Top 10 Memorable Moments in NCAA Final Four History 

Posted on Apr 2, 2024 by Shauli Zacks

The Final Four rarely disappoints. The games are usually close, many times coming down to the final seconds leading to frantic finishes, buzzer beaters, and upsets. It’s these memorable moments that make it one of the most unpredictable and exciting sporting events in the US.  

As we get ready for the 2024 Final Four, I looked back at some of the wild times that earned this time of year its March Madness moniker and found some of my favorite moments. I was fortunate to watch many of them live, while I’ve experienced others through replays or highlight shows. 

Don’t miss any of the excitement this year. If you’re traveling abroad and can’t access your regular streaming platform, PIA VPN is here for you. Connect to a VPN server in your home country, log in to your streaming app, and live stream the Final Four. 

The Most Memorable Moments in Final Four History 

10. The Battle of Unranked Teams for the 2014 NCAA Title

UConn and Kentucky are considered college blue bloods, with long traditions of excellence. However, in 2014, neither team was ranked in the AP Top 25 and they entered the NCAA Tournament as the 7 and 8 seeds respectively. But both teams got hot at the right time, and busted their way through the brackets, until they met for a classic Finals matchup. It was a close game from start to finish, with UConn pulling away at the end for a 60-54 victory.

9. Magic vs. Bird for the 1979 NCAA Title Game

This game isn’t defined by clutch plays or last second shots, as Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans easily beat the Larry Bird led Indiana State Sycamore 75-64. However, it was one of the highest rated basketball games of all time, as nearly 25% of all TV sets in America tuned in to watch these two future Hall of Famers. It was Magic’s flash against the “Hick from French Lick.” Unfortunately for the fans, Bird was playing with a broken thumb that limited his productivity, but Magic was magic leading his Spartans to victory.

8. Harrison Twins Propel Kentucky over Wisconsin in the 2014 Semi Finals

It was the type of play you drew up in your backyard as kids, the things dreams are made of, but for twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison it was the reality. The 8th seeded Kentucky Wildcats were down 2 points to the number 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers. After a huge missed free throw that would have put the Badgers up 3, Andrew passed the ball to Aaron, who hit the biggest shot in a career filled with clutch shots to send the Wildcats to the championship game. 

7. Chris Webber Calls a Time Out He Doesn’t Have in the 1991 NCAA Championship Game

The Fab Five were more than just a great basketball team – they were a cultural phenomenon. They were back in the Final Four for a second year in a row, going back and forth against the favored North Carolina Tar Heels. With 13 seconds left and down two points, Chris Webber grabbed a missed free throw, dribbled past halfcourt and frantically signaled to the ref for a TO. The problem was the Wolverines didn’t have any, and they were assessed with a technical foul, giving the Tar Heels 2 free throws and the ball, to seal the game. 

6. Last Second Basket by Wil Bynum Puts Georgia Tech in the 2004 Finals

No one expected Georgia Tech to beat Oklahoma State in the 2024 Final Four. However, they jumped out to an early lead and held onto it for most of the game, until the 4th quarter. John Lucas capped off a frantic comeback with a 3-point shot to tie the game with just over 25 seconds left. 

That’s when Wil Bynum etched his name in Final Four lore. He got the ball at the top of the key with 10 seconds left and drove past John Lucas for a game winning layup. Just like that Lucas went from hero to goat, and the little known Wil Bynum became a household name.  

5.  Duke Stuns Undefeated UNLV in the 1991 Semi Finals

It’s easy to hate on Duke, but even the haters can’t deny that what Coach K’s squad did to UNLV in 1991 was unbelievable. After losing to UNLV by 30 in the 1990 Final Four, the Blue Devils found themselves double digit underdogs in 91. The Runnin’ Rebels had multiple future NBA all stars and hadn’t lost a game all season. 

None of this mattered to Christian Laettner, who had 28 points and dominated the game on both ends of the floor. It was a close game the entire time, and in the end, Duke pulled out a 79-77 victory that no one could have predicted. Duke won the NCAA Championship that year, and went on to win another 4 titles under the legendary Coach K. 

4. UCLA Beats Louisville in OT in John Wooden’s Final Game

John Wooden was able to finish his legendary coaching career with one last championship. After losing the year before, and ending an unbelievable run of 7 straight championships, it looked like 1975 was going to end with another disappointment. However, the Bruins wouldn’t let their coach go out that way. Capped by a comeback to tie the game in regulation, the Bruins won 75-74 in overtime, thanks to a last second basket by Richard Washington. 

3. Jalen Suggs Hits 40 Foot 3 Pointer to Beat UCLA in the 2021 Final Four

After UCLA scored a basket with 3.3 seconds left in OT, it looked like the Bruins were going to push the 31-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs to double OT. Instead of coach Mark Few calling a TO and setting up a play, Corey Kripert quickly inbounded the ball to Jalen Suggs. He took 3 dribbles and pulled up just past half court and banked it home, sending the Zags to the championship game.

2. Villanova Hits a Buzzer Beater to Win the 2016 NCAA Championship

The final 5 seconds of the Villanova vs. North Carolina Final Four Championship game is one of the greatest endings to a basketball game. Down by 3 points, Marcus Paige hits a crazy off balance, double clutch 3 pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. Instead of playing for OT, Villanova opted to go the length of the court, and Kris Jenkins hit a championship winning shot as the buzzer sounded. 

