75 years of March Madness: Top 10 Improbable Heroes
Well-known moments from unknown players is what the NCAA tournament is all about. Relive some of the most prolific tournament moments and upsets by relatively obscure players.
What do Ali Farokhmanesh of Northern Iowa and the Caribbean pop group Baha Men have in common? They’re both one-hit wonders. The difference is, while I never want to hear the song “Who let the dogs out” again, I could relive the awesome tournament run of Farokhmanesh and the Northern Iowa Panthers over and over again.
Farokhmanesh, like many of the other one-hit wonders on this list from 75 Years: Improbable Heroes, exploded onto the scene during March Madness and made the world remember his name with extraordinary play that didn’t reflect his regular-season performance. However, his one shining moment came during the tournament and ended there. Like all the other one-hit wonders on our list, their phenomenal tournament performances did not translate into NBA careers.
Take a trip down Memory Lane to relive some of the biggest moments in tournament history that shined like a match in a dark room but disappeared just as quickly.
1. Harold Jensen -- Villanova, 1985 tournament
As a sophomore, Jensen more than tripled his season-average four points on college basketball’s biggest stage in a David vs. Goliath matchup. He was 5-for-5 and scored 14 points in the championship game to lift No. 8 Villanova over No.1 Georgetown 66-64. His shot with about 2:30 left to put Villanova ahead has been described as the biggest shot in school history.
2. Kenny Washington -- UCLA, 1964 tournament
In the first of John Wooden’s NCAA championships, Washington came off the bench as the ultimate substitute in the final against Duke. With the attention on Gale Goodrich and Walt Hazzard in the backcourt, Washington came off the bench to spark a 16-0 run in about three minutes. Duke, which was leading by three before Washington entered, was dumbfounded. Washington forced multiple turnovers while dropping 26 points.
3. Michael Graham -- Georgetown, 1984 tournament
The team was known for future NBA talent like Patrick Ewing and David Wingate, but it was the surprising performance of Michael Graham in the title game against Houston that many remember. He played an aggressive, above-the-rim game, scoring 22 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and earned all-tournament honors in the Final Four. Georgetown went on to win the title, but Graham never played another game due to academic issues.
4. Jim Boylan -- Marquette, 1977 tournament
Boylan eventually made it to the NBA as a coach, but his biggest night as a player was against North Carolina to lead Marquette to its first and only NCAA championship win. He averaged just seven points throughout the season but doubled his efforts with 14 points in the championship game.
5. Terry Donnelly -- Michigan State, 1979 tournament
While all the attention was on the matchup between Magic Johnson and Indiana State's Larry Bird, Donnelly snuck in one of the best performances of his collegiate career. Indiana State decided to double Magic, which left Donnelly wide open most of the game. He was 5-for-5 from the field and scored 15 points to help the Spartans win the 1979 championship.
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6. Cameron Dollar -- UCLA, 1995 tournament
He never started a game for UCLA that season, but he sure did finish the season on a high note. When starting Bruins guard Tyus Edney went down with a wrist injury in the final against Arkansas, his backup, Dollar, made the most of the moment. He scored just six points and had eight assists, but his presence as a floor general in the face of adversity helped bring the national championship back to Westwood.
7. Ken “The Mouse” McFadden -- Cleveland State, 1986 tournament
Another virtual unknown with a great name, Mouse averaged 16 points in the tournament as a freshman to carry No. 14 Cleveland State to the Sweet 16. In Cleveland State’s first tournament appearance in school history, it defeated No. 3 Indiana in a first-round upset. Mouse’s run became a thing of legend when that game became part of the best-selling book “A Season on the Brink.”
8. Ali Farokhmanesh -- Northern Iowa, 2010 tournament
His unique name as well as his fearlessness on the court made him unforgettable. Farokhmanesh would take and make shots from six feet behind the 3-point line with no regard to distance. He was 9-of-19 from 3-point range in two games in the tournament. However, it was No. 9 Northern Iowa’s second-round upset of No. 1 Kansas that put him on this list when he decided to take a 3 in transition with 42 seconds left and up by one. What would have been an ill-advised shot for anyone else was the perfect one for a kid named Farokhmanesh.
9. Joey Rodriguez -- VCU, 2011 tournament
Coming in at a whopping 5 feet 9 on a good day, according to coach Shaka Smart, Rodriguez was VCU’s little engine that could. The virtually unknown point guard put VCU on the tournament map when most thought it shouldn’t be there. “The bigger the name of the opponent, the more excited he was for the game,” Smart said. Behind the play of Rodriguez, VCU defeated all higher-seeded teams Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas to become the third 11th seed in tournament history to make it to the Final Four.
10. Peter Woolfolk - Richmond, 1988 tournament
The big man went to work inside, scoring 16 points to lead 13-seed Richmond past defending national champion Indiana in a huge first-round upset, 72-69. The run didn’t stop there. Woolfolk continued with 27 points to lead the Spiders past a stacked Georgia Tech in the next round. He scored a double-double in the next round against Temple, but his college career ended there in the Sweet 16.
Do you agree with our list of one-hit wonders? Make your voice heard in the comment section below or on Twitter @Hoopsoncbs with #MM75. You can also follow Adena Andrews on Twitter @adena_andrews. And don't forget to check out our Facebook gallery of all these shining moments.
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