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Memorable NCAA Tournament Runs – Part 2, 25-11

Posted on March 16, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The 1979 Penn Quakers defeated North Carolina and Duke to reach the Final Four.

Welcome to Part 2 of the 50 most memorable NCAA tournament runs since 1979.

This installment features tournament runs 25 through 11 since the tournament began to seed teams back in 1979.

We start with #25:

25. 2002 Kent State
The Golden Flashes entered the 2002 tournament with the longest winning streak in the country, at 18 games, but were given only a #10 seed in the South Regional.

Led by future San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, Kent State knocked off Oklahoma State in the first round, then easily defeated SEC champion Alabama in the second round to make it out of the first weekend.

In the Sweet 16, the Flashes pulled off a 76-73 overtime victory over #3 seed Pittsburgh to become the first Mid-American Conference team to reach the Elite Eight since Ohio back in 1964.

However, Kent could not get past Indiana in the regional final as they lost 81-69, denying the Flashes a trip to the Final Four.

24.  1979 St. John’s
St. John’s was the 40th and last team to make it to the 1979 NCAA tournament, by winning nine of its last 11 games in the regular season.

The Redmen continued their hot streak into the tournament as they defeated Temple in the first round, then stunned 2nd seeded Duke 80-78 as part of “Black Sunday”, where the Blue Devils and North Carolina both lost their games in the state of North Carolina.

St. John’s held off Rutgers 67-65 in their Sweet 16 match-up to advance to the East Regional Final, where they faced off Pennsylvania, the team who knocked off North Carolina.

The Redmen’s memorable run ended just short off the Final Four as they lost to Penn 64-62.

23. 1987 LSU
One year after making the Final Four as a #11 seed, the Tigers almost pulled off another Final Four run as a double digit seed.

LSU actually had a worse record in 1987 than they did the previous season as they finished the season with a 21-14 record, 8-10 in the SEC, but earned berth as a #10 seed.

The Tigers defeated Georgia Tech in the first round, followed by a win over second-seeded Temple in the second round to move onto to the second weekend of the tournament where they defeated #3 seed DePaul to face where they faced top seed Indiana in the Midwest Regional Final.

LSU was on the brink of a second consecutive Final Four as they lead the Hoosiers 75-66 with 4:38 left in the second half, but Indiana outscored the Tigers 12-1 with forward Rick Calloway scoring the winning basket with seven seconds remaining to give Indiana a 77-76 win and denying the Tigers a return trip to the Final Four.

22. 1986 Cleveland State

Ken "Mouse" Mcfadden led Cleveland State to a big upset of Indiana during the 1986 NCAA Tournament.

Little-known Cleveland State made history in the 1986 tournament as they became the lowest seed to reach the Sweet 16, as a #14 seed in the East Regional.

Using a frenetic style offense known as “Run n’ Stun”, the Vikings defeated 3rd seeded Indiana 83-79 in the first round, a loss that humiliated Indiana head coach Bob Knight so much, he had his Hoosiers practice until the tournament was over, despite the fact that Indiana was eliminated.

In the second round, Ken “Mouse” McFadden poured in 23 points to lead Cleveland State to a 60-59 win over the Atlantic 10 champion St. Joseph’s Hawks, to earn the Vikings a trip to the Sweet 16.

The Vikings’ incredible run came to an heartbreaking end when Navy center David Robinson scored the game-winning basket with six seconds to go, to hand Cleveland State a bitter 71-70 loss.

21. 1984 Dayton
Dubbed as the “Year of the Dreams”, the tenth-seeded Flyers had a dream run to the Elite Eight, thanks to guard Roosevelt Chapman.

In the first round, Chapman scored 29 points in a 74-66 win over LSU, and then exploded for a career-high 41 points in an 89-85 upset win over #2 seed Oklahoma and high-scoring center Wayman Tisdale.

Chapman only scored 22 points in Dayton’s Sweet 16 match-up against the Pac-10 champion Washington Huskies, but it was enough to lead the Flyers to a 64-58 win and a trip to the Elite Eight, where their “year of dreams” came to an end at the hands of #1 seed and eventual national champion, Georgetown, in a 61-49 loss where Chapman only scored 13 points.

20. 1981 St. Joseph’s
Along with Kansas State (see number 35 ), the St. Joseph’s Hawks helped create the most exciting day in March Madness history when they upset #1 ranked DePaul.

After  a 59-57 win over Creighton in the first round, the 9th seeded Hawks shocked the Blue Demons 49-48, when John Smith made a lay-up at the buzzer, knocking DePaul out in the second round for the second year in a row.

More drama waited for St. Joseph’s in the Sweet 16 when they defeated Boston College 42-41, thanks to two game-winning free throws by Bryan Warrick with 21 seconds to go, that sent the Hawks to the Elite Eight, where their great run came to a crashing halt at the hands of Isiah Thomas and eventual national champion Indiana, 78-46.

19. 1980 UCLA
The terms UCLA and Cinderella do not mix, but the Bruins made an unlikely run to the title game in 1980 game as a #8 seed.

Coached by Larry Brown, the Bruins defeated Old Dominion, #1 ranked DePaul, Ohio State, and Clemson, to appear in the Final Four for the 14th time in 18 seasons.

UCLA knocked off Purdue 67-62 to advance to the national championship game, where the Bruins had an all-time record of 10-0.

However, the Bruins were fall short as the Louisville Cardinals prevailed 59-54.

18. 2000 North Carolina
The 2000 season was a down year for North Carolina as finished the regular season with an 18-13 record, earning only a #8 seed.

