The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (also known as March Madness) takes place from Mid-March to early April annually and is the most wonderful time of the year for College Basketball Fans as they will be able to soak in and watch all of the March Madness Games.
The tournament (which was created in 1939) is one of the most famous annual sporting events in the country and has established its own lore in popular culture. Even non-sports fans can’t wait to see what happens during the March Madness Games each year, whether it be for drama, upsets, and or tight matchups.
Over the years, March Madness Games have featured some of the most iconic moments on both college basketball and sports history. Given the heavy prevalence of social media in our society today, almost anything that happens (both on and off the court) during these March Madness Games can go viral and/or become something that people will still talk about for years to come.
All of the memorable March Madness Games listed below are considered memorable whether it be due to upsets, dramatic endings, jaw-dropping buzzer beaters, and/or clutch plays, to name a few aspects. They also took place across various rounds of the tournament. Now, let’s take a look back at 10 of the Most Memorable March Madness Games From The Past Decade:
10. Duke vs. Butler – National Championship Game (2010):
The intensity of the final 124 seconds ofThe 2010 NCAA Championship Tournament Game between Duke and Butler brought is what makes this matchup rank highly amongst the greatest March Madness Games (and Finals) ever. With 3.6 seconds left in the game, Duke was leading 60-59 when Brian Zoubek was fouled. Zoubek increased Duke’s lead to 61-59 when he made the first free throw but intentionally missed the second one.
After Zoubek’s intentional miss, Butler Star Gordon Hayward grabbed the rebound and threw a desperation shot from half-court at the buzzer, and the ball bounced off the backboard and then the rim. Hayward’s aim was reportedly off by three inches (or less than one degree) on the x-axis and his miss allowed Duke to win it’s fourth NCAA Title (and it’s first since 2001).
9. Florida Gulf Coast vs. Georgetown – First Round (2013):
Florida Gulf Coast University was the Cinderella Team of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Each of the school’s March Madness Games were entertaining to watch and multiple media outlets referred dubbed Florida Gulf Coast as “Dunk City” due to the team’s high-flying athletic finishing style.
During Florida Gulf Coast’s tournament run in 2013, their most memorable game was their first round matchup where they upset Georgetown 78-68 and was the seventh time ever that a 15th seed beat a 2nd seed. Despite being eliminated in the Round of 16, Florida Gulf Coast made history in becoming the first (and so far only) 15th seed team to make it to that round of the tournament.
8. Texas A&M vs. Northern Iowa – Second Round (2016):
Besides the National Championship Game (See #2 below for more details), another one of the most memorable games from the 2016 NCAA Tournament was when Texas A&M (a 3-seed) was able to prevent an upset from Northern Iowa (a 11-seed) in the second round with a dramatic comeback win in double overtime. The video below features highlights of the end of regulation and the two overtime periods.
7. Georgia State vs. Baylor – First Round (2015):
Georgia State (a 14-seed) defeating Baylor (a 3-seed) 57-56 in the first round in 2015 is not only one of the most memorable March Madness Games of the decade due to it being an upset, but also because the game produced one of the NCAA Tournament’s funniest moments ever too!
Prior to the game (and even before the 2015 NCAA Tournament began), Georgia State already gained some media attention after Head Coach Ron Hunter tore his achilles tendon while running to his son R. J. Hunter to celebrate the team’s victory over George Southern in The Sun Belt Conference Championship. As a result of the injury, Coach Hunter was forced to coach his team from a rolling stool during the tournament. When Georgia State upset Baylor after R . J. scored the game-winning three with 2.8 seconds remaining, his father/head coach famously fell off his rolling stool in celebration. Coach Hunter’s fall sent basketball fans and social media into hysterics!
6. Virginia vs. Purdue – Elite 8 (2019):
After Virginia’s historic defeat the previous year (See #1 below for more details), the university produced one of the greatest comeback performances in sports history as the team would go on to win the 2019 NCAA Tournament Championship Title. Virginia’s journey to the 2019 NCAA Championship Title almost didn’t happen as they had to fight hard to beat Purdue 80-75 in overtime in the Elite 8 Matchup between the two schools.
