Best NCAA Basketball March Madness Moments of All Time

March Madness is one of the best times of the year. For some of us, it’s even better than Christmas! There have been countless unbelievable, heart-racing, and heart-stopping moments in the history of March Madness tournaments, but there are some which especially stand out as our favorites. Check out some of the most underrated NCAA basketball March Madness moments—and a few fun facts about the tournament, too.

 

NCAA Basketball March Madness Facts

Let’s start with some fun facts about NCAA basketball March Madness. 

How many teams are in the NCAA March Madness?

There are 68 teams that compete in 7 rounds for the NCAA Division-I men’s basketball national championship. This number quickly whittles down, though. Once a team loses, they’re out of the tournament for the year. March Madness goes from Selection Sunday to First Four, First/Second, Sweet 16/Elite Eight, and then the Final Four.


Does your school participate in March Madness? Throw on your school colors and cheer them on!

 

What’s the Final Four? 

The Final Four is the penultimate round where only four teams are left in the tournament. The two teams who win in this round will go on to play the championship game. Learn more about what the 2020 Final Four would have looked like here.

 

What are seeds? 

A “seed” is a team’s ranking in the tournament. Here’s how it works: there are 68 total teams that will play. On Selection Sunday, before the tournament starts, the Selection Committee ranks the teams 1 through 68. The rankings are decided based on each team’s regular season and conference tournament performances. After the first four teams are eliminated in the “First Four” round, those remaining 64 teams are split into four sections of 16 teams. Each team is ranked 1 through 16 in its region. That’s the team’s seed: their ranking 1 through 16 within its region.


To reward better teams, first-round matchups are determined by pitting the #1 team in the region against the #16 (and #2 against #15; #3 against #14, etc.).

What is an NCAA March Madness bracket?

A NCAA March Madness bracket is essentially an organizer that any person can use to predict how the tournament will go. Anyone can find the bracket form online, but they’re also fairly simple to draw by hand. Based on the starting games, you fill in the spaces with who you think will win each game and move on to the next round, up until the final championship. The Bracket Challenge Game is the official bracket game of the NCAA, and it opens after Selection Sunday. It’s a super fun way to engage with your favorite games, and it’s a great conversation starter. 


NCAA March Madness brackets create fun competition between family, friends, or coworkers as everyone follows the tournament. However, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right. According to a Duke professor, the odds of crafting a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. If you consider that a 16 seed will almost never beat a 1 seed, and adjust for probability, the odds increase to 1 in 2.4 trillion. Still, that’s a pretty staggering number. In fact, it’s so staggering that Warren Buffet recently offered a prize of $1 million for life to any employee who can pick a perfect bracket.  


Learn how to make a March Madness bracket here.

 

When did NCAA March Madness start?

The first NCAA March Madness tournament took place in 1939. The competition started with just 8 teams, so it’s certainly grown a lot since then. In 1951, the tournament doubled to 16 teams, and it kept growing until 1985’s 64-team tournament. In 2011, three more teams were added, so three more games were added to create the First Four. March Madness has been held every year since 1939 until 2020, when it was canceled for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

Why is it called March Madness? 

The term “March Madness” was first applied to basketball in 1939 by an Illinois high school official. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament was not coined “March Madness” until 1982, when Chicago-based CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger used it during coverage. The name stuck, and it’s become synonymous with the NCAA tournament ever since. 

 

Most Underrated March Madness Moments

Now that you know the basics of the tournament, these underrated March Madness moments will seem all-the-more impressive!

 

Kris Jenkins’ Buzzer-Beater (2016)

A buzzer-beater is the shot every player dreams of, and Kris Jenkins hit it at the perfect moment. In the 2016 final tournament game, everyone thought Marcus Paige’s hit to tie the game with under 5 seconds would be “the shot” of the game. In those next five seconds, though, Jenkins hit a three-pointer to win the game, and the entire tournament, 77-74. Villanova instantly stormed the court to celebrate one of the greatest winning shots and moments in March Madness history.  

 

Birth of a Legendary Rivalry (1979)

This game is one of the most-watched basketball games of all time, and for a good reason. In the 1979 NCAA basketball March Madness tournament, the long-lasting Johnson-Bird rivalry was first born. Michigan State (with Magic Johnson) and Indiana State (with Larry Bird) were facing off in the championship. The Michigan Spartans won, but the energy in this game produced a lot more than just a win. After this game, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would go on to have the biggest one-on-one rivalry in NBA history, including a 3x face-off in the NBA finals. 

 

The Second-Greatest Upset of All Time (1985)

Villanova is always a fan favorite in the NCAA March Madness bracket, but they haven’t always been top-ranked. In 1985, they had never won a basketball championship, and they were ranked a No. 8 seed in the tournament. Facing Georgetown, the reigning champs and No. 1 seed of the tournament, they shot over 78% of the floor, which still holds the Final Four Record. Villanova narrowly clutched the win with one of the biggest upsets of all time, 66-64. To this day, they are the lowest-seed team to ever win the tournament. 


See more of the biggest March Madness upsets of all time here. 

 

The Greatest Upset of All Time (2018)

Villanova’s 1985 win would have been the biggest upset, but we saw an even-wilder game in 2018. Never before had a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed until UMBC defeated Virginia 74-54 in 2018. Despite the destruction of our NCAA March Madness brackets, it was hard not to root for UMBC once everyone realized this team was a true contender in the game. Although they lost in the second round of the tournament, UMBC had an unbelievable performance that year. This was definitely one of Virginia’s hardest losses in their program’s history. 


The greatest upsets are also referred to as “Cinderella” stories. Check out these top 50 Cinderella Stories in NCAA tournament history for more underdog wins. 

 

Michael Jordan as a Freshman (1982) 

We can’t deny that one of our favorite games is also a fan-favorite. In 1982, with North Carolina versus Georgetown, six future Hall of Famers (including both head coaches as well as James Worthy and Patrick Ewing) hit the championship game. Michael Jordan, a freshman at North Carolina, hit the game-winning shot that gave North Carolina its first title since the ‘50s. North Carolina has been a powerhouse on the court since then, and so have a lot of their star teammates. Knowing what we know now about these players, it’s incredible to watch where they got their start in this game. 

 

Fell Off His Chair (2015)

Our favorite moments aren’t always about the game itself. Ron Hunter falling off his seat in 2015 made everyone’s hearts burst. Earlier in the season, Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter tore his Achilles tendon, so he had to coach from a rolling stool. His son, R.J. Hunter, hit the buzzer-beater 3-pointer with just seconds left in the game, making their No. 14 seed beat the No. 3 seed (Baylor) in the first round. Ron Hunter was so excited that he fell off his stool and onto the floor! He wasn’t hurt (again), so we can’t help but smile rewatching this moment.


He shoots… he scores! Check out these most outstanding NCAA basketball scores for more basketball moments.

 

March Madness Moments

What are your favorite NCAA basketball March Madness moments? Which games and players make you proud to put on your school colors


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