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Top 10 March Madness Moments of the Last Ten Years

Ali Farokhmanesh, UNI over Kansas

We are now reaching late February, a quick reminder that any college sports fan's favorite time of the year is nearly upon us: March Madness. As of publishing, we sit 23 days away from Selection Sunday and just 25 days away from the time games actually tip off on March 19th. In order to pass some of the time and get us further pumped up for the crazy we're about to witness, I decided to count down my Top 10 favorite March Madness moments of the last decade (2009-2018). Take a stroll down memory lane with some of the most insane and improbable moments in the NCAA Tournament's storied history.

We've seen no shortage of buzzer-beaters in March Madness history, but R.J. Hunter's huge shot in the 2015 NCAA Tournament was special in a few ways. It was the culmination of a stunning late run by Georgia State that reminds you how quickly momentum can shift in basketball (Baylor was up 12 with less than three minutes to play). The shot was also so crazy it caused GSU head coach Ron Hunter to fall off his chair in excitement, less than a week after hurting himself celebrating the Panthers' trip to the Big Dance. Ron just happened to be R.J.'s father, and seeing the two share such a thrilling moment on the grand stage was awesome, and easily one of the coolest moments in recent March action.
Trey Burke was instrumental in Michigan's run to the 2013 National Championship, and he had no greater moment than his deep three in a Sweet 16 duel versus Kansas. It was a fearless play by a fearless player, going out and launching from thirty feet out with a decent amount of time still left on the clock. It might not have been a game winner, but allowed the Wolverines to go into overtime and eventually take down the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks. It was also the embodiment of just how great Burke was in that Tournament, coming so close to handing UM their first National Title since 1989.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament was about as wild as you can get in a Tournament literally nicknamed "March Madness", with Butler and VCU both rolling to the Final Four in shocking fashion. VCU took down a number of top dogs en route to their Final Four berth but none bigger than Kansas, who was again, a No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks were 11-point favorites and were spearheaded by the Morris twins, but they weren't prepared for the Rams' up-tempo, blazing pace of play. This victory helped VCU become the first "First Four" team to ever make it to the Final Four, and introduced the world to "Havoc" and Shaka Smart, which captivated college hoops for a number of years.
Old Big East rivals squaring off in the Elite Eight is always going to be fun to watch, and 2009's Villanova-Pittsburgh duel didn't disappoint. Both teams played with incredible heart and passion, but it all came down to a buzzer-beating layup by Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds had a terrific Villanova career, but racing past most of the Pitt defense to hit this tough shot as time expired will obviously be his signature moment. It was such an impressive play by a great player in a thrilling game that could've easily made its way higher on the list.
Things can change with the blink of an eye on a basketball court, and nothing exemplifies this more than Texas A&M's unbelievable comeback against Northern Iowa in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. UNI held a 12-point lead with just 35 seconds left on the clock, before the Aggies unleashed a furious press. UNI made mistake after mistake and A&M capitalized, miraculously finding a way to force overtime and eventually, win the game. It had to have been heart-wrenching for the Panthers but it is a reminder that the game is never over until that clock hits zero. The Aggies would fall their next game against Buddy Hield and Oklahoma, but their furious comeback will live on forever.
Seeing a 15-seed earn their spot in the Sweet 16 is thrilling itself, but it was made even better by Florida-Gulf Coast's high-flying play. They had some truly amazing dunks and play loose and fast, beating two-seed Georgetown and seventh-seeded San Diego State before they were downed. This team played with an amazing energy and just seemed to be having more fun, something becoming more rare in the big-money world of today's college athletics. It was also a reminder of how thin the margin is between a 2 seed and a 15 seed; FGCU just had better athletes on the court and they came out and proved out. 
Even though Gordon Hayward's half-court pray in the 2010 National Championship ended up rattling out, it was still one of the most iconic moments in recent NCAA Tournament history. It reminds us that a basketball game, even a National Championship, can be decided by merely a few inches or the roll of the ball in the bucket. The shot would've also immortalized Hayward and Butler forever; the Bulldogs were the ultimate dark horse in this Tournament and they played toe-to-toe with the sport's ultimate blue blood, Duke. They might have come up just short, but it was still pretty inspiring seeing the scrappy Bulldogs fight so hard in a game they, theoretically, shouldn't have even been in.
Back in 2010, top-seeded Kansas was on a mission to win their second National Title in three years. Star players Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins had straight out said that they came back for their senior seasons with the Jayhawks with the sole purpose of winning it all. However, they ended up running into the well-rounded Northern Iowa Panthers in the second round, who played smart, fundamental basketball through the entire forty minutes. Up 63-62 with 43 seconds remaining, UNI broke Kansas's press and got the ball to Ali Farokhmanesh, who ended up hitting one of the most "ice in his veins" shots in NCAA history. It was the dagger that sealed the win, and it took some unbelievable confidence to go for it against the nation's top team. Farokhmanesh is now an assistant coach at Colorado State, but this shot will live on forever.
What a terrific basketball game the 2016 National Championship was. Two heavyweights, Villanova and UNC, battled it out for the entire matchup up until an insane ending. It looked like Marcus Paige's sprawling, double-clutch three to tie the game would be the biggest moment of the game until Kris Jenkins ended up hitting the game winner just moments later. Jay Wright drew up a superb play to open things up for Jenkins, who did not disappoint. Jenkins did what every basketball player dreams of: hitting the game-winner in the big game with time expiring. 
Its not everyday you see something that has never happened in the history of college basketball, but thats just what happened this past March. Even though some had come close, no 16 seed had ever managed to take down a 1 seed until tiny UMBC (University of Maryland-Baltimore County) shocked top-seeded Virginia. Not only did UMBC end up winning they dominated, beating the Cavaliers by 20 points, while shooting 54% from the field and 50% from three-point. Even though this upset completely ruined my bracket, which had Virginia going all the way, you can't hate on such a shocking and monumental upset. It really goes to show you that on any day, anybody can beat anybody, which I find to be one of the greatest and most enduring aspects of sports. 

Honorable Mentions
  • Block or foul? Trey Burke's play on Peyton Siva in 2013 National Championship
  • Arkansas-Little Rock's furious comeback against Purdue in 2016 Tournament
  • Tyus Jones sealing the National Championship over Wisconsin in 2015 National Championship
  • Loyola-Chicago's multiple buzzer beaters during Final Four run in 2018 NCAA Tournament
  • Syracuse huge comeback against Virginia in the Elite Eight of 2016 NCAA Tournament
  • South Carolina shocking Duke en route to 2017 Final Four
  • Wisconin's Bronson Koenig falling back buzzer beater to beat Xavier in 2016 NCAA Tournament

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