The NCAA tournament has featured many star players who have used their tournament performance to stamp their legendary status. There are a select few who first come to mind when remembering the catalyst for an incredible run during March Madness.
The criteria is simple -- although picking just five guys was very difficult, so we're doing two teams. We are using the traditional standard of an all-star squad; two guards, two forwards, and a center. The focus in identifying these legends was based on their individual and team success only in the NCAA tournament; not the regular season. Therefore, Pete Maravich doesn't make the cut.
2nd Team Guard - Gail Goodrich - UCLA
Goodrich was the main factor in John Wooden winning his first two national championships. The little guard known for his fantastic ball handling skills poured in 27 points against Duke in the 1964 title game, winning the Bruins their first title. Goodrich came back even better the very next season and scorched Michigan in the championship game for 42 points and back-to-back championships. It’s the second highest individual scoring total in NCAA history. Goodrich won Most Outstanding Player of the 1965 Final Four and helped compile a 58-2 record in those two title winning seasons.
2nd Team Guard - David Thompson - NC State
The NC State phenom was mostly known for his nickname, 'Skywalker,' as he seemed to be able to fly and was the player Michael Jordan grew up idolizing. But even better than his jumping ability is what Thompson was able to do in the 1974 tournament on his way to averaging 24 ppg. Thompson's NC State squad faced a UCLA team in the Final Four that had won seven straight national championships -- nine of the last ten. Thompson's 28 points and 10 rebounds in a double overtime victory over the Bruins stands as one of the most iconic moments in tournament history. Skywalker would score 21 points in the national title game against Marquette, capturing the Wolfpack's first championship.
2nd Team Forward - Danny Manning - Kansas
Danny's 1988 championship squad would end up being known as 'Danny and the Miracles.' After helping Kansas to a Final Four in 1986, Manning's Kansas squad entered the 1988 tournament as a six seed with little chance to do anything. The team went on a Cinderella run all the way to the Final Four where Manning's 25 points and 10 rebounds was enough to get past Duke to face conference rival and top seed, Oklahoma. In the title game, Manning gave what is widely considered one of the greatest performances in championship game history. Manning's 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks were enough to topple the Sooners for Kansas' first championship in 36 years.
2nd Team Forward - Bill Russell - San Francisco
This should be no surprise. Russell knows nothing but how to win. He lead San Francisco to back-to-back championships in 1955 and 1956. During one Final Four he averaged 23.5 ppg. But his defense was what made him truly dominant. He grabbed 50 total rebounds in the two games at the 1956 Final Four. He was so dominant that the NCAA decided to widen the lane.
2nd Team Center - Patrick Ewing - Georgetown
Ewing lead the Hoyas to three Final Four appearances in his four years of college basketball. In all three of those appearances, Ewing's Georgetown team reached the championship game. In 1982, despite losing to North Carolina, Ewing put up 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The Hoyas would get back to the 1984 title game where Ewing would grab Final Four MOP honors and getting the title game victory over Houston. Ewing would get back to the title game one last time before falling to Villanova. By far one of the best to ever control the paint.
1st Team Guard - Magic Johnson - Michigan State
Magic didn't waste much time in his college career before making a name for himself. In his freshmen season of 1978, Johnson lead the Spartans to the Elite Eight while averaging 17 ppg, 7 rpg, and 7 apg -- fantastic numbers for a freshmen. But the world would know him for the Spartans' legendary title run in 1979 where Magic would meet rival Larry Bird's undefeated Indiana State team for the national championship. The game is still the most watched title game in college basketball history. Johnson would put up 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in the contest to capture the national championship.
1st Team Guard - Jerry Lucas - Ohio State
Lucas is one of the few players to ever win a national title, an NBA title and a gold medal. So it is no surprise when you look back at his college career at Ohio State he is among the greatest to ever play the game. Lucas led his Buckeyes to three national championship games, winning it all in 1960 in a blowout of Cal, thanks to Lucas' 16 points and 10 boards. Lucas won MOP in 1960 and in 1961 and still holds the Buckeye tournament record for points and rebounds.
1st Team Forward/Center - Bill Walton - UCLA
Walton carried UCLA to two national championships in 1972 and 1973 while snatching up the Most Outstanding Player award both years. But his performance in the 1973 national championship game against Memphis State is the best performance of any player in NCAA tournament history. Walton grabbed 13 boards and set a championship game-record of most points scored with 44 points. Walton shot an insane 21 of 22 for the game in a route.
1st Team Forward - Christian Laettner - Duke
Christian Laettner might have been college basketball's biggest villain at the time, but the man could ball. During his four years at Duke, Laettner lead the Blue-Devils to the Final Four every single year. From 1990-1992, Duke would reach the national championship game three times, capturing two titles in 1991 and 1992. Laettner racked up MOP honors in 1991 but his performance and late-game heroics in the '92 tournament is still replayed every single March. In the '92 Regional Final game against Kentucky, Laettner shot 10 for 10 while scoring 31 points. He capped off the night with 2.1 seconds left when he hit college basketball's most legendary buzzer beater to get the 104-103 victory. Laettner holds the NCAA tournament records for points scored (407), most free throws made (142), most free throws attempted (167), and most games played (23).
1st Team Center - Lew Alcindor - UCLA
There is not a better college basketball player to ever live than Mr. Alcindor. From 1967-1969, he absolutely dominated the sport. He lead the Bruins to three straight national championships while compiling a record of 88-2 in a three year run. In the six Final Four games Alcindor played, he averaged 25. 7 ppg and 18.8 rpg. In his last game as a Bruin, Alcindor put up a ridiculous 37 points and 20 rebounds. That is pure dominance. Alcindor is the best big man the NCAA tournament has ever seen.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a surfing enthusiast, an unhealthy sports fanatic, and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or "like"CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
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