1. NC State Caps Cinderella Run With a National Championship in 1983

Perhaps one of the most iconic moments in NCAA men’s basketball history is coach Jimmy Valvano running on the court after his team upset the heavily favored Houston “Phi Slamma Jamma” team that featured future NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. 

Sometimes lost in the celebration is how NC State ended the game. The game was tied at 52 with 45 seconds and NC State had the ball. They passed the ball around the backcourt for about 40 seconds, nearly turning it over several times under heavy defensive pressure. Finally, with about 5 seconds left, NC State airballs a long 3 pointer. Lorenzo Charles was in the right place at the right time, he caught the ball and dunked it home as time expired for the win.   

Top Moments in the 2024 March Madness Tournament

March Madness hasn’t disappointed fans, with plenty of early round upsets and fantastic finishes. Here are some of the top moments we’ve seen:

  • NC State back to the Final Four as an 11 seed: The (11) NC State Wolfpack are playing the familiar role of Cinderella as they took down the surprising Oakland Golden Grizzlies, easily handled (2) Marquette in the Sweet 16, and then beat Duke in the Elite 8. 
  • (14) Oakland beats (3) Kentucky: The biggest upset in the first round saw the Horizon League’s Oakland Golden Grizzlies stun the Kentucky Wildcats behind Jack Gohike’s 32 points.
  • (12) Grand Canyon upsets (5) St. Mary’s Gaels: The battle of two mid-majors went to the 12 seeded Antelopes. However, their Cinderella run was cut short when they faced Alabama in the second round. 
  • Alabama rallies to beat North Carolina in final minutes: Down a few points in the final 1:20 of the Sweet 16 matchup against the #1 seed, Alabama went on a 7-2 run to close out the game. 
  • UConn scores 30 points in a row: The Huskies showed again why they’re the favorite to win it all. They didn’t just beat the Fighting Illini in the Elite 8, they went on a 30-0 run to seal a 25 point victory and stamp their ticket to the Final Four. 

Why You Need a VPN to Stream the Final Four

To stream the Final Four, you’ll need access to TBS or a streaming platform with TBS in its channel lineup. Just having the apps isn’t always enough – local network restrictions at your office or school can block you from streaming. 

PIA VPN encrypts your connection, preventing the network from seeing the websites and apps you’re using. Now, you can watch all the memorable moments as they happen, instead of catching the highlights after the game. 

If you’re traveling during the Final Four or studying abroad, you’ll find that even if you have a TV provider or streaming account in the US, you won’t be able to log in. There’s an easy solution – just connect to one of PIA VPN’s US servers to access your accounts and live stream the games.

Even if you’re at home, using a VPN can improve your sports streaming experience. VPN encryption stops your ISP from slowing your internet speed based on your online activity, so you can stream the games in HD. ISP throttling is one of the main reasons your stream quality suddenly goes bad or is constantly buffering. 

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Don’t Miss the Next Memorable Moment in the Final Four

There’s a reason the NCAA Tournament is known as March Madness. There isn’t another tournament where an unknown team like Oakland can beat a top-tier program like Kentucky. These moments define the tournament, making every game a must-see event. 

History has shown over and over that you never know what will happen in the Final Four. Some players can’t handle the moment and make unforced errors, while unknown or overlooked players step up and etch their names in the lore of March Madness. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of a specific school, your bracket is still alive in the office pool, or you just like the excitement of college basketball there’s no excuse to miss the Final Four. Whether you’re studying or traveling abroad, or dealing with local network restrictions, PIA VPN is with you from the opening tip until one team cuts down the nets while One Shining Moment is blaring over the loudspeakers. We have VPN servers in all 50 states, so you can live stream the magical moments that make March Madness so special. 

FAQ

What’s the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history?

In 2018, the 16-seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers blew out the number 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers by 20 points. It marked the first time a 16 beat a 1 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. 

Who are the most surprising teams to make the Final Four?

There have been three 11 seeds to make it to the Final Four; Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (2018) VCU Rams (2011), George Mason Patriots (2006). Of those 3, VCU has to be the biggest surprise, as they had to play in the First Four just to get into the tournament. They beat (6) Georgetown, (3) Purdue, (10) Florida State, and (1) Kansas before losing to (10) Butler in the Final Four.  

What is the best comeback in NCAA tournament history?

The Maryland Terps built a big 22-point lead in the first half, and went into the half with a double digit lead. However, the second half was all Duke Blue Devils and as they erased the deficit en route to an 85-74 victory. 

How can I watch the 2024 Final Four?

TBS has the exclusive broadcast rights to all of the Final Four games. If you don’t have a cable TV provider, there are platforms that stream sports, like YouTube TV, DIRECTV STREAM, and  Sling. If you’re studying or traveling abroad, get PIA VPN and connect to one of our VPN server locations in the US, to ensure you don’t miss any of the Final Four actions. 

Why is a VPN good for streaming sports?

A VPN makes it possible to stream sports when you can’t otherwise access your streaming platform. This can be helpful if you’re traveling abroad and can’t access your account or if you’re blocked by local network restrictions. PIA VPN has a global network of servers, including locations in all 50 US states, so you can stream as if you’re at home.  

Can I use a VPN to live stream the Final Four?

While many VPNs don’t work with streaming platforms, PIA VPN is different. We have multiple streaming-optimized servers in the US to ensure you can live stream the Final Four without a problem. Connect to our fast 10-Gbps server network and stream the games in HD.

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