The sports world will have their eyes fixated on Indy tomorrow night as the 2010 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Champion is crowned. A select few of fortunate players have the opportunity of a lifetime to etch their name in the annals of NCAA lore much like the guys we covered in Part I of this feature. As you ready yourself for the climactic finale between Butler and Duke, take a look at the top five individual performances from the Final Four in the last 25 years.
5. Juan Dixon, Maryland vs. Kansas (2002 Semifinal)
Juan Dixon tied a career high with 33 points in a 97-88 win over Kansas in the ’02 semis. The Terp converted on 10-of-18 attempts from the floor, including 5-of-11 from three, went 8-for-11 from the line, and tossed in three rebounds, two assists, and two steals, while only turning the ball over once in 37 minutes. Dixon added 18 points and five steals in Maryland’s win over Indiana in the title game.
4. Danny Manning, Kansas vs. Oklahoma (1988 Final)
Danny Manning set a Final Four record with six blocked shots in Kansas’ semifinal victory over Duke in ’88. He also poured in 25 of his tournament-high 163 points in that game on 12-of-21 shooting, while completing the double-double with 10 rebounds. But that wasn’t even the forward’s best performance of the weekend. Manning recorded 31 points, 18 boards (seven offensive), five steals, and two blocked shots in the Jayhawks’ 83-79 win over Oklahoma in the championship game.
3. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse vs. Texas (2003 Semifinal)
Carmelo Anthony’s spectacular freshman season peaked during the ’03 Final Four at the Superdome in New Orleans. He scored a career-high 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting to help third-seeded Syracuse upset No. 1 Texas, 95-84, in the national semifinals. The forward shot 6-of-7 from the line and 3-of-4 from behind the arc, pulled down 14 rebounds, had three steals, and chipped in an assist. Two days later, the Most Outstanding Player scored 20 points and tallied 10 boards as the Orangemen defeated Kansas in the championship game.
2. Mario Chalmers, Kansas vs. Memphis (2008 Final)
With 2:12 left in the ’08 championship game, Memphis had a nine-point lead. But then the Tigers started missing free throws and Kansas began chipping away until Mario Chalmers hit a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left. “Mario’s Miracle,” as the shot is now known in Jayhawks circles, forced the seventh ever championship game overtime, during which KU won, 75-68. Chalmers’s final line included 18 points and four steals.
1. Keith Smart, Indiana vs. Syracuse (1987 Final)
As a Syracuse alum, it pains me to put this at No. 1, but Keith Smart’s game-winning basket in the ’87 title game against the Orangemen is one of the most famous shots in the history of college basketball. The 6’1″ Smart scored 12 of the Hoosiers’ final 15 points, including that highly-contested 16-footer from the left side of the floor with just five seconds left on the clock. Smart finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and six assists.