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Best national title games in college basketball history


Do you need a list of college basketball’s best national title games? Because I do.

Today would be the day that we would be watching the college basketball national title game.

Instead, we are going to have to watch reruns of last night’s Wrestlemania.

That’s what live sports in 2020 exists as.

Anyway, since I know you need your fix, here is a list of the top ten best national title games in the history of college basketball.

If this isn’t enough to feed your need, check out our posts on the first weekend and the Sweet 16.


10. 1988: KANSAS 83, OKLAHOMA 79

This game doesn’t often get mentioned in the pantheon of the best national title games ever played, and I’m not sure why.

Kansas, a No. 6-seed, tied the record set by Villanova in 1985 as the biggest Vegas underdog to ever win a national title game. They were eight-point dogs against a powerhouse Oklahoma team, but Danny Manning carried the Jayhawks to a stunning win with a line of 31 points, 18 boards, five steals and two blocks.

What’s the most impressive thing about this game is that the first half was an absolute bonanza. The game, heading into the break, was tied at 50 before Kansas and head coach Larry Brown pulled away down the stretch.

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9. 1999: UCONN 77, DUKE 74

UConn shocked the world!

The Huskies were the biggest underdogs to ever win a national title game in 1999, when Rip Hamilton and Ricky Moore carried them to a national title over a juggernaut Duke team.

We spent 75 minutes on the most recent college basketball talk podcast breaking the game down. Listen in!

8. 1989: MICHIGAN 80, SETON HALL 79 OT

Michigan’s run to the 1989 national title is one of the wildest college basketball stories that is never discussed. Bill Frieder, Michigan’s head coach, announced before the tournament that he would be leaving the Wolverines to take over at Arizona State. Michigan’s AD did not like that, so he fired Frieder and plugged in Steve Fisher as the interim head coach.

Fisher did what all smart coaches do and let his otherworldly talent take over. Glen Rice averaged 30.7 points in six games, including 31 in the title game, while Rumeal Robinson hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left in OT to win the title.


What this game actually is remembered for is Michael Jordan.

He was the freshman star that hit a pull-up jumper with 17 seconds left to give a UNC team led by James Worthy and Sam Perkins a 63-62 lead. What it probably should be remembered for is Georgetown point guard Fred Brown inexplicably throwing the ball to Worthy on the ensuing possession, giving the Tar Heels the win.

It was Dean Smith’s first national title.

6. 2008: KANSAS 75, MEMPHIS 68 OT

This game is known for Mario Chalmers’ game-tying shot.

With a nine-point lead and less than two minutes remaining, Memphis opted to stop trying to make their free throws, instead missing four of five down the stretch while leaving the door open for the Jayhawks to make their run.

Regulation, as I’m sure you remember, ended like this:

And the Jayhawks were able to pull away in the extra frame, winning Bill Self his only NCAA tournament title.


Prior to UConn upsetting Duke in the 1999 national title game, Villanova’s win over Georgetown — and Kansas knocking off Oklahoma in 1988 — featured the biggest upset, from the perspective of the Vegas lines, in the history of the national title game.

Villanova played a perfect game. Rollie Massimo, Ed Pinckney and the Wildcats capped off the most improbable run through the NCAA tournament in the history of the event, winning the title as a No. 8 seed in the very first year that the event was expanded to 64 teams. They shot 79 percent for the came, and they are still the lowest-seeded team that has ever won a title.

4. 2019: VIRGINIA 85, TEXAS TECH 77 OT

A game between the two best defenses in college basketball turned into one of the best-executed second halves of basketball I can ever remember seeing.

This is what happens when you have elite coaches and high-level, veteran players on the court at the same time. They figured out how to exploit each other’s weaknesses, both teams went full small-ball — De’Andre Hunter was the biggest guy on the floor by the end of the game — and it turned into a thrilling, compelling finish. Texas Tech erased a 10-point deficit in the final 10 minutes and took the lead in the final minute only to see Hunter bang home a game-tying three with 12 seconds left.

The Wahoos pulled away in the extra frame, completing maybe the greatest story in the history of college basketball: Becoming the first No. 1-seed to ever lose to a No. 16-seed to winning a national title.

3. 1987: INDIANA 74, SYRACUSE 73

This game is known for the shot that Keith Smart hit with just four seconds left in the game.

With Steve Alford being face-guarded by Sherman Douglas, Smart found a way to get open for a 15-footer on the baseline that gave Bob Knight his third and final national title. Smart scored 12 of the final 15 points for the Hoosiers, and while the next two games on this list are better known title-winning buckets, Smart’s is the only one that was hit when his team was trailing.

2. 1983: N.C. STATE 54, HOUSTON 52

For my money, this game will go down as one of the worst beats in college basketball history.

Watch the final possession of the game.

Do it.

Right now:

Houston has to defend for 45 seconds. They nearly force a turnover twice in the final 15 seconds. They don’t allow the Wolfpack to get within 18 feet of the rim at any point. The shot that N.C. State gets to win the game is a 30-footer with four seconds left on the clock that’s an airball, and the only reason that the Cougars lost in regulation was because Whittenberg’s shot was an airball.

If that bounces off the front of the rim, Lorenzo Charles’ put-back dunk doesn’t happen. If Whittenberg gets a better look and has a normal miss, Jim Valvano would have to beat one of the best college basketball teams that we have ever seen to win his national title.

That, of course, is not the way it played out.

N.C. State pulled off one of the biggest and most exciting upsets in the history of the NCAA tournament, giving Jimmy V a national title and helping build his name cache so that his fight against cancer — and the hundreds of millions that have been raised since his lost his battle — became a national news story every December.

Maybe it’s true that everything happens for a reason.



I’m not sure this is even debatable.

Considering the stakes involved, Villanova-North Carolina was the best college basketball national title game that I’ve ever seen. It was well-played throughout. It featured a stretch of North Carolina dominance, a stretch of Villanova dominance, a wild comeback in the final five minutes by the Tar Heels and the most exciting finish that we have ever seen in a title game.

Everyone remembers the shot that Kris Jenkins hit to win the game at the buzzer, but what seems destined to be lost to the annals of history is the fact that Marcus Paige hit one of the greatest shots in NCAA tournament history with just 4.7 seconds left. His double-clutch, floating three-ball would be on par with the threes hit by Mario Chalmers in 2008 and De’Andre Hunter in 2019 if Kris Jenkins hadn’t won the game at the buzzer.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.