Top 11 Championship Games

With the 2009 Final Four upon us, I thought I would take the time to rank the Top 11 Championship Games in the last 30 years. Why 11? Ask Nigel Tufnel.

11. 2003 - Syracuse 81, Kansas 78

Sixteen years after Keith Smart’s jumper beat Syracuse in the Superdome, Jim Boeheim finally got off the schneid and came away from New Orleans with his first national title. Freshman Carmelo Anthony carried the Orangemen and was named Most Outstanding Player (MOP).

Lasting image: Hakim Warrick blocking Michael Lee’s potential game-tying three-pointer with less than a second left.

10. 1989 – Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 (OT)

On the eve of the tournament, Michigan AD Bo Schembechler named Steve Fisher the interim head coach after then-head coach Bill Frieder had accepted the job at Arizona State. Thanks in large part to MOP Glen Rice, Fisher went on to become the only coach to ever start with six straight wins and a national championship.

Lasting image: Rumeal Robinson canning two free throws with 3 seconds left in overtime to win.

9. 2001 - Duke 82, Arizona 72

I realize I have a bias (check out #7 to see my impartiality), but the future NBA talent on the floor for this game was pretty impressive. Arizona had Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, and Luke Walton. Duke had Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer, Jason Williams, Chris Duhon, and MOP Shane Battier.

Lasting image: Battier back-handing a rebound into the basket to keep Arizona out of reach.

8. 1993 - North Carolina 77, Michigan 71

For the second year in a row, Michigan’s Fab Five came up short in the Championship game. In what would be legendary coach Dean Smith’s last title, MOP Donald Williams hit five of his seven 3-point attempts to finish with 25 points.

Lasting image: With 25 seconds remaining, Chris Webber first travelled (without it being called) and then requested a timeout when Michigan had none remaining.

7. 1999 - Connecticut 77, Duke 74

Duke came into the title game 37-1 as the presumptive champion. MOP Richard Hamilton and Connecticut had other ideas. This would not be the last time Jim Calhoun outcoached Coach K in a Final Four (see 2004).

Lasting image: With NBA talent all around him, Trajan Langdon trying to create his own shot off the dribble and travelling.

6. 2008 – Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT)

Memphis was up 9 points with two minutes to play, but couldn’t hold on as Kansas hit some big shots and Memphis could not convert free throws.

Lasting image: With 3.6 seconds left in regulation, MOP Mario Chalmers knocks down a game-tying 3 from the top of the key to send the game into overtime.

5. 1997 – Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT)

Defending champion Kentucky came into the title game ready for their coronation, but Arizona’s Mike Bibby and especially MOP Miles Simon outplayed and outhustled the Wildcats to win the championship. On the way to their title, Arizona became the first team to ever beat three number 1 seeds. Since Kentucky went on to win the title in 1998, Arizona’s victory essentially prevented the first three-peat since the heyday of UCLA.

Lasting image: Miles Simon playing the best game of his career on the biggest stage.

4. 1982 – North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62

Freshman Patrick Ewing was like King Kong swatting away anything that came his way. To open the game, North Carolina’s first four baskets were all due to goaltending calls on an aggressive Ewing. Hoya point guard Fred Brown will best be remembered for passing the ball to MOP James Worthy while setting up for the final shot.

Lasting image: Glimpsing the killer instinct in freshman Michael Jordan taking the game-winning 16-foot jumper with 17 seconds left.

3. 1983 - NC State 54, Houston 52

Everyone tuning in thought they would see Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma take home the title behind MOP Akeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Larry Micheaux, Michael Young, and Benny Anders. However, it was coach Jim Valvano orchestrating one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. NC State won 4 of their 6 tournament games by 2 points or less by running a ball-control offense and fouling early and often when they found themselves behind.

Lasting image: Lorenzo Charles dunking the Dereck Whittenburg 30 foot airball as time expired.

2. 1985 – Villanova 66, Georgetown 64

Twice before that season, Georgetown won close, low-scoring contests against Villanova. This time, however, Villanova shot a remarkable 78.6% from the floor (9 out of 10 in the second half) and essentially pitched a perfect game. Led by MOP Ed Pinckney and Gary McLain (cocaine high and all for some of the tournament games), Villanova was able to control the tempo due to a lack of shot clock.

Lasting image: McLain clutching the ball on the floor while time runs out.

1. 1979 - Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64

MOP Magic Johnson outdueling Larry Bird for the championship. Indiana State came into the game undefeated on the season, but couldn’t remain unbeaten. Stunningly, 30 years later it is still the highest-rated game in the history of televised college basketball.

Lasting image: Magic being hoisted on his teammates’ shoulders to cut down the nets.

Thanks for coming and suckling Daddy's Sugar Ball...

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