.

For those that don’t remember, Adam Morrison’s Gonzaga team led No. 2-seed UCLA by 17 points late in the second half of the Sweet 16, but they proceeded to melt away that lead before a J.P. Batista turnover with less than 15 seconds left led to a game-winning bucket from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That led to one of the iconic images in NCAA tournament history, when Morrison — a National Player of the Year, soon-to-be top three pick and the nation’s leading scorer — was crumped on the court, sobbing.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As another aside, that season was one of the most memorable for me because of the battle between J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison for National Player of the Year. Their battles for the scoring lead and the title of college basketball’s best was to the 2006 season what Trae Young was to 2018 and Zion was to 2019.

And then, in the span on a couple hours, both players were upset in the Sweet 16; Redick’s season ended with a loss to No. 4-seed LSU as Morrison’s final college basketball game was tipping off.

I wrote a long feature about that season four years ago. It’s still one of my favorite pieces.


We’ve seen a number of double-digit seeds and mid-majors make their way to the final weekend of the NCAA tournament in recent years. Loyola-Chicago did it in 2018. Butler make it to the national title game twice. The second time, they beat No. 11-seed VCU in the Final Four the year that VCU started out in the First Four. Wichita State made it to the Final Four as a No. 9-seed.

Each and every one of those runs had their own memorable moments. Butler’s runs catapulted Brad Stevens to the NBA. The same can be said about Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early from Wichita State. Books can be written about Loyola’s Sister Jean and VCU’s band The Peppas and the birth of Havoc.

But the most memorable of those cinderella Final Four runs was the first: George Mason in 2006.

The Patriots were one of the last teams in the NCAA tournament field that year, but they managed to find a way to knock off Michigan State and North Carolina in the first weekend before getting past fellow Cinderella Wichita State in the Sweet 16 for the right to take on UConn, a No. 1-seed that had a chance to win their second title in three years and third title in seven season.

That’s not the way it went down:

UConn has been involved in their fair share of incredible second-weekend moments.

There was Tate George’s shot in 1990, where UConn went 94-feet in 1.0 seconds to beat Clemson in the Sweet 16. There was Rashad Anderson’s shot to tie the game and force overtime in the Sweet 16 two days before the loss to George Mason; UConn erased a five-point lead in the final 40 seconds of that win.

And, of course, there was this insanity in 1998:


Back when Davidson was still just an upstart program in the CAA and Curry was just another mid-major gunner whose name no one could properly pronounce yet, he scored 128 points in four games to get his team to within one shot of getting to the Final Four.

And in the end, what people are going to remember is that it was Jason Richards, not Curry, that got the shot that could have ended Bill Self’s only national title run two games early, but what we should remember is how he took over games against Gonzaga and Georgetown, averaging 35 points as the Wildcats erased 11 and 17-point second half deficits, respectively.

It was one of the best individual tournament runs in college basketball history.



The No. 1-seed Buckeyes somehow managed to dig themselves a 49-29 hole late in the first half against Bruce Pearl and No. 5-seed Tennessee in the 2007 Sweet 16, but they came storming back in the second half.

Ron Lewis scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and Greg Oden battled foul trouble the whole game, but it was Oden that saved the day.

His block on the final possession of the game sealed the win:


Duke entered the 2002 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1-seed. They were the No. 1 team in the country in the preseason. They never left the top five throughout the year. They had a roster that featured Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Dahntay Jones, Mike Dunleavy and Chris Duhon. They were considered the favorite to repeat as national champs.

And then, in the Sweet 16 in a game played in Rupp Arena in Lexington, the Blue Devils lost to No. 5-seed Indiana, a team that finished 11-5 in the Big Ten and lost 11 games on the season. Duke jumped out to a 17 points lead and held a 42-29 lead at the half, but led by Jared Jeffries and his 24 points, the Hoosiers came back to win en route to a trip to the national title game.


The 2004 season was to St. Joe’s what the 2020 season was supposed to be for Dayton. The Hawks, led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, went undefeated until the Atlantic 10 tournament, earned themselves a No. 1 seed and made it to the Elite Eight, where their season was ended by this shot from John Lucas III:

And that is a fitting way to bring us to …



Before he became an All-American forward for North Carolina, Luke Maye was just some dude with bushy eyebrows on their bench when he capped off this ridiculous sequence to get North Carolina to the 2017 Final Four:

The Tar Heels won the title that season.


I’m sure there are going to be plenty of Kentucky fans that disagree with me here, but my favorite UK moment from the second weekend of the NCAA tournament came in 2011, when Brandon Knight beat Aaron Craft for this game-winning bucket in what was a thrilling final sequence:

The narratives here are what make this so good in my mind.

This was a season after Kentucky got bounced in the Elite Eight with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and a year before they won the title with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Ohio State was the No. 1 over all seed and the clear favorite to win the national title entering the tournament.

And Kentucky not only got the job done, but I called the upset in my bracket.



Before Tyus Edney went coast-to-coast to be Missouri in 1995, Danny Ainge did the same for BYU as they knocked off Notre Dame and make it to the 1981 Elite Eight:

Then in 2009, Scottie Reynolds did the same thing to get Villanova past Pitt and into the Final Four:


In 2013, the year Michigan made it to the national title game, National Player of the Year Trey Burke hit a 30-footer to force overtime against No. 1-seed Kansas:


This one felt like karma coming full circle, as Grayson Allen somehow missed this would-be game-winning shot as Duke lost to Kansas in the 2018 Elite Eight. I’ll never understand how this shot didn’t go in:


What was the bigger whiff, officials missing this travel on Jeff Green:

or calling this shot from Kenny Anderson good?:

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

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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

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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.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”