Best national title games in college basketball history

Getty Images

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.

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

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.

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.