One of the biggest and, most exciting sporting events every year is the NCAA Divison 1 Men's Basketball Tournament. Never heard of this tournament? Surely, you have heard of March Madness. All-Stars such as Kemba Walker, Steph Curry, Dwyane Wade, Gordon Hayward and, Deron Williams all became household names partly due to their exposure on College Basketball’s biggest stage. While others triumphed in victory, others, did not. With this year's tournament just around the corner, it is time to take a look at some of the most memorable March Madness moments from today’s NBA stars.
Warning: Not every moment on this list has a happy ending.
5. C.J. McCollum takes down Duke
Before CJ McCollum became the star we all know today, he was quietly going about his business in the NCAA. The beauty of March Madness is that anything is possible (*Kevin Garnett voice*). For the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, this is especially true. Coming into the 2012 Tournament, the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils were ranked number 2.
Leigh on the other hand, was seeded at 15. On paper, it seemed as though Duke could easily handle the Mountain Hawks however, everyone was wrong. Enter CJ McCollum. In one of the most historic March Madness upsets, McCollum scored 30 points to help Lehigh pull off the upset victory. Interestingly enough, the Duke Blue Devils were led by Austin Rivers. Many scouts projected Rivers as a top prospect in the upcoming draft.
In their current NBA Careers, McCollum has once again pulled off the upset over Austin Rivers. Proving that he is the better and, more dominant player. Although Lehigh would be eliminated in the second round, McCollum's heroic performance lead the Mountain Hawks to their first and only tournament win to this date.
4. Gordon Hayward’s half-court prayer
Coming into the 2010 National Championship Gordon Hayward was simply on fire. In the previous National Semi-Final, Hayward scored 19 points and grabbed 19 total rebounds in a victory against number 5 ranked Michigan State. Going back one previous round to the regional final, Hayward scored 22 points in fifth-ranked Butler’s upset victory over second-ranked Kansas State. The stage for the national championship was set. Gordon Hayward and the fifth-ranked Butler Bulldogs against the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils lead by Kyle Singler. With Butler trailing 61-59 and only 3.6 seconds left on the clock Gordon Hayward grabbed a Duke rebound. The clock began to wind down as Hayward made his way quickly down the court...
There was now 0.5 seconds on the clock. Hayward pulled up from an exactly half court and heaved a shot up in the air. As the ball traveled through the air, the arena was silent. All that could be heard, was the sound of the basketball hitting the backboard, rolling off the rim and cheers erupting as the Duke Blue Devils stormed the court to celebrate their 2010 Championship victory. Gordon Hayward was literally inches away from making the shot of the century. Unfortunately, not all good stories have a happy ending.
3. Kemba Walker carries UConn
2011 was the year of the University of Connecticut Huskies. Before the 2011 tournament even started, the Huskies had their backs against the wall. UConn would win five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament, punching their ticket to the dance. Upon arrival into the 2011 Tournament, Kemba Walker’s hot streak would not be cooled. Flash forward to the Regional semi-final. Kemba Walker torched the second ranked San Diego State Aztecs with 36 points, leading UConn to victory. In the next game, Walker had 20 points in the Huskies two-point victory over fifth-ranked Arizona.
In the National semi-final, Walker outplayed Kentucky’s Brandon Knight which, lead to the Huskies defeating the Kentucky Wildcats to advance to the National Championship game. In the final game of the tournament, it was all UConn, all game long. Walker would lead the team to a 53-41 victory, scoring 16 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the process. The UConn Huskies had capped off an unbelievable March run in the biggest and, the best way possible. Kemba Walker, on the other hand, rose to the occasion and battled through adversity all tournament long. All while unleashing the killer step-back we all know of today.
2. Carmelo Anthony’s one and done triumph
The 2003 Draft Class will be regarded as one of the best ever. Carmelo Anthony, on the other hand, had one of the greatest NCAA Tournament performances ever. In the Regional Final, Anthony would 20 points on 56.3% shooting. This huge scoring outburst lead the Syracuse Orange dominantly past the Oklahoma Sooners, 63-47. In the National semi-final, Anthony outdid himself again. With 33 points on 63.2% shooting, the star Freshman carried Syracuse to a win over Texas in another massive showing.
For Anthony and the Orange, the stage was set. It was no secret that Carmelo Anthony would likely declare for the NBA Draft no matter the result. Now however, he had his chance to go out on top. From the opening tip, it was a hard fought game between Syracuse and Kansas. Carmelo Anthony would struggle at times to shoot the ball but, he came through when it mattered most. Anthony would go on to score 20 points and, add 7 assists on 43.8% shooting. In one of the most exciting College Basketball finals ever, the Syracuse Orange pulled off a three-point victory to become the National Champions.
Although the NBA awaited Anthony, he would not leave the NCAA before being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
1. Steph Curry takes Davidson on a Cinderella run
Do you believe in miracles? In 2008, Steph Curry took the College Basketball World by storm. After literally carrying the Davidson WildCats throughout the season, Curry would now need to do it all over again on College Basketball’s biggest stage. Everything Steph Curry did during his time in College looked effortless. Not to mention a 44 point performance with LeBron James in attendance during League play. Davidson’s first game of the 2008 tournament was against Seventh-ranked Gonzaga. Curry would score 40 points in Davidson’s opening round victory over Gonzaga which, was the first of many upsets. Next up for Davidson, was Second-ranked Georgetown. On paper, nobody expected Davidson to pull off the upset. That would not stop Steph Curry. Davidson would just barely come out on top, pulling off the upset behind Curry’s 30 points and 5 assists.
Next for Davidson, was the route nobody saw coming. In the regional semifinal, also known as the Sweet Sixteen, Davison would absolutely blow-out the Third-ranked Wisconsin Badgers by a score of, 73-56. Steph Curry lead the way with 33 points. Onto the Elite Eight, all that stood in Davidson and, Steph Curry’s way was the First ranked Kansas Jayhawks. In the Regional final, Curry would score 25 points however, his lack of help around him would be his downfall. No other Davidson starter scored in double-figures.
Only one other Davidson player scored over ten points. Although Davidson fell 59-57, their loss hurt everyone. Part of March Madness is getting behind the Cinderella teams. In 2008, Steph Curry captivated a nation, one big scoring outburst at a time. The 2008 Tournament served as an indicator of just what was to come from the future two-time, unanimous NBA MVP.