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ACC schools, both old and new, have been home to a plethora of tournament legends. Although this list could go on for days, we’ve narrowed down the top 10 individual performances in a single NCAA Tournament. Keep in mind that this list includes players who were on teams currently in the ACC but were not at the time they played.
1. Austin Carr, Notre Dame (1970)
Austin Carr may not be heralded in the ACC realm, but the former Notre Dame player was an absolute superstar. Carr set a plethora of records during his time at Notre Dame from 1968-1971.
No year was greater for an individual performance in the NCAA tournament than 1970 when Austin Carr averaged 52.7 PPG. That’s not a typo, Carr averaged nearly 53 points a game! The 6-4 guard from our nation’s capital poured in 61 points vs. Ohio in the first round, 52 points in the second round vs. Kentucky, and then 45 in Notre Dame’s third round 121-106 loss to Iowa.
His 52.7 scoring average, the all-time high in NCAA tournament history, is unlikely to ever be broken. Carr also holds tournament records for most points in one game (61), most field goals made in one game (25) and most field goals attempted (44) in one game.
Put these numbers into perspective for one second. The NCAA didn’t implement a 3-point line or shot clock until the 1985-86 season. That makes Carr’s 1970 tournament performance even more ridiculous.
2. Christian Laettner, Duke (1991)
It was pretty difficult putting Laettner at number 2 on this list. He is, after all, the career-leading scorer in NCAA tournament history with 407 points. Laettner played in a remarkable 23 NCAA tournament games, and he is the only player to ever start in four consecutive Final Fours.
Christian Laettner also holds the unusual distinction of hitting two game-winning buzzer beaters in 1990 and 1992. His unforgettable game-winner against Kentucky in the 1992 regional final capped off a perfect performance, in which Laettner made all 10 of his field goals and all 10 of his free throws.
Laettner finished his career averaging 17.69 PPG and 7.35 RPG in the NCAA Tournament. He also won Most Outstanding Player of the tournament in 1991.
Christian Laettner will go down as one of the most entertaining, provocative and successful NCAA tournament players ever.
3. David Thompson, NC State (1974)
In 1974, David “Skywalker” Thompson had one of the most impressive individual performances in a single NCAA tournament. Thompson averaged 24.25 PPG and 7.25 RPG while leading the Wolfpack to its first national championship.
Most impressively, Thompson put up 28 points and 10 rebounds in the game that stopped UCLA’s run of seven consecutive NCAA titles.
4. Lennie Rosenbluth, North Carolina (1957)
1957 was a great year for UNC’s Lennie Rosenbluth. Rosenbluth became one of just two players to win National Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP and NCAA Regional MVP, all in the same season.
Rosenbluth also led Carolina to an undefeated 32-0 season, highlighted by scoring 20 points in a 3-OT victory over Wilt Chamberlain’s Kansas Jayhawks in the national title game. Rosenbluth averaged 28 points over five tournament games that season, helping UNC win their first national championship.
5. Bobby Hurley, Duke (1992)
Bobby Hurley was overshadowed by superstars Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. However, Hurley was the catalyst in helping Duke win back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992.
In the ’91 final, Hurley never left the game, finishing with 12 points and 9 assists in a 72-65 victory over Kansas. A year later, Hurley scored 9 points and recorded 7 assists in Duke’s 71-51 victory over Michigan’s famed “Fab Five” squad. Hurley went on to win the 1992 Most Outstanding Player Award.
Hurley averaged 12 points and 7.3 assists in 20 NCAA tournament games, and led the Blue Devils to victories in all but two of those 20 games.
6. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2003)
Carmelo Anthony was a pioneer for the one-and-done era, and he went out with quite a bang.
Melo helped guide the Orange to their first ever NCAA title in 2003. Anthony averaged 20.16 PPG, 9.83 RPG and 2.5 APG in the tournament. His 33-point outburst against Texas in the Final Four set an NCAA tournament record for most points by a freshman.
In the Championship game against Kansas, Melo nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Anthony earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award.
7. Pervis Ellison, Louisville (1986)
“Never Nervous Pervis” lived up to his nickname in the 1986 NCAA Tournament. Ellison had 25 points and 11 rebounds in an NCAA title win over Duke, becoming the second freshman ever to win the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award.
Ellison’s putback off Jeff Hall’s air ball gave Louisville a three-point lead with 38 seconds left. Then it was Pervis Ellison’s defense that kept Duke stars, Jay Bilas and Mark Alarie, in check.
Pervis Ellison averaged 15.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG in the 1986 NCAA Tournament. His performance as a freshman paved the way for many future superstars like Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, etc.
8. Shane Battier, Duke (2001)
The three-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year is considered to be one of the most versatile players in college basketball history. Shane Battier led the Duke Blue Devils to their third national championship in 2001 by averaging 22.5 PPG and 10.2 RPG.
In the 2001 national championship game, Battier had 18 points and 11 boards in Duke’s 82-72 win over Arizona.
Shane Battier was one of the most consistent players in not only Duke history, but also NCAA tournament history.
9. James Worthy, North Carolina (1982)
Although many will remember Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot with 17 seconds left, it was James Worthy’s performance and famous steal that won the Tar Heels the 1982 National Championship.
Worthy finished that game with 28 points on 13-for-17 shooting and was named Final Four MOP.
James Worthy was the best player on a team that featured future superstars like Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins. Worthy averaged 17.4 PPG, 5 RPG and 3.8 APG in UNC’s ’82 title run.
10. Sean May, North Carolina (2005)
Sean May, whose father was a star forward on Indiana’s undefeated 1976 team, made a name for himself a decade ago. May averaged 22.3 points per game in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
May recorded 26 points on 10 of 11 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds in the 2005 title game against Illinois. The big fella earned MOP honors and helped get coach Roy Williams his first national title
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina (2006-2009)
I know, I know UNC fans, Tyler Hansbrough was a tournament legend. For his career, Hansbrough averaged 18.5 PPG and 8.5 RPG in the NCAA Tourney. Impressive numbers all around, but Psycho T never won the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament award. For that reason alone, he’s off the top 10.
Johnny Dawkins, Duke (1986)
Johnny Dawkins was Mike Krzyzewski’s golden bridge to legacy. Dawkins led Duke in scoring in every game during the 1986 NCAA Tourney, averaging 25.5 ppg. The Blue Devils advanced to the national championship before falling to Louisville 72-69.
Ralph Sampson, Virginia (1980-1983)
A huge superstar at UVa, Ralph Sampson was a three-time Naismith and Wooden award winner. Sampson led the Cavaliers to an NIT title in his freshman season, and Final Four the following year.
Darrell Griffith, Louisville (1980)
Darrell Griffith, aka “Dr. Dunkenstein,” is considered to be the most beloved player in Louisville history. Griffith led the Cardinals to their first national championship in 1980, scoring a game-high 23 points in Louisville’s 59-54 victory over UCLA.
Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech (1990)
One of Georgia Tech’s famous trio, “Lethal Weapon 3,” Kenny Anderson was a tournament wizard. Anderson averaged 24.8 points and 6.6 assists during Georgia Tech’s 1990 run to the Final Four.