Steph Curry's Last Shot in the 2008 Elite Eight

Top 20 Unforgettable Moments in College Basketball History

Edited By Pratik Ghadge on Jun 13,2024

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College basketball is rich with dramatic moments that have captivated fans and altered the sport's course. However, beyond the games and buzzer-beaters, numerous "what if" scenarios could have drastically changed the landscape of college basketball.

These hypothetical situations provoke endless debates and highlight some of history's most iconic basketball moments. Here, we delve into these tantalizing possibilities, exploring how different decisions and events might have led to some of the best basketball moments ever.

1. Kenyon Martins Season-Ending Injury in 2000

Kenyon Martin's broken leg in 2000 significantly impacted Cincinnati's season. Martin was a dominant force, averaging 18.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. His injury during the Conference USA tournament quarterfinals derailed Cincinnati's hopes for a national title. Had he remained healthy, Cincinnati might have claimed their third national championship, creating one of college history's most iconic basketball moments.

2. Wisconsin's Shot Clock Controversy in 2015

 Wisconsin's Shot Clock Controversy in 2015

Image Source: The Courier-Journal

In the 2015 Final Four, a controversial no-call on a shot clock violation against Wisconsin impacted Kentucky's tournament run. Nigel Haye's basket, which appeared after the shot clock expired, tied the game and shifted momentum. Kentucky, previously unbeaten, never recovered, altering the course of what could have been one of the most iconic basketball moments in their program's history.

3. LeBron James Choosing College Over the NBA

One of the most intriguing "what if" scenarios involves LeBron James, who jumped straight to the NBA from high school. Imagine if LeBron had chosen to play college basketball instead. LeBron himself has mentioned he would have likely chosen North Carolina or Duke.

His presence in the 2003-04 season would have undoubtedly made either team a powerhouse. At North Carolina, he could have joined forces with a squad that won the national title a year later, or at Duke, he might have played alongside J.J. Redick, potentially creating one of the best basketball moments of all time.

4. Gordon Hayward's Near-Miss in the 2010 National Title Game

Another unforgettable "what if" is Gordon Hayward's near-miss during the 2010 national title game. Had his half-court shot against Duke gone in, Butler would have pulled off one of the most iconic upsets in basketball history. This victory would have been the first true David-over-Goliath moment in the national championship, forever enshrining Butler's run as one of the best basketball moments ever.

5. Steph Curry's Last Shot in the 2008 Elite Eight

Steph Curry's decision to pass the ball in the final moments of Davidson's 2008 Elite Eight game against Kansas is another critical "what if." Had Curry taken and made the shot, Davidson might have defeated the eventual NCAA champions. This could have led Curry to enter the NBA draft a year earlier, potentially altering his career trajectory and the history of the NBA.

6. Allan Rays Controversial Foul Call in 2005

In the 2005 Sweet 16, a controversial traveling call against Allan Ray instead of a foul potentially changed the outcome for Villanova against UNC. If the foul had been called, Ray would have had the chance to tie the game with a free throw, possibly altering the course of the tournament and creating a different set of best basketball moments in history.

7. Kendall Marshall's Wrist Injury in 2012

Kendall Marshall's wrist injury during the 2012 NCAA tournament profoundly impacted North Carolina's performance. As the team's star point guard, his absence in the Elite Eight against Kansas deprived UNC of their playmaker, diminishing their chances for a title and altering what could have been another iconic basketball moment.

8. Brandon Ashley's Injury in 2014

Arizona's promising 2014 season was cut short by Brandon Ashley's season-ending foot injury. Averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, Ashley was a key player for Arizona. Without him, the team fell short in the Elite Eight, leaving fans to wonder how far they could have gone with a healthy Ashley.

9. Roy Williams Transition to North Carolina

Roy William's decision to leave Kansas for North Carolina in 2003 significantly reshaped both programs. His move led to multiple national titles for UNC and brought Bill Self to Kansas, where he succeeded. This transition is pivotal in college basketball, affecting the sport's history and creating numerous iconic moments.

10. Memphis' Free Throw Woes in the 2008 National Title Game

Memphis' failure to hit crucial free throws in the final minutes of the 2008 national title game against Kansas led to their overtime loss. This dramatic collapse, capped by Mario Chalmer's game-tying three-pointer, transformed what could have been a triumph into a heartbreaking defeat, highlighting the importance of free throws in the best basketball moments ever.

11. John Walls Pivotal Recruitment Decision

John Wall's recruitment decision to play for Kentucky instead of North Carolina was significant for both programs. Wall, a highly touted recruit, could have bolstered UNC's already strong roster. Instead, his decision to join Kentucky under John Calipari transformed the Wildcats into immediate national title contenders.

Wall's presence helped elevate Kentucky's performance, leading them to the Elite Eight and revitalizing the program. Meanwhile, North Carolina missed out on a player who could have continued their dominance in college basketball, illustrating the profound impact of his decision.

