Skip to main content

5 Most Exciting Finishes in Men's College Basketball National Championship History

Image placeholder title

Monday night's men’s college basketball national championship between Villanova and North Carolina gave us one of the most dramatic endings in history. Was it the most exciting? That’s up to you, but here is my opinion on where it ranks among the five best finishes in national championship game history.

Related: 10 Greatest NCAA Tournament Buzzer Beaters

5. Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79

April 3, 1989 (Seattle)

After being tied 71-71 at the end of regulation, the two teams went into overtime and Seton Hall led Michigan 79-86 with less than a minute to go. The Wolverines’ Terry Mills hit a jump shot to cut the lead to 79-78 and the Pirates’ Gerald Green fouled Rumeal Robinson with three seconds left. Robinson made both free throws and Seton Hall missed its last-second shot.

4. North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62

March 29, 1982 (New Orleans)

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

In one of the most talent-laden championship games in history, a freshman named Michael Jordan hit a jump shot with 17 seconds left to put the Tar Heels ahead 63-62. Georgetown’s Fred Brown led the Hoyas back down the court, but accidentally passed the ball to UNC’s James Worthy, who was immediately fouled. Worthy missed his free throws but the Hoyas had not timeouts and only two seconds left for a final shot. It missed and Dean Smith won his first title.

3. Indiana 74, Syracuse 73

March 30, 1987 (New Orleans)

The Most Outstanding Player in the 1987 NCAA Tournament was Indiana’s Keith Smart and he truly earned his award in the final game. Smart scored 12 of his team’s final 15 points, and most importantly, nailed a jump shot in the final seconds to win the game. Smart has had a prolific basketball career, but he is best remembered for one of the most dramatics shots in NCAA Tournament history.

2. Villanova 77, North Carolina 74

April 4, 2016 (Houston)

The Tar Heels rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final minutes of the game and then sank a three-point shot to tie the Wildcats with less than five seconds left. The game appeared to be headed into overtime, but Kris James nailed a three-pointer as time expired. While it was the first buzzer-beater to win a championship since 1983, it still can’t eclipse the moment it emulated.

1. NC State 54, Houston 52

April 4, 1983 (Albuquerque, N.M.)

First, the Wolfpack had to beat a gauntlet of great teams to win the ACC Tournament just to get into the Big Dance. Then they made the most dramatic run in NCAA Tournament history to face Houston’s “Phi Slamma Jamma” team in the final. After rallying to tie the Cougars at 52-52, N.C. State guard Derrick Whittenberg took the ball down the court and attempted a three-pointer in the final seconds. It missed the basket but center Lorenzo Charles rebounded and dunked the ball as time expired. It will take a very special ending to ever surpass the drama of this moment.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.