Although it was only played last year, the Elite 8 game between Virginia and Purdue will be one of the most memorable March Madness Games that college basketball fans will still discuss in the years to come due to the historic performance from Carsen Edwards (the middle player in the photo below), Purdue’s star player. Although Purdue lost the game, Edwards scored 42 points of his team’s 75 points and also broke several records throughout the entire tournament. Furthermore, Edwards was named the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) of the South Regional Bracket, the first player to win MOP honors of any Regional Bracket despite not being a member of the winning team since Steph Curry of Davidson in 2008.
5. Florida vs. Wisconsin – Sweet 16 (2017):
The 2017 Sweet 16 Matchup between Florida and Wisconsin is one of the most memorable games of the past decade due to its dramatic ending. Florida beat Wisconsin 84-83 in overtime after Florida Guard Chris Chiozza hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Chiozza later said that he considered passing the ball before he decided to take the game-winning shot.
4. Wisconsin vs. Kentucky – Final Four (2015):
The Final Four Matchup between Wisconsin and Kentucky in the 2015 NCAA Tournament received tons of hype by both the media and fans prior to tip-off. Both schools played each other in the same round the previous year and Kentucky won the game 74-73 on a last-second three pointer. However, they would go on to loose the 2014 NCAA National Championship Game 60-54 to UConn. Heading into the 2015 rematch, both Wisconsin and Kentucky were 1-seeds in their region brackets and the latter team was undefeated.
This result of this memorable game ended in a 71-64 victory for Wisconsin, who not only got revenge, but also crushed Kentucky’s hopes for a perfect 40-0 season. Had Kentucky advanced to the 2015 NCAA Championship Game and won, they would have been the first undefeated team to win March Madness since Indiana did so in 1976.
3. Mississippi State vs. UConn – Final Four (2017):
Of all the memorable March Madness Games of the 2010s to make this list, the matchup I put at #3 is the only one from the Women’s NCAA Tournament. In Women’s College Basketball, the University of Connecticut (UConn) is the most successful program, having won the NCAA Tournament 11 times.
Heading into UConn’s Final Four Match against Mississippi State in the 2017 NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament, UConn was the four-time defending champions and the heavy favorites to win both the game and the entire tournament. UConn looked on track to advance to the Championship Game for the five consecutive year until Mississippi State Point Guard Morgan William (see the photo below) hit a last-second buzzer beater in overtime, which concluded with a 66-64 victory for Mississippi State. The defeat not only ended UConn’s quest for a fifth consecutive (and 12th overall) NCAA Championship, but also snapped the team’s 111-game winning streak, which is still the record for most consecutive wins in (both men’s and women’s) college basketball history.
2. Villanova vs. North Carolina – National Championship Game (2016):
After receiving a pass from teammate Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova Small Forward Kris Jenkins hit the gaming shot that gave Villanova a 77-74 win and 2016 NCAA Tournament Title over North Carolina. Jenkins’s game-winning shot was at the buzzer and is often cited as one of the greatest March Madness Games of all time! Legendary NBA Player Michael Jordan (who played college basketball for North Carolina and also made the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Tournament Championship Game) was in attendance and the result produced many crying Jordan memes like the one below.
1. UMBC vs. Virginia – First Round (2018):
The reason why I ranked this game as #1 over the Villanova-North Carolina game (See #2 below) is because how historic the victory for #1 was.
Most media outlets and sports commentators rank The 2016 NCAA Tournament Championship Game between Villanova and North Carolina as the most memorable game of the decade. However, the reason why I didn’t was because how historic the victory of the game I put as #1 here was. Heading into the 2018 NCAA Tournament, No. 16 seeds were 0–135 all-time against No. 1 seeds since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
However, all of that changed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, UMBC pulled the biggest upset in the history of the tournament after beating Virginia 74-54 in the first round. In their regional bracket, UMBC was the 16th seed and Virginia was the 1st seed. UMBC’s win was the first time that a 16th seed beat a 1st Seed. This historic upset instantly became one of the most memorable March Madness Games of all time. In addition, the game’s outcome lit the internet on fire!