12. Robbie Hummel's Devastating ACL Tear in 2010

Robbie Hummel's ACL tear in 2010 was a pivotal moment for Purdue's basketball team. Hummel, who was averaging 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, was a cornerstone of the team.

His injury just before the NCAA tournament dashed Purdue's national title hopes, as they lost a key player whose leadership and skills were irreplaceable. The Boilermakers, who had one of their best seasons with Hummel, struggled without him, highlighting how crucial his presence was for their championship aspirations.

13. Billy Donovan's Near Departure to the NBA in 2007

In 2007, Billy Donovan nearly left the Florida Gators to coach the Orlando Magic. This decision could have dramatically changed the trajectory of Florida's basketball program. Donovan had just led the Gators to back-to-back national championships, and his departure would have left a void in leadership and coaching expertise.

Instead, Donovan chose to stay, leading Florida to further successes, including multiple SEC titles and another Final Four appearance. His continued presence fortified the program's stability and growth, making his decision to stay a defining moment in Florida basketball history. His coaching prowess, particularly in teaching effective basketball post moves, was crucial in developing the team's inside game and overall success.

14. Wichita States Unfortunate Draw in 2014

Wichita State's matchup against a stacked Kentucky team in the 2014 NCAA tournament was a harsh draw for the undefeated Shockers. Despite their perfect record, Wichita State faced an early exit after a close game against Kentucky.

This matchup highlighted the challenges non-Power 5 teams face in the tournament and underscored the difficulty of sustaining a perfect season. Wichita State's loss to Kentucky prevented it from advancing further, illustrating the impact of tournament seeding and draws on a team's success.

15. Fab Melos Academic Ineligibility in 2012

Fab Melo's academic ineligibility in 2012 was a significant setback for Syracuse. Melo, a critical defensive player averaging 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game, was integral to Syracuse's success. His absence in the NCAA tournament weakened the team significantly, contributing to their loss in the Elite Eight. With Melo, Syracuse might have had the defensive edge needed to advance further, potentially changing the outcome of their tournament run and enhancing their championship prospects.

16. Brandon Davies Ineligibility in 2011

Brandon Davie's ineligibility in 2011 due to an honor code violation severely impacted BYUs performance. Davies was a crucial player; his absence left a gap in the team's lineup. BYU, led by Jimmer Fredette, had a promising season but struggled without Davies in the Sweet 16, losing to Florida. This situation highlighted the importance of maintaining team integrity and the impact of individual player issues on a team

s overall success.

17. UConn's Underdog Triumph in 1999

UConn's upset victory over Duke in the 1999 national title game remains one of the most memorable moments in college basketball. Entering the game as underdogs, UConn's win was a testament to their resilience and skill. This victory not only secured their first national championship but also established UConn as a formidable program in college basketball.

The impact of this win resonated beyond the game, inspiring future generations and marking it as a historic achievement in UConn's basketball history. This victory, showcasing their resilience and skill, was complemented by their exceptional rebounding techniques, further securing their place in history.

18. Gonzaga's Heartbreaking Loss to UCLA in 2006

Gonzaga's blown lead against UCLA in the 2006 Sweet 16 was a significant moment in their tournament history. Leading by 17 points, Gonzaga seemed poised for a breakthrough victory until UCLA's dramatic comeback. This loss was a setback for Gonzagas program and delayed its rise to prominence. The defeat also had personal ramifications for coach Mark Few, potentially influencing his career decisions and the program's future trajectory.

19. Samir Doughty's Controversial Foul in the 2019 Final Four

Samir Doughty's Controversial Foul in the 2019 Final Four

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Samir Doughty's foul on Kyle Guy in the 2019 Final Four was a controversial moment that significantly affected Auburn's championship hopes. With Auburn leading and seconds remaining, Doughty's foul allowed Guy to hit three crucial free throws, leading to Virginia's victory. This call was heavily debated and underscored the influence of officiating decisions in high-stakes games. Auburn's narrow loss highlighted the thin margins between victory and defeat in the tournament.

20. Jodie Meeks Decision to Turn Pro

Jodie Meek's decision to turn pro after the 2008-09 season deprived Kentucky of a prolific scorer who averaged 23.7 points per game. Had Meeks stayed for his senior year, he could have been a vital asset for John Calipari's first season as head coach. His shooting ability would have complemented the talents of other players, potentially leading Kentucky deeper into the tournament and solidifying their status as title contenders.

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Reflecting on these iconic moments in college basketball history underscores the sport's unpredictable and dramatic nature. From game-changing injuries and controversial calls to crucial recruitment decisions, each event has impacted the teams and the sport itself. These stories highlight the thin margins between victory and defeat, making college basketball one of the most compelling and beloved sports. It is filled with unforgettable moments that continue to captivate fans.

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