The picture will never go away.
Mario Chalmers in the air.
A little higher than Derrick Rose.
Everybody in the dome standing.
And an orange ball that would decide the fate of two programs -- and perhaps two coaches -- just hanging there, paused in between a trip from Chalmers' fingertips to immortality, the eyes of Darnell Jackson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Shawn Taggart, and Antonio Anderson all staring up at it, well aware its path would change the rest of their lives, for better or worse.
Coming in at No. 1 on our list of the "10 Best NCAA March Madness games from last decade" is ...
Kansas vs. Memphis (2008)
Memphis had spent months being questioned because the Tigers were members of a non-BCS league and terrible at free throws, and the storylines heated up as the C-USA school marched further into the NCAA tournament.
|Mario Chalmers nails the game-tying 3 to cap the comeback. (Getty Images)|
The Tigers led 60-51 with less than two minutes remaining.
The game seemed to be over.
Writers were preparing to file columns about how a freshman point guard put Memphis on his back and carried the school to its first national title. Fans both inside the Alamodome and bars back on Beale Street were celebrating what was about to be a crowning achievement for a program led by a man who had rallied both the rich and poor of a racially divided city while playing the us-against-the-world card.
And then it started falling apart.
Douglas-Roberts missed a free throw, then missed two more. Meantime, Kansas created a turnover that led to a Sherron Collins 3-pointer, Chalmers sank a pair of free throws, Darrel Arthur scored on Taggart, and that 60-51 lead Memphis held with less than two minutes remaining was now 62-60 with 10.8 seconds left, and Rose was at the line shooting two free throws.
Predictably, he missed the first.
But he made the second.
And so Jackson inbounded the ball to Collins, and everybody stood and watched. Collins rushed the ball up the court despite pressure from Rose, stumbled, but still found Chalmers, who took one dribble and launched himself into the air, which is when that famous picture was snapped.
You see 3.6 seconds on the clock.
Parrish: The KU-Memphis pregame video
Recap: Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT)
SB Nation: Remembering the night
NCAA.com: Watch Sweet 16 games since 2000
You see everybody's eyes focused on the ball.
Jim Nantz provided a four-word description that's now considered a curse in Memphis.
Those words: Chalmers for the tie.
The score was indeed tied when the ball fell through, and for reasons that might never be explained, John Calipari opted against taking a timeout to settle his clearly rattled team even though he would've had at least 2.1 seconds remaining. If 2.1 sounds familiar, it's because it's the same amount of time Duke's Christian Laettner needed to hit a game-winner against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament. But Calipari didn't bother with a timeout, and the result was Dozier's half-court heave at the buzzer that wasn't close.
"Ten seconds to go, we're thinking we're national champs," Calipari said. "All of a sudden, kid makes a shot, and we're not."
Yes, Chalmers' shot only technically forced OT, but in reality it was the game-winner. Calipari later admitted he knew it was over at that point, echoing the thoughts of most. No way the Tigers were recovering, and it was no surprise when they fell behind by six points in OT before scoring, no surprise when they lost by seven without much resistance.
Consequently, Memphis finished as national runners-up for the second time in school history. The first time came in 1973 because UCLA's Bill Walton couldn't miss a shot, the second time in 2008 because Memphis couldn't make a free throw, protect the ball, foul as Calipari said he instructed when up three in the final seconds, or at least get a good look after Chalmers sank what is now known as "Mario's Miracle."
The best, in fact, from the last decade.
|Top 10 March Madness games of the decade|
|Wed., Jan. 6||No. 10: Ohio State vs. Xavier (2007)||Wed., Feb. 10||No. 5: Connecticut vs. Duke (2004)|
|Wed., Jan. 13||No. 9: North Carolina vs. Illinois (2005)||Wed., Feb. 17||No. 4: George Mason vs. UConn (2006)|
|Wed., Jan. 20||No. 8: Villanova vs. Pittsburgh (2009)||Wed., Feb. 24||No. 3: Illinois vs. Arizona (2005)|
|Wed., Jan. 27||No. 7: Davidson vs. Georgetown (2008)||Wed., March 3||No. 2: UCLA vs. Gonzaga (2006)|
|Wed., Feb. 3||No. 6: Syracuse vs. Kansas (2003)||Wed., March 10||No. 1: Kansas vs. Memphis (2008)|