But the Tar Heels turned it around in the tournament as they made it to sixth Final Four in 10 years by defeating Missouri, #1 seed Stanford, Tennessee, and Tulsa, to win the South regional.

North Carolina lost in the Final Four to Florida, ending their great run.

However, the Tar Heels were not the only #8 seed to make it to the Final Four that year…

17. 2000 Wisconsin

The Badgers who also finished with an 18-13 record in the regular season reached the Final Four for the first time since their national championship back in 1941.

The 8th seeded Badgers defeated Fresno State, top-seeded Arizona, LSU, and Purdue to make it out of the West regional.

Wisconsin would lose their national semifinal to Michigan State 53-41.

16. 1986 Navy

David Robinson led Navy to the Elite Eight in 1986.

The basketball world was introduced to “The Admiral”, as center David Robinson lead the U.S. Naval Academy to the Elite Eight.

After scoring 30 points and blocking six shots in the Midshipmen’s 87-68 first round over victory over Tulsa,  Robinson poured in 35 points and blocked seven shots in Navy’s 97-85 upset win over #2 seed Syracuse in the Carrier Dome to advance to the Sweet 16 where they faced with off Cinderella team Cleveland State.

Robinson blocked a then-record nine shots and scored the game-winning basket with six seconds left to give Navy a 71-70 win and a trip to the Elite Eight, where the Midshipmen fell to Duke 71-50 ending the greatest run by a service academy in a NCAA tournament.

Robinson averaged 27.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and six blocks in the four games for Navy.

15. 1992 Michigan
While expectations were high for the “Fab Five” when they got together, not many felt that they would go to the Final Four.

The Michigan Wolverines and their five starting freshman; Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose, and Chris Webber, became the first Final Four team to have a starting lineup that were all freshman.

After defeating double-digit seeds Temple and East Tennessee State in the first weekend, the sixth-seeded Wolverines knocked off second-seeded Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16, and then upset top-seeded Ohio State, a team they had lost to twice in the regular season, to make it to the Final Four.

Michigan beat Cincinnati 76-72 in their national semifinal to advance to the title game and face defending national champion Duke.

The “Fab Five” hung with the Blue Devils for most of the game but a 23-6 run in the last 6:46 of the game gave Duke its second straight national championship with a 71-51 win.

14. 1997 Arizona
Because of their fifth-place finish in the Pac-10 and the fact they had three first-round tournament losses in the past five years, the 4th seeded Arizona Wildcats were not considered a major threat to win the national championship.

Even though they got out of the first weekend with wins over double-digit seeds South Alabama and Charleston, the Wildcats were not expected to get past #1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16.

But Arizona shocked the Jayhawks 85-82 and then escaped with an overtime win over another double digit seed, Providence, in the Southeast regional final to advance to the Final Four for the third time in 10 years.

Arizona defeated the top seed from the East region, North Carolina, in their national semifinal, and then knocked off defending national champion Kentucky, 84-79 in overtime for the school’s first national championship and to become the first team in NCAA tournament history to knock off three #1 seeds in the same tournament.

13. 1999 Gonzaga
The little Catholic school from Spokane, Washington began their run as a mid-major power with their performance in the 1999 tournament.

The 10th seeded Zags defeated Minnesota and Pac-10 champion Stanford in the first weekend to advance to the Sweet 16 where they faced off with the Florida Gators.

With 4.4 seconds to go, Casey Calvary tipped in a Quentin Hall missed shot, which turned out to the game-winning points as the Zags defeated Florida 73-72 to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

But in the West Regional Final, Gonzaga would fall short of the Final Four, as they lost to eventual national champion UConn 67-62.

12. 1984 Virginia
The Cavaliers had a difficult season in 1984, the first season without three-time player of the year Ralph Sampson, as they finished with a 17-11 record, and a 6-8 record in the ACC.

However, the Cavaliers earned a berth in the NCAA tournament as a #7 seed in the East region and pulled off a remarkable run to the Final Four.

In the first weekend, Virginia defeated Iona 58-57 with a leaning jumper by Othell Wilson with six seconds left, then stunned 2nd seeded Arkansas 53-51 in overtime when future NBA head coach Rick Carlisle nailed a 10-foot jumper with four seconds in the overtime period.

Virginia knocked off the #3 seed, Syracuse, in the Sweet 16, to face off with Indiana in the regional final, where the Cavaliers defeated the Hoosiers 50-48 to advance to the Final Four.

The Cavaliers almost pulled off another magical win in their national semifinal as they overcame a six-point deficit in the final 3:03 of regulation to force overtime, but eventually lost to Houston and the “Phi Slamma Jamma” 49-47.

11. 1979 Pennsylvania
The Quakers from the Ivy League were the first mid-major Cinderella to make the Final Four in the era of seeding the teams.

Penn entered the tournament as a #9 seed and had to play an extra game because the field had only 40 teams in 1979.

The Quakers won their first round game, a 73-69 victory over Iona, which was coached by future N.C. State head coach Jim Valvano, to move to the second round where they faced with top-seed North Carolina.

Penn shocked North Carolina 72-71, which was followed by St. John’s 80-78 upset over second-seeded Duke, on an afternoon that is dubbed by ACC fans as “Black Sunday”.

Then, Penn defeated Syracuse 84-76, to advance to the East Regional Final where they faced off with fellow Cinderella, 10th seeded St. John’s.

Once again, Salters was the hero as he made the game-winning free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Quakers a 64-62 and a trip to the Final Four.

That is where Penn’s dream turned into a nightmare as they blown out by Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans 101-67 in their national semifinal, then dropped the third place game to DePaul 96-93 to finish fourth place in the tournament.


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